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For ALL of my wood carvings, I use a combination of minwax transparent stains and when I have the need for paint, I use only acrylic paint - and I even use the cheapest ones from the craft store as a coat of clear matte or satin finish definitely seals and permanizes them. I don't even prime. For my golds, I do use the real stuff though - which is baroque paste, only because I don't like things too shiny or gold looking. If you want that type of look, best to use model gold or lacquer in the can and spray it into a container for easy brushing.
 
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