Painting Woes

So I have read up on many techniques that people use on the forums and seen their great results. I’ve been having a pretty hard finding a technique that will work for me.

My current sign is causing a real headache. I started out with a dark walnut stain (Minwax stain) on a pine board, carved the design, then added 2 or 3 coats of shellac (Bulls Eye clear shellac). My wife then hand painted the carved area with acrylic paint. After it was painted it just didn’t look very good… Even with the shellac it seemed like the pine still absorbed a lot of the paint and looked like it would need at least another couple of coats for it to look good. It was kind of a pain to paint and clean by hand so I figured I would try the spray paint technique. I sprayed it and it was instantly dry (later found out I had “fast drying” spray paint) so wiping it down the over spray with mineral spirits was having very little impact. Turns out the sign was too big for my planer so I couldn’t skim off the paint so I had to go with sanding. The paint came off real easy BUT so did the stain. I hardly sanded at all before the light pine started showing through the dark stain.

So at this point I have nice paint in the carve (from the spray paint) but a crappy stain. So I tried restaining the board and assumed the stain would wipe easily off of the paint. It didn’t.

So now I have a good stain but a crappy paint job. Put 3 or 4 good coats of shellac on and lightly sanded this time so it was nice and smooth after. I bought a cheap air brush from Harbor Freight and tried that. It went ok but was having a hard time painting the sides of the pocket (where most of the stain stained the paint). Tried hand painting with the acrylic again but had the original problem where it just had crappy coverage and would require many coats. Got mad and spray painted it and went to town with mineral spirits and a rag. I used a lot of mineral spirits and a lot of elbow grease and got it looking pretty decent.

This is how it currently looks. I’m back at the point where if I sand it will take the stain off.

What am I doing wrong? I’ve already identified cheap fast drying paint as one problem. I believe not sanding after the shellac the first time was a problem. Is there a technique to get stain to soak in deeper so I don’t have to worry about it coming off as soon as I touch it with 220 sandpaper?

Sanding sealer after the stain, correct? I am using spray enamel. How easy should the mineral spirit damp rag wipe away the paint? I sprayed just the “Established 2011” and went to wipe it and it was already drying and hard to wipe away. I had to press very hard with a rag doused in mineral spirits for it to even think about coming off.

I also have the “odorless” (still smells terrible) mineral spirits so I wonder if that doesn’t work as well as non odorless.

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Ok then something is definitely wrong. I’ll look into new paint and new mineral spirits.

I hear you on the painting experiences . Last week , I sprayed a sign , dried for 10 hours then sanded over spray off . Super easy . Key was to let the enamel spray dry throughly . Next time I’ll let it dry over night then sand it down .
And I’ve done the acrylic paints , taping everything off , then sealing the whole sign . I like the spray method so far . A lot less time vs acrylic on a brush then sealing the whole sign .

Came out great . Sorry don’t have a picture to show .