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Comparing Acrylic Mediums

27/04/2017 19:46

Acrylic paint is great, it's versatile, quick drying, cost effective and brilliant fun to use. It's popularity continues to grow and grow, but, have you unlocked the full potential of this fantastic and adaptable paint by harnessing the power of acylic mediums?

Water is a well known way to thin down acrylics but mediums open up a whole world of possibilities for artists.

But where to start? What do they do? Extender? Retarder? Structure Gel? Let's compare a few from Winsor and Newtons Galeria medium range.

Structure Gel

Thought impasto painting was for oil artists buying paint by the barrelful? Think again! Mix a little structure gel with your acrylics to instantly thicken up your paint and replicate heavily applied oils.

Structure Gel has a satin finish to avoid thick layers looking too plastic and when you mix in your base colour there is next to no colour shift too, so it goes a long way. This medium is smooth and flexible to work with and mix, but by no means watery, it holds its shape brilliantly once applied and makes achieving expressive textures straightforward and cost effective. Winsor & Newton produce Structure Gel in two varieties; the standard 'structure gel' and for those wanting something even thicker a 'heavy structure gel' is available too.

So if your unused pallet knives have been winking at you from the bottom of your art box, structure gel might be to medium for you.

Modelling Paste

Modelling paste is a tough carvable medium which can be used to create bold interesting textures within your artwork that would otherwise be very difficult to achieve using traditional painting techniques.

Colour may be added directly but it is best used neat as a base to be overpainted. Because unlike the structure gel when acrylic paint is added, modelling paste has a tendency to lighten your colour. This is due to the high level of solids in the medium which give it cloudy white appearance.

All these solids certainly make the modelling paste thick but it is still flexible and finely textured enough to be carved, sanded and can even be passed through stencils with ease. The medium has a matt finish and comes in two varieties 'heavy' and 'flexible' depending on your needs and surface you are working on.

This medium is perfect for those who want to build layers and add structure into their work, the carvable possibilities are endless.

Gloss and Matt Mediums

Some acrylic paint has a tendency to dry with a slight sheen. But perhaps this isn't exactly what you want, perhaps you want to create a photorealistic matt painting of the urban jungle or a piece of art that shimmers with the gloss of a stained glass window. If so gloss and matt mediums might be what you are looking for.

Simply add a little of these mediums to your acrylic paint to create a matt or gloss finish. The vibrancy of the colour is not lost and flow, durability and adhesion are boosted. The transparency is also increased which can be used to your advantage by making matt or gloss glazes.


As the name suggest extender makes your acrylics go further. It makes your paint flow onto the canvas with ease without compromising the opacity of the colour like water does and drys with a matt finish. This medium is great for painting large areas or times when you need to be more economical with your paints.

Fluid Retarder

Acrylic paints dry quickly which is great if your in a hurry but what if you want to spend a bit more time blending and manipulating your artwork? Fluid retarder could be your new best friend. By adding a few drops of this medium to your paint it lets you slow down your drying time and allows you to work for up to 50% longer.

Fluid retarder is great for those who are used to the slower blending times of oil paints, those who create artworks that require large amount of colour blending or those who just like to take their time and sip on their tea between brushstrokes.

Flow Improver

Perhaps you are an acrylic artist and you aren't looking to create impasto, high sheen finishes or bold carved layers. A more traditional approach using water to help the paint flow over the canvas works for you, after all, what's wetter than water, right? If this sounds familiar don't dismiss mediums outright as something other artists use, why not  give flow improver a try.

As the name suggests this medium improves the flow of the paint. It acts like water but keeps the acrylic molecules in tact. This is not just an expensive replacement for something you can get out of the tap though but rather something that works in partnership with your H20. Simply add a few drops of the flow improver to your to your trusty water pot (1 part medium to 20 parts water is recommended) and watch how, without changing the colour strength, flowing gestured techniques become effortless. Flow improver is also brilliant for those wanting to achieve staining effects or replicate watercolour techniques. 

flow improverFlow Improver

Texture Gels

If you want to add more texture and interest into your artwork beyond the boundaries of paint alone Winsor and Newton's texture mediums might be right up your street. This range of mediums contain granular particles of various types that really add fascinating character to your art. These particles range from Sand and Black Lava that can be used to capture the essence of a rocky shore to Glass Beads that shimmer and sparkle like jewels. You can add paint or use neat, and over-paint once dry. These particles have been specially formulated so the texture is evenly distributed and they only use refined particles that do not add impurities, therefore guaranteeing your creations stay stable and durable for a long time to come.

sand texture gelSand Texture Gel

A Medium For You

So why not give using a new medium a go in your next masterpiece. There is one to suit every acrylic project and if you have any questions at all, feel free to get in touch with our team at The Art Shop Skipton, we are always happy to help.

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