In a previous experiment, I tried painting a pair of maple plywood earrings with alcohol ink. For the most part, it worked fine, but I wanted to see what my other choices were. I had seen a product called unicorn spit which is a water-based stain. I bought a set on Amazon and decided to give it a try. As a note, it can be used on tons of different surfaces – not just wood. It’s got a nice mild scent and if you hate what you’ve done you can remove it by re-activating it with water. You can also apply it before or after cutting on the laser. I will do it both ways in this post.

THE BASICS OF HOW TO USE UNICORN SPIT

As stated this is water-based. It also dries very fast, so my suggestion is to lightly mist the surface of the material with water, squeeze out some Unicorn Spit and then brush it across the damp surface. There are tons of videos on using it, and I suggest checking those out. This product can be used for paint pouring, detailed painting, staining, all kinds of things. Most people use a sort of (how do I describe this…) Plastic Wrap Blending Technique which I don’t show in my post. Here are three videos I might look at for more about this product and to see alternate techniques:

Unicorn Spit Techniques on Wood Plank
Unicorn SPiT SPARKLiNG on Bare Wood
Unicorn SPit Technique

Pre-prep, lightly sand the wood you plan to use. The smoother the better.
Here I am working on a bit of scrap material. Lightly mist and dab.
The Squeeze Tubes makes this stain easy to apply
Brush to blend. Go a bit dense with the color as it becomes sheerer when sealed
Here you can see it drying. It will become chalky and pale.
Here I am spraying it with clear gloss. Notice how the color comes back.
Once the topcoat is dry, you can mask and cut!
Here are the designs after cutting and unmasking
Here are some pressure fit studs using this method.

Now those are the basics, but there is a bit more to it which I’ll walk you through now.

FIRST ATTEMPT

I learned something pretty quickly right away. When you paint this stuff on it dries very ashy and opaque, but when you seal it (which is required as it’s water-based), it lets the grain show through. The reason this matters is that you will want to mask your wood if you are going to cut before painting with Unicorn Spit.

See that brown flashing/char from the laser showing through? Yeah, we don’t want that.
The scorched surface really shows through in this one with lighter colors – it doesn’t look nice.
Here you can see the white after (left) and before (right). This shows the difference after it is sealed. When sealed it becomes sheer and the burned surface shines through. It really is like a stain so you have to be prepared to see some of the grain.

ATTEMPT TWO

For my next attempt, I masked first
Much better
Nice canvases ready for painting.
If you still have some scorching use isopropyl alcohol to remove it.
For these, I really like the control of painting after as you can pack in more color and gradation.
Here is the design above after drying.
And another wet, dry comparison
And some more designs after painting and drying. Not it’s time to seal them and bring back their vibrancy.

SEALING THE UNICORN SPIT

This, for me, was the hardest part to figure out. There are so many ways to seal something and the instructions for this claimed you needed to use an oil-based sealer. I tried a few different methods and here is how my results were:

1. Poly-Acrylic – this is water-based which it told you not to use. Honestly, it still worked fine. The only issue is it doesn’t deeply penetrate. In one attempt it overflowed and got stuck to the table, then when I pulled off the piece the topcoat just sort of tore off the wood.

Here is the wet poly acrylic flooded on the surface.
That pink one upfront is the one where the topcoat got peeled off.

2. Oiling and Polyurathane – This is the recommended method. Firstly, apply a furniture oil like Tung Oil. Just use a cloth to dab and rub it in. This will penetrate the stain and soak into the wood. Then once that dries, you can paint on polyurathane and let it dry. I’m not sure if the Tung Oil is required, but I used it because it seemed to really help bring out the grain as seen below:

This is the main advantage of oiling with a cloth, the rubbing will remove some excess and bring back some grain.

3. Rustoleum Clear Coat – This is the fastest method for coating the designs. Just coat with a spray gloss or spray mat. Do a few coats to make sure you really seal it in.

4. Resin – I didn’t try this method, but I guarantee you could also coat these in resin

You can see the first four designs are the oiled and polyurethaned designs, and the rightmost one is the polyacrylic. Polyacrylic is more dimensional – it sits more on the surface so it’s easier to sort of “dome it” up on the design.

THE RESULTS

Yep I snuck a few pieces of acrylic in there.
Just as a note – that top blue rupee shaped one is sealed with polyacrylic
This is one of the ways I used these – zipper toggles!

WHERE TO GET THE MATERIALS

These are affiliate links, so feel free to skip them if you’re not into that:

Unicorn Spit | This is the Unicorn Spit set I purchased. It came with most of the popular colors and for me (who uses this in small doses) it will last a long time

Tung Oil | This oil-based finish is what I used to help seal in the Unicorn Spite

Sanding Block | I love these dang things. I always keep one by my forge so I can lightly sand my plywood before putting it in the machine. The one linked here is not the one in my post but I cannot remember when I got that one.


Unicorn Spit | This is the Unicorn Spit set I purchased. It came with most of the popular colors and for me (who uses this in small doses) it will last a long time

Tung Oil | This oil-based finish is what I used to help seal in the Unicorn Spite

Sanding Block | I love these dang things. I always keep one by my forge so I can lightly sand my plywood before putting it in the machine. The one linked here is not the one in my post but I cannot remember when I got that one.

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?

Obligatory code plug. If you found this post helpful and you plan to buy a Glowforge you can use my code for a discount: https://glowforge.us/r/QHDONFXB

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