216: Painting acrylics like oils

Painting with 4 preliminary sketches

Even if you use a heavy bodied acrylic pigment (which I recommend) painting with acrylics is often disappointing if you are used to the thickness of oils. Also as acrylics dry they become thinner dimensionally because much of the mass of the pigment is water. As it evaporates the film shrinks to have less texture. Oil colors dry by oxidation so do not lose mass as they dry.

The secret to making acrylics feel like oils as you paint and dry with thick texture is to add a medium. The medium I use in the video is Golden Paint‘s Extra Thick Gel because of its extremely thick yet creamy texture. In some mixtures to further increase the thickness of the gel, I add chalk.

The extra thick gel added a very oil-like feel to the acrylic paint. Plus it didn’t take much pigment to tint the gel. Since the gel is much cheaper than most pigments (like Cadmium Red for example) it’s a good way to paint thickly yet conserve expensive pigments.

Another cool paint from Golden is High Flow Acrylics. I used Raw Umber pigment in my Liquitex Acrylic marker to do the drawing on the canvas. It has an ink-like consistency and in conjunction with the marker is a great addition to any acrylic painter’s toolkit.

Another really fantastic medium is Liquitex Liquithick. It has an uncanny ability to thicken acrylic paint. You really have to try it to see how effective it is at thickening pigment. I’ve found a little goes a long way but I still wish they sold it by the gallon.

In the photo at the top of the page, you will see four 5″ x 7″ paintings I did as preliminary sketches previous to the larger painting. In a future blog, I will outline how I used these roughs in a deliberate practice routine.

Brad Teare–February 2015

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Updated: 7th February 2023
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