How to Paint Basswood

In our list of the best woods for beginners, we’ve chosen Basswood as the top choice for both new and experienced carvers.

Although Basswood might seem a bit plain in terms of its grain and color, you can easily make it look more colorful by using good-quality acrylic paints.

The key is not to use too much paint. In this article we will show you how to paint basswood. Also, show you how to add a clear coat for extra protection from the weather, but we can discuss that later.

How to prepare Basswood for painting

I understand your enthusiasm to begin painting, but before you dive into the creative process, it’s crucial to prepare the surface of your Basswood – a step that applies to all wood types.

Before applying any finish, it’s essential to inspect the wood’s surface and determine if it’s ready for the finishing process. Remember, the quality of the final finish is directly influenced by the condition of the surface it’s applied to.

Should you sand basswood?

Depending on the specific characteristics of your individual style, the decision to sand or not can go either way. What do I mean by this?

In techniques like whittling, for instance, when crafting figurines such as the one depicted below, you have the option to leave the surface unsanded.

Jim Fenton rarely sands his carvings, preferring to maintain a rustic appearance that showcases visible knife marks. Take a look at these Viking characters – they exude a cool, distinctive charm with their rugged texture.

This choice can help you achieve the iconic rough texture commonly associated with gnomes and similar carvings made with a knife.

When is sanding basswood cool?

If you lean towards the comforting sensation of a smoothly sanded surface, akin to those beautifully comfort birds that feel soothing in your hands, then here’s what you need to know about sanding Basswood.

sanded comfort bird

How to sand basswood

Sanding Basswood is a straightforward process that can transform the wood’s texture, making it exceptionally smooth to the touch. To achieve this comforting feel, you’ll want to follow a few key steps:

  1. Choose the Right Sandpaper Grit: Begin with a coarser grit sandpaper, around 120 to 150, to remove any rough spots or imperfections on the wood’s surface. Then, progressively move to finer grits, such as 220 and 320, for a smoother finish.
  2. Sand in the Direction of the Grain: Always sand in the same direction as the wood’s grain to avoid creating unsightly scratches or marks. This helps maintain a uniform and pleasing surface.
  3. Use a Light Touch: Avoid applying excessive pressure while sanding. Let the sandpaper do the work, and keep the motion smooth and even.
  4. Check Your Progress: Periodically inspect the wood’s surface to ensure you’re achieving the desired level of smoothness. This step helps you avoid oversanding.
  5. Clean the Surface: After sanding, wipe away any dust or debris from the Basswood’s surface to get a clear view of your progress.

Materials for painting basswood

What paint to use on basswood?

Acrylic paints stand out as the best and most beginner-friendly option. Interestingly, they’re not solely reserved for beginners; many experienced carvers also prefer acrylics due to their unique appeal. The most effective approach often involves using acrylics as washes or stains, achieved by adding plenty of water to dilute the paint. This technique allows the wood’s natural grain to shine through, preserving the organic feel of the carving.

The reason for this preference is that using acrylics in their concentrated, thick form can sometimes obscure the wood, resulting in a finish that appears more plastic than wood. However, if the plastic-like finish aligns with your design vision, there’s no harm in using thick acrylics to suit your creative intentions. The versatility of acrylics offers both beginners and seasoned carvers the freedom to choose the style and texture that best complements their artistic objectives.

Winsor & Newton Galeria Acrylic Paint Tubes Set
$31.08 ($1.55 / Fl Oz)


Winsor & Newton Galeria is a well-respected brand known for delivering high-quality paints for artists. This set of ten paints provides a versatile range of colors that can be combined to achieve virtually any shade you desire. These paints can be used directly from the tube or mixed with water or other acrylic mediums, offering flexibility in your artistic process. These paints are excellent on wood surfaces, giving a vibrant and rich hue.

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
09/01/2023 01:25 pm GMT

List of materials

  1. Finishing Paints: Acrylic paints remain an excellent choice for finishing basswood carvings. They offer vibrant colors, are easy to work with, and can be diluted to create washes or stains, preserving the wood’s natural grain.
  2. Brushes: High-quality brushes are essential for applying paints to your basswood carving. Select brushes that match the size and detail of your carving, ensuring precise application.
  3. Basswood Carving: Your carved basswood piece, properly sanded and prepared, is the canvas for your finishing work.
  4. Palette: A palette is necessary for mixing and blending your acrylic paints to achieve the desired colors and shades.
  5. Water or Acrylic Medium: Depending on your chosen technique, you may need water for thinning your paints or specific acrylic mediums for various effects like texture or glazing.

painting basswood carving

  1. Acrylic Washes or Stains: Dilute acrylic paints with water to create translucent washes. These can be applied to the carving, allowing the wood’s grain to shine through while adding color. This technique is ideal for maintaining a natural, organic look.
  2. Layering and Blending: Apply thin layers of acrylic paint, allowing each layer to dry before adding the next. This technique enables you to build up colors gradually and achieve smooth transitions and shading.
  3. Dry Brushing: With a nearly dry brush, apply a minimal amount of paint to the carving’s surface. This technique highlights raised areas and textures while leaving recessed areas untouched.

Pro Tip: Before you start painting your basswood, take the time to erase all pencil markings. These markings can show through subsequent layers of paint, leading to an unsightly appearance in your finished piece.

Video Tutorial: How to paint basswood

Staining Your basswood the secret to a subtle master finish

You’ve just finished painting your basswood carving with acrylics, and while the colors look bright and vivid, you may be considering ways to achieve a different effect, one that imparts a softer and more rustic appearance. Staining your basswood carving after acrylic painting can be an excellent choice, and here’s why, along with the steps to do it:

Why Stain Your Basswood Carving After Acrylic Painting:

  1. Softening Colors: Acrylic paints often leave a bright and dry appearance on your carving. Staining helps to soften these colors, giving your artwork a more subdued and natural look.
  2. Enhancing Details: Stains can seep into the grain of the wood, emphasizing the intricate details of your carving and highlighting the natural texture.
  3. Adding Depth: Stains create depth and dimension to your piece, making it visually appealing by adding layers and richness to the colors.
  4. Protection: Stains not only beautify but also protect your carving. They can make the wood more resistant to moisture, which is particularly useful if your carving is displayed in varying conditions.

How to prepare Basswood before staining

  1. Prepare Your Workspace: Find a well-ventilated area and lay down protective materials to avoid staining your work surface. Wear gloves to protect your hands.
  2. Materials Needed: You’ll require boiled linseed oil and a small amount of raw umber oil paint. Ensure that you have a container for mixing, a soft-bristle brush, paper towels, and paint thinner or mineral spirits for cleanup.
staining basswood

Staining Basswood carving

  1. Mix the Stain: In your container, mix boiled linseed oil with a small quantity of raw umber oil paint. Be cautious with the raw umber; a little goes a long way. Shake or stir vigorously to achieve a well-blended stain.
  2. Application: There are two ways to apply the stain:
    • Brush It On: If you prefer brushing, use a brush with soft bristles. Apply the stain evenly across the carving’s surface. Allow it to penetrate the wood, which may take some time.
    • Dip and Towel: For smaller carvings, you can dip them into the stain and then gently towel them dry with a paper towel. This method is efficient and can produce a uniform finish.
  3. Excess Removal: If there’s any excess stain on the carving, gently wipe it away with a paper towel.
  4. Drying: Allow your stained basswood carving to dry completely. This may take a day or more, depending on the thickness of the stain and environmental conditions.
  5. Cleanup: Clean your brush and any tools you used with paint thinner or mineral spirits.

How to paint basswood summary

Once the staining process is complete, your basswood carving will have undergone a remarkable transformation, emerging as a beautifully detailed and well-protected piece of art. We hope you found this information valuable and enjoyed the process. If you have any questions or need further assistance, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment, and we’ll be happy to provide prompt answers and guidance. Happy carving and painting!

Leave a Reply