Decorative Finishes: Paint, Decals, etc.

In this instance, decorative finishes are considered to be “colorization” processes beyond the use of wood stain. This is most often solid paints for lettering, logos, pictures, etc. Some users will even use vinyl decals or logos that they then want to seal under the protective layer. Many options are compatible with Waterlox products, but there are a few tips to ensure one achieves the desired result. The three factors to keep an eye on are compatibility, adhesion and aesthetics. Other considerations would be using the decorative finish UNDER or OVER the Waterlox products.

Waterlox First

If the intent is to use the Waterlox products first, that is the best option for minimal interaction. Most Waterlox products make excellent primers for standard paints including, chalk, oil-based, acrylic and latex paints. Using the Waterlox products first will help to seal the surface and minimize any “bleeding” of the color.

Compatibility
Make sure that the paint or decoration being used will not harm the Waterlox finish. Paints that use alcohol or other strong solvents may damage the Waterlox finish when applied. Try to stick to oil or water-based products to minimize any potential issues.

Adhesion
Waterlox products tend to make excellent primers. While adhesion should be pretty good over most of the Waterlox sealers and finishes, it is always recommended to test first. See the Adhesion guide for more information. Again, most Waterlox finishes will work under most traditional paints, but the best “base coats” will be the UNIVERSAL Tung Oil Sealer, the ORIGINAL Semi-Gloss Finish and the MARINE Sealer. All three will work equally well on any project.

Aesthetics
Because the Waterlox will be underneath the decorative finish, the colors will be unaffected. You may want to consider that a paint used on the surface may have a different gloss than the surrounding area.

Waterlox Second

Many Waterlox products can be used on top of decorative finishes. When used over other products and finishes, the compatibility, adhesion and aesthetics will be critical to achieve the desired look and protection.

Compatibility
Make sure that the Waterlox products you choose are compatible with the decorative finish that was applied. First and foremost make sure that the solvents in Waterlox products will not damage or smear the color coat. Most Waterlox products will use mineral spirits or other non-polar (oil-based) solvents, so read the label or conduct a test first. Also note that if some paints seal the wood, our buff in products (UNIVERSAL Tung Oil Sealer, TRUETONE, and PURE Tung Oil) may not work because they cannot penetrate past the color coat. Also, some paints may cause the Waterlox to bead up if they are not compatible with the coat underneath. You may be able to help flow and leveling by lightly scuffing the surface before applying the Waterlox product if you run into this issue.

Adhesion
As is the case when applying one type of finish over a different kind of finish, adhesion must be tested. The coatings may flow and level and generate a nice films over your colorization process or even decals, however, if that coating is not adhered underneath you run the risk of that coating peeling off the surface if damaged. Follow the Adhesion guide for more information.

Aesthetics
The final look of your project is usually one of the most important reasons to finish a project in the first place. Most Waterlox products contain tung oil which is amber in color. When tung oil is then combined with resins in some formulations, the films will have nice warm, amber tone. While many people enjoy the warmth that our finishes provide, this may negatively affect the final color of anything used underneath the Waterlox products. This discoloration will be most evident in our MARINE, ORIGINAL, and H2OLOX finishes, but there may be slight color changes with the other Waterlox products as well. Definitely test first to ensure you are happy with the final look and color.

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