Acrylic Painting Tip# 1: use acrylic medium to create washes instead of water

“Fried Egg on Oat Nut Toast”, 8″x6″, acrylic on canvas panel by Francisco Silva

This tip only applies when painting on surfaces that are gessoed.

It seems natural to use water to create thin, transparent layers of color while painting with acrylics, especially when creating an underpainting. Unfortunately, adding too much water will break down the acrylic binder that holds the pigment together. What this means is that, over time, the paint will detach (or flake off) from the surface. The general rule is to use a maximum of 30% water to 70% paint. To create thin layers, I use an acrylic airbrush medium instead. This gives me the transparency I would normally get with water without weakening the paint. Additionally, the airbrush medium’s viscosity is similar to that of water, making wash effects easier.

In the example above, I used thin washes on the table, background as well as the egg.

Experimenting with Acrylic Paints

Peanut Butter and Jelly on Oak Nut Break, 8″ x 6″, acrylic on canvas panel by Francisco Silva

I’m currently experimenting with acrylic paints with the intention of using them for plein air purposes. I believe acrylic’s quick drying time will work better with my paint layering technique as compared to oil paints. Since it’s still cold here in New Jersey, I’m creating small, 6″ x 8″, indoor paintings of food to test out my technique and work resolve any issues I may encounter with the medium. Additionally, these food-themed paintings have taken on a life of their own.

I’ll be posting my progress here as well as any tips or pitfalls that I run into.