Achieving Good Coverage with CeCe Caldwell’s Light Color Paint and Preventing Bleed Through (Tutorial)

August 14, 2013

I had a great question come in and decided to do another “ask me anything” post!  The following is a question regarding the coverage of CeCe Caldwell’s Dover White colors.  As I’ve hit some stumbling blocks myself using the whites, I thought this is a great contender for an “ask me anything” / tutorial post!

Here is the question:

“I purchased a Dover White and Seattle Mist sample to try out on my duncan phyfe dining set.  I love the combo (mostly white but light wet distressing with seattle mist) however I’m having trouble getting good coverage with the white (going over mahogany).  I’ve had some bleed through issues and read to seal with shellac first, will this also cure the streaking coverage problem?  Will another shade of the Caldwell whites provide better coverage?”

Let’s break up the question into two parts.

First, there is the issue of the Dover White paint itself not getting good coverage.

The short answer is, yes, another shade of white will solve streaking issues (though not necessarily bleed through).  Dover White is a beautiful color but is translucent and is meant to be used as a white wash over another color of paint (it is referred to as Dover White Wash on the CeCe website).  I have many custom order customers ask to do an entire piece in Dover but I always tell them I don’t do base coats of Dover as it works best as a white wash.  You can really see the translucent nature of Dover on this coffee table I did.  After one coat of Dover, you can still see the Vermont Slate coming through.  This looks cool if you’re going for that look but when you want a solid, creamy white, Dover just can’t do it.  So my answer to the question of whether another white would be better is yes.  Vintage White and Simply White are your two white options.  Vintage White is creamier and Simply White is a stark white.  In my opinion, both have about the same consistency.  They are thick paint colors (thicker than some of the other colors) in my experience.  This isn’t a bad thing especially when you want a solid coverage.

When painting a dark wood such as a mahogany piece, you will almost certainly need two thick coats of Vintage White or Simply White.  After sealing my own pieces with only one coat and then realizing they are streaky, I now just automatically do two thick coats of white.  If you look closely at the desk pictured above, you can see bluish looking streaks on right hand inside of the desk.  That’s because I only did one coat. I should have painted a thicker first coat, waited for it to dry and painted a thick second coat.

Why does dark brown wood appear streaky and bluish when not enough Vintage White is applied?  I have no idea – it’s weird but it happens to me all the time!  If you’re ordering Vintage White or Simply White and want a solid, even look plan to use at least two coats and purchase the amount you need accordingly.  Also, I never spray my whites with water in an attempt to get a smooth finish as I do with other colors.  You want Vintage White and Simply White to go on thick.

Now, if you want a super distressed, incredibly shabby look like Eleanor my work desk, one very thinly  (and purposefully sloppily) applied coat of Simply White will do.Now, what can be done about bleed through? I have experienced bleed through multiple times. It always happens when you finish a nice, thick coat of white and, satisfied, begin to wait for it to dry. A few hours later you come outside only to see streaks of yuck colored brown seeping through your hard work. That very thing happened with this antique dresser I painted.I was a newby when I painted this custom order. When I saw the stain seep through my first coat of Simply White, I just painted another thick coat on. I may have even painted another coat on after that (talk about time consuming)! In the end a tiny bit of the stain was still showing through (if you look really close you can see something that looks like Aging Cream but most certainly isn’t). It actually looked (dare I say it) kind of integrated with the piece and the customer loved the piece so ce la vie! But, you won’t always want to see that stain protrude on your handiwork.

As I found out, one way to cope with bleed through is to keep painting multiple layers of paint.  One reason you may do this is if you want to wet distress, you’ll need to only have paint over the original wood.  If you seal the piece, then paint it, you won’t be able to wet distress down to the original wood because it will be sealed in.  You’ll have to distress with sandpaper which will (for better or worse) tear up the original wood and you may inadvertently sand too far down and not get the varnish or wood color you want to come through.

Another way to stop bleed through is to seal the leaky varnish or paint before you paint with CeCe’s as you mentioned.  I would try sealing with Endurance finish or with any old clear spray on Poly (available pretty much everywhere).  The stronger the sealant the less likely the original varnish will bleed through.  After you do a coat of poly or Endurance, let it dry then paint a little part of the piece to see if it worked.  If you see leakage, be aggressive and go at it again with another coat of poly till you seal that sucker!!

Putting it all together. 

If you’ve already painted a whole coat of Dover White on the piece, I would personally just leave it.  If you’re seeing bleed through from the furniture’s original varnish or stain, seal the piece as is with Endurance or a poly of your choice.  Once that dries, paint Vintage White or Simply White in one area and see if you’re getting bleed through.  If so, go at it again with poly.  Once the bleed through stops, paint a solid coat of Vintage White or Simply White.  Make sure you’re painting it on thickly and evenly.  Let that dry.  Paint another coat, making sure you’re filling in any streaks.  Then whitewash with Seattle Mist (which is a fun idea – I want to try that combo now)!  Now you can distress with sand paper. Then seal your hard work with one of CeCe’s finishing products.

Stripping the piece down to the original wood (taking off the varnish) is also an option.  I use CitriStrip.  While your at it, strip down to the original wood (aka strip off the varnish).  This will be  time consuming and messy.  I hate stripping furniture *almost* as much as I hate painting spindly chairs.  When your down to the original wood, you can start over with Vintage White or Simply White.  Stripping is always my last choice if I can avoid it for those reasons.

Thank you for the great loaded question!  I’ve run into these issues many times before and love sharing tips I’ve learned along the way!


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