View Full Version : Applying Color Fill to Wood Plaques

Scott Winstead
12-06-2006, 8:42 AM
I've been laser engraving some pretty involved wooded plaques with a lot of detail (i.e., thin lines). Any special techniques for applying color fill to these thin lines?

I think one of my problems is that in attempt to provide a more dramatic effect, I've engraved too deeply into the wood compounding the problem of applying a color fill.

I've tried the acrylic paint route with flooding the paint into the crevices with an artist's paint brush - it's about 70% effective. I also seem to always get a faint tint of the color fill on the surrounding wood after applying the fill- even after carefully wiping the area. Due to the number of colors that I would like to apply - I need something that is fairly simple, effective w/o taking too much time.

Any ideas? Airbrush?

Nancy Laird
12-06-2006, 8:50 AM
Scott, we've had success in waxing the wood plaques with a good floor wax for wood floors before applying acrylic. It sort of "seals" the wood surface and the cut edges of the engraving before you put the acrylic on, besides removing any burn and flare on the plaque. Make sure that you have a good finish on the wood before you engrave it too. We spray on a coat of sanding sealer and two coats of clear lacquer before engraving, then engrave, wax, color-fill, and final wax to remove any paint film. Our customers sure like them.


Scott Winstead
12-06-2006, 8:59 AM
Thanks Nancy - I've been using "finished" plaques and will try the floor wax idea ... how are you applying the color fill? Paint brush, foam applicator, etc. Due to the spacing of the lines - I'm trying to be fairly precise in applying the color fill. It's taking way too long to apply the color fill - I need a better way for production.

Bob Reda
12-06-2006, 9:09 AM

I don't have a laser, but rather a shopbot that I make signs. I pretty much do it like Nancy says, except I mask the front before engraving and am now moving to an airbrush to do the painting.


Daryl Barberousse
12-06-2006, 9:59 AM

I apply color fill to my plaques using this set of steps:
masking, lasering, spraying with wood sealer, spraying with acrylic paint.

Might be a little time consuming for some, but it works for me.

Nancy Laird
12-06-2006, 10:17 AM
Thanks Nancy - I've been using "finished" plaques and will try the floor wax idea ... how are you applying the color fill? Paint brush, foam applicator, etc. Due to the spacing of the lines - I'm trying to be fairly precise in applying the color fill. It's taking way too long to apply the color fill - I need a better way for production.

Scott, believe it or not, we use a battery-operated toothbrush!! Our mentor found some little toothbrushes that start up just by putting a little pressure on the brush part so you don't have to keep turning them on and off. The circular motion of the brush fills all the little corners and crevices, let dry for a couple of minutes and wipe with a very damp rag to remove the over paint. Don't forget the last wax-off to remove film and shine them up.

However, we are intending to try the mask/laser/spray method on one of our latest commissions--we are finding that when we color-fill larger areas (over about 1/4") we lose a lot of the paint out of the lasered areas with the wipedown. The paint method may resolve that minor problem.


Joe Pelonio
12-06-2006, 10:23 AM
You might also try the artists type acrylic paints (thick) and apply with a good plastic squeegie. Fills the letters but most is removed from the background at the same time. Just don't engrave too deeply or the paint will be too thick and crack, requiring touch up when totally dry..

Mike Null
12-06-2006, 10:31 AM
I agree with the mask, laser, clear coat, paint concept but there may be times when using one of the many colored foils will serve better. Johnsons Plastics among others has a pretty good selection of colors and as long as it's for plaque use (not some place subject to wear) they look very good and last quite well.

Daryl Barberousse
12-06-2006, 10:39 AM
One quick note about filling with acrylic paint. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. The use of a good quality paint makes a difference.
I purchased a gallon of paint on the "sale rack" thinking I'd save some $. Not the case, the paint flaked. After purchasing a higher quality paint, it not only sprayed smoothly, but looked tons better without the flaking. Just my .02 cents

Scott Winstead
12-06-2006, 3:43 PM
Does anyone use an airbrush for applying color fill? If so, any special tricks, tips, and/or recommendations to someone who knows very little about airbrushing? This seems to be the "best" way for me to apply color fill for this type of project.

I know that color fill is a frequent topic on the forum but hopefully this is more specific in terms of color fill application than some of the past threads.

I like the laser foil idea but for my application (it would be very difficult due to all of the weeding). Some good techniques with the electric toothbrush and other methods.

I think one method that could be used (but time consuming) is to mask and then raster engrave the most intricate lines first and color fill with acrylic paint. Then mask and raster the other lines and then color fill.

Joe Pelonio
12-06-2006, 4:14 PM
I do airbrushing but don't use it for paint fill. The problem is that to go through the airbrush the paint has to be thinner, so it will not only take more coats to paint fill with light colors, but will bleed under a mask more, and you have to clean the airbrush between coats, which takes time. If you want to spray you'd be better off using Krylon. Apply transfer tape to the wood, rastor through it, spray, remove the transfer tape then clean up if needed. Transfer tape peels off real easily with the light adhesive so it works well for thin lines. May be hard to get the centers of the a's and o's off if the text is really small though, I use beading tweezers. For multiple colors just use thin strips of the transfer tape to block the other areas, it will peel off of itself without pulling it off the wood. As a sign shop I have it here in rolls of various sizes from 1" to 24", but I'd suggest going to a sign supply and buy 2" and 12".

Ed Maloney
12-06-2006, 5:27 PM
Found this on the Universal site:


Kit Dumph
03-24-2015, 9:10 AM
Wanted to bring this thread back to life! What does everyone like to do now? I'm thinking for my next project -Stain-clear coat (polyurethane or other)-mask with transfer tape-engrave-sanding sealer or wax-paint fill(acrylic paint)-clean up.

Anyone else have different steps? Is anyone airbrushing or do you just brush on?

Julian Ashcroft
03-24-2015, 12:30 PM
I recently did a wood plaque, three coats of a varnish stain first, then laser, then apply a dark stain over the whole piece, wipe off excess and then a coat of varnish to finish.


Kit Dumph
03-25-2015, 11:39 AM
What type of wood is that? What type of varnish stain did you use?

Dee Gallo
03-25-2015, 12:21 PM
Here is an example of bamboo, finished with clear poly before engraving. Color fill in these small areas is done with a thing called a "brush-pik", which looks like a tiny Q-tip, available in hobby shops for model painting. Blending is done by outlining dark colors first, then adding lighter colors like yellow or white in the center areas. Using a clean brush-pik, you softly blend them together. These items are about 1 1/2" x 1/2".

edit: I forgot to mention that I wipe the excess paint off using De-Solve-it, a waterless solvent which removes the oil based paint I use very easily. Goo-Gone would work as well.

Bill George
03-25-2015, 3:45 PM
Dee I did some bamboo around Christmas time and found it hard to engrave, most trouble of any wood I have done. Yours looks wonderful.

Dee Gallo
03-25-2015, 4:23 PM
Bill, I just use 40 speed/100 power/400dpi on my 35w. No problems at all. But my favorite wood to engrave is cherry, followed by walnut.

BTW, here is a pic of the brushpiks I use.

john swank
03-28-2015, 9:40 AM
Has anybody tried Minwax Woodfiller?

Kit Dumph
03-28-2015, 8:30 PM
Thank you for the replies guys. Has anyone used acrylic paint out of the rattle can to paint with onto finished wood that is masked? I have a full 24x18" piece of artwork with lots of detail that I think brushing on by hand will take way to long.My current though is I'm going to spray a coat of lacer over the masked engraving first and then add the paint.

Mike Null
03-29-2015, 9:10 AM
I use Krylon often. Today though I'll be using an air brush with acrylic paint to fill 60 brief case size plywood boxes. They have a finish on them.

If you have a lot of detail it might be better to use an air brush rather than a rattle can.

Liesl Dexheimer
03-31-2015, 9:08 AM
Nicely done Julian! ;)

Here's my attempt at color filling a plaque for a customer of mine. I used a relatively inexpensive acrylic paint set and first applied a mask, engraved & then color filled.


Julian Ashcroft
03-31-2015, 11:14 AM
What type of wood is that? What type of varnish stain did you use?

That plaque was actually a cheap hardwood breadboard I got off eBay. It had a bit of filer in it. Can't remember the name of the varnish stain I used, but it was some stuff off the shelf at the local DIY store. The dark stain is Rustins. Total material cost including the plaque was under 4.00.