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How to paint your own background


Author: PastorJeff



Why Use a Background

One of the small things that you can do to better the visual appearance of your tank is to use an appropriate background. This not only stops the viewer from seeing through the entire tank to the wall behind, but it also helps to hide any dangling chords, enhances the color of your fish, and draws the viewer to what is inside the tank rather than what is all around it.

When looking at fish such as the piranha color is often lacking (compared to the vibrant color that can be seen in the saltwater variety). But when you use a solid colored background (such as black or ocean blue) the color in your fish stands out. For example, when displaying any variety of Red Belly piranhas, a solid black background will help the red, greens, and grays to drastically stand out! If you have a Black Rhom that you want to stand out more, then use a solid dark Ocean Blue.


Items you will need

First you are going to need a few items to get the job done (Figure 1-1). They areÖ
  • Glass cleaning supplies
  • Edging razor blades
  • Sponge paintbrush
  • Painters edging tape (usually blue or yellow)
  • Waterborne Acrylic Enamel paint (color of your choice)
  • Proper space to work
  • Newspaper



  • Figure 1-1

    Once you have these supplies pick a time to complete the job. You will need approximately 2 hours to get the first part of the job done, and about 15-20 minutes for each coat after that.


    How to properly paint your tank

    Painting the back of your tank is not difficult to do once you know the proper order of how to do things. By skipping a step you may get it done quicker, but you risk making a mistake that will create an unsightly and permanent spot on your tank.

    The first thing you need to do is make sure that the glass is clean. If there is any dirt or residue on the glass, the paint will not adhere properly and you will end up with bubbling or "grainy" paint. Remember, you are going to be looking at the paint job from the bottom, so anything on the glass will stay there and be a permanent reminder of your impatience! First go over the tank glass with a sharp razor held at an angle (Figure 1-2). You want to be very careful as when you hit a dirty spot the blade can "jump" and cause you to cut yourself... trust me!




    Figure 1-2

    After cleaning the glass, you want to edge with painters tape anything and everything that you do not want to be painted over (Figure 1-3).




    Figure 1-3

    It is very important that you cover the corners properly. I always edge the outside edge of both sides of the tank (Figure 1-4) to avoid getting any paint on the sides of the tank. Make sure that when you bring the tape to the plastic edge that you push the tape down securely so paint does not work its way onto the glass. Once you have done this, cover any cross-over with an extra piece of tape. Again, this will ensure that you will not have any paint working its way onto the plastic.




    Figure 1-4

    After you have properly applied the tape, you are now ready to put on your first coat of paint. You want to make sure that you take a couple of "practice strokes" on a piece of paper or cardboard. This will ensure that the sponge paintbrush is fully saturated with paint and you wonít get any uneven dry streaks.

    Painting your tank is not hard, but can become a little tricky if you do not have patience during this part of the painting process. You want to make sure that you start out painting the back of the tank with horizontal strokes (Figure 1-5) rather than vertical strokes.




    Figure 1-5

    The reason for this is that you will not get a completely even stroke of paint on the glass as there is nothing on the glass to "grab" the paint. This is going to leave you with horizontal streaks where there is no paint. Donít worry about this, and DO NOT try to add more paint to fill them. We will take care of these blank spots later. Do not use too much paint on your first coat of paint. Make sure that you have a nice even coat, again, do not mind the blank spots. When you are done with your first coat of paint, your background will not look "finished" but rather you will see all kinds of light shining through (Figure 1-6). Donít worry... this will be filled in during your subsequent coats of paint.




    Figure 1-6

    After you have done all of this, you need to let the tank dry. And you have to let it completely dry or you will run into real problems. When dealing with paint, it dries from the top to the bottom. If you try to add more paint before the lowest layer has dried, you will cause a moisture bubble which results in ugly cracking. When this happens, the only option is to peel off the paint and start all over again. So give the paint at least a full 24 hours to dry.

    After completely drying, you can add your second coat of paint. Here you want your strokes to be vertical (up and down) rather than horizontal. You are doing this to fill in the empty spaces that you currently have. Donít be afraid to use a rubbing motion with the brush to get the paint into the spaces. Again, you want to make your second coat of paint a nice even one. Be sure not to apply too liberally or it will not dry evenly.

    Repeat this process until you get all the holes filled in so that no light can shine through. If you want, you can have a friend shine a light through the back side of the tank so you can quickly identify the areas that need to be filled in. When done, you will have a completely colored background with no light shining through (Figure 1-7 and 1-8).




    Figure 1-7




    Figure 1-8

    Remember to allow adequate drying time before adding another coat of paint. If you should get cracking, allow the paint to fully dry for a couple of days. Then take your razor blade and cut a circle around the cracking section and peel it off (this is why you use Acrylic). Then begin painting the section that you peeled away.

    Once you have completed your final coat of paint and have allowed adequate drying time, you are ready to remove your edging tape. DO NOT just attempt to pull the tape off! If you do this, you will end up pulling off the whole back sheet of paint like a big piece of plastic!

    Carefully take your razor blade and score the paint by cutting underneath the plastic edge (Figure 1-9). This will separate the tape from the paint and allow you to easily pull the edging tape off of the plastic and glass areas that you were protecting. Pull slowly and evenly, making sure that you donít end up pulling away any painted areas that you want to remain.




    Figure 1-9

    Once all the tape is removed your tank is ready to be used. You will have a tank background that completely obstructs anything that is behind the tank such as light, power cords, or the back of filtration systems (Figure 1-10).

    The nice part about using an acrylic paint is that if you want another color background, you can use the razor and peel off the back in one complete sheet. It will not come off on its own; but it will come off if you choose to remove it.

    Adding a background is an easy inexpensive way for you to enhance the look of your tank for years to come. The best part is when the compliments start rolling in regarding the beauty of your tank; you know you did it yourself!




    Figure 1-10




    Jeffrey (a.k.a. PastorJeff)






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