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Friday, July 12, 2013

Painted Table with Blender Pen Transfer

I have a lot of old furniture in my house.  Actually, almost all of it is old and inherited (or found next to a dumpster and restored my moi.  It's nice to have some quality pieces that I can pass down, but I also struggle with the fact that it does NOT go with my decor!  I finally decided that I would take one piece that's  not particularly valuable and make it into what I WANT.  After all, I'm the one who has to look at it every day, and anyone else who would care is dead.  Now, I wouldn't do this with my china cabinet or anything like  that (because it's beautiful!), but I really need to make ME happy instead of trying to think of what the dead people would want, in terms of my home decor.

I've been browsing Pinterest a lot lately, and I started searching for aqua tables, because I have always wanted to incorporate that color in my home.  That's how I stumbled upon this:

Image Source: The Graphics Fairy

So then, I made this:

It was love at first sight, and exactly what I wanted.  I immediately started trying to figure out how to achieve a similar look.  I visited The Graphics Fairy and found a great graphic as a free download.  One great thing The Graphics Fairy offers is reversed text images, so they can be used for a transfer without having to mess around with Photoshop.  I downloaded the image, then I went to Block Posters to make the text the right size for my tabletop, and printed it out with a laser printer on 12 sheets of paper--that's a free service, by the way!

Now, there are multiple methods to transfer images to other surfaces, and I explored them all.  The most simple method seemed to be a Chartpak blender marker transfer.  Here is a video tutorial, which shows just how simple it can be:

Compared to Mod Podge, Citrasolv (which I could not find at any store in town), and others, this method was the cheapest and seemingly easiest.  You'll see later that I had some trouble with this step.

Before I get too far into this post, let me make a list of all the supplies I used for this project:

Printed image for transfer (must be with a laser printer)
1 quart of paint (I used Benjamin Moore Covington Blue, satin finish)
primer for tabletop (optional)
damp washcloth
2-inch brush
detail brush
sandpaper in 60, 100, 150, 240 grits
Krylon triple thick crystal clear glaze
Krylon matte finish spray (I only had spray glaze in glossy and I had this on hand, alternatively, you can get the glaze in matte finish and save a step)
painter's tape
scotch tape
Chartpak blender pen (must be Chartpak brand, as I have heard others don't work)

They say it's an add-on item only, but if you look under "other buying options," you can get one for 5 bucks and free shipping.

Here is the table I started with.  It has been in my family since it was new, in the 1880s.  It was obviously at some point set too close to a wood stove, because the finish is all crackled and discolored on one side.  Now before you think, "Wait!  Why are you painting such a beautiful antique?"  Well, I don't like it this way, and I'm the one who has to look at it.  Also, I did consider refinishing it, but the original stain would not come off all the way unless I spent money on a belt sander or a chemical stripper, and I only spent 5 bucks on this whole project, which was on the marker.  I'm on a budget, folks.  Plus, I liked my version better!

This table was in my Grandma's house, and she was notorious for over-watering plants, which was obviously done several times on this table.

I didn't cover up the original sticker, I thought it was so cool!  Goshen, Indiana is the table's place of origin. I took this photo as I was sanding, that's what you see on the right.

I think this was the original color, what you see inside the drawer.  That would have been nice.

Another view which shows all the scratches and uneven finish

First, I sanded the table.  And sanded.  And sanded. And sanded.  Then, I sanded.

Here it is after going over it with the 60 grit sandpaper.  It got pretty cloudy for awhile, but there was a lot of finish and gunk to come off.

Here is the detail of the crackled drop leaf, which is from it getting too hot.  I can tell that there was a fire in my house at some point, because some of the original doors have some of this same crackling.  It was almost immune to sandpaper, it was so hardened.  I ended up leaving most of it, partly because I had no choice after sanding for almost 4 hours, and partly because I figured it would show a little texture through and make a nice effect.

After using 100 grit sandpaper

After 150 grit sandpaper

After 240 grit sandpaper

Finished sanding!  

At this point, it is very important to thoroughly wipe off the table with a damp cloth before you do any painting.  Not only will it cut down on the dust in your work space in general, but it's necessary to obtain proper paint adhesion!

This was the point at which I decided to prime the top of the table, because a lot of those blemishes were not coming out at all, and the strange burnt texture was still there, too.   I put a tarp down in my screened-in porch and I got to work.

Here it is after the coat of primer on the tabletop.  I was using leftover primer from my last project, and there probably wasn't enough left for a second coat, so I left it at that.

Looking back, I probably should have primed the legs, too, but have you ever painted spindles?  They're the worst!

After the primer dried, I tested out the paint directly onto the wood to make sure I didn't need to go buy primer.  It seemed to adhere okay.  The edge of the tabletop obviously has better coverage over the primer, but there wasn't a drastic difference.

Here is a table leg after the first coat of paint.  As you can see, there are some streaks showing through, but at this point, I kind of figured the worst-case scenario would be that there are a lot of streaks that would look intentional.  

After the first coat of paint

After the first coat of paint on the tabletop

After the second coat of paint and a lot of touch-ups  (I kept finding spots I missed on those darn spindles!)

I let my table dry for 2 days before I did the transfer, because I wanted the paint to harden a bit before I put solvents on it (which are in the Chartpak marker).  When I was ready, I got out my design and I cut the paper off to the edges, and very carefully taped it all together.  This took a very careful eye, and I'm glad I'm so detail-oriented sometimes, because I could see how someone could end up setting this on fire after awhile, because stuff didn't exactly line up in some spots until after several tries.

I then took the image out and put it on the table unsecured.  I could barely see the text through the paper, but enough so I could measure the distance between the text and the edges of the table.  This is an important step so that you can center everything.  After that, I taped it down with painter's tape.

I colored all over the text sections with the marker, and you can see that this makes the paper translucent.  I also made a point to burnish the letters with my finger after each letter was "colored."

You can see now that the paper has dried again, and you can see the text a little better through the paper.  This is the part where I made a horrible mistake.  I don't know how others did it, but apparently if you let the paper dry after using the blender marker, it will stick to the paint!!! I went out to check that everything was dry, and I assumed it would just release from the paint, but it was completely stuck!  I tried to pull it off anyway, and then this happened:

AHHHHHHH!  I had spent two days on this table, and all for it to be ruined?!?!?!  The good news is that I'm horribly stubborn, and that sometimes comes in handy when I want to make things.  I left the table alone and went to watch some Netflix so I wouldn't obsess over the destruction.  Late that evening, I finally thought that I could probably wet the paper and peel it off, kind of the same way the paper stuck to the tabletop in the first place.  I went and got a bath towel and soaked it under the faucet.  I slightly wrung it out and spread it on the tabletop.  I pressed down on the towel and kept checking until I could see that all the paper was saturated.

Then, I started peeling off what I could.  The paper was still sticking to the letters, but with some light rubbing, it peeled off.

Here is the table with the text on the bottom uncovered.  There is still a lot of residue at this point.

In order to get as much residue off of the table as I could, I had to do a few things.  First, I had to stop rubbing the paper off at a certain point, because the water had soaked through and re-wet the paint, so it was starting to peel off when I rubbed in certain spots.  This gave me several spots that needed to be touched up.  I let the table dry overnight and started again the next day.  At that point, there was almost no paper coming off, but some white spots remaining over the letters.  I took a wet washcloth and scrubbed most of it off.  To finish it off, I used some 240 grit sandpaper very lightly over the whole thing.  

Finally, I wanted to protect the image, since I had put so much work into this and I didn't want it to be ruined by a spill, or over-watering a plant.  I started by spraying the spray glaze over all the text.

After that dried, I went over the whole table with several coats of matte finish spray.

As you can see, it is still a bit inconsistent in sheen, and I really wanted it as uniform as possible.  To do this, I took a sanding block that was 400 grit and went over the whole tabletop.  This brought back the original satin sheen of the paint, and the letters blended in like they were always there!


Finally, I attached the hardware, a $0.79 knob from Home Depot.  Can't go wrong there!

Finally, I folded down the leaves.  I saved this step for last, because I knew that if I painted inside the folds, I would have to wait for them to dry completely for a few days before I folded them up again for more than a few minutes.  

Here you can see the primer without any paint in the folds.

After the first coat of paint, you can still see it is a bit lighter than the tabletop.  That's okay, because when I scrubbed the tabletop with the damp washcloth, the toner had very slightly smeared and caused a really nice aged effect on the tabletop.  

And here is the finished product!  I'll add a photo of it set up in my living room in a day or so, after it is completely dry.  The worst thing to do is start putting things on a freshly-painted surface too soon, because you will have imprints in the paint and everything will stick to it.  I am quite pleased, though!

Here is a detail of the finished text.  You can see that there is a bit of a halo around the letters, partly from the paper that I couldn't completely remove, and partly from the toner that smeared (however, I really like this effect).  I should mention that the toner only smeared after I scrubbed it quite vigorously.  I am impressed at how well it held up to my sanding and scrubbing.

In hindsight, using a blender pen (which contains solvent) probably was a bad choice to use on a painted surface.  However, in all the research I did, it seemed that many people had done just that with great success.  If I were working on a smaller scale and removed the paper while it was still wet, I don't think I would have had any problems, but that was just not possible with this large project.  I still prefer this to working with mod podge (which I always smear and get the paper wrinkled!).  The other option I explored is this printer paper you can get that you dip in water and apparently the image can be peeled off and transferred, but that was rather expensive, and I was going for cheap here.  Now that I've got some experience with transfers, I can't wait to it again!  Have you done something similar?  Have a solution to my mess-up?  Tell me about it in the comments.


  1. Love the table! Great result! Thanks so much for all the details. I have done this method before with some great and not-so-great results. The thing I haven't tried yet: blender pen over a painted item. I am so glad to know this. Off to paint a last minute Christmas gift (sign) and hope I can pull this off! :) Thanks again.. so awesome your table is a family piece too!

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