4 years ago when I started painting, as an amateur who did it only as a hobby, I have used only acrylic paints. As it became more and more interesting for me to paint, I wanted to do a little research and see how I can improve my painting, speed up some processes, find out where I make mistakes etc.

Researching on the internet, I saw that there are many options, starting with tools, brushes, media, techniques, brands, concepts, etc. Honestly, I felt overwhelmed with information and didn’t know where to start. I type one term, and I just learn what it is and what it is for, and then another one pops up, so on and so on.

In this blog post, I will list and explain the mediums that can be used in acrylic painting. My goal is to make it easier for you to get acquainted with various mediums and save time. By getting to know the mediums that are available to us and their application, your painting will become easier and more efficient.

Today, we have a large number of mediums on the market, serving different purposes and produced by different brands, that are available to artists. Do we really need all those mediums? Some of them are necessary.

The mediums are divided into liquid and gel mediums. We classify them into the mediums we use in the initial phase of painting (before applying the paint), the mediums we use in the process itself, and the finish mediums (when the painting has been finished).

Acrylic paints are one of the versatile paints that can be used in many ways, such as water-based paints or that can be applied in layers. One of the advantages of acrylic paints is that we have a wide range of additives and mediums with which we can spice up our painting, changing only the property of the paint and using it in several ways.

Mediums used in the initial phase of the painting

Gesso – a medium that is used before the beginning of painting and is used to prepare the canvas before we apply the paint, so we can prevent any spilling, too much and too fast absorption of the paint.

Before applying the paint, apply a layer of gesso on the canvas. When it comes to painting, gesso is a very important and unavoidable medium because if you omit the gesso, your canvas will absorb all the color. it will be destroyed, and the paint will rot over time. Not to mention that all your effort to paint something and be satisfied will go to waste.

You can find gesso in white and black. You can also mix gesso with the paint depending on the background of your image.

In art shops, you can find canvases that are already prepared and ready to use. The canvases that I use are already prepared, but I also add gesso to the surface of the canvas because paint leaves small holes that are not affected by the paint.

The gesso allows the surface to be smooth and the color to be distributed over the entire surface. Whether you will need gesso depends on the color you use for the background and the surface you’re using. If you are working on a surface where you will apply the paint in layers, gesso is indispensable, and if you paint in thin layers as with watercolors, gesso is not needed.

The simplest explanation, gesso is a medium on which the paint will stick and stay in place. In my opinion, gesso is your canvas’s best friend. For extra smoothness, if you are painting a portrait or any work where the canvas must be smooth on the base layer, add another layer of gesso and wait for it to dry completely.

When gesso dries, go over the painting with sandpaper, add a layer of gesso, and go over the painting with sandpaper again until you get the smooth surface.

Mediums used in the final phase of painting

Varnish – Varnish is an indispensable medium that is important for 4 reasons.

Protects the image from UV radiation and fading, especially if you work with brighter and more fluorescent colors. It will keep the paint clean and there will be a barrier between the paint and all the things that come from the outside, such as dirt and dust. If this happens and the canvas is already protected, wipe with a damp cloth and your canvas is ready to shine. This will reduce your worries about whether you will damage the canvas during regular cleaning. The next reason is that it will connect all the mediums you used on the canvas, such as paint and blending mediums. All mediums will be connected and will have the same “glossy” effect. The fourth and equally important reason is that after the final varnish, the color will be more conspicuous, more vibrant.

There are 3 variants of the final varnish:
• Matt
• Glossy
• Satin gloss

We choose the final varnish according to which varnish will best match our image and which effect we want to achieve. For example, the glossy varnish will look better on dark paintings, while matte varnish would give such a surface a blurred or icy effect. To restore freshness to matte surfaces, use a glossy varnish.

Spray varnish or bottle?

For images that are smooth and flat, you can opt for any variant. If there is unevenness, the best solution would be easy to spray because it will cover all parts of the painting.

When painting with a brush, apply the varnish in long movements from left to right without returning to the previous parts that you have already painted. If you have left out some part, wait for the varnish to dry and come back again. When painting, use a clean surface, a room free of dust and draft so that dirt does not stick to the picture.

Before using the spray varnish, it is important to shake the spray vigorously before each use, keep a distance of at least 30 cm, place the image at an angle of 60-70% (neither horizontally nor vertically) to more easily control spraying and not apply a thick layer. It is always better to apply fewer layers, then build gradually thicker ones. Clean the hole on the spray cap regularly because otherwise the varnish dries and you cannot adequately spray the painting.

Removable or non-removable varnish?

With removable varnish, some solvents allow you to remove the already applied varnish. With removable varnish, it is important to apply an insulating layer before applying it, so that this layer is between the paint and the varnish. Therefore, the image will not be damaged during varnish removal. This has the advantage that the varnish can remain forever. If the paint starts to look old, you can remove the old layer of varnish and add a new one, and the image will look new and fresh again.

Mediums used in the process of painting

Finally, we come to the last part, the mediums used in the phase while the image is in the process of being created, also called mediums with the effect.

4 types of mediums can be used during the painting process:

• Additives (they are not really mediums but are related to them)
• Liquid mediums (increased color transparency)
• Gel mediums (increased color density)
• Mediums with effect (mediums that you can apply to the painting to get a more fluid color, texture and other effects that you would not be able to do without these mediums)

Liquid mediums – Liquid mediums give your color an effect to make the color more transparent and easier to blend.

It can be applied directly to the canvas to which the paint is applied and then blended with a brush, or it can be applied directly to the paint palette and mixed before applying to the canvas.

One great trick is to put some medium on your finger, apply it to the canvas and blend it with your finger on the area where you have a visible transition. It is especially useful if it is a paint that has already dried and you want to add a new layer.

Gel mediums – Gel mediums are mediums that can be used in many ways. They are used as an insulating layer and do not leave brush marks. Dilute them with water.

You can dilute the soft gel with a little water, apply it on the whole canvas and let it dry. The surface will be flat, with no brush marks. Soft gel is great for achieving the effect of color transparency and softness, especially if you use heavy body paint (paint that has viscosity and density).

It is also good to use soft body paint (paint with low viscosity, opposite of heavy body paint) where you want the layer of paint to be even thinner and longer (mix the soft gel with paint and thus extend the color, the color will be more transparent).

Heavy gel is a gel with the same texture and density as heavy body paint. When applied, the color gets on the texture and can be applied with a pallet knife in thick layers.

Effect mediums – mediums that can be mixed with some other elements such as sand, glass, etc., as well as gel medium. This medium is great for achieving texture and adding relief to the canvas.

Additives – Additives are not mediums.

If you have done a little research, you may have had the opportunity to come across a retarder. It slows down the drying process of your paint and can be mixed with paint on a palette or canvas. It’s one of your best allies in acrylic painting.

It is very useful, and you can also use water from a spray bottle instead. Spray a little on the canvas or paint on the canvas/palette, you will get a similar effect as with the drying retarder.

One of the types of additives used in painting is acrylic flow release. It helps the paint to be more fluid and to stretch more easily across the canvas. When you dilute the paint with acrylic flow release, it will not lose its shine like with wood.

It is suitable for liquid painting (art pouring/fluid art). You can add unlimited mediums, but no additives.

Additives work by changing the chemical texture of the paint. On the back of the package, you can read how much additive is allowed.

If you overdo it, there will be a chemical imbalance of paint, which can cause cracking of the paint, half drying, etc. Follow the instructions on the bottle! To avoid future problems, you can mix the additives with the mediums and prevent future troubles.

In the end, here are a few more quick tricks:

• Always add/mix mediums after mixing colors
• Do not mix oil mediums with acrylic mediums as they are not compatible
• Some brands say that their mediums can be used in place of the finishing varnish. I would recommend using the varnish.
• When it comes to mediums, there isn’t a big difference between brands (as opposed to colors) because most mediums and additives have the same chemical formula.

Did you enjoy today’s blog post?

The best way to get acquainted with acrylic mediums is to start using them. Over time, you will become skilled through practice, and the results will be excellent. Let your imagination run wild and try to combine, you never know what might turn out. Maybe that image will be the main turning point in finding your artistic style.

Thank you for reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog post. I appreciate it! Feel free to share it with your friends. If you want more painting tips, stay tuned for new blog posts and sign up for the newsletter below.

Enjoy painting!

Photo source: https://www.goldenpaints.com/

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