Wow, Watch That Paint Dry: Miniature Project Phase 3 — Orchid Dollhouse, Chapter 3

Experiments with interior finishes…

While waiting for various things to dry, I thought I’d post a bit about how I’m painting this wood and cardboard dollhouse.

To create an illusion of space in this tiny container, I’m going with gloss and semi-gloss. The experts at Greenleaf actually recommend against a gloss/high-gloss finish as it will highlight every imperfection, and they recommend in favor of semi-gloss for blurring over minor imperfections. But I’m looking to maximize interior light, and to that end, I’m using both.


As mentioned in my last post on this topic, I achieved a pretty good “eggshell” semi-gloss by mixing acrylic paint with PVA glue.

For this project, I’m using Liquitex® Basics® acrylic paint and acrylic gesso and Blick® Studio Acrylics paint. My glue is Elmer’s® Glue-All® multi-purpose white (PVA) glue. I’m using a 2-inch, flat, square brush and a .5-inch, flat, square brush. A lot of people prefer sponge brushes for things like this, but I just don’t like them. They’re a pain to work with after a couple of hours. I go with bristles, the cheaper the better.

I mix approximately two parts glue with three parts paint and thin slightly with water. Work as dry as you can and still be able to move the paint around comfortably and smoothly. The dollhouse materials (cardboard and thin plywood) warp easily and are highly absorbent. You don’t want either your paint or your brushes too wet. 

However, don’t let your brushes dry out, either, or the glue will be difficult or impossible to remove. I let my brushes rest in water between coats, and then blot them on a sponge to dry them enough to work with. Be sure to wash the brushes with soap and warm water when you quit for the day.

Adding glue to the paint will give it a slightly thicker, more viscous consistency as well as a semi-gloss finish when dry. You may have to do three or four coats as it will also make the paint slightly translucent. I’m doing four to as many as six coats because I want solid color and also a heavily “painted on” surface to suggest fresh paint laid over many old layers.


I bought some gloss Mod Podge® for surfaces that will need shininess such as the bathroom tiles. 

I also need a fixative for the floors and first floor ceiling, which feature “floorboards” drawn in #2 pencil over white paint. The pencil lines need a top coat to prevent smudging, and I need to spray it on to avoid making the smudges I want to prevent.

I want a higher gloss on the floors and ceiling anyway. I figure, just like stained hardwood, painted floors would get a glossy polyurethane top coat, which would be easy to clean and polish. (No, I’m not going to mop and polish dollhouse floors. The point is it should seem realistic.)

And I want a glossy ceiling because I do, okay? I like a glossy ceiling. It reflects light down into the room. I like that. So sue me.

The Great Glossy-Matte Ceiling War of 1980-Something:

I may be working out a family conflict with this project, just a little. Way back when I was but a wee lass in high school, My Sainted Mother (MSM) and I got into a UN-level conflict over the redecoration of our home. These were those difficult years when I, maturing into myself, came out as having different tastes than she did. We fought about, omg, everything — dishes, towels, how far the coffee table should be set from the sofa, etc.

The living/dining room ceiling became an unexpected hot-zone. See, the room was over fifteen feet long, with windows at one end, which only got indirect or reflected sun. MSM, who likes things “cozy,” wanted a matte white ceiling. I, preferring to be able to see across a room, wanted a glossy white ceiling.


MSM: “Are you insane? I’m not putting gloss paint on the ceiling. It’s weird.”

Me: “It’s not weird. It’s in magazines. It’ll brighten the place up.”

MSM: “That’s ridiculous. It’ll make the ceiling look lower.”

Me: “Says who? It’s a white ceiling. Glossy isn’t going to make it look any lower, but it will bounce sunlight around the room.”

MSM: “Nonsense. Glossy ceilings are not a thing. Nobody does that.”

Me: “It’s right here!” (points at magazine) “Look up! There’s a patch of light on that ceiling right now. If that were glossy, that light would get reflected further into the room. It’s physics!”

MSM: “What do you know about physics? You’re an art student!”

I was also a kid, so MSM won that one, and a matte ceiling was what we had. To this day, the controversy continues. When I mentioned that I was considering a glossy ceiling in my dollhouse to maximize light for photography, MSM had this to say (quoted in its entirety):

“Oh, you and your light, light, light.”


So anyway…

To use Mod Podge as a spray fixative, I mixed about one part Mod Podge with about four or five parts water in a small pump spray bottle. Shake vigorously, making sure that the Mod Podge is fully mixed into the water (it helps to use a clear bottle). Spray on a light, even coat. Blow on it gently to get rid of any bubbles. While it’s wet, use a pin or tiny corner of a tissue to lift any dust or fuzz that falls in. Let dry completely. For a higher gloss finish, do a second light, even coat. Let dry. 

Result — Exactly what I was looking for. YES!

Note: This would, of course, work equally well with matte Mod Podge as a fixative for drawings on board or other hard surface. I wouldn’t recommend it directly on paper or fabric. It is mostly water, after all.


Light, light, light!



About Mura

Mura Muravyets is the screen-name of Jen Fries, surrealist artist, book artist, hope-to-be writer.
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