The following are some general observations about applying finishes to Basswood carvings.
PAINTED STAINED NATURAL
If I decide to paint the piece this is what I generally do: Scrub the piece with a denture brush, dish washing soap and hot water. This will remove pencil marks, fuzzies, and oils and dirt from handling the piece when carving. Let the piece dry. Wad up a piece brown paper bag and buff the piece if the wood grain has not "relaxed" from the scrubbing.
TIP about painting: Use Acrylic paints. They're cheap and easy to clean up the brushes, They can be diluted to make them lighter, and can be layered when applying.
The difficulties with applying paint, especially if diluted is that if not very careful they will bleed from one color to another. There are two things that you can do to prevent this color bleeding.
You can wood burn a line between each of the colors.
After the paint is dry you can antique and/or, wax. If I want to antique the carving, I sometimes use a liquid wax that has a walnut stain in it. This you apply over the dry paint with a rag or a brush, and immediately wipe it off, leaving some of the wax in the crevices. When the wax dries you can buff the piece.
This is just a basic primer on painting a Basswood carving. I am sure that there are many more techniques and tips.
IF YOU HAVE ANY ADDITIONAL TECHNIQUES/TIPS, PLEASE SHARE THEM AS A COMMENT.