Updated date:

Tole Painting - Decorative Art Designs w/ Photo Gallery

Decorative art on wood, cut to look like ceramic tiles ~ painted by Patty Sypek/design by Betty Caithness

Decorative art on wood, cut to look like ceramic tiles ~ painted by Patty Sypek/design by Betty Caithness

What does “tole” mean?

The word tole means lacquered or enameled metal-ware.

What is Tole Painting?

Tole painting is a type of decorative art where designs are painted on a variety of mediums such as tin, metal, wood, glass and ceramic. Painted objects can be anything from a vintage tin coffee pot, metal or wood utensils and even larger, modern pieces such as a toy box, hope chest and furniture.

The terms “tole painting” and “decorative painting” are used interchangeably when describing a variety of techniques used to paint functional as well as decorative surfaces.

what-is-tole-painting-decorative-art-designs-w-photo-gallery

History of Tole Painting

The practice of tole painting originally referred to painting on tin and began in New England during the 18th century following the Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783).

Traveling peddlers would sell their wares to settlers with the majority product sold being tin ware. Because they were not able to afford elaborate cookware or dinnerware, settlers would then decorate these tin pieces to make them more appealing. This included purposeful tin items such as

  • serving trays
  • tea pots
  • canisters
  • document boxes
what-is-tole-painting-decorative-art-designs-w-photo-gallery

Tole Painting Today

As centuries have passed, tole painting is now more commonly referred to as “decorative art” or “decorative painting.” Resurgence of tole painting in the 1960’s and 1970’s became apparent with studios offering to train students to become “tole” or “decorative painters.”

The National Society of Tole and Decorative Painters was created in 1972. Today, it has expanded worldwide and is known as the Society of Decorative Painters.

what-is-tole-painting-decorative-art-designs-w-photo-gallery

Before we go any further, what are your current thoughts at the moment.

what-is-tole-painting-decorative-art-designs-w-photo-gallery

Example of bringing an object to "life."

Look at the plums in the picture below.

The base coat was a solid dark purple. Using a variety of techniques such as side loading and floating with contrasting colors of paint, the plums are highlighted and truly become alive.

It is possible that it may take 20 to 30 passes to get the depth of the focused object. Patience in creating the gentle color gradation is what creates the remarkable “life” effect.

Cluster of plums brought to "life" ~ painted by Patty Sypek/design by Debi Cole

Cluster of plums brought to "life" ~ painted by Patty Sypek/design by Debi Cole

Decorative Art Painting Techniques

There are many techniques that can be used within a single piece of decorative art. Here are some of the more common methods used.

BASE COATING

Base coating is simply applying the base color of any object. For example, let's say you are going to paint an apple with a stem and leaves. You would first draw or trace the outline of your picture. Then, you apply a base coat of red to the apple and base coat of green to the leaves.

SIDE LOADING or FLOATING

Side loading or floating is the primary method of applying paint to give depth and life to EVERYTHING. Depth requires the gradation of color to show where shade and highlights exist.

A flat brush, sometimes called a “shader,” is dampened with water and then the excess is blotted with a paper towel. One corner of the brush is dipped into the paint and then blended into the brush using a back and forth motion. The blending motion moves the paint across the bristles.

A properly loaded brush will have full strength paint on one side diminishing gradually to pure water on the other side. It’s the gentle gradation of colors that creates this effect or depth. This takes practice . . . and more practice.

SPATTERING or SPECKLING

Spattering or speckling is a “spray” of small specks of paint onto a surface often done with the use of an old toothbrush and a flicking motion of a thumb on the bristles.

DRY BRUSHING

Dry brushing uses a brush where most of the paint has been removed. This technique can be used to highlight an object.

STENCILING

Stencils are used by many tole and decorative art painters.

ONE STROKE

The one-stroke method of painting decorative art has been around for centuries and remains popular today. Brushes are loaded with multiple colors of paint and applied simultaneously. This method is faster than applying each paint layer individually and provides visual depth to the piece.

what-is-tole-painting-decorative-art-designs-w-photo-gallery
Patty Sypek

Patty Sypek

Patty Sypek - Tole/Decorative Painting Artist

For over four decades beginning way back in kindergarten at the age of five, Patty Sypek and I have remained close friends. Although Patty’s successful career with the Cleveland Clinic Foundation has nothing to do with painting, she is a spectacular artist who utilizes her creativity in all areas of her life.

Whatever you wish to call it, tole or decorative art painting, Patty creates unique works of art. She also cuts out her own wood pieces to paint, giving them her special touch.

As you scroll through the rest of this article, I hope you enjoy all the photos that showcase Patty's artistic talent.

what-is-tole-painting-decorative-art-designs-w-photo-gallery

Do You Want to Learn to Tole Paint?

If you have the time, patience and desire to learn, search for classes at your local craft store. Also see if there is a local chapter of The Society of Decorative Painters nearby.

Most painters do not create their own designs but purchase patterns and books. The directions within the pattern will help the painter achieve the final result.

Keep in mind this is not an inexpensive endeavor.

  • Brushes cost between $3 and $20 each (my friend has well over 200 brushes).
  • You’ll need paint, lots of it!
  • Patterns/books typically cost between $5 - $15 each.
  • Surfaces to paint on such as wood, tin, porcelain, etc. can cost anywhere from $2 - $200 or more.
  • General supplies such as palette paper and stencils cost too.

It takes many hours and years to become proficient at tole painting. As decorative painters perfect the side-loading technique where, for example, a bunch grapes look like they can be plucked off the painted piece and eaten . . . this is where the “craft” becomes a true form of art.

Decorative art storage cabinet painted by Patty Sypek/design by Fiona Hayward

Decorative art storage cabinet painted by Patty Sypek/design by Fiona Hayward

what-is-tole-painting-decorative-art-designs-w-photo-gallery

Door and Window Toppers

One of my favorite items that Patty makes are door and window toppers. She uses them sporadically throughout her beautiful home and changes them depending on the holiday or season.

Here are some samples of her toppers.

Door or window topper painted by Patty Sypek/design by Betty Caithness

Door or window topper painted by Patty Sypek/design by Betty Caithness

Door or window topper painted by Patty Sypek/design by A. Newman

Door or window topper painted by Patty Sypek/design by A. Newman

Door or window topper painted by Patty Sypek

Door or window topper painted by Patty Sypek

Door or window topper painted by Patty Sypek/design by Terrye French

Door or window topper painted by Patty Sypek/design by Terrye French

Door or window topper painted by Patty Sypek/design by Helan Barrick

Door or window topper painted by Patty Sypek/design by Helan Barrick

Door or window topper painted by Patty Sypek/design by Janet Moreland

Door or window topper painted by Patty Sypek/design by Janet Moreland

what-is-tole-painting-decorative-art-designs-w-photo-gallery

Decorative Art Storage Boxes

I love when Patty creates and paints multi-purpose items. These decorative art boxes can also be used to store or hide things. They are another favorite of mine.

Here are some samples of the boxes she's painted.

Storage box for Halloween candy painted by Patty Sypek/design by Kathi Walters

Storage box for Halloween candy painted by Patty Sypek/design by Kathi Walters

Christmas storage box painted by Patty Sypek/design by Prudy Vannier

Christmas storage box painted by Patty Sypek/design by Prudy Vannier

Multi-purpose storage boxes painted by Patty Sypek/designs Betty Caithness

Multi-purpose storage boxes painted by Patty Sypek/designs Betty Caithness

This box was painted by Patty Sypek and shows a more "traditional" folk-art type pattern/design by Helen Jeglic

This box was painted by Patty Sypek and shows a more "traditional" folk-art type pattern/design by Helen Jeglic

Holiday storage box painted by Patty Sypek/design by Janet Moreland

Holiday storage box painted by Patty Sypek/design by Janet Moreland

Patty's "crocodile box" that she painted for storage in her "safari room" ~ modified from a Jane Crick design

Patty's "crocodile box" that she painted for storage in her "safari room" ~ modified from a Jane Crick design

Fall storage box painted by Patty Sypek/design by Sonja Richardson

Fall storage box painted by Patty Sypek/design by Sonja Richardson

Mock Christmas book ~ holiday storage box painted by Patty Sypek/design by Betty Caithness

Mock Christmas book ~ holiday storage box painted by Patty Sypek/design by Betty Caithness

Side view of Mock Christmas book "box" painted by Patty Sypek/design by Betty Caithness

Side view of Mock Christmas book "box" painted by Patty Sypek/design by Betty Caithness

Halloween candy storage box painted by Patty Sypek/design by Helan Barrick

Halloween candy storage box painted by Patty Sypek/design by Helan Barrick

what-is-tole-painting-decorative-art-designs-w-photo-gallery

Holiday Decorative Art

Patty has painted all types of things for holidays throughout the year.

Here are just some of her other holiday pieces.

Cute Easter decorations painted by Patty Sypek

Cute Easter decorations painted by Patty Sypek

Candle snuffers painted by Patty Sypek/design by Chris Haughey

Candle snuffers painted by Patty Sypek/design by Chris Haughey

Halloween music box decoration with rotating moon ~ painted by Patty Sypek/design by Yvonne Kresal

Halloween music box decoration with rotating moon ~ painted by Patty Sypek/design by Yvonne Kresal

Christmas sled painted by Patty Sypek

Christmas sled painted by Patty Sypek

More adorable Easter decorations painted by Patty Sypek

More adorable Easter decorations painted by Patty Sypek

Christmas holiday puzzle painted by Patty Sypek/design by Kathi Walters

Christmas holiday puzzle painted by Patty Sypek/design by Kathi Walters

Large Halloween decoration painted by Patty Sypek

Large Halloween decoration painted by Patty Sypek

what-is-tole-painting-decorative-art-designs-w-photo-gallery

Decorative Art Checker Boards

One of Patty's unique creations are her decorative art-style checker boards. The details are amazing.

Check out the following three examples of her work.

Winnie the Pooh & Friends checker board painted by Patty Sypek ~ she made this unique piece using the flip side of a wooden cutting board.  The moving pieces are little bumble bees and honey pots with removable lids.

Winnie the Pooh & Friends checker board painted by Patty Sypek ~ she made this unique piece using the flip side of a wooden cutting board. The moving pieces are little bumble bees and honey pots with removable lids.

Nautical checker board with light houses for the moving pieces ~ painted by Patty Sypek

Nautical checker board with light houses for the moving pieces ~ painted by Patty Sypek

Another beautiful checker board with heart shaped movable pieces painted by Patty Sypek

Another beautiful checker board with heart shaped movable pieces painted by Patty Sypek

what-is-tole-painting-decorative-art-designs-w-photo-gallery

Now ~ what do you think?

National Museum of Decorative Painting

Did you know there is a National Museum of Decorative Painting? It opened in 1982 in Atlanta, Georgia for the purpose of displaying, collecting and preserving the art of decorative painting.

The museum showcases everything from historical exhibits to current works of decorative art. They also offer educational programs for the public to help increase the understanding and appreciation for the heritage, methods and techniques of decorative painting.

what-is-tole-painting-decorative-art-designs-w-photo-gallery
what-is-tole-painting-decorative-art-designs-w-photo-gallery

Disclaimer

Every effort was made by Patty Sypek to give credit to the original designers if applicable. We apologize if anyone was missed. Feel free to contact the author of this article if you have additional information regarding credit for a specific design.

In Closing

Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed learning about tole and decorative art painting. And I especially hope you enjoyed the photo gallery showcasing examples of decorative art paintings by Patty Sypek.

And to Patty, thank you . . . for everything.

This is Sharyn's Slant

what-is-tole-painting-decorative-art-designs-w-photo-gallery

Comments

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on November 27, 2017:

Thank you for stopping by! Have a great holiday!

Mike and Dorothy McKenney from United States on November 09, 2017:

I love the photographs and they make me so jealous of those who can produce that kind of art. Your article is so well written and easy to follow...now if I could just find the talent within me.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on May 29, 2016:

Thank you! My friend Patty does awesome work!

Norma Lawrence from California on May 28, 2016:

Your article was great. I learned so much. I love tole painting and have several pieces. Your pictures were gorgeous and breath taking.

Keep up the great work. Thanks for sharing this great article with us.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 16, 2015:

ha ha Bill, thanks for making me giggle. Yes, this is and I need to get back to it. You might have just inspired me! Take care dear.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 16, 2015:

Is this really the last piece you did? Two years? My goodness, Sharyn....I hope to see more soon. :)

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on April 14, 2015:

Hi Gwynn,

No, I'm sorry I don't. Look at the photos in this article and see the names of the designers who are mentioned. Then do a Google search on them to check out the patterns they have available. Good luck,

Sharyn

Gwynn on April 13, 2015:

I am in need of the Halloween musicbox pattern, do you sell that? My number is 951 461 8943.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 05, 2014:

Hi DDE ~ thank you so much for your wonderful feedback. This hub was fun to put together!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 21, 2014:

Tole Painting - Decorative Art Designs Photo Gallery is a beautifully presented hub with such creative thoughts.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on December 18, 2013:

Hi Suzanne ~ yes, that cabinet is awesome. I agree that you need some skill to create a nice piece. Thank you so much for your wonderful feedback!

Sharyn

Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on December 11, 2013:

Wow, that Patty Sypek cabinet is really beautiful. I guess you would need some skill to paint like this and have it appear the way you want. Thanks for clarifying the "tole painting" vs "decorative painting" meaning. Voted awesome!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 03, 2013:

Hi Lisa ~ thanks so much for your feedback and vote!

Lisa Chronister from Florida on July 15, 2013:

This is useful, interesting, and the photos are beautiful! Thanks for sharing, I voted up.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 19, 2013:

Hi Scribenet ~ Thank you so much for your compliments. Glad you enjoyed this article. I appreciate you stopping by.

Sharyn

Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on March 19, 2013:

Beautiful Hub! Tole painting is so beautiful...the best kind of decorative painting!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 13, 2013:

Hi Tebo ~ Patty is truly talented. Thank you so much for stopping by to check this out and leave a thoughtful comment.

Sharyn

tebo from New Zealand on March 12, 2013:

What a lovely hub and so many wonderful ideas of where to practice your skill. Loved all the photos. Your friend is truly talented.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 12, 2013:

Hi CC ~ aw, thanks for the compliments. From some of your artwork that I've seen, I can tell that you've also dabbled in tole painting as well. Thanks so much for your great feedback!

Sharyn

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on March 11, 2013:

This is a stunning hub. Hands down, I think it's art, but a different kind of art than fine art. I probably gravitate more toward fine art, though I've done some "tole painting" in my time. Awesome stuff!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 09, 2013:

Hi bridalletter ~ I actually think out of all the things that Patty has painted over the years, that her Halloween pieces are her favorite as well. I tend to be drawn to the decorated boxes such as the one in the first photo. That is one of my favorites. Of course, I love the checker boards and all of Patty's work. Thanks so much for your feedback.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 09, 2013:

Hi Blossom ~ Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving such a thoughtful comment.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 09, 2013:

Hi Glimmer ~ yes, Patty's work really is beautiful. I'm so glad you enjoyed this hub. I appreciate you stopping by.

Sharyn

Brenda Kyle from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA on March 09, 2013:

What a joy to look through all the images! My favorite are the Halloween pieces. I am equally impressed with the checkerboards. I was introduced to this craft about 7 years ago, but I never picked it up. I admire the work. Very nice hub, thank you for sharing.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 09, 2013:

Hi Mike ~ great to see you! Yes, I agree with you "a very creative art form that has one foot in art and one foot in craft." If I was to attempt to tole paint, it would definitely be a craft as I don't have the patience or skill for perfecting all the detail. Then there are those like Patty who create awesome art.

I'm so glad you stopped by ~ thanks!

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 09, 2013:

Hi Ruchira ~ I'm happy to share Patty's beautiful artwork. So glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for the great feedback!

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 09, 2013:

Hi Marcy ~ I agree about admiring people who can do this. I do too. When Patty and I were much younger (still in school I think), I remember us thinking of ways to make some money. We used to paint little wooden pieces and add magnets to the back. These magnets were simple, for example a small heart shape painted all one color and then polka dots added to it.

Well, today, that remains the level of my painting ability. As you can see, Patty continued to grow into larger and much more beautiful artwork.

Thanks so much for your feedback!

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 07, 2013:

Hi Dr. BJ ~ Thank you so much for your feedback and compliments. Very much appreciated.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 07, 2013:

Hi SZ ~ I don't know, you are pretty creative. You might be a great tole painter if you give it a try. Thanks so much for your feedback and compliments about Patty's work.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 07, 2013:

Hi Eddy ~ Thanks for your votes and share. I'm thrilled that you like this article.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 07, 2013:

Hi Carol ~ Thank you so much for your compliments and vote and pin as well. I always appreciate you stopping by.

Sharyn

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on March 07, 2013:

A wonderful article about this particular art form. Loved all the photos, too.

Claudia Mitchell on March 07, 2013:

Holy cow. Your friend does beautiful work. I had no idea this art form was called tole painting. Really interesting and beautiful hub.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 06, 2013:

This is a very creative art form that has one foot in art and one foot in craft.

Ruchira from United States on March 06, 2013:

Wow...sharyn. This was beautiful, and requires talent and persistence. Thanks for sharing the art work.

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on March 06, 2013:

I so admire people who can do this! I've had friends who did tole painting as a hobby, but it's too precise for me, I think. So I will just admire it - and maybe buy a few pieces.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 06, 2013:

Hi Billy ~ thank you for your compliments. Patty is extremely talented. I appreciate you stopping by always.

Sharyn

drbj and sherry from south Florida on March 06, 2013:

Tole painting is a fascinating art form and you certainly did it justice with this beautiful hub, Sharon. Your photos, too, are outstanding. Voted way up!

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on March 06, 2013:

I've always liked tole painting and only wish this was something I could do. Patty has an amazing talent. I really enjoyed reading all about this and viewing some of her pieces.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 06, 2013:

Vickiw ~ thank you so much for the compliments. I love the story about your 86-year old friend who still meets with others to tole paint on a weekly basis. That's awesome! I really appreciate your feedback.

Sharyn

Eiddwen from Wales on March 06, 2013:

A great share Sharyn;interesting and useful.I vote up and share.

Eddy.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 06, 2013:

Hi Pamela ~ I really think Patty's work is beautiful as well. I'm so glad she agreed to let me showcase it through an article here. Thanks for the vote and share.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 06, 2013:

Hi Mo ~ first comment, cool! Patty IS truly talented. Thanks for sharing this with your mom too. FYI, Patty is thinking of selling her checker boards if you truly are interested, let me know. Thanks for stopping by and for pinning as well.

Sharyn

carol stanley from Arizona on March 06, 2013:

Love this hub and so complete. I love the pictures. Great job as always. Voting up and pinning.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 06, 2013:

Very beautiful pictures and art, Sharon! That lady is quite talented. I can't draw stick figures so I'm in awe of anyone who can do this.

Vickiw on March 06, 2013:

Hi Sharyn, this is a beautiful and well-crafted (!) Hub. The painting is exquisite. I have an 86-year old friend who after 30 years still meets with her friends once a week to do tole painting! They love it, and have beautiful things to show from it. Absolutely gorgeous work by you and your friends!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 06, 2013:

I really enjoyed this hub and the work is just beautiful. Patty is very talented, and I love this type of this type of art. Voted up and shared.

Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on March 06, 2013:

I am so glad you have shared this. Patty is a true talent and her designs are adorable. It is hard to pick my favorite but those checkerboards would be nice to have. This is one of my mom's hobbies and she likes to buy/paint old metal teapots she finds at flea markets. I'll be sure to share Patty's work with her. Great hub! Pinned it :)

Related Articles