I sanded it down using coarse sandpaper. I chose this because I wanted a unfinished textured, slightly “rough” looking product. If you want something more slick and smooth, then you’ll want to either use a stripper to remove any previous finish. Or if you choose to use sandpaper, use a coarse grit to cut the finish or existing paint layers, then a medium grit, then a finer grit, etc…all the way to a super fine grit, so as not to leave marks.
I then used the same Edge-lock painter’s tape to create a design (another tree). Instead of painting it, I wanted to use a wood stain. I applied the Minwax® Jacobean wood stain with a paintbrush (you can also apply with a sponge brush or even an old rag - but you will have to throw the rag out when you’re finished so use one that you’re not attached to!). I wasn’t exactly sure how that would work since the stain is so much thinner than paint. But for the most part, it worked out pretty well. It bled a little bit in a few areas, but I was able to rub those parts out enough so it didn’t show too badly.