Hi and welcome to Art A&A number 15, I’m Lezley Davidson with Today I am answering a question from the blog – this is from Gerry in Scarborough and Gerry asks:

“I’d like to paint my acrylics really watery and paint better, more transparent glazes, but I’m getting little pieces in the paint and it’s not sticking. What am I doing wrong?”

Acrylics: Soluable in Water

WaterTextureOkay, this is a great question and a really good point to bring up. Acrylics are water-based and so can be used in a very watercolor style – thinned down with a lot of water and used as a very transparent glaze.

However acrylics, because they are water soluble they cleanup with soap and water, if you use too much water you actually break down the binder in the acrylic paint. The binder in acrylic is called a polymer binder, like a latex or plastic film binder and  is soluble in water.

So, too much of it will make it break down when you try and paint glazes – you’ll end up with like little specks and pieces in your glaze instead of a nice transparent smooth glaze. There will be little bits and then when you try to glaze over top you’ll actually pick up and move the underlying glaze underneath, even if it’s been dry for like days.

Polymer Mediums

Golden GAC 100

Golden GAC 100

What’s happening is because there’s so much water mixed into the paint, you’ve broken the binder and it’s no longer sticking to your support –  to your canvas. So it’s yes it’s no good.

So we need to do in order to use acrylics really really watery is to thin out your paint with a polymer medium.

It’s not a gel medium, it’s a thinner media – they’ve actually produced the acrylic polymer in a very thin kind of 2% milk consistency is about what it is.

So add that in addition to water, to your acrylic paint and you’ll get a much thinner paint film that’ll actually stick and be viable on your canvas.


Fluid Acrylics

Golden Fluid Acrylics

Golden Fluid Acrylics

You can also use acrylic fluids if you’re not familiar with them, Golden has a range, so does Da Vinci. What these are, are fully concentrated acrylics that have already been thinned with a much thinner polymer medium so they they are about table cream half-and-half consistency.

You can further thin them with water but you don’t have to worry about adding too much water and breaking down the binder.

Colour Saturation

What can happen with tube color when you try to use tube colour and thin it down to the consistency of a glaze is it gets really really diluted you’re adding so much  water and medium to it that the color is really desaturated. You can get around this with using fluid colors – fully saturated intense color that’s in a fluid form.

Flow Aid / Flow Improver

Click here to view the video.

Click here to view the video.

If you’re using your acrylics in a watercolor styling and using more experimental techniques like pouring and spraying you may want to consider adding what’s called a flow improver or flow aid to your acrylic paints.

What this does is it breaks the surface tension that can be created in acrylics due to its viscosity (and viscosity just means the thickness of it).

Polymer binders and acrylics in general tend to have a, like, a mucousy feel even when even when they’re thinned. So even when you’re pouring, they tend not to spread as easily as a pure watercolour wash would.

You can get more washy watercolour replication effects by adding a flow improver or a flow aid they’re essentially the same type of thing Just add that into the paint, you can even put water on your surface and throw a little bit of flow aid or improver in.

Make sure you read the instructions because some of them, the Golden one in particular is a little bit different from others and it requires only a few drops per however much water.

Be really careful because if you add too much the surface remains sticky. I don’t know what’s in it but it’s a sticky surface, so for me personally I prefer the Liquitex or the Winsor Newton brand for the flow aid or the flow improver.

Click the images below for more information on the flow improvers.


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Discussion (3) ¬

    Rolande says:

    I’ve recently discovered the wonderful world of glazing technique like the masters did but using acrylic. I’ve already emptied my small bottle of glaze ( you go through a lot!) and was wondering if the water based acrylic glaze I used for faux finishing latex house paint on my my walls is the same stuff? If so It would save me a trip into town! I’m going to experiment with it on a tiny canvas just in case but I’d like your opinion.

    Lezley says:

    Hey Rolande,

    Yep, you can totally use faux finishing glaze. The only difference between them and the artist quality is the lack of fillers. You may find that faux finishing glazes will not give the same clarity or finish as they often have fillers to extend the product.

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