ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Primer on Acrylic Paint

Updated on April 21, 2016
Acrylic paint's plastic appearance reflects its chemical makeup.
Acrylic paint's plastic appearance reflects its chemical makeup. | Source

Intro


Before discussing acrylic paint, it is important to understand some of the fundamental material and chemical properties of plastics and paint.

Important Terminology:

  • Emulsion:

-Fine mixture of normally immiscible (not soluble) liquids that nearly constitutes a solution. For example, balsamic vinaigrette is an emulsion since oil and balsamic vinegar are not fully soluble in each other -- instead they mix into one another.

  • Monomer:

-One molecule of a polymer; a polymer is a string of repeating molecules. These are normally organic molecules containing carbon. You can easily imagine a monomer as one unit of a polymer.

  • Surfactants:

-Reduce surface tension. Generally they are made of a hydrophobic (water-repelling) tail and a hydrophilic (water-attracting) head which allows hydrophilic and hydrophobic liquids to emulsify (or make an emulsion). This, in fact is how soap works to "dissolves" grease in water.

WWII Plexiglass was often used for windshields and cockpit windows for its durability.
WWII Plexiglass was often used for windshields and cockpit windows for its durability. | Source

History

Plexiglas was used during WWII as a shatter-proof glass substitute, and was patented by Rohm and Haas Company, a plastics producer. After the war, Plexiglas wasn’t as popular, so Rohm and Haas turned to acrylic, another durable plastic.

Acrylic emulsion polymer -- acrylic, for short -- is a type of plastic that can be made transparent and has ideal heat resistance, fracture resistance, and elastic properties that make it a good substitute for glass, when appropriate.

Source

Acrylic-based paint was first developed in the early 1930s. At this time, the formula was completely different: acrylic paint was hydrophobic, and soluble only in organic solvents. This paint was highly toxic, and only developed for research purposes. Next, researchers developed acrylic-latex house paint, which utilized emulsion technology to create a more workable substitute to available oil-based house paints. Acrylic paint as we know it today was not in use until the mid-1950s (exact date is debatable), and has seen even further development since. The first artists’ acrylic paints contained acrylic resin and pigment emulsified with solvents, while contemporary acrylic paints are emulsified with surfactants.

What is Acrylic Emulsification? How is Acrylic Paint Made?

Surfactants are used to create a water and monomer emulsion. Varying chemical techniques (more popular is the free radical technique) break the monomers leaving dangling carbon bonds – this leaves the emulsion translucent to opaque. The broken monomers can now combine to form polymers that are attached to the surfactants. Finely ground pigment is then suspended evenly in the emulsion, which give it is color. Craft paints have about 5% pigment, student have 10%, and professional/artist quality have 70-90%, which is why they are more expensive (aside from more ideal emulsions with better drying quality, etc.). While the paint is drying, the polymers try to bond and squeeze around the pigment, leaving it in the mixture. While water is still in the emulsion, more water can be added to thin the paint, but once dry, the polymers stick together and form a hydrophobic material (acrylic polymer).

This video explaining emulsion should help formulate a vision of the cryptic emulsion process.

You can also buy mediums for paint. There are mediums which change the paint's consistency, drying time, sheen, workability, liquidity, and finish (including special effect finishes like crackling, bubbling, and iridescence). All of these mediums change the emulsion properties of the paint.

Disadvantages of Acrylic as a Paint:

There is still debate about the surfactants. Once full polymerization occurs – what happens to the surfactants? Migrating surfactants are most commonly used, which float to the top and create a film. Varnish is applied to seal these surfactants, so that they cannot attract moisture and dirt, and add extra layer effects. Since acrylic paints are so relatively new, it is not known how long they will last on canvas -- or any other material, to be general.

Just like that old, and once vibrant plastic lawn chair, acrylic paint can produce checking, cracking, fading, and  deformation under certain environmental conditions.
Just like that old, and once vibrant plastic lawn chair, acrylic paint can produce checking, cracking, fading, and deformation under certain environmental conditions. | Source

Advantages of Acrylic vs. Oil Paint:

While one major disadvantage of acrylic emulsion paint is its rapid drying time, oil paint may take many months to fully dry. In both paints, media are readily available to improve or optimize drying times.

Acrylic emulsion is water based, making cleaning, color mixing, and thinning much easier and safer than with oil paints, which require mineral spirits, turpentine, or paint thinner (or substitutes of these, e.g. turpenoid) to achieve the same outcomes.

Source

Which do you prefer?

See results

While oil paints arguably provide better color refraction qualities and a wider range of natural pigments, acrylic paints are less permanent and don’t require thoughtful painting techniques such as the “fat over lean” rule for oil painting.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      safdaryar 

      11 months ago

      Very useful artical.

      I would like more information how to handle and use acrylic paints

    • sehrm profile imageAUTHOR

      sehrm 

      4 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks Jbosh -- I appreciate the time you took to read the article.

    • jbosh1972 profile image

      Jason 

      4 years ago from Indianapolis, IN. USA

      Great article. I most appreciated the historical perspective on the development of acrylic paints.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)