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Acrylics Polymer resin emulsions
Acrylics began life early in the 20th century and have gone on to produce a wide range of products. Long before there were any Acrylic artist's paint Acrylic was replacing glass in World war 2 fighter planes and acrylic fibers were being woven into textiles. Acrylic emulsions were first used as house paints which were made famous artistically when they were used by Jackson Pollock, but it was not until after Pollock's death that the first artist's acrylics became widely available.

Making Acrylic paints is not so simple as the traditional products like oil and Tempera. However very serviceable paints can be ground in the prepared Acrylic mediums sold by the artist's paint manufacturer. As these come in a wide range of viscosity and other properties it is easy to vary the mixtures to suit individual needs. Taking this approach makes making Acrylic paints little more difficult than making Tempera. Unlike Tempera, however, a far wider range of paints can be made from thick impasto paints to tough thin vehicles for glazing and iridescent coatings or whatever. The keyword is imagination. There has never been an artist's paint medium with such versatility before, able to have such a wide range of personalities and abilities.

Below are just a few of the many Acrylic mediums that can be used to grind pigments into. Often they will have different names depending on the manufacturer. It is usually relatively easy to phone a local Acrylic paint manufacturer for more detailed information on their products. There are numerous choices offering a wide range or surface sheen, texture, viscosity and so on As an indication of what is available here is a link to the mediums pages for Golden and Matisse whose specialties are some of the widest ranges of Acrylic mediums on the market.

The various modifying agents like wetting agents and spreaders are readily available from any artist supply store, but some like matting agents or defoamers are not so easy to get. Golden paints supply virtually everything required. Apart from that I would sugest phoning your local Acrylics manufacturer. It has been my experience that the makers of Acrylic paints, especially American and Australian manufacturers, are generally helpful and have friendly technical support departments. The specialist Acrylics manufacturers tend to be very open to experimentation.

Related Links:

Oil binders

Gums

Eggs

Waxes and natural resins


Binder Medium The basic Acrylic medium
This is the pure acrylic resin without modification so it is a thin milky liquid that dries to a tough flexible film that is the strongest and most durable of the Acrylic paint films. Pigment can be ground directly into Binder Medium, or the binder can be freely mixed with other mediums to increase resin content. My personal favorite is to mix 125 ml of Binder Medium to 1 liter of Gel Medium. On its own this makes a fabulous glue that is perfect For gluing canvas to panels because it is nice and thick, and is great as a general purpose glue as well. As a medium for making paint I like the brushing qualities that result.

Gel Medium Thick, transparent, and glossy
Makes a good strong paint film with maximum brilliance of colors. The addition of spreader medium will increase flow properties.


Impasto Medium The base for thicker paints
Impasto medium does not dry perfectly clear as it has a solid content already. So it is the starting point for making acrylic gouaches with the addition of precipitated chalk or for adding calcite to make thick modeling style pastes.


Iridescent Medium For special effects
Iridescence can be added to any pigment by using Iridescent medium. It is basically Acrylic binder with Mica Titanate added that gives the iridescent sparkle to any color ground in this medium. Transparent pigments will have a greater iridescence and opaque pigments less so.

Modifiers Retard, spread, break surface tension etc
Retarder
Retarder mediums adjust drying speed by replacing water with a liquid that drys more slowly than water. Useful up to a point but too much can create a paint that won't dry properly.

Spreader or Thickener
This adjusts the flow and leveling qualities of the paint (technically called rheology). Thickeners are available with both short and long rheology.

Defoaming agents
these are silicones that combat the surficants within the Acrylic which have a tendency to foam during dispersal by popping bubbles as they form. Overuse causes 'cratering'.

Matting agents
This is silica and in the case of making Acrylic paint the naturally derived crystaline version is better than the synthetic 'amorphous' type.

Wetting agent
Often called Surface Tension Breaker's these are valuable for wetting the synthetic organic pigments during predispersal of the pigments.

Calcite
Calcite can be freely mixed with the acrylic to make a modeling paste or paint that holds brushstrokes easily.

Ammonia
This can be just the Cloudy Ammonia from the supermarket. As you make paint the pH level may fall. Acrylic paint exhibits ideal paint qualities between pH levels of 8 and 9 (water is 7) and if the pH gets too low the paint goes funny and can be ruined. A little Ammonia helps return the alkalinity the paint needs.



References
Feller, R L,    Artists Pigments    1986 (National Gallery Of Art / Cambridge University)
Gottsegen, M D,    A Manual Of Painting Materials And Techniques,    1987 (Harper & Row)
Mayer, R,   The Artists Handbook Of Materials And Techniques,    fifth edition 1991  (Faber & Faber)
Patton, T C,    Pigment Handbook,    1973 (Wiley)
Roy, A      Artist's Pigments: A Handbook Of Their History And Characteristics,      1994 (Oxford University Press)
Taubs, F,    A Guide To Traditional And Modern Painting Methods,    1963 (Thames & Hudson)
Various,    Encyclopedia Britannica,    fifteenth edition 1981  (Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc)
Various,    Paint And Painting,   1982,  (Winsor & Newton / The Tate Gallery)
Various,    The Artist's Colormen's Story,    1984 (Winsor & Newton)


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