Toning and Shading with Water-Borne Finishes

Quick tips on toning and shading. December 8, 2006

Maybe I'm missing something, but when I need to spray a tone/shade coat with WB, I end up basically adding a full wet layer of finish, which adds to my dry mil thickness and limits me in how many coats I can apply. Diluting the WB product in the same ratio that one does for solvent based won't work, so what do I do?

I suppose I could use Sealcoat with denatured alcohol plus color, but that kind of defeats the purpose of going the WB route. If anyone has any suggestions I'd appreciate it as I have half an office suite to match in a walnut and would prefer to use WB products.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
Is there a mill thickness limit with WBs? I didn't think there was. There are spray "windows" that you need to pay attention to. Is your toner in the top coat as apposed to the sealer? I use dyes in my top coats to achieve the color I want: Stain, Seal, toner x 2, clear topcoat. If you have to put on a lot of coats to get the color you want, then maybe increase the amount of dye you're using.

From contributor A:
We regularly use toners and do shading with waterborne products. I prefer to do my shading at the sealer level using Target's EM8800 or the Ultraseal Waterborne Shellac. You can just add a bit of pigment or dye to it to get the color you want and then thin it down a bit to improve the viscosity (for the em8800).

The Shellac works best as it has a high viscosity and the pigments disperse very well without thinning. I also add Transtint Dyes to the top coats for final color adjustments if it's required. Each coat should not excess 2 mils wet film thickness. There's no real limit on how many coats can be done, it's just a matter of cost. We keep our finishes down to 4 coats on production runs and up to 10 coats on high end custom pieces like mantles, tables and fine furnishings. To me it sounds like you need to use a thinner coating for your toning or make your toner dark enough so you only need 1-2 light coats.