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Professional advice for DIY decorators

Listed under abranet, Blog, brushes, Eco, hand-painted kitchen, krudkutter, Little Greene, mypaintbrush.co.uk, Owatrol Posted Sep 23 2012

As well as advising homeowners on best specifications for hand-painted kitchens, Traditional Painter answers a regular flow of email and phone enquiries from plucky DIY painters. Here is some professional advice for DIY decorators.

hand painted kitchen using Farrow and Ball Most DIY sites and stores emphasize the price – this paint or tool is cheap, or this isn’t too bad, not brilliant, but what do you expect for the money?!! But DIY are missing a trick shopping around on the basis of what will do, to get by. There is no point in my mind, spending your precious spare time and money fiddling around with DIY standard paint and tools, when for pretty much the same money, you can use pro quality and get closer to pro quality results quicker, with less aggravation.

So, when advising DIY decorators, I always emphasise the importance of good preparation, good kit, good primers. And for finish paints, I usually steer them towards the high performance but more user-friendly water-based paints such as Mythic no odour non-toxic acrylic latex paints, Little Greene / Fired Earth acrylic eggshell.

DIY sanding

When painting woodwork, make sure the surface is clean before sanding, i.e. wipe down with a degreaser cleaner, we suggest Fluxaf Pro Clean NOT sugar soap, much easier with abranet abrasive Very few non-professionals want to hear that the secret to a good paint finish is lots of sanding down! However, it is an unavoidable fact of life. Having said that, rubbing down doesn’t have to be the same miserable experience that most DIY decorators go through.

Use an abrasive called Abranet, and the Abranet starter kit, (a sanding block, hose and attachment plus sample sheets of abrasive) and whizz through your sanding with a dustless sanding system.

DIY priming

Probably the most successful and most used high performance primers in Europe are from a company called Classidur. For DIY looking to prime a lacquered wood, or paint a stained ceiling, (or 2 coats straight over dirty walls for a white finish) the rebranded water-based Classidur Universal Primer (sold in UK as Blackfriars Problem Solving Primer) is one of the first to look at using.

Likewise, Mythic Multi Purpose primer from USA, is a brilliant mix of best trade performance and strong eco credentials. I would say that Mythic is the most user-friendly paint range currently available in UK, as far as I am aware – thin and fast to apply, low/no spatter, no odour, no toxins..

Follow this link and scroll down to Best paint for furniture

DIY finish paint

Any of the “posh” paints from the Little Greene stable, come in an acrylic eggshell finish, and they dry with almost the same look as the traditional oil eggshell paint – traditional colours and a traditional flatter look. (More on oil eggshell or acrylic eggshell)

Very adept DIY painters will enjoy Little Greene oil eggshell, with a good drop of Owatrol paint conditioner to make it flow nicely, and only pour enough to use every half hour so it doesnt go too sticky on you, but with the progress nowadays in paint formulae, mainly from companies outside the mainstream, I would say that home decorators with a not quite perfect technique, can achieve better results with an water-based approach than battling with olde worlde oil based undercoat and gloss. But you need one of these…

DIY paint brushes

If a DIY paint brush were like a DIY shoe, most home decorators would be hobbling around wishing they had something that fit!

picasso cleans out in KrudKutter Original or Brushwash Brushes are a deal breaker, the wrong one can make a mockery of all your sanding down. My Paint Brush have sole rights to the fabulous Picasso paint brush, so if you are using acrylic wall paint (Little Greene emulsions or the Mythic range for instance are acrylic) this is the brush for straight lines – load it up, load it up and load it up with a lot of paint, scrape off the excess and enjoy. With Floetrol conditioner added to acrylic eggshell, and a light touch, the Picasso is outstanding too, as is the best value-for-money brush ever sold, the Wooster Silver Tip.

For oil paint, I would advise DIY to go the roll and tip route. Brush paint into the fiddly corners first, then take one flat area at a time, apply the oil paint with the Fat Hog or Wooster dense black foam roller, then with a dryish brush, lay off along the grain.

An example of advice for DIY kitchen painters

The owner of this kitchen was based in Hong Kong, and asked me how to paint this kitchen (a holiday project at their summer home in South of France) They would be purchasing their paint in UK.

hand painted kitchen using Farrow and Ball

I offered the above sort of advice, but unfortunately it wasn’t so easy for them to source the simplest DIY paint combination. (Leyland sell Blackfriars Problem Solving Primer if that helps)

The email below explains the route they finally took, and the colours.


You may recall I asked for advice on a primer to go over Diamond Glaze on kitchen units. As it happens I used Zinsser BIN, which also seems to have done the job. Too difficult to get the Classidur you recommended. In any case I am sending a photo of the finished job… Farrow and Ball’s elegant blue grey Mizzle with Pointing on the walls.

Thanks for your time and input

Best Regards


Diamond Glaze is a tough clear acrylic floor lacquer, so to be overpainted with eggshell paint, it needs a good high adhesion primer coat.

The primer that the home painter used, Zinsser BIN, is more suited to professional use, is tacky, and requires good ventilation and cleans up with meths. But if you can apply it well, (most of the Traditional Painter kitchen guys have it on hand) it too will adhere to most surfaces; it blocks potential stains and can be over-painted with oil or water-based paints. So good paint, just a bit trickier than the water based options.

The top coats of Farrow and Ball Estate Eggshell seemed to behave – there was no mention of slow drying times or extended tackiness, so I assume it applied well, and dried to a hard satin finish – just as it is supposed to every time – but sometimes doesn’t!

They said they were happy with the overall results, but also qualified the success saying it was not a pro job!

I think that is the main message to carry away from this – we are only too happy to tell folks exactly how we do our job, (there are 3 lecturers and writers in our kitchen painting group) but ultimately, we have been doing it for 20 – 30 years in most cases, so you may not quite achieve the quality of finish that we can. But please don’t stop asking, or trying to do the best job you can.

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2 comments to “Professional advice for DIY decorators”

  1. Keith Smith

    Can you please help me? I am painting my speaker cabinets with solvent based Dulux eggshell paint. I have filled crackes etc with 2 pack filler and fine sanded. I intend to apply at least 4 coats of paint finish to build up a good thickness of colour but I want to give ‘depth’ to the final finish by applying 2 coats of clear seal with a tinter – this to give the look of a commercial sprayed finish. These coats will be applied diluted 10% with white spirit to provide the smoothest eggshell ‘sprayed effect’ finish that I can achieve.

    Please can you advise what clear seal to use (assuming an eggshell/ satin finish), is it best to roller apply this and what compatible tinter can be mixed to give me a depth of colour which will be missing if I just finish with the eggshell paint. Can you please also add any advice regarding the application technique.

    Many thanks

  2. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    Hi Keith, I will post this over on the forum for a broader response. https://traditionalpainter.com/forum/furniture-painting-group2/painted-furniture-tips-tricks-best-paint-forum6/painting-speaker-cabinets-thread159#postid-576


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