We’ve talked about what’s NOT in Wise Owl Chalk Synthesis Paint, so now, let’s talk about what IS. What makes it so stellar? What benefits does it have over paint from a big box store? Why would you want to give it a try??
So first...what is it? You’ve likely heard the term “Chalk Paint”, and for most folks, that’s a blanket term that describes a pretty large group of paint….its fairly adhesive, dries to a chalky finish, and distresses with ease. But that term is actually trademarked by a pretty major paint brand in the industry. Yup, no other brands can actually use the term...which is why everyone else has a “chalk style” or “chalky finish” or in the case of WO, a “chalk synthesis”. So why “synthesis”? Because they’ve taken the best parts of mineral (chalk, which is a form of limestone), clay, and acrylic paints and combined them to create one rockstar product. But let’s break down some of those rockstar components, one by one….
-Adhesion: Wise Owl, on a molecular level, is incredibly porous. What does that mean to you? Most importantly, it means its going to stick to most surfaces, with little prep work required. Take note, I said “little”...you all KNOW I don’t believe in skipping prep work. But lots of pieces are ready to paint after a good cleaning. (Yes, you NEED to clean!!! Do not even think about painting over those cobwebs, no matter what any paint company tells you. Once your surface is super clean, give it one more wipe down with plain water to be sure you’ve got all the cleaning chemicals off! If your piece has a somewhat slick surface or has obvious scratches, give it a quick sanding to smooth out imperfections and give the wood a little more tooth for the paint to grip onto. If it’s super slick, then grab some primer for your best chance at adhesion. I can’t recommend Wise Owl primer enough...it’s the bee’s knees, for sure).
-Self Leveling: One of the biggest headaches in the painting world is trying to avoid brush marks/strokes. If you are using a natural bristle brush and a super thick or super runny paint, that headache just got even worse. Not with Wise Owl...it actually levels out beautifully as it dries. No ridges, no lumps and bumps, no frustrations. If you combine the self leveling paint with a damp Cling On brush?? Oh, baby, then you get that flawless finish that you’ve been striving for. It won’t matter if you are a seasoned pro or you’re picking up a brush for the first time, you’ll get a smooth, enviable finish every time.
-Water Based and Water Activated: The paint dries fairly fast, but thanks to its water based nature, it can be reactivated with a spritz of water, a damp brush, or even a baby wipe. As long as you approach it before the paint has begun curing (so within the first day or so) you can use a little bit of water to distress your finish, blend paint colors, remove drips, etc. Any imperfections or mistakes can be cleaned up with just a touch of water….and cleaning up any actual messes is a total dream. I am the sloppiest painter on earth, and when I’m finished with a paint job, I usually have paint all the way up to my elbows. A quick wipe down with a baby wipe is all I need to get every bit of paint off.
-Made From Scratch: All paint is most definitely not created equal. Did you know that a ton of paint brands actually use big box store brand paint and simply throw in a few additives and call it their own recipe? Why is this a big deal? Well, first, if they are using latex paint as a base, it likely contains crystalline silicates which can be extremely dangerous if inhaled (scroll back to my post about what is NOT in Wise Owl for a full rundown on this!). And second, when minerals are added into a premixed paint, they will never be flawlessly incorporated. Creating a recipe from scratch insures that all the components are evenly distributed and will stay that way. This extends the paint’s shelf life and also drastically aids in that self leveling aspect we just chatted about!
-Acrylic Binder: Paint needs a binder to help with adhesion and provide strength and durability. A lot of brands use a latex binder in their recipes, while Wise Owl chooses acrylic binders. The acrylic gives your paint a stronger finish that distresses beautifully. Distressing a latex based paint can lead to quite a few frustrations as the paint rolls and gums up under the friction of the sandpaper.
-Heavily Pigmented: Wise Owl doesn’t cut corners when it comes to pigments. They choose high quality, heavily saturated pigments which means your project will be completed in fewer coats. Most colors will see full coverage in just one to two coats. A pint of paint doesn’t look like much, but it will cover an average of 75-80 square feet. I can finish a decent sized dresser with just one pint.
When you combine all of these benefits, with all of the incredible lengths Wise Owl has taken to avoid causing harm to its users or the environment, and then throw in the two outstandingly talented and intelligent women that run this company….you’ve got a pretty damn stellar paint. Period.
Too Long; Didn’t Read:
-It will stick to most surfaces with minimal prep work
-It self levels so you’ll look like a pro
-You can reactivate the paint with water to correct imperfections and blend colors
-Its made from scratch so all the particles are fully incorporated and won’t separate
-It has a strong acrylic binder that promotes adhesion
-High quality pigments mean less coats to achieve full coverage
Next up??? We’ll break down the painting process, step by step, to fully transform your furniture with Wise Owl! Stay tuned
So your piece is prepped and now you are ready to paint….but why choose Wise Owl Paint??
Wise Owl Chalk Synthesis Paint is single handedly the easiest paint I’ve ever worked with. I’ve pushed it to its limits, and have only been able to truly mess it up once. Yup, once. (I’ll fill ya in on that big ‘womp womp’ moment soon, I promise!) It glides on like butter, self levels like a dream, and blends like nobody’s business. Add in the fact that it’s one of the most eco friendly paints on the market….and you’ve got a winner. We’re going to dive into all the incredible colors, the application process, and trouble shooting soon, but today I want to chat a bit about what actually makes the paint so impressive on an environmental standpoint.
I get asked quite often, “What’s in this paint that makes it so special?” but a far more important question to ask is “What’s NOT in this paint?” So, while the things that are IN the paint are impressive, today, let’s break down the things that are MISSING in Wise Owl Paint:
VOCs: You’ve heard the term, but do you know what it means? Volatile Organic Compounds. This is regulated by the EPA….but their decisions on what can be classified as a VOC is actually kind of ridiculous. In short, VOCs are compounds that cause or contribute to smog, which is why the EPA is involved. But in humans, they’ve been linked to everything from mild skin, nose, mouth, and throat irritation….all the way up to damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. VOCs can also leach out of your painted furniture long after you’ve finished painting. Some studies show off gassing for up to six months, and others are now saying that number is closer to five years. So painting a piece with a high VOC paint can actually cause damage for far longer than the time it takes you to paint! (So if you are painting furniture for other people, you can actually be putting your customers at risk) The problem with the EPA’s classification of VOCs is that it leaves A LOT of dangerous chemicals off the list. So simply finding a paint that is low or no VOCs is not enough!! You need to dig in and ask more questions to see what other dangers are lurking in your paint. (Also, be sure to question if the paint base AND the colorants are both ZERO VOC...there have been claims of companies advertising that their paint is Zero VOCs, because their base doesn’t contain any, while their colorants actually contain high levels.)
Crystalline Silicates: These are tiny crystals found in MANY paints on the market. When crystalline silicates stay in the paint, they don’t actually cause much of a risk. But if you distress that painted furniture, that’s when it becomes a major concern. Crystalline silicates become airborne when sanding...and these itty bitty microscopic bits get drawn into your respiratory system and cause SERIOUS and PERMANENT damage. Imagine tiny shards of glass scratching the inner lining of your lungs, and then scars forming to heal the damage. Sound familiar?? Probably because it’s similar to the damage caused by asbestos. Yup, that crazy crap that you wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole?? Does the same damage as that paint dust you are breathing in. This is typically a non issue when painting walls...because you typically don’t sand them. But if you like to sand your paint between coats or distress your finishes...you are putting yourself at risk!
Ammonia: Paint needs a preservative (called a ‘biocide’) to extend its shelf life. One of the cheapest, and most readily available biocides added to water based paint is….ammonia. Have you ever opened a gallon of latex paint and gotten that nose hair burning stench, also known as “fresh paint smell”? Yup, that would be thanks to the ammonia. Ammonia stinks. Bad. Low levels of ammonia can cause irritation to the nose, eyes, and throat...high levels can have a dangerous effect on the respiratory system and can even cause blindness. Typical levels used to preserve paint can cause asthma issues and migraines. The much safer alternative to ammonia costs around ten times the price, which is why tons of companies take the cheaper route. Wise Owl refuses to sacrifice the health of its consumers just to save a few bucks. So, yes, the paint may cost a bit more than the latex paint you buy at a big box store….but there’s a damn good reason. (And one more tidbit since we are talking about stinky paint….just because your paint doesn’t smell, doesn’t necessarily mean its non toxic. Lots of paint companies are now adding MASKING AGENTS to cover up the stench, making you think it’s safe to use indoors...so ask questions!!!)
Formaldehyde: This is an embalming agent and one of the most effective preservatives on the market. Unfortunately, it can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, allergies, asthma flare ups, nose and throat irritation….and even cancer. But, it does a darn good job of preventing the infection and growth of microorganisms, so paint companies add it to their mixture to extend their paint’s shelf life and avoid growth issues. Once again, this is a strong NO from Wise Owl. The risks far outweigh the benefits.
Ethylene Glycol: Anti-Freeze. Yup. Thanks to its low freezing point, ethylene glycol is commonly added to paint to prevent it from freezing. When exposed to skin, it can cause mild irritation, and when inhaled at high levels, it can cause irritation of the upper respiratory tract and mucous membranes. The real danger though? The real danger lies in ingesting ethylene glycol. Yes, we all know you shouldn’t eat paint, right? But what if you’ve got small kiddos or pets in your home? Ingestion of ethylene glycol produces similar effects of ethanol (alcohol) intoxication...dizziness, depression, nausea, vomiting, and in severe cases, coma and brain damage. Keeping it out of our paint is the safe choice...but it does put the paint at a higher risk of freezing! So, you stay safe, but you need to be a little more cautious of where you store your paint in the winter months!
So, those are the big dangers that are NOT present in Wise Owl’s chalk synthesis paint. Next up, we’ll discuss what is IN the paint, what makes it so fantastic, and the science behind why it rocks. (Yes, more science, and I won’t apologize for boring you....having a paint company owned by an environmental scientist is no small thaaang and should be truly honored and discussed! And so we shall!) Stay tuned!!
Too Long, Didn’t Read: (Yep, I see you!!! 😆)
Wise Owl Chalk Synthesis Paint contains NONE of the nasty stuff-
VOCs - compounds that contribute to smog and pose all sorts of health risks
Crystalline Silicates - airborne crystals that if inhaled can cause irreversible lung damage
Ammonia - cheap preservative in paint that triggers asthma attacks and migraines
Formaldehyde - preservative that prevents the growth of microorganisms, but causes cancer
Ethylene Glycol - Anti-freeze agent that can cause intoxication like symptoms
Last week we talked about primer...this week, it's all about paint, baby! You all know I'm a huge fan of Wise Owl Paint, so much so that I joined their team 💜🦉. But, what makes it so amazing? What makes it better than other paints? What makes it different than paint you can buy at the big box stores? This week, we are going to jump in and not just brag about how great it is....but what actually MAKES it great. (Hint: Its science)
But today? Today, I’d like to introduce you to the women behind the brand. Because I feel it’s just about impossible to truly pay homage to the products without giving you a peek behind the curtain. Knowing the women of Wise Owl, their background, their passions, and their drive...it gives everything else a purpose. This is not a company run by women who just wanted to make pretty paint. It’s not a company that was founded on a simple goal of financial freedom. It’s not just another paint line...not...even...close.
Without further ado:
Karen...The owner, creator, CEO, and the big beautiful brains behind the products. Karen is a scientist. And not in the “oh cute, she likes science” kinda way. She’s an actual environmental scientist with a focus on forestry. Growing up, Karen’s mom rehabilitated wild animals, specifically birds of prey (starting to see where the company name came from, huh??), so being aware of how our actions impact the world around us was ingrained at a young age. As an adult, she saw first hand how the products we use can negatively affect not just our environment, but the wildlife she was raised to protect….and she decided to build an entire career on reversing that impact. She has a beautiful talent of explaining things that are incredibly complex in a manner that simply makes sense to the masses, without ever making you feel less intelligent. She’s yet to ever fail me when I’ve asked her why a product works the way it does, what specific ingredients bring to the table, or to break down the science behind a concept. She’s the smartest gal I know, and yet you just want to hang out and have a beer with her….and to me? That’s probably the best personality trait a person can have.
Erin...The COO, runner of daily operations, artist, wrangler of retailers and all our chaos, and all around badass. Erin spent a large chunk of her adult life working in the finance industry with Merrill Lynch in Chicago (yep, she’s no dummy either), but her true passion was always art. She’s got the knowledge and insight needed to run a hugely successful business, but also sees the world in a constantly evolving series of color pallets. She is an absolutely rare breed of human that has a mathematically inclined mind, combined with insane artistic talent...she blows away theories that people are either right brain or left brain dominant, because this girl fires on all cylinders at all times. (Bonus fact: She also has an INCREDIBLE singing voice, like, she was actually a competitive vocalist, and she has the dirtiest sense of humor I’ve found besides my own).
These two women have been friends for over twenty years and their perfectly balanced relationship is a key part to the success of this company. They have the same vision for Wise Owl, but both bring separate, but equally integral, talents to the table. Years ago, they saw a need for change in the paint industry. There were plenty of professional grade paints. There were plenty of eco friendly paints. But there were no products on the market that were BOTH. They knew there was a need for a top quality product that wouldn’t sacrifice our health or the environment. And so, Wise Owl was born. First, in Karen’s kitchen…paint being poured into mason jars and sold on social media...and eventually, being produced under the eye of our very own chemist at a paint manufacturer that has been in business for over a century and has won awards for their dedication to creating green products.
This is not your average paint company. And these are not your average women. If you’ve ever wondered WHY I so proudly represent Wise Owl, these two women are it. I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this company, but even more importantly, I’m incredibly honored to call both of them my friends. They embody what it means to be strong, independent, successful women, both in business and in life. And we can always use more of that.
We've talked about WHY you should prime, we've talked about WHEN you should prime, and we've talked about WHICH primer you should choose....but HOW should you apply it??
This comes down to your comfort and personal preferences....and also a little dependent on the piece of furniture you are tackling. To apply primer, you've got three main options and each have pros. Let's break 'em down....
-Brush: With a shellac or oil based primer, you typically want to grab a cheapo brush because getting the product out of the bristles is such a pain in the butt that you'll likely just toss the brush in the trash. Not the case here! Because Wise Owl Primer is a water based product, it washes out of brushes beautifully. (Just be sure to wash it as soon as you are done working...it dries fast and insanely tough so its not gonna budge if you wait too long!). I prefer a synthetic brush for primer, specifically my good old Cling Ons. The brush you choose will be determined by your project. If you are priming something with lots of curves, spindles, or details, pick a round brush. If your project is mostly flat areas like a large dresser, go with a flat brush. And if you've got a combo, or you only want to get one brush for all projects...get an oval, its the best of both worlds. When brushing on primer, be sure your brush is DRY first! With our chalk style paint, we recommend using a damp brush...but that is not the case here. Watering down your primer with a damp brush can effect its durability, adhesion, and stain blocking abilities...so stick with a dry brush for best results.
-Roller: For primer, I personally prefer a 4" high density foam roller. It provides nice light coats, even distribution, and little bubbling. If you do experience some bubbles or inconsistencies, lightly drag a brush over your freshly rolled primer and it'll even things out and pop any possible bubbles. I aim to apply long even strips of primer running the length of my piece. Working in 4" sections, roll from one end of the area to the other, and then back over again once or twice. Anything more than that isn't usually necessary and can actually start pulling your previous coat back up. The primer dries really fast, so its best to apply it and then step back and let it do its job!
-Sprayer: Yup, you can spray this primer too! For most sprayers, it doesn't even need to be diluted. If for some reason, you are finding that its too thick for your sprayer, it can be diluted, but no more than 10%. Adding too much water to it can drastically reduce its durability, adhesion, and blocking powers....so leave it as is for best results! Be sure to allow 4-6 hours between coats. This can be hard if you are spraying because it will likely dry a bit faster. But if you are using the primer for stain block purposes, its best to follow the recoat times to let it do its job to the fullest!
Can you use a foam brush? Sure, but get the higher quality ones because the super cheap foam brushes tend to fall apart and that's a bummer in the middle of a big job. Even with a quality foam brush, I still prefer my Cling Ons....I feel that they work better with the self leveling properties of the primer.
Can you use your old throw away brushes? Absolutely...but you'll probably want to give your primer a quick sanding to get rid of all the brush marks. And who really wants more steps? Just use a good brush and you'll save yourself a ton of time!
Can you just pour the primer on the furniture and hope for the best? No, no you can't. 😆
Whichever approach you choose, be sure to STIRRRRRR the primer really well! Make sure its fully incorporated to get the best results. Apply two coats for full coverage, and allow them to dry 4-6 hours in between. If you are worried about bleed thru, its also super important to wait 24 hours AFTER you are finished painting before you top coat! You don't want your varnish reactivating everything and having those tannins jump up and ruin your day.
Oh and one more quick tip....if you are experiencing tannin bleed thru, don't be alarmed if your primer turns yellow. Give it 6 hours to dry and then apply a second coat. Often times, the second coat will turn yellow as well, but then when it fully dries it will be amazing at blocking in further stains. So just because the primer looks like tannins have made their way through to the surface, doesn't mean its not doing its job. If you are in doubt, paint a small test area and see how it holds up. I've seen a few projects require 3 coats of primer, but its really rare!
I think that just about wraps up our little tour of primer. You've learned the how, why, when, and what....now its time to get your hands dirty! (Just be sure to wash them right away...primer likes to stick around!...extra side note, if you do let the primer dry on your skin, massage it with a little olive oil and it'll come right off) Is there anything we missed? Any questions about primer that weren't covered? Let me know!!
(This post contains a few Amazon affiliate links (for the sprayer and the rollers). When you make purchases through these links, you don't pay any extra, but I get a small kickback for the referral and that helps keep this lil website afloat! Thank you so much for supporting a small business!)
If you've been around here for any length of time, you've likely heard me preach about prep work. For me, its an absolute non-negotiable. I've talked to y'all at length about stripping old paint, sanding, cleaning (you KNOW I don't believe in painting over cobwebs...yuuuuuuuck).....but what about priming? Do you know when and why you should prime? A few days ago I broke down the different color options in Wise Owl primer...but how do you know you even need it and what does it do?
Primer is used for two main reasons: Stain blocking & adhesion. There are plenty of products on the market that can help with one or the other, but finding one product that does both AND is low VOCs and water based? Sign me up! But first, let's break things down and decide if you NEED primer...
*Wise Owl Primer*
-Stain Blocking: There are actually quite a few stains that can creep up through your paint and cause you all sorts of trouble, but the most frustrating can be tannins. Tannins are a substance derived from the acids inside plants. They serve all sorts of benefits in nature (particularly in fruit trees...if you bite into unripened fruit and get that pucker face, dry tongue, and acidic flavor, that's the tannins doing their job to deter you from eating the fruit before its ripe), they have been used for generations to tan animal hides, provide astringents needed in medicine, and even play a large roll in that glass of red wine you might be sipping (they leach out from the wooden barrels the wine is stored in and play a huge part in the flavoring and chemical breakdown of your fav cabernet). They also are used in many dyes and tints. Have you ever seen a body of water surrounded by mangrove trees? Chances are, that water has a brown tint, similar to tea....that's because tree roots are essentially steeping in the water, leaching tannins out of the bark, changing the color of the water. This is essential for plant life...but can be an absolute headache when painting furniture. When painting, particularly with water based products, tannins can bleed through your finishes and cause staining that is far from attractive. Sometimes, the tannins show up right away, but other times, they don’t appear until you add your last coat of varnish, or even worse, a few months later. This is particularly common in cherry, mahogany, and deeply tinted woods...those tannins show up in the form of ugly yellow streaks in your painting surface. Using a high quality, stain blocking primer can save HOURS of work by locking in all those tannins, stains, oils, and discolorations before you apply that first coat of paint. For optimal stain blocking abilities, apply TWO coats, and allow 4-6 hours to dry in between. After you’ve painted, be sure to wait 24 hours before adding a top coat!! When using a water based varnish, you can actually reactivate your water based paint, and reopen the pore space, allowing room for those tannins to leak back through. Waiting a solid day will give your paint enough time to begin the curing process and will help lock those tannins in beneath the primer.
-Adhesion: If you are painting an old, dry, rough antique...you’ll likely have zero issues with your paint sticking to the surface. (Wise Owl Chalk Synthesis Paint is super porous so its going to stick to most surfaces with ease! If you are using the One Hour Enamel...its best to prime first! It’s incredibly tough, but not quite as adhesive as the chalk line, so primer helps a ton!) But what if your piece has a lacquered finish? What if it’s laminate, glass, ceramic, or even metal? Some surfaces are just too slick for paint to grip on to. You can give it a go with some sand paper to rough up the surface and give your piece a little tooth, but lots of times that isn’t an option. If your piece has lots of intricate details...the idea of somehow sanding them can be super daunting. For lots of projects, you can skip the heavy sanding and instead give it one quick scuff up and then prime instead. The primer will stick to just about all surfaces. (Be sure the surface is clean though!! Kitchen cabinets that have 10 years of bacon grease coated on them? Ain’t nothin gonna stick to that!) Do 2 coats of primer, with 4 hours of dry time in between, and you’re ready to paint! If a surface is super slick, I let the primer dry overnight to get the best possible adhesion before I jump into painting.
If in doubt….prime!! The primer is water based, low VOCs, washes out of brushes easily (wash as soon as you are done priming though! It dries incredibly tough!), and goes on just as easily as paint. It’s far better to prime when you don’t HAVE to than to skip priming and regret it later. If you are contemplating priming for adhesion issues, but you aren’t 100% sure you need to….paint a little 2”x2” section, let it dry for an hour, and then give it a little scratch with your finger nail. Does the paint peel off or scratch right up? You need to prime! (If it just leaves a white chalky scratch mark, you are totally fine! Go ahead and paint!)
Keep in mind...these are just the two most common reasons you’ll need primer. The list is longer though, and each project is different! Have a dresser that smells like years of cigarette smoking? Prime that baby and lock that stink in. Painting a dark oak table bright white?? Prime and save yourself coats and coats of paint! And as always, if you have any questions or you have a project that is stumping you….reach out! I’m always happy to do consultations to discuss your project and figure out the best plan of attack. These consults are always free of charge and customized to your particular project. Get one on one help choosing your prep steps, the perfect color combination, and the appropriate top coat, so you’re piece ends up exactly as you hoped!
Too long, didn't read? (Yeah, I see you! 😆) :
*Painting mahogany or cherry wood and using a light color: PRIME
*Painting slick surfaces: PRIME
*Painting something stinky: PRIME
*Not sure that your paint will adhere and you are on the fence about using primer: TEST IT (paint a 2x2" square and scratch it an hour later...if it scratches, you need to prep more!)