Acrylics are a fascinating painting medium. I never truly understood how versatile and enjoyable this medium was until I began working with them exclusively. I would like to share a number of tips that I have learned over the years. I hope you find these helpful.
Thinning Acrylic Paint
One should be very careful when it comes to thinning your paints. Many Artists
use water to thin their paints, which is fine, but you should pay very close attention to the amount of water you are using. If you use too much, acrylic paint will lose much of its adhesive qualities and can lift or peel off your support over time.
A great alternative to water are mediums that are specifically designed to thin down acrylic paint. With mediums, you won’t have to worry about weakening the binder as these mediums contain the same binders that the paint does.
Acrylics and Oils
I see a ton of questions online about using oils and acrylics together. Most
professional artists agree that it is fine to use oils and acrylics together just
as long as you follow a few rules:
- You can paint oils over acrylics but not the other way around.
- Make sure the acrylic paint is completely dry first. And this means completely “cured” and not just “dry to the touch”. This can takes days or sometimes weeks depending on how thick the layer of acrylics is as well as environmental conditions.
- There are some concerns that very thick applications of acrylic paint are not suitable foundations for painting over with oils.
- When possible, work on rigid supports. Canvas and other flexible supports are not recommended as they will expand and contract more than ridgid supports.
- Keep a matte surface. Oils will adhere better to matte surfaces.
Using Acrylics as Glue
Acrylic paint and mediums make excellent glues and excellent for collage work.
Acrylic paint does shrink some when it dries. You will notice it more with thicker applications of paint, especially when using thick gels and pastes.
Acrylics Appear Lighter When Wet
This is because the binder within acrylic paint is white in color when wet. When the paint dries, the binder becomes clear and the paint will appear darker. This can be a bit tricky, so keep this in mind while painting and adjust your colors accordingly.
Two Part Drying Process
Acrylics actually have a two part drying process. The first stage is when the paint forms a skin and feels “dry to the touch”. This skin can form in minutes or longer depending on how thick your paint film is.
The second part of the drying process happens more slowly when the entire paint film below the skin dries or “cures”. This happens when the rest of the liquid within the paint evaporates.
Keep a Spray Bottle Handy
Acrylic paint drys to the touch very quickly. When this happens a skin will form and render the paint unworkable. This can be rather frustrating when you have all of your colors neatly layed out on your palette. One way to combat this is to keep your paints moist. This is where a spray bottle filled with water comes in handy. Keep the spray bottle near by and spray a light mist over your paints regularly to keep them moist.
Keep your Brushes Wet
Always keep a container of water nearby and place your brushes in the water when you are not using them. Acrylic paint dries very quickly and can ruin your brushes if you leave paint on them. Only do this during the painting session. Never leave your brushes in any liquid for an extended period of time. Wash your brushes after each painting session.
Clean your Brushes Thoroughly
When you are done with your painting session, rinse your brushes with water and then wash with soap and water. Make certain all of the paint has been removed from the brush.
Seal Paint Containers
Make certain all of your painting containers are closed and sealed properly when you are done with your session to prevent your prescious paints from drying up.
Priming your Canvas
Only use acrylic based primers like gesso to prime your surface before painting. Never use an oil based primer.
Slow Down the Drying Process
If you want to slow down the drying process of your acrylic paints, use an additive known as a “retarder”. You can purchase this at any art supply store.
Save your Skins
When acrylic paint dries on your palette or other containers, it forms a plastic like skin. These skins can be salvaged and used as objects in a collage. Some people even make jewelry out of acrylic skins.
Thickening your Paints
There are a number of wonderful mediums on the market that you can add to your paints to thicken them. Mediums like Gels and Modeling Pastes work quite well.
You can purchase mediums at any art supply store that are specially made to add texture to your acrylic paints. There are gels that contain glass beads, pumice, sand and more.
Matte or Gloss
You can alter the sheen of your paints by adding matte or gloss mediums.
How to Fix Canvas Dents
If your canvas has dents in it that haven’t punctured through, you may be able to restore it to it’s natural state by spraying water on the back of the canvas. When the canvas dries, it should tighten.