How to Tole Paint

By Patricia Voldberg ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Craft pattern
  • Carbon paper
  • Project surfaces: wood, metal or glass
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paint brushes
  • Sealer
  • Varnish
  • Paint palette
  • Water
  • Water basin
  • Paper towels

Tole painting originally referred to painting on tin; however, it encompasses much of decorative painting today. When peddlers traveled across America in wagons, tin was the majority of the product sold to settlers for utensils. Settlers were not able to afford fancier dishes or cookware. Women decorated the tin dishes to make them rich-looking. Simplicity is the foundation of tole painting.

Prepare your surface with sealer or base layer if needed. Once the project is ready to paint, transfer the pattern to the surface using transfer paper for wood or metal. Place paper with transfer side down directly on the surface. Place the pattern on transfer paper tracing with a pencil. Remove paper to view the pattern. Place a pattern under a smooth glass surface or on the inside of a round glass container. This allows the pattern to show through the glass.

Paint the design and allow thorough drying. Your painting surface should be about lap height when you are seated. Hold brushes perpendicular to the painting surface, (straight up and down) not slanted like a pencil. The brush stroke should move from the shoulder and whole arm. A distinguishing mark of tole painting from decorative painting technique is the brush strokes.

Load the brush and pick up an extra paint on the tip to execute the comma stroke. Start at the larger end by applying pressure. Pause slightly, allowing the brush hairs to fan out. Begin pulling paint toward the body, gradually releasing pressure and reaching the tail. Avoid sharp decreases in pressure. Strive for a smooth curve of the comma's belly.

Start the S-stroke by placing the brush so that the tip points at an imaginary one o'clock point. Slide on the chiseled edge of the brush toward an imaginary seven o'clock point, gradually applying more pressure. Continue to apply more pressure, and gradually change directions to an imaginary five o'clock point. Then move toward the imaginary seven o'clock again, and gradually release pressure. End on the chiseled edge of the brush. Aim for a smooth transitions of the stroke and avoid sharp angles.

Start the c-stroke with any size flat or round brush. Point the paintbrush tip to an imaginary 11 o'clock position, then slide on the chiseled edge, increasing pressure near the top edge of the stroke. Decrease the pressure and slide onto the chiseled edge of the brush. End the stroke with the paintbrush tip pointing to one o'clock.

Apply varnish following the manufacturer's instructions. The three brush strokes form the basic painting techniques. Use them to embellish designs or make them into the entire focal point of a project. Incorporate stroke work into beautiful artwork when using shape strokes.

About the Author

Patricia Voldberg has been writing health-related articles for eHow since 2009. She retains a current L.P.N. and counselor license, along with 20 years of experience in long-term-care nursing. Voldberg holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Regents University, with an English minor.