Decorative Painting Tips & Tricks

Not so very long ago I was totally freaked out by the thoughts of decorative painting. Since my husband (better known on my blog as Mr. SCC) is a genius at all things artistic, I’d come up with an idea and then beg him to make it happen. One day, while he was at work, I decided that I was going to learn how to do it – and ya know what? It was pretty simple stuff! With just a few basic techinques you can create some pretty amazing stuff. Today I thought I’d start simple with sharing how I do branches – those are the easiest thing to start with. {Don’t worry, I’ll show how to add the bird in a snap!}

The most important tool is a good paint brush. I only used one brush for all of the painting – a #2 liner brush. The paint is regular Sherwin Williams wall paint, in a dark brownish black (the color name is worn off my can – sorry!) Ok – let’s get started.

Since I use a dark paint for the branches, I use a plain old pencil to sketch out my rough outline. Before I ever put the pencil to my furniture, I studied the way that branches tend to act in nature.

Look at images of trees – like this one from The Graphics Fairy. Study the way that the branches move, intersect and play off each other. Practice on paper before you start sketching directly onto furniture, so that you get a feel for it. I practiced a LOT. You can even practice painting on those lines right on the paper, too!
learn to decorative paint on furniture and walls
Once you have the sketches on the furniture, it’s time to start painting. With paint on your brush, start on the tips of the branches and work towards the “trunk.” Let the branches get thicker as you go, like they would naturally. Think of the paintbrush like a more flexible pencil – don’t be scared! Keep a wet cloth so if you make a mistake you can wipe it off and start again.
DIY decorative painting
Start at the very top of the branches and work your way down to the bottom. If your hand is a little shaky, that’s ok! It will just add character!
painting tree tips & tricks
After the basic structure is complete, go back and free hand in some extra embellishments. Little off shoots here and there just add more to the tree. Notice where they come off of the graphic, that’s where you want to go.
all the same door – in different stages
Now that the painting is done, let’s add some character with birds!
DIY image transfers
Start by covering a piece of cardstock with tissue paper. It’s kind of hard to see, but I wrapped it like a gift and taped it on the back with masking tape. Make sure to put the dull side out, so that you will print on it versus the shiny side.
I put together a collage of all my favorite bird graphics on The Graphics Fairy. I turned the direction of them so I had birds going both directions instead of just one. Print the birds directly onto the tissue paper by running it through a printer.
After the ink is dry, sprayed the print with Blair Matte Digi-Finish. I did one side, then let it dry, and then the other. The spray does 2 things: makes the paper somewhat translucent & gives it strength.
DIY bird transfers
When they are dry, trim them out. They don’t have to be perfect – but you can trim them as closely as you’d like. {I’m a little too impatient for perfection!} After you have them trimmed out, play around with the placement of them on your branches – just hold them up here and there to see where they work best. The birds with feet on branches made it easier to line the branches up with the ones I painted.
When you have the placement just right, use Mod Podge to put them in place by painting on a bit of it, then coating the top to hold them in place. I prefer matte finish, because you don’t want the birds shiny and the rest of your piece a different sheen. After it’s dry – you’re done!
The birds help to bring the branches up to a whole new level!
decorative painted cabinet
Although it looks difficult, the entire cabinet took less than 2 hours to complete – that’s a lot of impact for a short while! It really is that easy :)
Since we’re talking about painting – I hope you stop by my blog today and see my studio, it’s getting a no money makeover!
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  1. That looks just fabulous! Very graceful and delicate. Not overpowering at all! Love it. great tutorial for painting the branches too! If your printer is not a straight feed but a rollover feed then the method with the tissue might not work but there are ways to do it anyway. Love it!

  2. Gina, you have done a wonderful job, it is beautiful.

  3. So cute, Gina! What an easy way of playing “artist”! :)

    xoxo laurie

  4. Beautiful!!!! Thanks for the idea…

  5. Oh j’adore !!!
    Oh I love !!! Thank’s for sharing …

  6. Oh thanks for all the tips. I really like the end results. I’m glad to know about keeping the wet cloth handy in case of mistakes.

  7. I love this! It is so simple and beautiful. I can’t find the Blair Matte Digi Finish but the man at the art store told me Blair Matte Spray Clear would do the same thing. Would that be true?

  8. awesome

  9. Such a pretty finished piece of furniture. Thanks for sharing the great tutorial. I love trees and birds. Nature is such a calming thing to look at.

  10. What printer do you use? I’m not sure I could run cardstock with tissue taped over through it.

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The Graphics Fairy is a resource for Home Decorators and Crafters. Find over 4,500 FREE Vintage Stock images, Illustrations, Old Pictures, Antique Graphics, Vintage Printables, to MAKE craft projects, collage, DIY, scrapbooking, etc! DIY and Craft Tutorials, and Home Decorating Ideas are offered as well. Daily vintage image downloads since 2007. Most are Jpegs, or PDFs, but there are some Vectors as well. As far as I know these are all Royalty Free Images that are in the Public Domain. However I cannot guarantee that. Please see my Faq page to find info on copyright laws in your country.