Acrylic Medium Guide

Acrylic Medium SmartAcrylic Medium is a wonderful, fantastic, magical tool to transform your paints, from slowing drying times to adding texture, mediums are the perfect match for your color choices, and make them super versatile! You have probably guessed already that I love acrylic mediums a lot! 🙂 Even though the use of mediums is totally optional, I still highly recommend you to take a look closer at this artist tool, because thanks to mediums you achieve the desired effects, relief stroke, texture, making the paint thicker, thinner, glossy, matte, textured, slow-drying and more.

So Acrylic Medium is a liquid or gel that you mix into the paint. It’s made with the same emulsion base as acrylic paint, so they dry at the same rate, that is why the risk paint cracking is way less compare to oil paint mediums.

I understand that acrylic mediums are often a difficult concept to grasp until you actually dive into them, so I’ve tried to simplify usage by classifying products for you. Shall we?

Gel Acrylic Medium

Acrylic Medium SmartGel mediums add body to thinner paint for impasto techniques, so that it retains brushstrokes, as well as extending color volume and adding transparency (without compromising the consistency and adhesive properties, otherwise after a certain ratio of water to paint, the paint will lose its adherence properties, causing uneven coverage).

This medium also enhances the adhesive properties of the paint and durability. Gels also add “open time” as they tend to dry slower than thinner paint films.

Gel mediums are available in different types, like gloss & matte, and also different textures.

All Gel Mediums:

  • Add Body
  • Increase “open” time
  • Dry transparent or translucent
  • Extend the volume of paint
  • Hold brush or knife marks
  • Make an excellent archival adhesive for collage

Texture Acrylic Medium

Acrylic Medium SmartTexture mediums are used to modify the texture of acrylic paint, so it retains texture created by brush or knife.
Modeling paste is the most commonly used texture medium. This opaque-white heavy gel is usually made of marble paste and will adhere to most surfaces.  Once dried, modeling paste can be sanded and/or painted over. You can literally make your painting three-dimensional by building up a relief.
Texture Gels imitate certain textures, some of them have additives to create extra or specific texture e.g. sand, glass beads, or fibers.

This is where your experiment begins! They’re so much fun and can turn your painting into artwork . You can also make your own texture by mixing in some sand, sawdust, even eggshells, or whatever you want.

Texture mediums can be mixed with paint or applied as an initial layer you paint over. Some texture mediums are gels that dry to a clear, glossy finish. Others are dry to a coarse, matte finish. Some are designed for carving into. Always check the label to see what to expect.

 Glazing Acrylic Medium

Acrylic Medium SmartGlazing medium will make acrylic paint more transparent and facilitate subtle glazing techniques.

Effect of glazing allows you to add a thin and transparent layer of paint, slightly modifying the color underneath.

Acrylic paints are made to be thinned with water, but if you add too much water you run the risk that there’s not enough binder in the paint for it to stick properly to the canvas or paper. Glazing acrylic mediums basically consist of the binder used in acrylic paint (“colorless paint”) and so ensure the paint will stick.

Glazing is a great way to seal pencil sketches to paint over.

Some glazing mediums seem milky white but dry clear without changing the color. If in doubt, do a test before using it on a painting.

Another thing to try, is once you’ve finished a piece, applying an overall glaze can unify your final image.

Glazing medium:

  • Slow drying color glazes.
  • Thinning medium.
  • Pre-glazing before paint application.
  • Smoother wet-in-wet blending.

Flow Acrylic Medium

Acrylic Medium SmartFlow medium is used for dispersing paint. If you want to break the consistency of acrylic paint to make a very fluid or runny paint, add a dispersant medium. Flow improver thins acrylic paint for use with wash techniques and painting over large areas. It creates the paint that’s perfect for staining and pouring technique.

As mentioned above, you can thin acrylic paints with water, but it breaks down the acrylic binder and makes the paint behave like watercolors. Flow medium works by breaking the surface tension of the water inside the paint which thins the paint without reducing the color strength or compromising the finish.

Increased flow makes the paint easily to the canvas’s texture, increasing its staining properties. You have to make sure to use it sparingly, adding little by little.

Retarding Acrylic Medium

(Slow Drying)

Retarding Medium slows down the drying time of acrylic paint. This medium is available in various formulations so you can still have the consistency of paint you want. How does it work? It works by slowing the rate at which the water evaporates from the paint. Always check the label to see how much you can add without affecting the adhesive properties of the paint.

The retarding medium allows you to mix colors on the support and create smooth blending effects,  causing the acrylic to behave a bit more like oil paint.


Time to experiment 🙂

It’s time to experiment and to explore new opportunities be extending the expressive potential of your paints. This article includes the most basic and popular acrylic mediums, but there are so much more on the market! Stay tuned to find out more about different types of acrylic medium, art materials, and usage tricks and tips. If you have any question, feel free to leave a comment!



4 thoughts on “Acrylic Medium Guide

  1. Shaker says:

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard of acrylic mediums! I love how you’ve added pictures that are related to each of the types of mediums in your post. It really helped to “paint the picture” in my mind(; lol

    I found the information here on acrylic mediums to be highly useful. However, I am curious about the difference between acrylic mediums and oil paint mediums? Is one better than the other or is it just personal preference?

    Thank you!! I will definitely recommend your website to anyone who may want to learn more about painting materials and art! Awesome information here!

    • admin says:

      Hi, Shaker! I’m really glad you liked my introduction into acrylic mediums! A lot of people don’t know about them, but these mediums make art process so much more interesting!

      The difference between acrylic and oil mediums is that you can only use acrylic mediums with acrylic paints and oil ones with oil paints, and never opposite because the chemical composition is totally different. There is also a difference in some of the characteristics. If you want to find out more about the difference between oil and acrylic paint, check this post here:

      And thanks for future recommendation 🙂


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