Painting the Proscenium
Punchman's tips
Leading Punch Professor, Mark Poulton, was at one time a professional sign-writer. Here he generously offers some tips on

Preparing and Painting The Proscenium Arch


Always start off with good prep!

Before you start, get the idea of what you want your arch to look like and sketch it down. Look at colour wheels to find out what colours compliment one another and which colours clash. Look at how other people have designed and painted their arches.

For my 'beach booth' arch (or any signs that will be used outside) I cut the shape then coat the ply in a polyfiller and PVA glue mix. After lots of sanding down (try to get the surface as smooth as possible) you can start to lay the primer on (ALWAYS US A GOOD QUALITY PRODUCT)!! When dry, sand again (you may have to paint then sand several times). The final time you prime the wood only lightly key up the surface.

You can now undercoat (again, use a good brand). Two coats will do with a light sanding between layers. Then for the topcoat. I would advise at least three layers of good quality gloss (lightly sanding between coats).

The colour and the product you choose is up to you. There are loads of good paints out there - Sandtex, Dulux etc. are all good - use exterior paints if you can, they take knocks better! For my replica 'Victorian' arch I used 'Farrow & Ball' paint (as do National Heritage when renovating say a Victorian building) to get it spot on.

For the artwork on an arch I have used all the paints Chris has named and they all work well, it's up to personal preference. For me, I like 'One-Shot' sign writer’s enamel and 'Craftmaster' paints. These are not cheap and not available at your local paint or DIY store, but they work for me. 'Reducers' can be added to slow the drying time if you are painting a big surface or big lettering.

If painting a light colour onto a dark base coat, several layers maybe required.

If you use enamels, which are 'gloss', remember to finish with a couple of coats of 'matt' or 'satin' varnish. This takes the glare off (as with puppet heads). When using an oil-based paint, (say for the top coat) remember to give it at least a day or two to dry (between layers). Even then, although the paint will be dry, it won't have hardened, so be careful not to put any pressure on the painted surface, dents ect WILL show on the finished product!

One last tip, go to your local auto supplies shop and get them to order some 'Tack-Rags'. These are as the name suggests, tacky rags used in car body repair shops for removing dust from cars after sanding). Ideal for getting rid of dust after sanding your nice new arch.

I am very lucky as I make puppets and paint signs etc for a living (out of season) I have a purpose built workshop/studio and can therefore create as much dust and mess as I like! So don't try it inside your home - dust from sanding gets every!!


Mark Poulton 2007



To Return