Acrylic mediums are additives mixed with paint to modify or enhance their characteristics. With acrylic mediums, acrylic paint can be texturized, thickened, made more translucent, flowy, glossy, or matte, or have a longer drying time.
Give Your Art More Variety With Acrylic Mediums
Any painter looking to expand the limits of their imagination, and improve the quality and durability of their artwork – while making the process more enjoyable and convenient – should try experimenting with acrylic mediums.
Discover the different types of acrylic mediums and learn what each can do to enhance your artistic experience.
Types of Acrylic Mediums
A little side note:
You may have heard about flow improvers and retarder mediums. While these substances act like acrylic mediums, they're actually additives.
The reason acrylic mediums differ from additives is that additives don't contain any acrylic binders (unlike mediums). This is important to note as mixing in too much of an additive may weaken your paint's adhesion or pigment concentration.
With that out of the way, let's get started:
A gesso acts as a primer to give your painting better adhesion. Since acrylic paints are "plasticky" and smooth, they need a surface with more "teeth" to better stick to. Gessoes can come in white, black, or colorless versions and always dry matte.
Where a gesso is applied before painting, so must a varnish be applied after the paint dries. A varnish helps to seal and protect your painting, ensuring that your hard work stays vibrant and pristine for years to come.
We offer three types of varnish in Our Shop. Here's a quick rundown:
- Matte Varnish - This heavy colorless creamy fluid dries with a satin sheen. Our Matte Varnish unifies your painting's surface sheen, giving it a satin look while also sealing and protecting it from dirt and damage.
- Gloss Varnish - Our gloss varnish comes in the form of our Gloss Medium Varnish, which we discuss in more detail below.
- Exterior Acrylic Varnish - While Our Matte and Gloss Varnishes do an incredible job at protecting your painting, you'll need something heavier-duty if you want to protect your piece from the elements of the outdoors. This is where Nova Color's Exterior Acrylic Varnish comes in. This clear creamy fluid dries with a satin coat and protects your work from dirt build-up while enhancing its colors.
3. Gloss Medium
A gloss medium is a clear acrylic medium used to improve the natural sheen and luminosity of paint. Mixing in gloss medium typically thins your paint.
Nova Color's Gloss Medium Varnish provides high gloss and also works as a high-gloss varnish. You can also use Nova Color's Gloss Medium Varnish as a collage glue.
4. Matte Medium
On the flip side to the previous entry is matte medium. Matte medium is a versatile clear fluid primarily used to reduce the natural sheen of paint while enhancing its fluidity.
Nova Color's Matte Medium reduces paints' sheen to give you a satin finish. Nova Color's Matte Medium can also be used to make a glaze or act as a clear gesso (to prime your surface), a paint extender, or a collage glue.
5. Gel Medium
Gel medium is a lightweight non-pigmented paste-like gel that, when mixed with paint, thickens and extends your paint. It comes in various finishes and usually dries clear so you can mix it with paint to get a deeper hue.
Nova Color offers a range of top-quality gel mediums in Our Shop. Here's a brief rundown of each type:
- Nova Gel - A clear, glossy, stiff paste used to thicken your paint, giving it more body without compromising the color. Can also be used as an adhesive for mixed media and collage art.
- Matte Gel - A clear, waxy, extra stiff paste that gives paint a thicker viscosity while also muting its natural sheen – without dulling its color. Can also be used as a gloss-reducing super strong adhesive.
- Super Gel - By and large the thickest gel medium in Our Shop. This clear, glossy, super thick paste gives your paint maximum substance without compromising the color. Note that thick applications of Super Gel, without paint mixed in, makes it dry white. Can also be used as a heavy-bodied adhesive and as a topcoat (outside of its intended usage). Adding in small objects also gives it an interesting 3D collage effect.
- Flex Gel - The loosest and most flexible of Our gel mediums. This clear, glossy, loose paste is used to give paint a little more body (less than Nova Gel). Can be mixed with Our acrylic paints to make them usable on clothes, garments, and shoes. As usual, it can also be used as an adhesive.
6. Texture Medium
Texture medium (also known as texture paste) is an opaque, heavy, stiff, and paste-like substance that's primarily used as a modeling paste but can also be mixed with paint to produce a thick and sandable tint/shade. Unlike the previous entry, texture medium is heavier-bodied, dries to an opaque white/black, (when mixed with paint) makes your paint lighter or darker, and allows you to make 3D textures on your canvas that really stand out.
Nova Color offers a range of robust texture pastes in Our Shop. Here's a brief rundown of each type:
- Texture Paste - This opaque, heavy, and stiff paste dries to a matte white and lets you build defined shapes, patterns, and textures on your canvas. Our texture paste becomes hard, sandable, and paintable once hardened. Also available as a Black Texture Paste.
- Lightweight Texture Paste - A lighter-bodied version of the previous entry. Our Lightweight Texture Paste dries to a solid sandable matte white and lets you achieve the same effects while putting less stress on your canvas.
- Tintable Texture Paste - A colorless slightly -looser texture paste that lets you mix it with paint while retaining the same color (Red remains red. Silver becomes gray) and dries to a solid, paintable, matte finish.
- Course Lava Gel - This unique stiff gray paste-like gel comes with minuscule glass beads or black acrylic polymer hexagons to achieve a textured speckled effect. Our coarse lava gel is extremely versatile and dries to a matte mottled gray.
7. Glaze Medium
A glazing medium is often a colorless fluid that, when mixed with paint, makes the paint more transparent and usable for glazing techniques.
Nova Color's glaze medium comes in the form of Our Matte Medium (discussed above).
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Techniques for Using Acrylic Mediums
Now that you've learned what the various acrylic mediums are, it's time to discuss what you can do with them. If you've never used acrylic mediums before, experimenting with them yourself can be a messy and costly process of trial and error. Read further to find out how each acrylic medium can give you more freedom and flexibility in your art.
1. Mix With Your Paint
You can add more depth and dimension to your painting by mixing your paints with either gloss or matte medium. Mix paint with gloss medium to get a shiny, reflective surface, or mix it with matte medium for a more subdued, velvety look.
You can even experiment by using different ratios of gloss or matte medium to achieve unique effects such as those used in contemporary artist Gerhard Richter's abstract art.
2. Create More Texture
When it comes to texture, our first thought is often texture paste and gel mediums, but did you know that you can produce texture using gesso? You can do this technique by applying gesso to your canvas with a palette knife, brush, or other tools to create a rough, textured surface. Once the gesso dries, you'll find it's created paintable areas of texture that you can allow to show through in some places.
Creating texture with this technique gives more depth and complexity to your painting like the works of contemporary artist, Anselm Kiefer.
You can use gel mediums to create raised lines or patterns on your painting surface. Gel medium can also give your painting some interesting textures if you mix it with light materials like sand or sawdust.
Again, we can look to the works of Anselm Kiefer for examples of this technique where he incorporates thick layers of paint and textured elements, such as straw or sand, to give his painting a sense of history and depth.
Of course, you can always go with your trusty texture pastes to build thicker layers and raised peaks. This technique is often used with a palette knife, which lets you create a sense of energy and motion in your artwork.
Great examples of this technique can be seen in the work of contemporary artist Leonid Afremov.
Texture medium techniques aren't limited to creating just organic, irregular textures. You can use texture medium together with stencils to create interesting patterns and unique designs in your paintings. Simply apply the texture medium over your stencil then remove the stencil once partially dry to leave behind a raised texture.
Mixed media artist Julie Fei-Fan Balzer often uses stencils and texture mediums in her work to produce one-of-a-kind patterns and designs.
You can also use matte varnish to create subtle textures in your painting. Just apply a thin layer of matte varnish then use a dry brush to create a slightly raised area.
Contemporary artist Jenny Saville incorporates this technique very well in many of her works.
3. Produce Layers
You can use either gloss or matte mediums to produce layers of textures in your paintings. One technique you can try involves applying a layer of medium over an area of dried paint and then scraping away some of the medium with a palette knife or brush. This creates a slightly raised layer of texture with either a glossy or velvety look.
For examples of this technique, check out the works of Canadian artist Kim Dorland and how he uses thick textured paints using gloss or matte mediums.
4. Adding Depth and Dimension
Priming your canvas with black or white gesso creates either a dark or light underpainting, respectively.
Having a dark underpainting allows you to focus on bringing form out of the dark with light, which can create a moody atmosphere. Exemplified in Rembrant's works, such as "The Night Watch".
Conversely, light underpainting lets you retain more light and push shadows around to create form in your painting. This technique is exemplified by John Singer Sargent's work "Madame X".
Of course, we can't talk about depth and dimension without discussing impasto effects. This popular technique involves mixing paint with a gel medium and applying it in thick layers to produce a three-dimensional effect.
This technique is greatly shown in Vincent van Gogh's painting "Starry Night".
Speaking of gel mediums, did you know that you can use them to create mixed-media paintings? Since gel mediums can be used as collage glue, use some gel medium to stick pieces of paper, fabric, or other materials onto your painting surface.
As an example, mixed media artist Robert Rauschenberg was known to have used newspaper clippings, fabric, and photographs in his "Combines" series.
5. Glazing and Varnish
Applying thin layers of paint over an area with glossy varnish lets you create a luminous, transparent effect.
A great example of this glazing technique is Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer's painting "Girl with a Pearl Earring".
You can also use gloss or matte varnish to correct discrepancies in color in your finished piece. Are some parts too dull? Apply a gloss varnish. Are some areas too bright? Use a matte varnish instead.
Jean-François Léonor Mérimée endorsed the use of varnishes which, at the time, was known to give colors a more vibrant look.
Acrylic mediums let you achieve various interesting effects, depending on the medium and technique you use. The techniques mentioned in this article are just some of those used by artists around the world.
We hope that you've learned something from this article and that you try out these techniques yourself. Feel free to discover more techniques or create new ones yourself. You are limited only by your imagination.