Paint Finishes for Concrete Relief

Let me show you one of the easiest art techniques – really! Since it’s already cast these Paint finishes for concrete relief are crazy simple but quite impressive.

The Beauty of Relief

It was actually a lot of fun to do the sculpting of this piece, and the making of the mold was a ‘piece of cake’ (don’t roll your eyes!) Well, now you can make as many as you like and if something goes wrong you can have more… I like that!

The paints I use are mid quality acrylic paints. Try to buy artist quality rather than dollar store paint; it does make a difference. I especially like Liquitex; their metallics are amazing.

I mostly used white and black since Pip was a black and white dog but needed the other colours for the browns of his eyes. The Concrete tile is well cured and bone dry.

The reason relief works so well is that the work is already done. I figured this out many many years ago when my family used to buy greenware from a ceramics supply. We could choose whatever mold we wanted and they would pour the greenware (clay before firing) and we could glaze (paint with underglaze) and bring back for firing. We painted/glazed a lot of Beer Steins! It was not as daunting as first thought since you applied the basic colour like a colouring book and wiped off to give the dimension. Tada; easy peasy. I think we ended up with about 50 beer steins…

This is the same concept. I had scratched so much of the texture into the sculpture that would make finishing crazy simple.

Bringing out details:

To make the first layer pick up the details of depth the paint needs to be thinned quite a bit. It’s better to be too thin than too thick. It can be thinned with matt medium if you want extra longevity but I like using water more as then it has a better chance of sinking into the rough texture of the concrete. The more it sinks in the better it will last if outdoors. The paint flows naturally into the deep crevices and makes those darker.

It already looks so much more defined in just 2 minutes; like a 3D drawing! The depth of the eyes has also come out since they were deeply sculpted. It’s perfectly fine to just leave as is. Sometimes simple is best!

Adding a bit more:

Ok, so I tend to never want to stop… the curse of being an illustrator! If you want more contrasts now you can add highlights; that will make the ‘peaks’ even lighter. Use a soft brush and only very small amounts of undiluted paint to just wisp over the top texture. I like to have a paper towel to take some of the extra paint off. This is called ‘dry brushing’ – another important technique for relief painting.

For this one I kept it simple and only added a bit more black wash to the nose and eyes. It is monochromatic (one colour scheme) and I like that it still holds the fact that it is concrete. Thick coats of paint always lose the charm of the concrete and looks like a bad plastic version.

Just a bit extra:

Whoa! This is just a couple steps more than the last one! After the dry brushing some more black wash was added in his dark areas of fur. The eyes were painted with a brown wash, black nose, collar etc. That back ground is some dry brushing with the copper liquitex paint. I am always impressed at how a super small dab of this metallic can have that cast metal effect. I have noticed that my planters outside have lasted well with it also.

My heart jumps when I pass it by as it looks just like him…

So many options and all effective! Don’t be intimidated; working in plasticine is quite forgiving. I’m itching to do more…

No drawing or fancy painting talents were needed to get these details. They just ‘happen’ by themselves. The rough concrete comes through and makes me think of the permanence of rock… It’s something you can actually touch… compared to a computer screen! We need a bit more of that these days!

Sweet Boy! Forever cast in concrete… and in my heart! Thanks for coming along my journey.

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  1. Hello Barb, You never cease to amaze me. The bas relief of your Pup is gorgeous. I am surprised that you are surprised at how they turned out. You have a great eye and I appreciate and thank you for sharing your projects.

  2. Hi Barb, your work is amazing and I quite often look to you for inspiration! I have a question or two, you’re using plasticine clay over concrete?? How does it hold together? Do you seal it after you’re finished? Can you use plasticine over hypertufa? This would make what I want to do soooo much easier!!! Can’t wait to hear back from you!!!

    Thanks for all you do,

    1. The plasticine is what I used to make the original sculpture, from that I made the silicone mold and then used that silicone mold for the concrete. So the concrete and plasticine are not together. I hope you understand. Plasticine isn’t really meant as a long term sculpture in my opionion.

  3. Beautiful work, and brings me to some questions: would you use the same technique on a plaster relief? Or, would the plaster need to be sealed with something (what?) before the painting step? Is plaster more porous than concrete so that wiping paint from the higher parts of the relief might be impossible?
    Thanks in advance for any insights.

    1. I think the plaster and concrete are similar in porosity. Plaster is so soft that wiping will actually take some of the plaster off (like a subtle sanding) if not covered by the paint too much. A thin seal of an acrylic medium (matte or gloss, depending what you like) will keep it from absorbing too quickly. Another option is dry-brushing with light tones. Best bet; be subtle and build up with minimal paint to as to not ‘clog up’ the details… ‘Hope that helps!