Translucent Color Basics

By Dot Rego of Fashenhues Colour
When beginning to decorate with non-fired products it is sometimes difficult to understand the difference between an opaque or acrylic colour and a translucent colour.  An opaque colour gives dense or solid coverage usually used for painting or drybrushing.  A translucent colour will allow colours below them to show through.  Either method gives quick results, but both the application and results are completely different from each other.
Translucent colours can be used on many surfaces including ceramic, porcelain, wood, plaster, resin, canvan and many decorative surfaces not used for food.  The preparation of individual surfaces will vary according to their porosity.
When working on cermic bisque, it is important o apply a sealer or base coat because the bare bisque surface is porous.  Two coats of the basecoat or sealer is used because the first coat usually shrinks during the drying process so another coat is important.  Two base coats are available; white and cream.  You can complete the basecoats with two layers of white or cream.  Another method of base coating is to use one coat of cream (because it is easy to see on white bisque) and then finish with a coat of white for perfect coverage.
When using two coats of white, it is difficult to see any unpainted areas so a coat of Antiquing Solution is usually brushedover the basecoat.  The Solution will cause a discoloration (normally a grayish/yellowish colour) to appear on an unpainted areas.  When you see an unpainted area, dry it with a paper towel and correct by brushing an additional basecoat.  If they are not corrected promptly, they will disappear as the Antiquing Solution dries.  Allow the basecoating to dry thoroughly. 
Three Basic Ways of Using Translucent Colors
Traditional Antiquing
Paint a figurine with acrylic colours (not necessary to apply a sealer), let dry.  Antique with a translucent colour in darker shade, such as brown or black to give depth to crevices and normally a grayish/yellowish colour to tone down acrylic colours.  A spray would be required.
 Applying Colors over Antiquing
On a properly prespared piece, antique with a translucent colour of your choice.  Usually a neutral, earth-tone color such as brown is the most popular.  If a lighter brighter finish is required, antique with a lighter colour such as Cocoa or Charcoal.  Add a drop or two of Blending Media to the colour.  The colour is then picked with a bristle brush (which allows the colour to ealisly work into the crevices), and brushed onto a small, approximately 3 inch by 3 inch area.  Then it is wiped gently with a cloth while it is still wet, until the raised areas are lighter than the crevices.  When finished, lightly moisten the cloth Antiquing Solution and lighten antique colours.  If too much brown is left on, the other colours will become muddly and not be as vibrant. 
The selected colours or choice will then be brushed on top of the Antiquing Colour, then gently wiped or blotted to desired shade.  Another method of applying colour is to rouge.  Rouging simply means to pick a translucent colour up on a cloth, gently wipe excess onto a palette to distribute colour on cloth, and rub colour onto area to be coloured.  To eliminate smearing, do not wipe into crevices where colours join.  The shadowing will also be more intense.  Wipe only where you can comfortably reach.  To eliminate smudging with fingers, either use a cloth to hold the piece or insert hand in opening in bottom.  The completed piece will require a good quality spray, whether it be a matte, gloss or porcelain spray to seal the colours.
Paint by Number with Translucents
On a properly prepared piece, simply brush the colour of choice onto the basecoat, then gently wipe or blot until desired shade results.  All remaining steps are the same.  Translucent colours can easily be used on porcelain bisque.  To prepare, sandblast or polish porcelain until it is very smooth.  Do not basecoat the porcelain;  as basecoating will destroy the beautiful transparency.  The translucent colours can be used by either antiquing firs or the paint by number method. 
When using translucents on carved, raw wood, ther are two ways to prepare the wood.  To keep the integrity of the wood, generously spray it with siz or seven oats of Alat Matte Spray and allow each coat to dry thorough.  The spray is a clear varnish sealing the wood.  Proceed using the translucent colours.  The other preparationis to basecoat the wood the sme as the ceramics.
Artists canvas is usally sold prepared and ready to receive colour.  Resin, plaster and metal surfaces should be bascoated.