My Best Tips for applying clear coats

Here are my top tips for using Dixie Belle Gator Hide. Gator Hide is the most durable of the Dixie Belle clear coats, so using it is highly desirable, but can come with challenges. If you are struggling with Gator Hide, here are several ideas that can help achieve a flawless, streak free finish!

Here are my top tips for using applying clear coats. Clear coats add to the durabilityof paint applications, so using it is highly desirable, but can come with challenges. If you are struggling with clear coat, here are several ideas that can help achieve a flawless, streak free finish!

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1. Stir well with a stir stick, don’t just shake.

clear coats can have particles that settle to the bottom, especially new containers or those that haven’t been used in a while. Use a stir stick and scrape the bottom, make sure it is integrated into the product

2. Tint your clear coat with a bit of paint to darken it.

It doesn’t take much, a few drops of paint, stirred in well will help camouflage streaking.

3. Apply several very thin coats with light sanding in between.

Don’t try to apply your coats too thick at once. They will get streaky and uneven. More, thinner coats will yield better results.

4. If it is streaky going on, it will be streaky when dry, evenness is key.

Let your clear coat catch the light going on. Does it look streaky when wet? If so, that will NOT disappear as it dries. Use looongg, even strokes, in a continuous line all the way across your piece with an even hand to get consistent coverage.

5. Use a foam roller.

If you choose the application sponge, dampen before use, wring out any excess water, this will keep your sponge from absorbing as much gator hide and help reduce friction. I tend to use a damp brush because I can control the pressure of my brush better. But, if a soft hand isn’t your thing, try a foam roller to get even coverage.

6. Resist any urge to brush over imperfections. Clear coat can start setting up quickly. As with any self leveling product, any marks you put in once set up has begun are less likely to level out. If you see imperfections in your coat, let them dry, lightly sand out, and add a new coat over top. They will virtually disappear.

7. Mist your surface with water before brushing on clear coat

I’m talking VERY little water, a fine mist, just enough to help your brush glide. The clear coat I use are water based so it is friendly to using minimal water in application.

8. If you are using over a transfer, be sure to burnish your transfer.

I use clear coat over transfers all the time with no issue. The key is to burnish your transfer, I use a Dixie Belle finishing pad, rub over ALL areas to make sure there are no air bubbles, etc. The clear coat getting in underneath the transfer through air bubbles is what can cause lifting

You can shop furniture transfers HERE!

9. If you are experiencing yellowing, clear coat is likely not your issue.

I see so often, people searching for clear coat that doesn’t yellow. If you are using a water based clear coat, and still experiencing yellowing, it is generally caused by 2 things. Either 1. Exposure to UV light or 2. Tannins bleeding through from under your paint.If you see yellowing, ask yourself 2 questions:

  1. Did I use a stain blocking primer like Zinsser BIN, or Shellac under my paint?
  2. Is my piece kept under a window or in direct sunlight?

One of these is likely the reason for yellowing. ALWAYS use a stain blocking under your whites and light paint colors!

10. Temperature and humidity do matter!

Is it warm and muggy where you are? Your products can feel it too. You can move to a climate controlled space, wait until a cooler time of day, or use a bit of water to help. The same goes for the cold. Viscosity is reduced in cold weather. You can place your container in a bowl of warm water to help it return to its normal consistency.

11. Use another option to seal your paint before applying final coat

If you are still struggling to get streak free, try sealing your paint with another clear coat like satin clear. Raw paint tends to absorb clear coat quicker. This, combined with the fast set up can make it tough to get even coats. Sealing the paint with an easier clear coat, then going over top with the tough protection might be the answer for you.

12. If you have a sprayer available, spray your clear coats!

Ckear coats spray BEAUTIFULLY! We don’t even dilute in our sprayer and this is a fool proof method to a streak free finish

Clear coat is tough! It seals really well. You can find A variety of clear coats and more HERE!

I hope these tips help you achieve a smooth top finish.

This Post Has 95 Comments

  1. Lynn

    Thanks Brandy Great tips…..Top coats are scarey but I’m practicing.

    1. Lou Raley

      I am learning lots of new things…thanks Brandy !

  2. Denise Jimenez

    I have learned so much from your videos. I’ve been painting and flipping for years and can always learn something new from you. Keep up the wonderful work you do! You really are an inspiration to all who paint.

  3. melnebee

    Brandy- Thank you for these great tips! I’m still pretty new to Gator Hide, haven’t had any problems yet, but these tips are really valuable to me!

  4. Elizabeth Halley

    Thank you Brandy. This is very helpful.

  5. Deb

    GREAT tips Brandy!! Thank you!

  6. Martha Pike

    Thank you, you are an inspiration.

  7. Cathy Fasse

    Thank you for the great tips Brandy. If you do use best dang wax before gator hide how long does wax need to cure before applying gator hide?

    1. Brandy K.

      At least a few days or you will pull your wax off brushing the gator hide

  8. Natalie Caraway Taylor

    Why does the Gator Hide tend to mess with my Wax? Has the wax not had time to dry? I waited a day, then I put a clear coat over it first, let it dry then used my Gator Hide no issue, but if I didn’t use a clear coat first it seemed to pull my wax off.

    1. Brandy K.

      Yes, your wax needs to set up for at least a few days or the friction of putting the gator hide on will pull if back off.

  9. Tanya Martin

    You do amazing work! I have a question about Gator Hide Are you saying that you can use Gator Hide on top of another top coat…like a lacquer finish? I am having issues with a dining table showing water marks after 3 coats of the lacquer. I wanted to try this product On top of that finish to see if it would be stronger and resist water marks.

    1. Brandy K.

      If the lacquer is fully cured, should be fine. Gator hide will resist water to a degree, but standing water, left for time will damage even the most durable finishes

  10. Laura Kaplan

    I am trying to use Gator Hide over Dixie Belle’s Caviar Paint. It came out very streaky after one coat. I am afraid to sand because the black color seems to get faded (kind of dusty looking). not sure what to do next.

    1. Brandy K.

      The dusty faded look will disappear with another coat of clear. You should sand in between each coat until your final looks satisfactory

      1. Laura Kaplan

        Thank you!

  11. sharon lee

    Hi Brandy,
    I am loving all of your videos and am truly inspired. I love your Dusty Blue dresser and will be using a similar technique with a vintage mirror frame and a masonite board to replace the broken mirror. I’m using the Prima transfer used on this dresser and the colors you used in this gorgeous piece. The masonite will warp if not primedWill the DB paint work over KILZ oil base primer or pigmented shellac? I just don’t know which primer would be best. I know I can use latex paint over KILZ primer but not sure about a mineral (chalk) paint. Thanks for any info.

    1. Brandy K.

      Yes, it will work. I’ve applied over shellac and shellac based primer like zinnser BIN with no issues. I recommend you let it dry 72 hours before applying the paint

  12. sharon lee

    Thanks for your quick reply. You are the best.

  13. LaureenAndrews

    Ugh, I tried Gator Hide for the first time. I have a set of matching side tables, first one came out very streaky and then I read this article and the second came out better, but still not the finish I was hoping for. I also had the additional problem that my table tops are surrounded on three sides, so i couldn’t get a consistent long stroke. I also sanded through areas of the paint trying to get rid of lumps and ridges. Are the other clear top coats more forgiving and self leveling? I have used wax and Polyacrylic, Gator Hide goes on much like the polyacrylic in my opinion.

    1. Brandy K.

      I think the satin clear coat is the most user friendly

  14. Tricia Bartolucci

    This is really helpful Brandy. The weather here has been bouncing from warm to rainy. It seemed m paint was more difficult to get a smooth finish, or was dragging more instead of going on smooth. As a beginner I couldn’t figure out why. What would you think about using a couple coats of the satin clear coat, sanding between, then followed by a couple thin coats of Gator to get added durability. Do you think that would give me the smoothest yet durable finish? It seems the finish scrapes easily when moving something on it lightly. Any suggestions on what to dust with that won’t damage the finish? Water & microfiber, furniture polish, ??
    Love your work…practical & durable yet totally artistic in design.

    1. Brandy K.

      Yes, using satin then gator hide definitely makes it easier, shouldn’t need more than a damp cloth to dust. Finishes take 30 days to fully cure and harden

  15. Arlene

    Hi, I made a mistake on the top of my buffet I’m doing and already put a coat of gator hide on it. I would like to start top over. Can I paint over the gator hide??

    1. Brandy K.

      Yes, you can paint over top of the gator hide

    2. Connie Chase

      OK so I just use the gator hide for the very first time on top of a stain on two dressers. It says to put the disposables there with disposal stick then dip flat area of blue sponge applicator educator Hite lightly coat in it. Gently wipe in the sponge over the service apply 2-3 coats allowing over the surface and two hours in between coats. But when I read these comments it said to mess with water and it doesn’t say how to clean the blue sponge I’m assuming of water I don’t know? I think it’s going to be streak free 🤞🏼but I’m a little bit worried can I go over this with a clearcoat and do I need to sand first and also will that not protect from cup rings etc.

      1. Brandy K.

        Yes the blue sponge with a water based clear coat is just rinsed out in water. You can lightly sand in between coats up until your final coat

  16. Virginia Simonian

    Hi Brandy, how soon after final coat of Clear Coat and/or Gator Hide final coat can a table top be used. I have completed my first project (nightstand) came out very nice. Used Coffee Bean with satin Clear Coat. I understand the top coats take 30 days to cure, but when can items be placed on them without damaging the finish? My next project is a dining table using Espresso No Pain Gel with a Gator Hide top coat. Testing the Espresso with Gator Hide top coat first on a small side table. Your videos are very helpful. Thank you.

    1. Brandy K.

      You can use them gently as soon as it is dry to the touch. I send them home with customers and advise gentle use for the first 30 days. They are prone to scratch if you slide things on it, etc.

  17. Denise

    This is BRILLIANT! Thank you so much for this advice.
    I have a question. Can you use Best Dang Wax over Gator Hide to get that softer look/appearance or, in the case of my current project, brown wax for that aged patina?
    Thanks, Brandy. You are truly an inspiration.

    1. Brandy K.

      Yes, you can use wax over gator hide. When i use waxes decoratively, I usually sandwich in between 2 coats of clear coat

  18. nburg444

    Hi, I used gator hide on a table and it is fully cured. A client asked me to change the paint color on the table. Can I still paint over the gator hide? If not, what is the best way to remove the gator hide? It is a chalk painted table. Thanks!

    1. Brandy K.

      Yes, you can paint over, it is a water based top coat

  19. kimberly Merrill

    Hi Brandy, I love your work. I was wondering what type/brand of sprayer you use for your gator hide? Thank you in advance.

    1. Brandy K.

      I have 2, a husky gun with dewalt compressor and an apollo sprayer

  20. Caroline

    Hi Brandy,
    This is a very helpful post.
    I’m brand-new to Gator Hide and I want to re-finish a surface that I previously waxed. Can I go directly over it with Gator Hide or do I need to sand the surface first or use a solvent to remove the wax before I apply the Gator Hide? Thanks!

    1. Brandy K.

      Was it dixie belle wax or another brand? Dixie belle waxes are water based so you can clear coat over top. That is not the case with other brands

      1. Caroline

        Hi Brandy, thanks for your response.
        No, I didn’t use Dixie Belle wax, I used A.S. dark wax, which I rubbed over a black/gold crackle finish. I like the look of it, but instead of wax I should have sealed it with something more permanent and durable. Now I’m conflicted; do I live with it or do I re-do it?

      2. Brandy K.

        You cannot put clear coat over AS wax, it is oil based. You can paint over fully cured wax, then seal over that

  21. Lanette

    Can you use Gator Hide on fabric?

    1. Brandy K.

      Wax will soften the paint on fabric

  22. Randolyn

    Hi Brandy, I just finished applying 2coats of Dixie Belle paint on 80 year old Maple drop leaf table and chairs. I’m wondering how would be the easiest way to apply Gator hide to the carved legs? I’m thinking that I should use a tool for the top.( it’s so big) Thanks for you advice!!

    1. Brandy K.

      Use the blue applicator sponge for legs, can use a foam roller for top

  23. Randolyn


  24. Randolyn

    Thanks for the quick reply!!😃 I will be using it on my patio, so how soon can it go outside?

  25. Caroline

    Hello ..I’ve painted my bathroom tiles with another paint but I would like to seal them ..I saw a video using gator hide ..can I just sponge roller this over the tiles? And they will be water repellent?
    Thank so much

  26. Lily

    Ty fo great instruction!!!

  27. Pat passos

    Thanks so much Brandy! Suggesting a foam roller was a game changer for me! So perfect! How long should I wait to apply a second coat of gator hide?

    1. Brandy K.

      That is great news! I wait a few hours in between

  28. Deb

    Can I use gator hide over latex paint?

  29. Bella

    Wow, thanks for all these amazing tips! I had no idea you could use it over wax

    1. Brandy K.

      Dixie belle best dang wax is water based, so you can clear coat over top

  30. Miller

    I painted my kitchen table white and want to use Gator Hide on it. Would you still suggest adding a few small drops of paint to the GH to minimize streaking? Thanks.

    1. Brandy K.

      Yes, if you have a solid color, it is definitely a good idea

    2. Brandy K.

      Yes, thats a great way to prevent streaking and reduce yellowing over time that happens in any clear coat

  31. Nur Irfaniah

    Hi Brandy! I have always loved your guide, and this might be my favourite one yet! I featured this post in my post on the ‘Best Clear Coat for Wood & Painted Furniture’, with you as one of the DIY experts featured!

    I really value your inputs and opinions when it comes to the furniture flipping game. Have you tried Wise Owl Paint Varnish though? In my survey, this brand came up soooo many times! I can’t get my hands on it from where i live, but hopefully you can do a review on it one day! I would love to hear your thoughts on it in comparison with Dixie Belle Gator Hide.

  32. LaLa

    What type of sprayer do you use for gator hide?? I’m taking on some kitchen cabinets + not looking forward to dealing with any streaking🤯🤯 I think spraying them would be a much quicker, fool proof way to go.

  33. Wendy Davies

    You seem to be a wealth of information, so hoping you can answer my questions as well. I would like to stain my wood kitchen countertops with a db stain and finish with Gator hide. I currently have varnish only on top of the wood. Thinking of going right over the varnish with voodoo stain and then the Gator hide. Looking for advice on doing that and whether or not Gator hide is food safe?
    Thanks in advance!

    1. Brandy K.

      Gator hide would be safe for kitchen counters once fully cured, if any areas chip or peel, you would not want food to come in contact with those.

  34. Jamie Thompson

    Thank you for the tips! Spraying will be my go to. Long spray strokes. Is clean up from sprayer easy or tricky?

  35. Betty

    I always find top coats scary. I’m doing a couple of tables right now and was thinking of trying Gator Hide. The tables are for family with two teens so I need something tough for tops. I’ve used Jolie paint.

    1. Brandy K.

      Gator hide is dixie belles most durable clear coat

  36. Kelly Nichols

    Can I use decorative wax on top of Gator Hide?

    1. Brandy K.

      Yes, you definitely can use waxes over gator hide

  37. Leslie

    Amazing tips! I’ve always struggled with clear coating the large pieces especially in the hot Georgia summer. Warming up the clear coat prior and lightly misting the surface has resulted in such a better finish. Thank you!!

  38. carolanne

    Hello, thank you for being super helpful!
    If I place another coat of mineral paint over the gator hide, is the gator hide as effective in repelling water, marks, and so on, or does it reduce its effectiveness?
    Thanks so much.

    1. Brandy K.

      The gator hide will only protect what is underneath, that final layer of paint would be unprotected

  39. Vickie

    How long does gator hide have to dry before putting stuff back on my dresser

    1. Brandy K.

      30 days to fully cure, I recommend light use until then

      1. Phyllis Bardwell

        Phyllis B.
        I have sanded and re-stained (with MINWAX Semitransparent Special Walnut Penetrating Stain) the top of my 86 inch walnut Chippendale style dining room table. It looks great, and matches the color of the legs, chairs and buffet! Very happy, but terrified I will mess up on applying the topcoats! My friends who refinish swear by Gator Hide. Your advice please!

      2. Brandy K.

        A penetrating stain will not adhere unless it was applied on raw wood, even with a top coat. 8f it was applied over an existing finish, you’d want a gel stain. After 72+ hours you can apply gator hide over a fully dry oil based stain

  40. Jay kay Cunningham

    Hi. Brandy. Wanting to put a black glaze on a dresser I am repainting using Dixie Belle rusty nail. Can I use Gator Hide in place of clear coat? I know that Gator Hide is a thicker coat. Not sure how the glaze will respond. Thank you!

    1. Brandy K.

      Gator hide is a clear coat, it works well with the glazes, both under or over top

  41. Marie

    I painted a nightstand with Dixie Belle Silk Mineral paint. Endless Shore an off white.
    1st time it yellowed when I put DB clear coat satin. So went back a sealed it with DB Boss and repainted. I still would like some kind of top coating it. What would you suggest for no yellowing? Thank you!

    1. Brandy K.

      Water based clear coats should not yellow om their own, if you experienced yellowing it was most likely bleeding through from under your paint, clear coat can leech it out. Hopefully you have enough protection now with the boss and additional paint coat to use your satin again

  42. Tina

    Hi Brandy,
    Please tell me when to use ‘Clear Coat’, ‘Extra Coat’ and/or Gator Hide?
    I’m very confused about all the options.
    Thank you!

    1. Brandy K.

      Extra coat is the equivalent if gator hide labeled for the silk like. They can be used interchangeably as the formulation is the same

  43. Amy Woods

    Ugh! Just finished all of my dining room chairs with Dixie Belle paint/Rust-Oleum smoke Glaze and 3 coats of Gator Hide. But I forgot the glaze on 2 of them and they are lighter. Can I use the Glaze over the Gator Hide?😫

    1. Brandy K.

      Yes, you can add glaze, then clear coat again

  44. Susan

    Hi I am painting my kitchen cabinets with the new silk in quiet cove. What’s your advice on an additional protective coat and if so what?

    1. Brandy K.

      Silk does not require a top coat, it’s very wipeable so long as you like the low, matte sheen. If you prefer more, I like dixie belle gator hide for kitchens

  45. Kellie

    Hi Brandy. I have painted a dining table top and applied gator hide with a high density foam roller. It has thick uneven ridges is spots. How do I fix this? Thank you for any advise you can give.

    1. Brandy K.

      You would need to sand smooth and apply another coat. Be sure when rolling you are doing thin, even coats

  46. Julie Maggio

    Hi. I stained my dinning room table with the no pain gel stain in espresso. Can I use the gator hide as my top coat? And can I use it on my dinning room chairs that I painted white with Heirloom Traditions without it yellowing?
    First time user of Dixie Belle gel stain, and I love it.
    Thank you

  47. Kerry Migliore

    Oh how wish I read this last night…..I used clear coat in a dresser I painted and it’s a disaster. Streak marks everywhere. I am new to furniture painting and I should have googled this before doing it but, you know how it goes. Lol. So now I’m going to use all your tips and lightly sand it and then use my brand new sprayer. Wish me luck
    I absolutely love all your furniture. I hope to be half as good as you are.
    Thanks again for all your videos and sharing your knowledge!!

    1. Brandy K.

      I’m sorry that happened, hope the sprayer worked, a sponge or flocked roller are great options too

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