02 Jun 2016Mont Marte

As versatile as acrylic paint is, its versatility can be greatly enhanced with the use of various exciting ‘additives’ and handling techniques. Here are a few you may not know about:


The addition of retarders to acrylic paint essentially slows the drying time down to facilitate blending and subtle transitions. This enables use in a similar way to oil paint.

Flow Mediums

Flow medium is a wetting agent that is designed to enhance the flow of an acrylic colour without reducing colour strength. One can then create smoother lines without the paint congealing.

Gloss and Matt Mediums

Gloss and matt mediums come in 2 main types – in gel form and in a low viscosity form, or liquid. When added, they alter the gloss level of the paint. Mediums in gel form don’t alter the viscosity of the paint, where a low viscosity medium thins the paint. This latter medium is ideal for creating glazes and for varnishing finished paintings.

Impasto Gel

Impasto painting essentially means painting with a 3D ‘risen’ surface. For this to be achieved, the paint must be full bodied or thick. Impasto gel additive thickens the paint by raising the viscosity so the paint becomes ‘stiff’. It is translucent, so it does not alter the colour in any way. It can also be used as an extender.

Modelling Paste

Modelling paste is a thick acrylic paste that is opaque and very stiff. It holds form very well and dries remarkably quickly with minimal shrinkage. It is used prior to the paint being applied directly onto the canvas. The first coat can be modelled by the artist with tools like palette knives, and impressions can be made into it while it is still wet. Objects can be set into it, and it can be drilled and sanded when cured.

Special Effect Acrylic Pastes

Special effect acrylic pastes take on the role of providing a base for which to paint on like a gesso, but they contain additives that cause the emulsion to become affected in different ways. For example, crackle paste creates the effect of dry cracked mud, and when paint is applied it rests in the hollows, creating very interesting effects. There is also clear gesso ideal for sealing drawings, and many other textured effects can be created with clear gessoes and the addition of sand, marble dust or powdered graphite.

Painting Techniques

Acrylic paint doesn’t just have to be applied with brushes either! The list of effects that can be used with acrylic paint is never-ending, but here are a few really great tips. Try layering cling wrap over acrylic paint and removing it once the paint is dry. Experiment applying paint with crumpled newspaper, or make unique patterns with mineral turps. Create cloud-like effects with liquid starch, add dimension with objects, or marble with interference colours…the choice is yours!

Adding Water

As acrylic paint is a water-based emulsion, water can be added to it to lower viscosity and facilitate watercolour effects and tints. In this diluted state, other liquid paints can be dropped into it to create interesting effects. Acrylic paint can be mixed with water to a ratio of 3 parts paint to 1 part water – or a composition of approximately 25% water. At this ratio, a good bond is still guaranteed.