Tole Painting can be done in a variety of different mediums. Many artists choose to use acrylic craft paints to start with, because these are very forgiving and generally easy to work with at first. They are also readily available at almost all craft stores.
Acrylic craft paints come in many different types and forms, but for most beginners using a decent quality craft paint such as Folk Art Acrylics is a great and inexpensive way to start. Best of all, they come in a wide variety of different colors, so you don’t necessarily need to become an expert in color theory and paint mixing.
Most tole painting patterns and templates for projects will come with a list of what paint colors are recommended for a specific project. Most craft paints you will start with have a matte finish, which means they are not shiny, although do be mindful of labels on different paint bottles – some will have a very high gloss shine!
Note that the majority of craft paints are meant to be used on porous surfaces such as paper and wood or surfaces that have already been primed for acrylic paint with either a primer or sealer.
If you plan on painting on glass or metal for your first project, it is absolutely essential that you use a paint that is meant for glass and/or metal or take the necessary steps to prepare the item to be compatible with acrylic paints!. This is because otherwise the paint may flake or chip off, since most acrylic craft paints are not formulated to be able to stick to the metal or glass.
There are of course a lot of things to know about different types of acrylic paints, so if you would like to learn more beyond the basic craft paints, check out our post on the Beginners Guide to Acrylic Paint Supplies.
Gesso: Paint Primer for Your Projects
When you are painting on wood with acrylic craft paints, one thing you will likely notice is that the wood is not a perfectly smooth surface. Wood is also a very porous surface, which means it will absorb most of your paint sort of like a sponge. This can lead to the wood grain showing through or the paint colors losing a lot of their vibrancy.
The secret for getting bright and vivid colors when painting on wood is to first prepare your wood properly. There are a number of ways of doing this, but one of the easiest methods is to first lightly sand the wood surface, and then cover with a coat of gesso.
Gesso is basically a type of paint primer, and it is what a lot of artists use to make their colors vividly stand out on canvas, paper, wood, and more. Gesso typically comes in neutral colors, such as white, black and clear.
You can find gesso at most craft stores in the paint department. To use gesso with your projects, you would want to first sand the object you are painting, apply a coat of gesso, allow to dry, and then give it a light sanding before applying your base coat.
Other sealing options exist as well, for example many people may use something such as acrylic fluid medium or even Mod Podge as a base coat. I personally prefer gesso, and a little goes a very long way!
Acrylic Paint Brushes
In addition to paint, the next thing you will need are a set of high quality brushes. While it may be tempting to get cheap brushes, this will likely only frustrate you later on because the cheaper quality brushes have a tendency to shed – which means you’ll have these annoying little stray brush hairs all over your project.
Any semi-professional grade set of brushes will work. It’s best to get a set that includes different types, sizes and styles of brushes, because you will end up using them all in your work eventually!
For base coats, which is the background layer of the painting, it is best to use a foam brush. Foam brushes come in different sizes and will give you a nice smooth background layer surface without the brush stroke lines.
Patterns & Designs to Paint
Patterns are very useful
Additional Supplies and Materials for Decorative Painting
A paint brush and paint are the two key materials we need, but there are a lot of other useful things to have.
Pencil, Pen & Tracing Paper:
We often start with templates and patterns when we first begin, and learning how to transfer an image onto your surface can help you stick to the pattern without needing to paint everything free hand.
It is very easy to learn how to trace a pattern for painting onto any surface – and all you need for this is some basic tracing or copy paper, a soft leaded graphite pencil and a ball point pen.
You will need water to clean the brushes in between colors, and you may sometimes also need water to thin down some of the thicker paints. It is best to keep one jar dedicated for “clean water” – this way if you add water to paint you won’t muddy up the colors with dirty water.
Painter’s Masking Tape:
Masking tape is helpful for taping off areas on an object you do not want to paint. For example, if you are painting a wooden basket that has metal handles, you may want to place tape over the handles so you don’t accidentally get paint on them while you work.
They make lovely paint palettes specifically for decorative tole painting, such as this one, but of course you can always just use foam trays or even sturdy paper plates.
Paper towels are always good to have on hand. They can be used for drying and cleaning brushes – and are also good to have just in case you might have any accidental spills.
Spray Sealer or Varnish:
It is a good practice to seal your work so that you are able to ensure it lasts for many years to come. Many surface preparations also require some sort of prep work with sealer or varnish. One of the ways many people get around painting on metal or keeping colors vibrant on wood is to seal the wood before painting.
Sandpaper and Tack Cloth:
Sandpaper is also useful to have, as it makes it easy to sand in between coats and to also prepare the surfaces you are working on. Tack cloth will help ensure you are able to easily wipe off all the dust from sanding!
Many of these things you already have at home, so there’s no need to buy any expensive or elaborate supplies until you have a little more practice and experience in painting.
I hope this is helpful for you and of course if you have any favorite supplies please do let us know in the comments section below!