How to Keep Acrylic Paint Wet for Longer Periods of Time
Use a special kind of acrylic paint from Golden called “Open Acrylics”. These paints are designed to stay wet and workable for longer periods of time, even outdoors.
Keep a spray bottle filled with water nearby. Every so often, spray a fine mist over your paints to keep them moist.
Use a “stay wet” palette which is air tight and is designed to keep your paints dry.
Use a special additive known as “Acrylic Retarder” to increase the open (drying) time of acrylic paints.
Use Acrylic Paint as a Glue
Acrylic paint and certain other acrylic products can function quite well as a glue for collage. Some products work better than others. I have found that acrylic gels work the best. It does depend on how thick and heavy the item to be glued is and how thickly the acrylic product is applied. Experiment to find the best solution.
The “Tacky Phase”
When acrylic paints begin to dry, they quickly reach a phase known as the “Tacky Phase”. This is the phase in between the wet and dry to the touch phases, when the acrylic paint feels sticky to the touch. When acrylic paint reaches this phase you should no longer work on it as it will create unwanted effects.
Thinning Acrylic Paint
To thin your acrylic paint you can either add water or a medium. Although acrylic paint is a water based medium, you should exercise caution when mixing acrylic paint with water. Many paint manufacturers recommend using no more than 30% water. Any more than this and acrylic paint can lose its special qualities and create some unwanted effects. If you prefer working with thinner acrylic paint, it may be a good idea to either purchase a special medium designed to thin paint and improve flow or purchase fluid acrylics.
Masking tape is an essential tool to have in your painters toolbox. Masking tape is useful when you wish to paint hard edges or straight lines.
Storage of Acrylic Paint
Acrylic paint must be stored in an airtight container otherwise it will dry up. Make sure that your container lids are sealed properly. Keep your lids and caps clean and free of paint otherwise the paint can dry up and make it very difficult to open. Avoid storing your paint in high heat or extreme cold.
Some Acrylic Darken as They Dry
I have used a variety of acrylic paint brands over the years and found that some brands will appear a bit darker when dry. This is because some acrylic paint brands use a binder that appears white when wet but dries clear.
Do not store your paintings on top of one another. Over time, they will stick to each other and pulling them apart can sometimes damage the painting. Do your best to keep your paintings away from humidity, heat sources, direct sunlight and dust.
Mixing Your Paint
The best way to mix acrylic paint is with a specially made knife for use with painting called a palette knife. You can purchase these at any art store.
Use Good Quality Paint
I know paint is expensive and in the beginning it is fine to use a cheaper paint for learning and experimentation. At some point however, you should start working with good quality paint. It doesn’t have to be top of the line artist quality paint. A good quality student paint will suffice. Just make sure it has a good lightfastness rating. The lightfastness is a pigments resistance to change when it is exposed to light. Choose a paint with a lightfastness rating of 1 or 2.
Use Good Quality Brushes
Invest in good quality brushes whenever possible and you will save money over time. Cheap brushes are poorly made. They will shed hair and the ferrules will fall apart. It is simply not worth it. Buy good brushes and take care of them. It will be one of the best investments you will ever make as an artist.
Cleaning Your Brushes
Clean you brushes immediately after a painting session. Rinse your brushes in water first and then wash with soap and water. The water should be cool. Hot water can damage your brushes. Wipe the brushes dry, shape them into form and lay on a towel. Do not use solvents like turpentine or mineral spirits when cleaning your acrylic brushes.
Acrylic Products Are Compatible With One Another
One of the great things about acrylic painting is that you can combine and use many acrylic products together. For instance, you can mix paint into a heavy gloss gel and then add an acrylic retarder or mix gloss gel with matte gel for a nice semi-gloss gel. It is important to note that some specialty products like Clear Tar Gel from Golden for instance can lose their special characteristics if too much of another product is mixed with it. Make sure to read all package instructions.
Gesso as a White Paint
It is my opinion, and some manufacturers of acrylic gesso agree, that you should not use gesso as a white paint. It was designed to be used as a primer and in thick applications it may crack. Use at your own risk.
Acrylics Shrink as They Dry
As acrylic paint dries it shrinks in volume. This is more noticeable with thicker applications of various gels and pastes. Make your layers a bit thicker to compensate for this loss in volume.
Acrylic Have a Two Part Drying Process
Acrylic paint has a two stage drying process. The first stage happens relatively fast. This is when a skin forms on the surface of the paint layer and it becomes “dry to the touch”. With a thin layer, the paint can dry to the touch within seconds. Thicker applications can take a day or more to dry to the touch.
The second stage is when the entire thickness of the paint is fully dry. This is when all of the water and solvent within the paint are gone. This is also known as “curing”. This second stage is very important because this is when the various characteristics of acrylic paint really shine, like adhesion and hardness. For thin applications it could take several days. Thicker applications may take months or even years to dry completely.
Do Not Freeze Acrylics
Although acrylic paints may survive freeze and thaw cycles , experts recommend that you avoid freezing them or storing them in temperatures under 40 degrees fahrenheit. Under very cold conditions the film in the paint will become less durable and more vulnerable to cracking.
Using Molding/Modeling Pastes
Molding paste is a very thick medium for use in acrylic painting. They hold peaks , knife work and brush strokes. They can be molded and shaped and dry hard. They can also be sanded. You can use them as a textural foundation under your acrylic paint. Unlike gels, pastes are opaque when wet and dry, so it will alter a color when mixed with paint. In very thick, broad applications, pastes may crack. To avoid cracking apply several thinner layers of paste. Allow each layer to dry before adding the next. You can also mix the paste with gels or any other flexible acrylic medium.