Questions and Answers, - Type of paint.
"I have a very limited budget and need to purchase some paint for the purpose of painting wood and canvas scenery and cloths. Could you recomend the best type of paint to buy? I am a novice at this kind of thing and don't want to waste the budget on the wrong sort of paint!!
Many thanks, Matthew" (UK)

This answer refers to UK readers only. I don't think many other countries use ' hardboard' and the nearest to 'emulsion paint' in the USA is called 'latex' but I don't know if it has exactly the same constituents.
There are two manufacturers of paint I would recommend. One is "Rosco" which is a long-term investment. Rosco is professional theatrical scenery paint. Practically any professional show you see which uses painted stage scenery, that scenery will have been painted with Rosco. I am talking not just in the West End (UK) but on Broadway (USA) too. In fact one of their ranges is called "On Broadway". Why do I call it long term? Well it is very expensive and not worth buying for, say, a couple of amateur shows a year. However the colour is very saturated (they call it super- saturated) which means it can be easily diluted up to ten times without any loss of hue. So a little goes a long way. I rarely use it. But suggest you get their catalogue as they do lots of other interesting stage materials such as glitter curtains etc.

I use ordinary Dulux household emulsion. (Vinyl Matt). Why? Because the colours are strong; it is water based so brushes are easily cleaned up afterwards; it comes in a vast array of colours, it dries quickly under normal conditions; being water based it is fireproof; containing vinyl it does not appear to crack when painted on a backcloth which is then rolled up. (And no I do not have any connection with Dulux!)

I am inclined to lavish paint on rather thickly so my backcloths only last about six shows before they show signs of cracking. (Assuming a roll up and down of say 20 times for one show's duration). Use canvas for backcloths, not calico - paint will crack when rolled up on calico.

Now you don't have to necessarily use Dulux but I find it best for my purposes, although slightly dearer than many emulsion paints there is less filler used by the manufacturer to bulk the paint up, so the hues are stronger.

I never ever paint straight from the tin and always mix colours. I use large plastic ice-cream cartons in which I mix the paint.

At the time of writing I have 41 two and half litre tins of various colours! But this has built up over the years. (Don't store in a garden shed in the winter. Frost can ruin emulsion paint)
I have a basic palette and then, depending upon the requirements of a particular show, will buy extra colours as needed. That is how my 'library' of colours has built up.

My basic palette is as follows. A few years ago Dulux changed their method of labelling colours but I still use their "old" descriptions and if your stockist puts these names into their computer the new code will be easily found.
These colours are very strong. I buy them strong and dark so that I can tint them with white, which makes for a more economical way of working. I never use them neat.

Vandyke (Which is a dark brown)
Poppy (A Post office type red)
Midnight (A dark blue)
Cornfield (A bright yellow)
Black (but I will only use a couple of teaspoons of black for a whole show)
Holly (Dark green - like holly!)
Another lighter green (to suit the type of season I am painting).

And White. You will use a lot of white. I buy a cheaper white than the Dulux version as I only use the white for tinting, and sealing, never as a colour. White is a horrible colour on the stage in any case. Looks very chalky and dull. Paradoxically yellow makes a better white under stage lights!
Finally I also use have a large container of PVA glue.

I usually use hardboard for my flats (braced with 2"x1" behind) but before I build these flats I lay all my hardboard sheets on the floor, like tiles, and seal them with a mixture of :-

Cheap white paint as my base
Into which I add about one tenth of PVA glue
And a couple of teaspoons (no more) of colour to tint the solution
And about one twentieth of water to dilute it slightly.
This concoction is mixed until the colour has been thoroughly assimilated.

The colour is there to a/. Show when the solution has been thoroughly mixed b/. At least start on a base coat of the flat c/. Enable white chalk marks to be seen easier when marking out.

Once the hardboard has dried, only then do I start building the flats. If you seal the hardboard after building flats, the hardboard warps.

Now it is the opposite way around when building canvas flats or preparing a new backcloth. This only applies to new canvas. Canvas that has been painted over does not need re-sealing.

Build the supports for your flat or make the wooden paint frame for the backcloth and then stretch the canvas onto the frame. I put staples in about every 9 inches around the frame. Then seal the canvas with the above mixture. You will have a surprise because as it is drying overnight the canvas tightens like a drum and sometimes snaps the wooden supports with the pressure exerted. You are left with a lovely surface to paint on. Beware, do not have any supports across the middle behind the cloth, which the canvas is touching. If you do then as you drag your paintbrush across the canvas it will catch on this support hump and leave a line (like what happens when you do brass rubbing)

Hope this is enough info to help.
Really short of money? Ask your friends for any tads of household emulsion left over from home decorating. Make sure it is matt not silk or gloss.

Try Dulux for their charity project. I don't know if they still do it but they used to give paint to groups who were doing community painting. (Murals in youth clubs that sort of thing) you might get help there.

Have you a group that sells/gives clean industrial waste to playgroups and brownies etc (bobbins from the spinning industry etc)? We have one here which has recently asked for donations of tads of paint for community groups painting murals. Maybe they can let you have some.


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