Acrylic Paint Mediums – Types and Uses Explanation

The most detailed explanation of Acrylic Paint Mediums types, differences, and uses from Smart Art Materials. No more confusion what and when to use.

The most detailed explanation of Acrylic Paint Mediums types, differences, and uses from Smart Art Materials. No more confusion what and when to use.

When it comes to the creation of extraordinary textures or any other cool effects, Acrylic Paint Mediums are indispensable! Adding them to your art routine can help you transform your paints and make them super versatile! I personally love using acrylic paint mediums a lot and recommend everyone to give them a try! 🙂 This is so much fun plus you get to achieve some really interesting results.

So what is Acrylic Paint Medium in a nutshell? This is a liquid, gel, or paste that you mix into your paint. It's made with the same emulsion base as acrylic paint, so they dry at the same rate, that is why the risk of paint cracking is way less compared to oil paint mediums.

It's very hard to classify acrylic mediums because there are so many different ones...  besides they vary from brand to brand. But generally, mediums can either thin your paint, thicken it or add some special texture. There is also a surface prep medium - Acrylic Gesso - and a painting finish medium - Varnish, but these are the whole separate topics. 

I understand that acrylic mediums are often a difficult concept to grasp until you actually dive into them, so I’ve tried to simplify things for you! 🙂

Acrylic Paint Mediums Types


Acrylic Gel Medium

The most detailed explanation of Acrylic Paint Mediums types, differences, and uses from Smart Art Materials. No more confusion what and when to use.Gel Medium is a great multipurpose medium that is mostly used to add body to 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. This medium is also an excellent adhesive on its own and also enhances the paint durability and is usually available in gloss or matte finish.

To get more information about this medium uses, check out this Acrylic Gel Medium article.

Acrylic Modeling Paste

The most detailed explanation of Acrylic Paint Mediums types, differences, and uses from Smart Art Materials. No more confusion what and when to use.Modeling paste is the most commonly used texture medium. This is an opaque-white heavy paste that 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. Or you can mix it in the paint before the application for impasto technique. Modeling paste has a slightly rough texture once dry and remains opaque white.

Special Effects Acrylic Paint Mediums

The most detailed explanation of Acrylic Paint Mediums types, differences, and uses from Smart Art Materials. No more confusion what and when to use.

There are numerous mediums that are designed to create special effects and to imitate certain textures. Some of them have additives like sand, glass beads, or fibers. Here are the examples of special effects mediums: Ceramic Stucco EffectBlended Fibers EffectBlack Lava Effect, Glass Beads Effect, Iridescent Effect, Natural Sand Effect, Resin Sand Effect, String Gel Effect, Opaque Flakes Effect.... and this list is not full, there is yet so much more!

You can also create your own texture by mixing in some sand, sawdust, even eggshells, or whatever you want to gel medium or paint.

Gloss or Matte Fluid Acrylic Medium

The most detailed explanation of Acrylic Paint Mediums types, differences, and uses from Smart Art Materials. No more confusion what and when to use.This medium is designed to thin the paint a bit, add some transparency and correspondingly gloss or matte finish. When do you want to use this medium? For example, when you work with heavy body paints (which are normally opaque and have satin finish) and you want to add some gloss and/or transparency. Or when you need to cover a large surface with an even layer of paint (without brushstrokes remaining).

There are many other uses for this medium, my personal favorite is 2-in-1 Liquitex Gloss Medium and Varnish, you can read my review of this product here. Liquitex brand also has it the Ultra Mate Fluid medium - when you need to avoid any shine or gloss in your artwork.

Glazing Acrylic Medium

The most detailed explanation of Acrylic Paint Mediums types, differences, and uses from Smart Art Materials. No more confusion what and when to use.Glazing technique in terms of painting refers to the application of few/multiple translucent layers of paint, where each new layer changes or enhances all the previous colors, creating the feel of depth.

So what glazing medium (like Liquitex Professional Glazing Medium) does is it makes acrylic paint thin and transparent without compromising its adhesive properties (like in case of diluting paint with too much water). This medium is milky white when wet, but dries clear.

Pouring Acrylic Medium

The most detailed explanation of Acrylic Paint Mediums types, differences, and uses from Smart Art Materials. No more confusion what and when to use.

Pouring is relatively new, but already extremely popular technique. It's very expressive and colorful, intuitive and bewitching. There are many ways to achieve the runny consistency of a paint, and one of the most effective yet simple ways is by adding the specially designed pouring medium.

This medium creates even puddles, poured sheets and flowing applications of color. Pouring Medium is designed to prevent crazing, cracking, and it doesn't hold bubbles in the paint film upon drying. 

If you would like to learn more about this type of medium, check out this article - Acrylic Pouring Medium – 3 Most Popular Brands.

Fabric Medium

The most detailed explanation of Acrylic Paint Mediums types, differences, and uses from Smart Art Materials. No more confusion what and when to use.Acrylic Paint can be applied to multiple surfaces, including the clothing fabric. However, if you are planning to wear and wash painted clothes on a regular basis, just a regular paint application will not work for you.

To "lock" the paint into the fabric you will need something like Liquitex Professional Fabric Effects Medium. Another option is Golden Acrylic Medium: Silk Screen Fabric Gel, which is designed to blend with acrylic paints for silk-screen application onto cotton, 50/50 cotton/polyester blend fabrics, and other garments. 

Airbrush Acrylic Medium 

The most detailed explanation of Acrylic Paint Mediums types, differences, and uses from Smart Art Materials. No more confusion what and when to use.The name of this medium speaks for itself - it's formulated to thin acrylic colors for airbrush application. Personally, I'm not very familiar with this medium and airbrush technique in general, but I know a few artists who work in this technique, and this is just the whole different world of painting - different tricks and opportunities.

Art truly has no limits!

Retarding Acrylic Medium (Slow Drying)

The most detailed explanation of Acrylic Paint Mediums types, differences, and uses from Smart Art Materials. No more confusion what and when to use.The drying time of acrylic paint can sometimes be an issue. This is when Retarding Medium like the Liquitex Slow-Dri Medium comes in handy! It's specially designed to keep your painting fresh and can easily add couple hours of open time causing the acrylic to behave a bit more like oil paint.

How does it work? It works by slowing the rate at which the water evaporates from the paint. This medium is very useful when you are working on anything that requires a lot of smooth color blending.  It's is available in various formulations so you can still have the consistency of paint you want.

Flow Acrylic Medium

The most detailed explanation of Acrylic Paint Mediums types, differences, and uses from Smart Art Materials. No more confusion what and when to use.Flow improver (or flow aid) is not exactly a medium but rather an additive because unlike all the previous mediums, it's doesn't contain an acrylic polymer emulsion (core ingredient of acrylic paint) and therefore has no binding qualities inherent in it.

This additive is used for dispersing paint, it increases flow and absorption of a paint, decreases film tension and friction, minimizes brush marks. Can be intermixed with any water-soluble paint. medium, ink or dye. I recommend you to check the Liquitex Flow Aid, and there is also another very interesting product from the Golden brand - High Flow Acrylic Paint.

Time to experiment 🙂


Ok, I know it was a long article, but you made it haha! There are so many different mediums out there, I understand that this might be overwhelming, especially for beginners, but you know, take one step at the time.

One great option to try many different things is to get a medium sample set, like Fluids Pack, Gel Pack or my favorite Intro Set, that includes Clear Gesso, Slow-Dri Blending Medium, Flexible Modeling Paste, Gloss Super Heavy Gel, Pouring Medium and High Gloss Varnish: 

Now, it's time to experiment and to explore new opportunities by extending the expressive potential of your paints. Always make sure to read the label before the use of any medium.

If you have any question, feel free to leave me a comment, and if you want to find out more about acrylic paint in general, check out the Acrylic Paint - Definition and Features. Stay tuned to find out more about different types of acrylic medium, art materials in general, and usage tricks and tips.

Cheers,

Olga

6 thoughts on “Acrylic Paint Mediums – Types and Uses Explanation

  1. Kashia says:

    Awesome post! This is exactly what I was looking for.

    I’m assigned to take a painting class for my next semester in school and acrylic paint will be the main focus, but I’m always confused by the different mediums.

    I love how simple you’ve described each medium. I can now get into it with a bit more knowledge. I work more in digital art, but having to transition to a physical medium is quite exciting. I’m especially interested in the pouring technique. I never knew acrylic paint can be used in that way.

    Thanks for the list of these medium types and their explanations. 🙂

    • Olga says:

      Hi Kashia, I’m happy to hear that this was helpful! I know how confusing it is when you just trying to get familiar with all these acrylic paint mediums. And I know this article is quite long, but I wanted to overview all the mail types :).
      Good luck in your painting class and let me know if you are going to have any question about acrylic painting art materials.  

  2. Darren says:

    I’ve done quite a lot of work with watercolours in the past, which I enjoy, but I’ve been thinking about trying to learn how to paint with acrylics (I don’t like oil paints).

    As a beginner with acrylics, your post has helped me understand the medium more and what everything means.

    I really like the look of the special effects acrylic. That’s really interesting. certainly not an effect that can be achieved with watercolour, that’s for sure.

    • Olga says:

      Hi Darren, 

      I’m this article was helpful for you:) yeah, both acrylics and watercolors are awesome but sooo different! I’m you are going to enjoy working with texture, and please let me know if you are going to have any questions along your acrylic painting journey!)

  3. Can modeling paste be used with a retarder? I need a surface that can be impressed with a stylus – an open time of about an hour. It is a large panel (48″) but I can apply the paste in strips; emboss; then dry before the next strip.

    • Hi Lloyd, thanks for this comment! You surely can mix retarder into a modeling paste, but unfortunately, I don’t think it will give you a full hour of open time. Retarder extends drying time up to 40%, but it might not be enough.

      Another thing you can do is to use a water spray to cover the surface with a very thin layer of water to keep it moist. I think it should work much better along with the retarder. Plus the idea of applying in strips also sounds really good!

      Experiment on a small surface first to estimate your drying time and then move on to the large pease. By the way, the project you are working on sound really interesting. Are you planning to post it anywhere on social media? I would love to check it out!

      Cheers,
      Olga

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