What Is Acrylic Medium?

Acrylic paint is among the best when it comes to adhesion, durability, and whatnot. Sometimes though, we need to tweak its properties a little bit.

In this case, we are often advised to use an acrylic medium. But what is acrylic medium?

Acrylic mediums are substances that alter the properties or behavior of acrylic paints for easier application or to achieve a given effect.

They are broadly categorized into two groups, i.e., gel mediums and fluid mediums.

Gel mediums improve the consistency of acrylics for better surface coverage while desaturating the color; the more gel added, the less concentrated the paint’s color becomes.

However, the desaturation is barely noticeable unless you add too much of the medium. 

Fluid mediums are less viscous than gels and are primarily packed in containers that enable pouring.

They improve the flow property of acrylics by imparting fluidity to the paint.

Some manufacturers like Liquitex indicate the medium type on the container/label.

The symbol for the gel is a large uppercase letter “G,” while the symbol for the fluid medium is a large uppercase “F.”

Read on as I take a deeper dive into the topic.

Mediums are relatively new (compared with paints), so there’s a lot to talk about and plenty of new information.

Here is a listed preview of what’s to come:

  • Acrylic medium types and their uses
  • The process of making acrylic binder medium
  • The definition of medium acrylic gloss
  • How pouring medium and gloss medium differ
  • Gloss medium products for acrylic paint
  • The practicality of mixing gloss medium with acrylic paint

For clarity, the article is about acrylic mediums, not to be confused with additives!

The two have subtle differences that often confuse customers.

You may purchase an additive when you intend to buy a medium.

The major differentiating factor is that acrylic mediums contain binders while additives lack the binder.

Now let’s get back to mediums and dig deeper:

Types Of Acrylic Mediums and Where to Use Them

You now know what acrylic medium is from the previous segment. In this section, I’ll discuss the types of acrylic mediums and where to use them.

To reiterate, there are two broad classes of acrylic mediums: gels and fluid. Here is the breakdown:

Gel Mediums

Gel mediums have a thick or heavy build; they improve the paint’s surface coverage without affecting the consistency.

They are also used for impasto painting with acrylics.

It is where paint is applied in very thick coats that enable visibility of brush and painting knife strokes for a textured feel.

Adding a gel medium to the acrylic helps you to achieve the above finish without wasting the paint.

The above mediums are always packaged in wide containers that enable the user to open and extract using a palette or a painting knife.

There are several gel mediums, three of which are the main ones. They are: 

  • Matte medium
  • Gloss medium
  • Modeling paste

I’ll expound on the above three shortly because they are the most common and maybe the only ones you’ll ever need to add to your acrylics.

Pro tip: You can use gel mediums on their own on canvas or cardboard and then top with pigmented paints.

It’s a clever way to cut costs using less pigmented paint. It comes in handy if your acrylic is formulated with expensive or rare pigments.

Matte Medium

The above agent lowers the sheen of acrylic paint. If the paint is too shiny, add an appropriate amount of the matte gel medium to tone it down.

The resulting mixture will appear duller, and the color will desaturate, but the consistency of your paint will persist. 

The above gel medium is the most popular with acrylic users.

Gloss Medium

The above medium improves the sheen rank of acrylic paint.

While acrylics have a bit of natural gloss, it may not be sufficient for your project.

If you are in such a situation, I encourage you to add a gloss medium to give the paint more shine.

You only need to add a small amount of the medium to attain the glossy effect.

If you add too much, the acrylic paint will lose its pigment intensity, and it will appear faded on your workpiece.

Modeling Paste

The above medium is used to increase the body of acrylics, i.e., it builds up the paint.

It’s the thickest gel medium, evident when you lift a content-filled container; it feels heavier than other gel mediums.

You apply this agent by scooping with a painting knife, then sculpting on your workpiece as it dries.

It’s the best gel medium for producing an impasto effect with acrylics. 

Impasto confers a textured finish upon drying, and the paint seems to be coming out of the surface. Exquisite artistry!

Fluid Mediums

As the name suggests, fluid mediums have a fluid consistency. In other words, they are the thinned versions of gel mediums.

Because of their inclination to flow, they cannot be scooped up with painting or palette knives.

As a consequence, they are packed in containers that enable pouring.

The above mediums impart fluidity or flow properties to acrylic paints and don’t tone down the intensity of paint pigments as much as their gel counterparts.

Fluid mediums come in the same luster as gel mediums, i.e., matte, semi-gloss, and gloss.

Some companies have capital F (for fluid) and capital G (for gel) identifications on their containers to tell them apart. 

Other fluid mediums important for acrylic painters are:

Glazing Medium

To glaze means to cover with a glasslike or vitreous substance or to polish and render glossy.

A glazing medium enables the layering of diaphanous or sheer paint layers on a previously painted surface.

Consequently, the underlying acrylic paint color shows through the glaze to produce illusional or optically mixed effects. 

A glazing medium is generally used in a concept known as indirect painting.

Here, you start by applying underpainting; it could be one color or a variety of colors.

Then, glazed acrylic paint, or just the glazing medium alone, is layered on top of the painting.

The effect lets you visualize the underlying paint and the glaze on top; it’s always a sight to behold. 

Glazing is a tricky technique, and it requires some level of expertise.

When you perfect the art, you’ll enjoy the benefits of having the best control over paint colors and values.

You might be tempted to create a glaze by adding water to acrylic paint!

Well, you’ll achieve the shiny/vitreous effect but at the cost of weakening the binder and undermining paint adhesion.

Instead, I recommend using a glazing medium; it thins the paint and adds sheen without compromising paint adhesion.

It’s because the fluid medium contains binders.

The glazing medium also protects acrylic paint by conferring hard-wearing characteristics and better water resistance.

Blending Medium

The above is also known as a slow-drying or retarding acrylic medium.

Acrylic paints usually dry super fast. This is beneficial for painting large surfaces with one color, as with residential and industrial painters. It enables quick project completion. 

On the other hand, it’s disadvantageous for fine, restoration, and design artists as they often need more time to create transitions and manipulate the colors.

This is where you can employ a retarding or slow-drying medium as they delay or prolong acrylic drying.

Thus, you get the chance to make modifications like blending different colors or merging into another color on the substrate.

The blending mediums only slow acrylic drying time by minutes; this is nowhere near the slow drying times of oil paints.

Some manufacturers have devised new, altered forms of acrylics that dry a lot slower, extending the dying time even further than acrylics treated with retarding mediums.

A good example is the Open Slow-Drying Acrylics made by GOLDEN®.

It gives you enough time to make several adjustments like oil paints do.

Acrylic mediums that don’t fall under the two broad classes are acrylic pouring, airbrush, and textured mediums.

Acrylic Airbrush Mediums

These reduce the viscidity/viscosity of acrylics to water-like consistency to facilitate airbrushing.

Airbrushing is a spray painting technique that makes the process faster; it is the predecessor to painting with spray guns and rattle cans.

The above medium is perfect for modifying soft-body acrylics. It also makes an excellent toner for acrylic inks.

When mixing the above medium with acrylics, the paint’s pigment intensity and thickness will determine the ratios.

If the paint is thick with more pigment, add more medium.

The more the medium percentage in the paint, the lesser the opacity of the finish.

However, adding too much medium is detrimental to paint adhesion. So, I urge you to do test runs to strike the right balance when mixing.

Acrylic Pouring Mediums

Acrylic pouring is a painting method that involves pouring paint over substrates like wood, composites, canvas, and paper.

You then let the paint coat the surface by flowing. You can control paint spread by tilting the substrate or blowing with a hairdryer. 

Pouring various acrylic colors from a single container (swirling technique) or different containers creates color pools with attractive colors.

The pouring mediums make pour-painting easy by improving acrylic flow and leveling.

It also prevents the crazing of the paint on substrates. It’s especially so when you combine it with soft-body acrylics.

If you were to pour paint with pure acrylic, it would be costly and waste a lot of paint; the pigments contained in acrylics are often expensive.

The pouring mediums alleviate this by adding volume to acrylics without affecting paint consistency.

Pouring mediums work differently depending on the manufacturer, so it’s essential to read the instructions on the label or datasheets before mixing.

It has information on the mixing ratios and specific usage protocols.

Textured Acrylic Mediums

Textured mediums contain granular/particulate substances to give the paint a rough or raspy feel.

The textures are manufactured separately and then added to gesso, gel medium, or directly to acrylics.

Companies like Derivan make a wide range of textures to use with any of the acrylic mediums discussed above.

The above mediums let you customize other mediums to create acrylic pieces. Some textured mediums are decorative, while others are functional.

An example is the microspheres which produce 3D sculptural effects on surfaces. They also increase paint bulk without adding weight.

The number of granules you add will affect the texture and appearance of your acrylic.

I advise you not to go overboard with the particulates as it can compromise paint adhesion and attractive appeal.

There are numerous dry textures, but these two are among the most popular:

Ground Marble Dry Texture Medium

The above improves the thickness and adds raspiness to the paint for better adhesion. 

It’s often finer than other textured mediums but still imparts bumpiness.

The raspy finish is more perceived by touching the painted surface than by visualizing it.

Mixing ground marble medium with gesso is an ideal foundation for pastel painting.

Mica Flakes Dry Texture Medium

Mica flakes are large particulates that produce pearl-like effects on acrylics; it’s more suited for decorative finishing. 

You can apply them directly by sprinkling them on freshly-painted surfaces or adding them to other mediums before using them with acrylics.

How to Make Your Own Acrylic Medium

We’ve ventured deeper into the subject topic and gathered lots of intel. It’s about time you know how to make your own acrylic medium.

I’ll show you just that in this segment. Read on.

The process varies slightly depending on the medium you intend to make.

The general procedure involves combining DIY mediums with a binder and a solvent (typically water).

The raw materials’ proportions, texture, and sheen level determine the specific medium.

The DIY medium comprises an acrylic polymer, preservatives, stabilizers, etc.

Mod Podge® makes excellent DIY mediums in powder forms and various sheens; other companies manufacture them in pasty or liquid forms. 

Acrylic mediums are similar to paint, only that they lack the pigment and a few adjunct constituents. 

Here is the detailed guide:

Requirements

  • Binder: craft glue
  • DIY medium
  • Solvent: clean water
  • Mixing container
  • Stirring stick
  • A drop cloth or old newspapers
  • Paper towels and a clean rag

Procedure

First, cover the floor and areas you don’t want the agents to spill on with the drop cloth or old newspapers.

Next, open the Mod Podge DIY medium and put some into the mixing container.

The type of finish is often indicated on the medium’s container; the common ones are matte, gloss, glazing, modeling paste, acrylic pour, and blending finishes.

You can formulate fluid or gel versions of the above finishes by controlling the medium to solvent ratio.

The thinnest or least viscous acrylic mediums, like glazing and pouring, need a solvent to polymer ratio of 2:1 and less craft glue.

Very thick mediums like modeling paste require a solvent to acrylic polymer ratio of 1:2 with more binder.

Mediums of moderate thickness lie between the two extremes.

After you’ve put the DIY medium into a mixing container, add a binder followed by the solvent in proportions that match your desired finish.

Stir gently using the mixing/stirring stick until you form a uniform mixture.

Let it stand for at least 20 minutes for the components to be in accord.

There you go! You have an acrylic medium at hand, ready to add to and modify your acrylic paint.

Since this is a formulation process, accidental splatters and spills will occur.

I urge you to wipe them off using paper towels. It lightens the cleaning job that follows the above undertaking.

Here’s How to Make Acrylic Medium:

How to Make Acrylic Binder Medium

There are many types of acrylic mediums, and each of them is made differently.

In this part of the review, I’ll focus on how to make an acrylic binder medium.

Making an acrylic binder medium is quite simple. It only involves combining a binder with an appropriate solvent like floetrol and water.

The procedure is similar to making an acrylic medium, as discussed in the preceding segment.

The ratio of binder or acrylic polymer to solvent/water dictates the thickness of the final product.

A high solvent to polymer ratio results in an acrylic binder medium with a fluid-like consistency.

On the other hand, a high acrylic polymer to solvent ratio produces a binder medium with a gel-like consistency.

What Is Acrylic Medium Gloss?

One of the ways to notch up acrylic paint sheen is by adding a lustrous component like a glossy medium.

Follow my lead as I get into the details of acrylic medium gloss.

It is a medium that augments the sheen and luminosity of acrylic paints. It helps you achieve a finish that’s similar to oil paints. 

The advantage of the above glossy finish over oil paints is that it is fast drying, odorless, and non-toxic to the environment and human health.

One of the best products in this category is the Mont Marte® acrylic medium gloss.

They are water-based and come with material safety data sheets just in case anything goes wrong.

They are sold in 135ml squeeze bottles with flip-top lids for easier application.

When you add the above medium to your acrylic, you can produce washes, glazes, and various effects without compromising the adhesive quality of the paint.

You can also use acrylic gloss mediums to formulate a sealant or varnish for acrylic paint.

What Is the Difference Between Pouring Medium and Gloss Medium?

It’s vital to tell apart various mediums as there are many. It will help you get the right pick for your desired finish.

For a start, what is the difference between pouring medium and gloss medium?

Gloss mediums, as already discussed, give the acrylic paint more shine/luster. They also make the finish more stain and water-resistant, improving durability.

However, adding excess gloss mediums to acrylics lowers the color intensity, a phenomenon called desaturation.

So it’s crucial to add the right amount of the medium to increase the sheen and, at the same time, maintain the aesthetics of your paint.

Acrylic pour or flow painting is a method of applying the paint by pouring over wood or canvas and letting it run.

You can also tilt the substrate and use a hairdryer to facilitate paint spread. 

Numerous techniques will allow you to create puddles or pools of color with beautiful patterns and marble-like effects.

The technique was discovered in the 1930s by David Alfaro Siqueiros. 

Pouring mediums are 100% acrylic polymers, binders, and solvents used to extend acrylics to facilitate the above paint pouring techniques.

The pouring mediums help to prevent paint crazing, which is the formation of valleys and crevices on the poured acrylic due to uneven drying. 

Acrylic pouring uses a lot of paint, so adding a pouring medium mitigates the wastage and reduces the cost of using pure acrylic paint.

These mediums also paint leveling properties for a more even finish.

Best Gloss Mediums for Acrylic Paint

This is one of the more important segments of the article where I get to name names. These are the best gloss mediums for acrylic paint:

1. U.S. Art Supply Acrylic Medium Gloss Gel

The above medium is manufactured by U.S. art supply, a brand exclusive to TCP Global Corporation, headquartered in San Diego, California.

Acrylic Medium: What Is Acrylic Medium?The corporation started as a home decorating store elsewhere in the same state and developed exponentially due to its high-quality and effective products.

The company has developed exclusive brands and products in several categories to meet growing customer demands.

One of such brands is U.S. art supply, which focuses on paints & mediums, canvas & surfaces, paper, airbrush tools, and related materials.

Their acrylic medium gloss gel is among the best on the market. Its advantages and features are:

  • It gives a high-gloss finish
  • The medium comes in 200 ml flip-top squeeze bottles
  • This product is non-toxic and doesn’t irritate the skin
  • The medium is perfect for techniques that require transparency like glazing and photo transfers
  • It increases the paint’s viscosity without pigment desaturation
  • U.S. art acrylic medium gloss comes at a budget-friendly price
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2. U.S. Art Supply Pouring Masters Gloss Pouring Medium

It’s another medium made by U.S. art supply under TCP Global Corporation.

It speaks to the professional and flawless input to their manufacturing process.

Acrylic MediumThe company hails from the U.S., with its headquarters in California state.

It has 46 plus years of experience in the automotive, paints, paint mediums, fine art, and makeup industries.

It has several brands but has delegated paints and mediums making to the U.S. art supply.

Their pouring masters gloss medium is added to acrylics for pour painting, and it has the following benefits and characteristics:

  • It results in a clear, glossy finish that augments acrylic paint color.
  • The product comes in 32 fluid-ounce bottles.
  • This medium promotes the flow and consistency of paints to facilitate pouring techniques.
  • U.S. art gloss pouring medium guards the acrylic finish against fading, cracking, and separation.
  • The medium lowers acrylic paint’s viscosity to produce artfully poured sheets, cell effects, and puddles.
  • It doesn’t slow down the drying times, has minimal alteration to paint pigment intensity, and doesn’t interfere with adhesion.
  • The product retails at an affordable cost for its use.
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3. Liquitex Professional Fluid Medium, Gloss

The above medium is made by Liquitex Company, currently owned by Colart. It has its headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Henry Levison founded the company in 1933, then named it “Permanent Pigments Company.”

Acrylic MediumThe Liquitex name came later in 1956 after Levison developed acrylic polymer resin, which is water-emulsified. The name is a portmanteau of “liquid” and “texture.”

The company is heavily invested in making paints, mediums, and brushes.

As a result, they have the most extensive acrylic paint products globally.

The professional fluid medium gloss comes with the following desirable features and benefits:

  • The medium results in a high-gloss acrylic finish
  • It comes in 8 fl oz or 237 ml bottles
  • This agent has an excellent durability profile
  • It’s cost-effective as a small amount can go a long way
  • Liquitex fluid medium lowers the viscosity of heavy acrylic paints and gels
  • It maintains the paint’s adhesion while extending its coverage
  • You can use it as a varnish to protect the underlying paint from stains and water damage
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4. Liquitex Basics Gloss Fluid Medium

The mentioned product is manufactured by Liquitex Company, which has a rich history in the painting world, stretching as far back as the 1950s.

The company was the first to produce a water-based acrylic gesso in 1955.

Gesso is used in painting to prepare substrates like canvas, wood, and cardboards for paint reception.

The following year, the company sold water-borne soft body acrylics and expanded to heavy body acrylic paints in 1963. 

Acrylic MediumThe company’s focus on acrylic paints and mediums has attained unparalleled legendary status.

It makes the largest number of acrylic products worldwide.

Binney & Smith bought the Liquitex brand in 1964, selling it to its current owners, Colart, in 2000.

They’ve maintained the brand name for legal and marketing reasons, and their Basics gloss fluid medium has these benefits and features:

  • It gives a glossy finish with acrylics
  • The product’s volume is 250 ml or eight fluid ounces
  • This medium improves paint flow for broader surface coverage
  • It’s easy to use, making it ideal for beginners and students
  • It adds transparency to acrylic paint, thus improving its aesthetics
  • Liquitex basics gloss medium is an ideal backing for collage arts
  • You can use this medium to varnish acrylic, thereby improving water and stain-resistance
  • The medium costs less than its equivalents, making for a cost-effective painting project
  • It doesn’t adversely affect the paint’s color
  • It is innocuous to human health and environmentally safe
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Can You Mix Gloss Medium With Acrylic Paint?

Mixing acrylic paints with mediums to achieve a given end is risky.

It could lead to precipitation reactions, or the components may fail to homogenize.

Given the above, can you mix gloss medium with acrylic paint?

You can! The essence of purchasing a gloss medium is to use it together with acrylic to produce your desired effect.

You can mix them in one container before application or on the substrate while applying.

Mixing is not mandatory as you can use it over the acrylic as a varnish or even an isolation layer.

When mixing, avoid adding too much of the medium to maintain the paint’s color; remember, acrylic mediums don’t have pigment.

So, the hue or color shade of the final product will change. Putting in the right amount of gloss medium won’t result in observable changes in color intensity.

Also, when mixing, more so in a container, stir wholly and gently to form a uniform mixture.

Avoid stirring vigorously to prevent the introduction of air bubbles.

Do I Need an Acrylic Medium?

We’ve seen the impact of acrylic mediums on the paint’s versatility and their widespread use to modify them.

But take a closer look, do you need an acrylic medium?

While the mediums play an essential role in acrylic painting, they are not mandatory.

If your acrylic paint meets the set standards for your desired outcomes, there’s no need to add any medium.

Such standards include the proper flow, texture, thickness, luster, etc.

But most of the time, the paint falls short of the above expectations, and this is where the acrylic mediums prove vital.

The mediums help to fill in the gaps in the following ways:

  • They prevent paint wastage: the addition of mediums makes you use smaller amounts of acrylics so that it can last you through several projects.
  • It improves or reduces paint sheen: glossy and semi-gloss mediums give the paint more shine, while flat and matte mediums take off the luster. It all depends on the kind of finish you want.
  • It increases acrylic paint flow: some mediums confer fluidity to the paint for extended surface coverage and more straightforward application.
  • They thicken acrylic paint: mediums like modeling paste make the acrylic more solid, enabling sculpturing and impasto finishes.
  • They lower the project costs: all mediums lack pigments, which are often the expensive component of paint. The addition of mediums economizes pigment usage.
  • It slows down drying times: acrylic paints dry so fast that it’s challenging to correct paint values and tones. Blending or acrylic retarding mediums slow the drying, allowing you to make necessary changes and work different colors into each other.
  • For decorative painting: this is seen with medium textured components like ground marble and mica flakes.

Conclusion

To conclude, acrylic paints are versatile, which means they have many modifying products.

The products work in an adjunctive capacity to tweak the characteristics of your acrylic. One of such products is acrylic mediums. But first…

What Is an Acrylic Medium?

It is an agent that changes acrylic paint properties to make it workable or usable on any given substrate.

There are many types of acrylic mediums, and you don’t have to add all of them to your paint.

You don’t need to add any in some cases. They only adjust the paint’s behavior to suit its application and to attain a given result. 

I’ve also discussed the types and uses of acrylic mediums along with the following:

  • How to formulate acrylic medium for personal use
  • How to produce or form acrylic binder medium
  • Elucidation of an acrylic medium gloss
  • Contrasting gloss medium with pouring medium
  • Three of the best gloss mediums for acrylic paint
  • Whether mixing gloss medium with acrylic paint is achievable/workable or not

If your acrylic is too thick or thin or you want to add more texture, don’t bother about buying new paint; I present the best solution in the name of acrylic mediums.

Before purchasing and using an acrylic medium, and additives by extension, ensure you know what finish you want.

Doing a test run on a separate workpiece before working on the main substrate is advisable.

If you read all of the above content, you’ll be the master of manipulating acrylics to go over just about everything. 

I suggest you follow all the protocols I’ve outlined and use top-grade products, like the ones mentioned herein, to achieve the best outcome.

A chain is only as good as its weakest link, so do everything with the deserved exactness.

I wish you the best painting experience going forward.

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