Basic surface preparation 
Glaze and Glazing

Material descriptions 
Patching drywall 
Paint & varnish removers
Sanding techniques
Sealers & sealants
Solvents & thinners






Simulated Fresco Treatments

Create old world charm or contemporary sophistication with these easy to follow plaster effects and simulated Fresco techniques.

artSparx has created a 3 stage step-by-step tutorial series. Series 1 begins with basic plaster application, our 2nd series illustrates antique glazing and plaster distressing methods, culminating in the final fresco simulation series 3, hand-painted elements.

more decorative effects

artSparx Book special

The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques

Since 1940, when it was originally published, The Artist's Handbook has become indispensable for thousands of practicing artists and art students. The book has remained continually in print through many editions and has sold more than a quarter of a million copies. A detailed index makes a wealth of information readily available. Charts and line drawings throughout.

more books

After stripping paint, varnish or wax from wood surfaces, a light sanding, always in the direction of the wood grain, may be required before proceeding to next step in the re-finishing process.


Solvents and thinners

In this section


Solvents and thinners

A solvent is a solution that breaks down the essential properties of paints and varnishes, lacquer, shellac, oils, grease and adhesive residues. There are many different kinds of solvents, each performing a specific reaction (function) with a specific product. All solvents, except for water, have a toxic effect on organic tissue, biochemical, physiochemical and neurochemical. Use with care and always dispose of properly.

Safety: It is important to use caution with solvents. Always use appropriate protective gear on all exposed body areas, especially the hands and eyes. Always work in a well-ventilated room. Refrain from smoking of working near heat sources as many solvents are flammable.

Safety: All solvents should be properly disposed of at your local facility. find



Turpentine is an effective solvent for oil and alkyd based paints and varnishes, and removing tar, grease and tree sap. Genuine turpentine has a strong odor and is becoming less commonly used in the painting and art industries. Many substitute products have arrived on the market that performs essentially the same function, with less noxious vapors. Some of the substitutes include mineral spirits and turpenoid.

Gum turpentine

Mineral spirits (White spirits):

Mineral spirits is a petroleum-based product. Mineral spirits is an oil based solvent ideally used for thinning oil based exterior and interior varnishes, such as oil varnish , and paint products, as well as an efficient solvent for artist’s oil paints.


Turpenoid is a turpentine substitute with limited odor, ideally suited for artist oil painting.

Lacquer thinner:

Used to dilute, dissolve and clean up of lacquer products. Typically too caustic for oil paints, lacquer thinner is often used additionally for removing inks on metal, and adhesive residue from a variety of surfaces. Lacquer thinner is very  strong and rapidly deteriorates many surfaces and fabrics. Always test in inconspicuous area before use.

Denatured Alcohol:

A solvent primarily used to dilute and dissolve shellac and aniline dyes. Denatured alcohol also acts as a semi-aggressive cleaning agent. Always test on a non-visible surface before using denatured alcohol for cleaning purposes.

MEK (methyl ethyl ketone):

A highly caustic solvent. Always use protective hand and eyewear. Used to dissolve some of the more determined paint problems. Removal of hardened paint on hardware such as hinges and doorknobs by soaking in MEK are common uses for this product. Always test before applying MEK on any object or surface as the powerful solvent qualities of MEK can quickly damage or destroy the item.


Though typically used as a fuel, kerosene has very strong solvent  properties. For ‘oil glazing’ in decorative finishing, kerosene is sometimes employed to make the glaze ‘hot’, increasing the workable time with the glaze, as well as ‘fusing’ with a glaze previously applied.  No more than a capful per gallon is used and adding kerosene to any paint product is not recommended.

Safety: Kerosene is highly flammable. Always use in a well-ventilated area. Wear protective gear over all exposed areas of the body. Do not smoke or use near any open heat source.


Typically used as a fuel, gasoline has very strong solvent properties. Often used to remove grease, tar, and waxes. Gasoline makes an excellent solvent for cleaning tools and metal parts.

Safety: Gasoline is highly flammable. Always use in a well-ventilated area. Wear protective gear over all exposed areas of the body. Do not smoke or use near any open heat source.


A moderately aggressive solvent. Acetone is often used to clean glass, general dirt and grime. In restoration and conservation practices acetone is often used to clean dirt, soot and grime from paintings and furniture. It is also used for the slow dissolving of varnished paintings, to clean, then re-varnish the painting.


Water acts as general solvent and thinner with virtually all water based interior and exterior paints and varnishes. Most latex, acrylic products break down in water. Artist acrylic paints , watercolor, gauche, tempura paint all use water as the dilution agent.

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Decorative paint and glazing techniques



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