Sealing, painting multiple colors on mdf while carving

Hi I’m new to the forum here and just purchased/built my xcarve.
I used to make signs and plagues by hand and purchased the x carve to help things run smoother.
I’m kind of confused on how to prepare mdf for sealing and painting, I’ve read and re-read the forum as much as I could, I’ve even watched several u tube video’s on the subject.
Here’s what i’m understanding so far, and not understanding. As me making plaques and signs by hand before on wood as I would seperatly paint every detail by hand on my wood projects.
Mdf is a whole new region for me, and I’m wondering if I need to seal it before I paint it or if the paint will seal it itself? If I seal it first do I paint over it and seal it again? then put contact paper on the whole project to carve out, and can one use cheap contact paper and roll it out with a roller or will that not adhere to the paint?
I’d like to do it the cheapest method.
Any suggestions in the right path would be appreciated. Thanks guys! (and girls)!

When I painted MDF, I used spray shellac to seal it first. I don’t know that I’d trust cheap contact paper, I like Oramask 813. Seal the cut before trying to paint it.

Thx, I was looking at the sanding sealer as first prep, then paint, then oramask, you can apply the oramask straight to the paint or is there a step between that? Carve, seal carved area’s, paint carved area’s remove mask, then a poly…
Think i’m starting to catch on :wink: but correct me if i’m wrong…

I just seen a video of a guy using blue trim tape, you guys ever try that?

What i have found is the blue tape does not work.

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R&R chicago
I’m doing pictures of plaques like this which will be a round 14’’ plaque for a local Chicago band, I have checked oramask and seems the 30’‘x50 yds is probably my best bet which can get 2 plagues side by side with that compared to the 24’’ with 10’’ waste of oramask on the side, I’m looking to find the cheapest way…well cuz the band is cheap! lol, jk, I gave them a cheap price so they can get the sales and come back for more.
14’’ inches round, 12 inner diameter (album size) 2’’ outer diameter for the band members to sign…the 2’’ outer ring will be white. !

Second pic is one I did by hand for a promo for them and have decided to go with mdf because its hard to find straight plywood. Also I am not doing the recess to cut down on process time…

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They look pretty nice.

Yes, the Oramask goes straight on the painted surface.

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Thx for all the input guys, appreciate it…but damn that oramask is expensive and seem local stores dont carry it…I’m looking to get the 30’’ by 50 yds…so thats like $150.00… gotta start saving my pennies, guess i’ll be painting by hand till then…lol

I normally use oramask when I make signs. I got a 24" x 10 yard roll from US Cutter for just under $32 shipped which puts it right around $1 to cover a 24" x 12" sign which is well worth it for me. I’ve had very good results with it.

thx, most of my plaques will be 14’’‘s, so I figure by getting the 30 inch i can get 2 wide and only have 2’’ waste compared to 10’’ waste… I’ve done a lot of mathematics for that…lol not that I want to spend the 150, but i’ll get roughly around 256 plagues that way. Not sure I’ll make that many for the band, but I’ll have the extra for signs and clocks… but seems my out of pocket costs keep going up, and will be making less in return…lol

Looking at your band signs, it might be worth it to try to carve the design, paint the whole thing, and then sand the high points with an ROS or palm sander. Unless you are intending to paint these multiple colors, then that wouldn’t work.

most are 2 color’s some are 3 colors tho…outer ring’s will be white… figure some of them will be a lil complex painting…as inner circle would be black, with some white, red…or what the albums call for…

While Phil’s method works great, I use the following for simple 1 or 2 colors.

  1. carve the sign
  2. seal with water based Polly seal or a sealing stain
  3. paint the lettering (not being carful at all)
  4. sand the excess off with an orbital sander
  5. reapply the stain or Polly seal.
    The key is to seal the wood before any painting to prevent bleeding.


Here is a quick and easy way that I use


Nice, although mine are a lil more complex as I’ll have to backgrounds, white outer ring, black inner circle that measures 12’’ on a 14’’ circle, so until I carve out the outer ring for a precise 12’'s it will be hard for me to try to the exact white and black (colors as an example). As you can see on the blue M&R I did, but I changed the way of the plaques and just doing an engraving on them instead of carving them out.
Figure maybe cut my outer circle then can paint my main background color, tape it, etc… as for mdf I dont think a water based polly or stain will help me :wink: but I will look into a sanding sealer that can treat mdf.
Thanks for the suggestions all…