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Acrylic Paint Mediums

Updated on January 11, 2017
My acrylic paints and media
My acrylic paints and media | Source

What Are Acrylics and Acrylic Paint Mediums

Love painting but don't like oils because they are messy, smelly and take forever to dry? With acrylics and acrylic mediums you can paintings with a wide range of possibilities but without the fuss.

Acrylic paints are clean and water soluble so you don't need those odorous thinners that give off toxic fumes. Acrylics are better for your health.

Artist acrylic paints are versatile and acrylic mediums allow you to produce effects that resemble water colours or oil paintings depending on how you use them.

There are mediums to make glossy glazes and mediums to make matte glazes. Mediums to create textures, mediums to thin and mediums to thicken your acrylic paint.

All fired up and ready to explore these new paints and mediums? Then come with me, splash out and dive into a world of color.

These basic student quality paints are great for anyone who isn't going to sell for posterity
These basic student quality paints are great for anyone who isn't going to sell for posterity | Source

What is Artist Acrylic Paint?

And why should I use it?

I remember buying my first acrylic paints at art college and just loving them. All that bright color that I could swash onto board, canvas, cardboard without worrying about drying time, cracking and priming. I revelled in them - and still do, but what is acrylic paint exactly?

I'm not going to give you a chemistry lesson and I'm sure you're grateful for that. Suffice it to say that acrylic paint is pigment suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion. As noted in the introduction acrylic paints are diluted with water, but once dry they are water-resistant and can no longer be dissolved by water. The paint can be used straight from the tube, mixed with different acrylic gels, media, or pastes, or diluted with water.

I should add a little warning here - because acrylic dries like plastic, if you forget to wash your brushes properly or fail to wash off clothing or carpets immediately, you are doomed.

Oil or Acrylics - Where does your heart lie?

Do you prefer oil paint or acrylic paint?

See results

The Advantages of Using Acrylic Paint

  1. Quick drying
  2. Can paint directly onto unprimed canvas
  3. Low odour
  4. You can put thin layers over thick paint
  5. Thin and wash brushes with water
  6. Virtuosit
  7. Flexibility
  8. You can imitate oil paints

Gloss Medium - Increases gloss and makes paint transparent

Gloss medium will give acrylic paint the shine of oil paint and render it transparent so that you can use it like a glaze. You can also use gloss medium as a final varnish.

This medium will thin the paint and make it flow more easily.

Matte Medium - Increased transparency but gives an eggshell sheen

Like gloss medium the matte medium increases the transparency of the paint and can be used for matte glazes. This medium will thin the paint and make it flow more easily.

Don't use this as a final varnish as it can cause darker colours to appear milky.

Gel Medium - Increases transparency without affecting consistency

You can encourage acrylic paint to act like oils with media. Get the depth and transparency of the old masters. Really make your paintings glow! Gel medium increases transparency and the brilliance of colours but doesn't thin the paint. Gel mediums come in gloss or matte.

Heavy Gel Medium - Thickens your paint

Heavy gel medium is the one to use if you want greater transparency and brilliance but with you don't want to thin your paint.

Heavy gel medium will make your acrylic paint act more like oil paint and render the paint suitable for impasto work (painting very thickly). The marks of the brush or palette knife will be retained and heavy gel medium will retard drying time and allow you to work the paint for longer.

The medium comes in gloss, semi-gloss or matte.

A Complete Painting Course by Ian Simpson - I recommend this book for beginners and improvers

I recommend this lush but practical book to anyone who has an interest in painting. Despite being professionally trained and 'mature' I still look to this great reference book from time to time.

Some of my paintings have been used as illustrations, but that is not why I'm showcasing it here! It really is both down to earth and inspirational. The book takes you through a range of projects aimed at raising your awareness and also has a sound guide to materials and techniques. These are combined with a whole range of fresh illustrations of artists work, chosen for their lively quality and great variety.

Modelling Paste - Build heavy textures

Use modelling pastes when you want to build up very thick layers of paint for heavy textures and 3D effects. these must be used on a rigid surface, but you can mix it with 50% gel medium so that you can put it onto canvas or other flexible surfaces.

You can use the paste to create textured surfaces, and then you can paint over these with acrylics or oil paints, or you can mix modelling paste with acrylic paint colours.

Golden Acrylic Medium Coarse Pumice Gel - For added texture

You can use these mediums to add texture - or you can just add sand. Advantages to these mediums? The manufacturers says it dries to a hard film while sand may well rub off. If the medium is too inflexible, you can mix with other gels to achieve more flexibility.

Artists Who Loved Painting With Acrylics

Just about everyone after c. 1950!

Acrylics are relatively new and appeared in the US in the 1950s and they were taken up straight away by the American colour field artists and the Abstract Expressionists such as Jackson Pollock. Actually Pollock is famous for using household paints too. The best know manufacturer of artist quality acrylic paints is Liquitex, but you will find many other brands that make good quality paint too.

Leave a comment for me - I'd love to hear from you

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    • BLouw profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Walton 

      5 years ago from France

      You can use acrylic like watercolour - it's very flexible. Do you think you'll give it a go? Many thanks for taking the time to leave a message peachpurple.

    • peachpurple profile image


      5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      I have never tried acrylic paint、 usually use water color


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