While I may be a newer carver there is one frustration to me I think I am getting a grasp on now. Painting. There seems to be an abundance of paint mixing tips from just about every woodcarver out there, each finding their own tones and washes they like for their carvings. Being someone who wanted my carvings to look look like they were painted by a pro, I did a lot of research into the matter.
I like to use acrylic paints. Although oils sure do look nice, all of the extra cleaning and disposal steps you have to go through could outweigh me wanting to use them.
So what have I learned in my trial and errors of painting?
1- Paint wet. What I mean by this is make sure your carving is wet before you paint it. Be it from water or boiled linseed oil, Watco finishes etc. you will find this helps the paint stay on top and not do as much bleeding or absorb into the carving which results in you having to add a lot more paint to get the desired outcome.
2- Try to use washes. Washes are where you add water or a flow medium to your paints. What this does is make the paint much lighter which allows the wood grain to show through. If you use washes always try to paint the area a layer at a time. Which means paint the area, then use a hair dryer to dry it which will allow you to see if it has achieved the desired color or brightness you wanted. Adding too much of a wash at once can over do it. So try to go with the less is more feel until you get the desired effect you are after.
3- Highlights! Adding highlights to a piece can really make a specific area stand out. For example, when I carve a hat, I now try to add folds or a flow to the hat. So when I paint it, in the areas I want to look like a fold, I just add a little darker bit of paint. You can do this by just building up the washes as you go in that certain area, or just add a little more paint to the water to achieve a darker hue. It will really make the areas pop if you do this. Experiment to find what works best for you.
These are just a few little tips I have come to do in my painting. I am by no means an expert, nor do I think my way is the only way out there. What I have come to believe is we all have our own ways of doing things. But we all can learn from each other. So experiment and see what works for you.