Acrylic Painting Mediums

Gel MediumWhen painting with acrylic paint, I very seldom work with the paint straight from the tube. To me, and for my style of painting, straight tube paint is too thick and does not flow well. So I decided to describe some of the mediums commercially available for use with acrylic paints in today’s post.

Although you can simply thin acrylic tube color with water, most manufacturers produce liquid painting mediums for this purpose. Each of the different types of medium serve a different purpose, so you’ll have to try each one to see which fits your needs and style.

Gloss Medium
Gloss medium will thin your paint to a delightful creamy consistency. If you add enough of this medium, the paint turns transparent and allows the underlying colors to shine through. As it’s name suggests, gloss medium dries to a shiny finish like an oil painting.

Matte Medium
Matte medium has exactly the same consistency as gloss medium. When enough of this medium is mixed with your tube colors, the consistency will be creamy and will make your color transparent, allowing the underlying colors to shine through. Matte medium dries to a matte finish, with no shine.

Gel Medium
Still another medium comes in a tube and is called gel because it has a consistency like very thick, homemade mayonnaise. The gel looks cloudy as it comes from the tube, but dries clear. When blended with tube colors, gel medium produces a thick, juicy consistency that is excellent for heavily textured brush and knife painting.

Modeling Paste
Even thicker than gel medium is modeling paste, which comes in a can or jar and has a consistency more like clay because it contains marble dust. You can literally build a painting 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick if you blend your tube colors with modeling paste. But build gradually in several thin layers, allowing each one to dry before you apply the next, or the paste will crack.

One of the advantages of acrylic paint is it’s rapid drying time, since it dries to the touch as soon as the water evaporates. If you find that it dries too fast, you can extend the drying time by blending retarder with your tube colors.

Combining Mediums
You can also mix your tube colors with various combinations of these mediums to arrive at precisely the consistency you prefer. For example, a 50-50 blend of gloss and matte mediums will give you a semi-gloss surface. A combination of gel with one of the liquid mediums will give you a juicy, semi-liquid consistency. A simple mixture of tube color and modeling paste can sometimes be a bit gritty. However, this very thick paint will flow more smoothly if you add some liquid medium or gel with the mix.

The best way to find which medium is best for you is to try each of them. You’ll most likely settle in on one or the other because it will best fit your painting style. When purchasing mediums for the first time, get the smallest container available until you settle on one type.

Until next time, keep your brushes clean, your colors pure, and as always, thanks for stopping by the North Forty.


Clark Color Labs

Thank you.

This entry was posted in From the Easel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>