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
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
a wide range of personalities and abilities.
Below are just a few of the many Acrylic mediums that can be used to
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
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.
Waxes and natural
Binder Medium The basic
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
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
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
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 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
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'.
This is silica and in the case of making Acrylic paint the naturally
derived crystaline version is better than the synthetic 'amorphous'
Often called Surface Tension Breaker's these are valuable for wetting
the synthetic organic pigments during predispersal of the pigments.
Calcite can be freely mixed with the acrylic to make a modeling paste
or paint that holds brushstrokes easily.
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.
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
Patton, T C, Pigment Handbook, 1973
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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