An Easy Way to Think About Acrylic
I often get asked the same type of question regarding acrylic paint, whether to use mediums or water, and how much of each. A good way to think about acrylic is to organize all the techniques into two categories. Almost all techniques deal with acrylic sitting on TOP of the surface, or sinking DOWN INTO the surface. To use acrylic on top, or to layer, keep the use of water to a minimum, and only use mediums and gels. This way your acrylic paint will not be diluted, so the “plastic” binder will still “plastic coat” the surface, and your paint skin will be glossy and rich looking. To use the acrylic sinking down into the surface you need TWO components. The first component is to add lots of water to your paint (about 70% water to 30% fluid paint) and the second component (and this is the important one that most people skip or don’t understand) is to apply this washy paint onto an ABSORBENT surface. Gessoed canvas is not very absorbent and so using washes on this will not look that great. However, if you first apply a ground to your gessoed canvas, then washes will look more interesting. Some of my favorite grounds to create an absorbent surface are Golden’s Light Molding Paste (not to be confused with their other product called Molding Paste), Absorbent Ground, Coarse Molding Paste, and Coarse Pumice Gel. Using a palette knife, apply a layer of any of these products about 1/16th or 1/8th inch thick on any surface. (If you apply this too thinly, acrylic shrinks down in volume by about 30%, and will not be substantial enough to make a difference – so apply the grounds liberally). Let this dry overnight. Now the ground is ready and you can apply the diluted washes of paint. With some of these grounds I like to spray them with water first before applying the paint, to increase the bleed effect. If you don’t have my book, Acrylic Revolution, I highly recommend purchasing a copy. It has a whole section on grounds to apply to create an absorbent surface. Click here to purchase.
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