Acrylics: Another Water Medium – Watercolor Technique
|June 9, 2011||Posted by Jacob Devies under Acrylic Painting|
Acrylics is a medium of many disguises. If by definition, watercolor is thought of as a water-soluble paint applied to a surface in a watery way, then technically acrylics can be thought of as a member of the watercolor family. In creating a watercolor, thin wash mixtures from water and paint are applied, traditionally, to a paper surface. These applications can be transparent or opaque; they can be free and runny or restrained and controlled. Acrylics are capable of working in a similar way.
Thinking of acrylics as watercolor, the choice of painting surface is like watercolor – watercolor paper. The texture choices remain the same. Each is chosen for particular effects in watercolor and the same remains true for acrylics. The weight choice of paper is the same: the larger the painting format, the heavier the paper to avoid buckling paper.
A white palette is beneficial for acrylics when they are used as watercolor. Because of its permanence, the acrylic should be cleaned from the palette at the end of each painting session. Rubbing alcohol is a good cleaner. Personally, I use white Styrofoam trays as an acrylics palette. They can be disposed of after each painting period.
As long as they are cleaned immediately after use, watercolor brushes can be used for painting in acrylics. Acrylics are permanent. Paint left to dry on a brush cannot be removed. I do not use my sable brushes but, I do use synthetic, softhair brushes.
Acrylics come in different thicknesses or viscosity. Heavy body acrylics come in rubes and jars. The viscosity should be indicated on the jar. Heavy body acrylics are more difficult to handle in the watercolor technique. They will need to be well-mixed with water on the palette to prevent thick bits of opaque color from becoming part of the painting. Medium viscosity acrylics come in jars and are more liquid and easier to handle. Both types of acrylics can be used but, the fluid acrylics are designed to be used thinly. When heavy body acrylics are diluted, both the color intensity and the binder weaken. Fluid acrylics remain strong in color intensity and binding strength.
Acrylics will adhere to many differing surfaces excepting slippery, oily ones. Therefore, it is not necessary to prepare the paper with gesso or acrylic medium before starting a work. However, the behavior of the wet paint is different than watercolor paint. Watercolor moves in wet areas with great ease; acrylics move slowly on wet paper, almost in a dragging fashion. To help with the movement of acrylics, Acrylic Flow Improver can be added to the water.
The same paint applications that are used in watercolor can be used when painting with acrylics. Wet-in-wet, layering or glazing transparently, masking with art gum, opaque technique such as wet-in-wet and glazing (the addition of white acrylic), scratching into wet paint, spattering wet and dry, and any other techniques you can think of are what comprise the possibilities. If you are working transparently, the white of the paper becomes part of the painting. If you are working opaquely, white paint has been added to your palette. Perhaps, the painting is a combination of transparent and opaque. Always remember, acrylics are permanent and cannot be removed from the paper’s surface.
Another difference to be aware of is that an acrylic wash will dry faster than a watercolor one. Wetting the paper with water first allows the acrylic color to be applied in a more even appearance. When dry, acrylics are permanent which allows many layers of washes to be applied without disturbing the under color. Marvelous color vibrations can be achieved by applying several layers of transparent acrylics over dry layers. I have found this way of paint application to be a must for the discovery of new colors on the paper.