Painting VCarve sign confusion

Had an attempt at painting the carve on a vcarve sign, obviously the paint bled out. I tried to sand off the paint but started to remove the detail on the carve.
I searched online and read many threads on painting carved signs with lots of different techniques that people use.
Just to clarify should I apply the sanding sealer ( 2 or 3 coats) before the carve or after and then does it matter if I use water based , oil or acrylic paint .

I really want to nail this technique because it doesn’t matter how good the carvings are if I can’t finish the job off

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Apply the sealer after the carve so it gets into the newly cut wood (that is where the paint will bleed the most)

I have done hundreds of signs. I brush on one thick coat of SS before carving. Once it soaks in, the only bleeding that will occur will be below the surface and you will not see it. However, if you see it, it means you’re putting on too much paint at one time. First coat should be light enough to dry quickly so it doesn’t have time to bleed. I usually put on two to three light coats of paint. The secret is to avoid the temptation to completely cover the carve in paint in one coat. When you do it in two or three coats at least a day apart, it will do two things:

  1. Won’t bleed into surrounding wood. 2) By waiting a day before sanding, you won’t gum up your sand paper and go through it like toilet paper.

ive started doing a selection of test pieces so hopefully by tomorrow ill be able to share my technique

ive done a lot of test pieces with a range of products but still getting paint bleed, i see from youtube videos and various tutorials online everyone uses minwax products but these arent available in the UK.

Which products do people use in the UK, ive tried Liberon sanding sealer, briwax sanding sealer shellac, manns, rustins sealer, no nonsense sealer and a plastikote sealer. theyve all had 2 coats and have been following the instructions for each product and left for a day before painting.

yes inside the carves, its getting a thorough coat and plenty of drying time. The wood is european Oak.

i think ill try a few more samples and maybe try 4 or more coats of sealer. the sign has some really fine v carving in it how would i set it to carve it deeper to then plane it back?

I used Phil’s method to paint a coaster holder I made this weekend. The wood is poplar which isn’t too porous. I did my carve and put several layers of shellac on there. It didn’t really feel like it sealed very well, so I broke out my spray lacquer and put a few coats on. Looked good. Since I didn’t have any oil based paints, I decided to use some latex enamel I already had and just used a wet rag (water) to wipe off. It worked pretty good. There was just a hint of of seepage in a few places that might’ve been avoided with another layer of sealer. I hit it with my hand sander really quickly and re-applied my lacquer finish and it looks great.

Phil’s methodology saved me a lot of time…

Phil - why do you stress oil based paint as opposed to water based? I would think a wet rag (whether soaked in water or mineral spirits) would act basically the same way but there may be something I’m missing here.


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OK. The physical properties make sense. I didn’t really like the consistency of the water based paints having made plastics models for many years as s kid, I definitely like the oil based paints better for that sort of thing.

I was just wondering if it was more of a preference or a technical thing.

Thanks for all your help.


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This the coaster holder I made. (my wife made tumbled stone coasters out of an Abilene map we are giving as gift to some people there) I got the general idea from Erik Jenkins.

The wood is poplar. Most of the skills used came from reading this forum.