How-To Paint a Ceiling Medallion

painting tutorialI have always wanted to paint one of these decorative ceiling medallions and last week an old client of mine handed me an unfinished one simply asking me to “do my magic.” I was all over it.

unfinished medallionIf you haven’t seen these you can find them almost anywhere that sells lighting. This one came from Home Depot and is made of foam. They come primed and ready to paint.

metallic paintI chose to use Modern Masters metallic paint in the color Brass which coordinates with the other fixtures in the room where this will be installed. The glazing brush I’m using came from Pierre Finkelstein’s collection and is perfect for getting into the nooks and crannies on this piece.

stipplingMetallic paint will show brush marks if you try to simply brush it on, making it look streaky. It’s best to use a stippling, pouncing motion to not only get the paint in the crevices but to also give the paint a more even finish. This paint is a little transparent so it required three coats.

painting finishedWhen the three coats of brass were on I painted the inside and outside rings with two coats of an off white latex paint. The latex was in a satin finish which is important because I planned on glazing it. If I had painted it with craft paints or matte latex the glaze wouldn’t work properly and the piece would end up too dark and splotchy.

painter's tapeThe chandelier that will hang under this medallion is chrome and glass, so I decided to add aluminum leaf on one part of the molding and on a couple small pieces on the inside carving. The first step in applying leaf is applying a liquid size which is very runny so I taped off the ring to prevent the size from dripping where I didn’t want it to go.

Leafing sizeI use Rolco Aquasize because it’s water based and dries faster. Traditional oil-based size takes forever to tack up. I buy the metal leaf from Royal Design Studio, which is really close to my house and has a great selection. You can buy online from them as well.

Apply the size in thin layers with a soft brush. The size is the consistency of water so there’s really no way to put on a thick coat. It takes 25 minutes to dry and get tacky. If after 25 minutes it’s not tacky enough, put on one more thin coat.

A quick note on metal leafing: True metal leafing is an art form that takes years to master and pristine tools and environments. What I’m describing here is what I call Crafter’s Leafing. I’m just gluing on shiny metal. I’m breaking every rule of leafing, and I’m fully aware, so there’s no need to point it out.

aluminum leafMetal leaf comes in square sheets and is lighter than air, so don’t do this outside or near an open window, or while you’re blow drying your hair. Simply lay a piece of leaf over an area with size. It will stick immediately.

small soft brushI used a small soft brush to press the leaf into the crevices. Don’t press it with your fingers because the oil on your hands can discolor the leaf.

sheepskin padWhen all the leaf is on, burnish or rub softly with a sheepskin pad. This will even out the sheen and remove any little flakes lying around.

missing leafIf there are places where the leaf is missing, it just means you missed a spot when you were applying size. That’s easy to do when working with light colors because the size is transparent. Apply more size to the spot and add leaf when it’s tacky. It will blend in when you burnish it.

burnish marksAfter I burnished the leaf I noticed that it had left grey smudges along the edges. I touched it up with the latex paint before moving on to the next step.

glaze applicationI wanted to age the whole piece so I mixed up a very dark glaze and applied it heavily in small sections. Don’t glaze the whole piece at once or the glaze will dry before you can rag it off.

The glaze I use isn’t readily available to DIY people, but if I could give you a recipe I would tell you to  go to an art supply store and pick up Golden’s Acrylic glaze and Van Dyke Brown fluid acrylic. I would mix one part pigment to six parts glaze. Always test it before slopping it on the whole piece.

ragging offOnce you get the glaze on a section, remove it from the high points with a soft rag. Leave the glaze in the crevices.

hake brushI use a soft hake brush to stipple the glaze in the low flat areas. It evens out the glaze, blends it with the adjoining section and gets rid of smears. Work in small sections around the piece, glazing the outside molding last. Acrylic glazes take 24 hours to dry completely and may take even longer where the glaze puddles in the crevices.

finished medallionI love how the glaze settled in the outside molding. It took just enough shine off the aluminum leaf to make it pretty and not garish.

Beautiful medallionSo there it is. I’ll post a picture of it when it gets hung with the chandelier. They’re really happy with it and I had a lot of fun painting it. Now it’s your turn!

A small note: this didn’t end up being the final product thanks to the client’s wanting more metal leafing. Please go to this post to see the real final product.

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7 thoughts on “How-To Paint a Ceiling Medallion

  1. The medallion is beautiful- nice work! I was gazing up at one in my house the other day, caked with layers of white paint (house was built in 1871… not sure if medallion is original) thinking it could look much better. With your instructions, maybe I could attempt to re-hab it (albeit, in the manner the Sistine chapel ceiling was painted, which does not sound fun). Some day! Thank you for this great post.

    • It wouldn’t be that bad to do on the ceiling since the piece is so small and you have to let each layer dry. I broke me neck a million years ago and try to keep off the ceiling as much as possible, but I would attempt a medallion without giving it a second thought. Just treat yourself to a massage afterward.

      • Hi,
        thank you so much for sharing the steps to make this beautiful piece. I am thinking about doing one. I did find the medallion at Home Depot.

        Can you tell me what is the size of the brush you used? I looked online for Pierre Finklestein’s water brushes and they come in different sizes.

        Thanks,
        paul

  2. Pingback: But Wait! There’s More! | destashio

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