Modifying Acrylic Paint With Mediums: Everything You Need to Know

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As if acrylic paint isn't cool enough already, modifying it with different mediums makes it positively magic. Just by mixing your medium of choice into your base paint, you can make your paint thicker, thinner, shinier, textured and even change how long it takes to dry. The first step: understanding the basic types.

1. Gel Medium

If you're painting something with a lot of transparency, like a seascape or a glass in a still life, you might want to dilute your paint a bit. And while it's possible to do so with water, that's not the best approach — beyond a certain ratio of water to paint (usually about 1:1), the paint will lose its adherence properties and you'll struggle with uneven coverage.

Instead, turn to gel medium . It's the best way to increase the paint's transparency without compromising consistency and "stickiness."

White Rock by Sandrine Pelissier

In the painting above, areas of translucent orange and blue have been painted with acrylic paint and gel medium to create a lighter look.

Gel Medium Consistency

Gel medium comes in varieties ranging from liquid to heavy body.

  • Liquid gel medium will increase paint fluidity. This means brushstrokes will be less visible. It can also be used to decrease the color intensity of acrylic paint. Usually, liquid gels are self-leveling, making them convenient for glazing (adding a thin and transparent layer of paint) . You can also buy glazing medium made specifically for this effect.
  • Heavy body medium will thicken the paint consistency. This addition makes brushstrokes much more visible . You'll reach for heavy body medium when you want to try out something thick and textural, like impasto painting techniques .

Gel Medium Finish

You'll find gel medium in matte, semi-gloss or gloss finish. Mixing these into your paint while you work will affect its level of shine in the completed piece. If your completed painting has an uneven finish, with some areas glossier than others, applying a medium varnish over the piece will correct this issue.

Gel Medium as an Adhesive

Most gel mediums can also be used as adhesive, which makes them a great product for collage techniques. Try applying papers or other mixed media elements onto your painting, as seen in the photo above!

Pro Tip

When experimenting with collage, choose a gel medium with a gloss finish as opposed to matte for the best result.

2. Texture Medium or Modeling Paste

Texture mediums are just what they sound like — they're used to modify the texture of acrylic paint. Many brands carry a wide variety of texture mediums: modeling gel, sand texture gel, beads texture gel, pumice, glass texture gel.. you could play with this stuff forever!

Modeling paste is the most commonly used texture medium and is great for creating 3D patterns on your canvas. This opaque-white heavy gel is usually made of marble paste and will adhere to most surfaces. Once dried, it's super easy to paint over and can even be sanded down to manipulate the texture even more.

3. Flow Increase Medium

This medium is so cool! Like the name says, it makes your paint flow more readily. It has many useful applications, but the most popular acrylic flow technique is creating colorful, abstract pouring and drip effects.

4. Slow Drying Medium

Acrylic paint drys very fast, which can make it tricky to blend colors on the canvas. Adding slow drying medium to your paint will double the drying time. This makes acrylic behave a bit more like oil paint, which is a big win if you're an artist who likes plenty of time to blend your colors .

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Modifying Acrylic Paint With Mediums: Everything You Need to Know