Wednesday, September 16, 2009

ACRYLIC PAINTS: How to Slow-Down, Speed-Up or Reverse the Drying Time

Part 1.

Oh, the ecstasy, or the agony, of painting with acrylics paints.

Some painters love acrylics because they dry so fast. But many other painters feel that acrylic paints dry faster than they can paint. Or even think!

So if fast-drying acrylics make you feel rushed, here are a few essential tips to help you slow down and paint the way oil painters do.

Yes, it is possible to work at your own pace and interact with acrylic paints. And yes, you can have the freedom to work wet-in-wet, scrape off areas and complete an idea without racing against time. Or you can stop at any stage and complete the work by overpainting.

First, the tool you must have is a fine-mist water sprayer. Acrylic paints are a water-based medium, and so atomized water is the easiest way to compensate for evaporation, both on your palette and on your painting.

If you want to blend colors, just keep them moist with a little spritz from your spray bottle, and blend away. Any size spray bottle will do the job.

Second, be sure to use a Sta-Wet Palette box. Available in various sizes, it comes with a flat sponge and disposable palette sheets, plus a top cover for airtight storage. Simply wet the sponge and a palette sheet, and squeeze out your acrylic paint colors. This creates a high humidity environment to keep your paints blendable and workable. If the palette sheet appears to be drying out, mist it with just enough water to keep your paints nice and moist.

Basically, you are now ready for a relaxed acrylic painting session. But before you begin painting, there are a few other factors to consider:

Think about the absorbency of your painting surface. An absorbent surface will dry acrylic paints faster than one that is less absorbent.

For this reason, painters who work on raw canvas sometimes wet the front with water, and even keep the reverse side wet too with a moist cloth or sponge.

Gessoed canvas is less absorbent than raw. And if you allow early layers of colors to dry, the surface will become increasingly less absorbent, and the drying-time will continue to slow-down.

Be aware that a highly absorbent surface will allow the paints to flow, which may or may not be what you want. Also keep in mind that spraying with water tends to flatten your brush strokes. (The best way to retain those precious brush marks and impasto strokes is to let them dry completely.) And remember that too much water can dilute the binders in acrylic paints and thus weaken cohesion.

Too much dilution won’t be a problem if you keep your acrylics wet not with water but with a slow-drying acrylic medium. The best of these new products include Golden OPEN Acrylic Medium, Atelier Interactive Slow Medium and Liquitex Slow-Dri Blending Fluid Medium.

We’ll discuss these and other recent innovations in acrylic painting in Part 2, coming soon.

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