What is gouache paint used for?

4 questions about media in acrylic painting


Various painting media are also used in acrylic painting. This post explains what they are and what they are used for.

Acrylic colors are set so that they can be processed directly from the tube or bottle. It is not necessary to mix or enrich them with certain components. However, acrylic painting knows some painting techniques in which the use of painting materials can be quite sensible and sometimes even necessary.

But what painting materials are there anyway? And what are they used for? Here are four questions about media used in acrylic painting - and of course the answers!

Question 1: What are painting materials used for?

Basically, acrylic colors are always combined with painting media when changed properties are required. For example, painting materials are available that thicken the acrylic paints. In the paste-like consistency, the acrylic paints can then be troweled onto the painting surface in thicker layers with the painting knife.

It is also possible to use these colors to create structures that are still clearly visible after drying. There are also painting media that are used with heavily diluted acrylic paints. If acrylic paints are heavily thinned, for example to apply glazes, the proportion of binders is reduced. The consequence of this is that the colors do not adhere optimally to the painting surface and do not dry up waterproof, but rather the color pigments lie loosely on the painting surface.

If further layers of color are then applied, the color pigments of the glazes wash out. Painting media counteract this by increasing the proportion of binding agent again. Another variant are painting media, which extend the drying time of acrylic paints.

The media in acrylic painting are not only intended for different areas of application. Instead, they also have different consistencies and degrees of gloss. While acrylic binders and pastes are just as viscous as acrylic paints, other painting media have a much thinner consistency.

What all painting materials have in common, however, is that, like acrylic paints, they are milky white when wet and only become transparent after drying. For this reason, painting media should be added sparingly. Because the more painting medium is added, the more cloudy the respective acrylic paint appears. This, in turn, makes it difficult to judge what the hue will look like when dry.


Question 2: When is acrylic binder used as a painting medium?

Acrylic binder consists of pure acrylate and water. It is a component of acrylic paints and serves as a binding agent. Basically, acrylic binder, which is also known as acrylic binder, pure acrylate, acrylic resin dispersion or acrylic resin dispersion, is simply a transparent acrylic paint, i.e. an acrylic paint without color pigments. And in acrylic painting, the acrylic binder is a real all-rounder.

As a painting medium, it is used for the following applications:

・       primer: A raw, untreated canvas can be primed with an acrylic binder. To do this, the acrylic painting is diluted with a little water and applied to the painting surface in several thin layers. The result is an elastic primer that ensures optimal adhesion of the layers of paint.

・       Glazes: In the case of heavily diluted acrylic paints, the proportion of binder is often too low to ensure good adhesion. By adding acrylic binder, the proportion of binder increases again. As a result, loose color pigments are reliably bound, the glazes stick to the painting surface and the layers of paint dry water-proof. As a rule of thumb for the mixing ratio, three parts acrylic binder are added to one part of diluted acrylic paint. However, it is not necessary to measure the exact amount. Because if more acrylic binder is added, no adverse effects are to be feared.

・       Own acrylic paints: For self-made acrylic paints, a color paste is first prepared, which consists of color pigments and water. This pulp is then made into an acrylic paint by adding acrylic binder.

・       Intermediate varnish: There can be several reasons why acrylic paints do not adhere well to the painting surface. Overly diluted glazes without an additional acrylic binder, acrylic paints with too weak a setting or a primer that is only partially suitable are typical causes. A layer of acrylic binder can help. This layer acts as an intermediate varnish and ensures that the color layers are stabilized, the loose color pigments are bound and the acrylic colors are permanently glued to the painting surface. After drying, the acrylic binder leaves a slightly sticky surface. Therefore, acrylic binder is suitable as an intermediate varnish, but not as a final varnish.

・       adhesive: Acrylic binder is an ideal adhesive for collages and material images. It holds sand, stones, branches, scraps of paper, scraps of fabric and other objects securely on the painting surface. At the same time, the applied object can be painted over, because acrylic binder is nothing more than a colorless acrylic paint layer.


Question 3: What is a retarder?

Acrylic paints are characterized by their fast drying time. On the one hand, this is a great advantage, because there are no long pauses while painting. On the other hand, there is little time left to work out layers of paint. This can be remedied by painting materials that are available in art supplies under names such as retarder, acrylic retarder or drying retarder.

They ensure that the drying process is delayed. However, it is important to strictly adhere to the dosage given on the packaging. If a retarder is used too generously, it can happen that the acrylic paint no longer dries completely.

By the way: Painting media that delay drying are made up of alcohols, humectants and additives. This brings them very close to glycerine. This is why some artists use pure glycerine as a painting medium. Hobby painters with little experience should stick to the painting materials from art supplies.

Question 4: What are structural pastes used for?

Structure pastes are mediums that make it possible to structure individual layers of paint or the painting ground. The structure pastes are available in different versions that cover the entire spectrum from smooth and fine to grainy and coarse. Conventional, smooth structure pastes are the most versatile. Because, on the one hand, they can be used directly as they are. On the other hand, they can be mixed with sand, small stones and other materials if a different surface structure is to be created.

The pastes are applied to the painting surface and then shaped with a spatula or painting knife. Special patterns are created when objects such as stones, branches, shells, leaves, sponges or pieces of fabric are pressed into the layer as stamps. Great effects can also be achieved with forks, combs or brushes that are pulled through the applied structure paste.

After molding, the structural layers can be colored with acrylic paints. However, it is also possible to mix acrylic paints into the structure pastes before they are applied. This means that the structures are colored right from the start. When working with structure pastes, however, it is important to use a stable and well-primed painting surface. Otherwise it can happen that thick layers tear or that the painting surface is deformed by the weight.

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Topic: 4 questions about painting materials in acrylic painting

Owner at Artdefects Media Verlag
Ferya Gülcan, artist name "Feryal", painter and photographer, Norbert Sachmann, gallery owner, Christian Gülcan (RZA) painter and owner of various art portals write interesting facts about international art, galleries, painting techniques and art history.

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Ferya Gülcan, artist name "Feryal", painter and photographer, Norbert Sachmann, gallery owner, Christian Gülcan (RZA) painter and owner of various art portals write interesting facts about international art, galleries, painting techniques and art history. Show all contributions by editors

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