Mediums & Additives for Acrylic Paint

Mediums & Additives for Acrylic Paint

You can add more versatility to painting with acrylics by mixing the acrylic paints with one or more of your choice of acrylic mediums. Here is a short list of the most common mediums you can use.

Gesso Primer

It is used to seal porous surfaces such as unprimed canvas ready for acrylic painting. It produces a matt surface with a slight texture and can be sanded to give a smoother finish. Gesso primer is available in white and black.

Glazing medium

This medium is added to acrylic paints to give them transparency. With all mediums, it takes some practice to learn how to use it. The color looks milky when wet but once it dries, the color becomes transparent and the color will become clear again. It is available in gloss or matt finish.

Acrylic Gel Retarder

This is a white, semi-clear medium which when mixed with acrylic paint, slows the drying time by up to 50%. You just add it to your paint before applying to the canvas. The more you add to your paint the more transparent your color will become. Follow the instructions on the bottle properly, as adding too much may prevent the paint from drying.

Acrylic Matt & Gloss Varnishes

Acrylic varnishes are painted over the top to protect your finished paintings from cracking, yellowing and pollution. They are available in a both a liquid form for brush application or as a spray. Acrylic varnishes are water-based and once dry they are permanent.

Flow Enhancer

This is a colorless liquid that when added to colors enhances flow. Good for large areas of work where a smooth finish is required.

Impasto Gel Medium

This is a heavy gel medium that when added to paint, it creates a thick, bulky texture, good for covering large areas with color. Shows up brush and knife marks. It’s available in matte or gloss.

Texture Paste

This is a thick, white paste which is applied to the surface to create texture before painting. There are a large variety of painting mediums available and can become overwhelming to a beginner. Therefore, if you have never used these mediums in your painting before, I suggest that you start with one that you think you’ll actually use a lot and practice working with it until you are happy with the results. Once you master one medium you are then free to move on and explore the others. It is time you click here to find the best acrylic paints. 

Paint Brushes

You can use almost any type of brush with acrylic paints but the most suitable brushes for painting with acrylics are synthetic/nylon brushes and bristle brushes as used with oil paints. These brushes come in a wide range of sizes and shapes and are fairly inexpensive to buy.

You can also use watercolor brushes with thin acrylic paints, but it’s not usually recommended as they don’t stand up long to the abrasive nature of acrylic paints, so will tend to wear out sooner.

Acrylic paint brushes have nylon fibers that are softer than the bristle brushes but are coarser than brushes used in watercolors. Nylon brushes leave a smooth finish to your work.

Bristle brushes are coarser and are great if you like the brush marks to show through in your work, especially when using thick acrylic paints.

When choosing your brushes, don’t buy cheap craft brushes as these tend to lose a lot of bristles during the use. Also, don’t buy natural fiber brushes like sable as they are too delicate for acrylics and are expensive.

If you are a beginner, you only need to start with a few different brushes. The best way to work out what sizes and types of brushes to get, is to just buy a couple and try them out to see how you like using them.

As a guide to get started, you could buy: a round and a flat synthetic brush and a round and a flat hog-bristle brush. Choose smaller sizes if you want to paint small details or go bigger if you want to paint large or less-detailed paintings. Choose at least one large flat brush for filling in backgrounds.

Acrylic Palette Knives

It’s up to you whether you want to use a palette knife or a paint brush to mix your paints. Palette knives are made specifically for mixing paint on the palette when working with thick acrylic paints. Ideally, if you are mixing a lot of paint at a time, then a palette knife would make the process faster before the paint begins to dry.

Painting knives are used for moving paint around on your canvas. You may like to experiment and use a painting knife instead of a brush to paint your picture. A painting knife is really only suitable if you are using thick acrylic paints and you want to create a rough textured look to your work. If you want to add a lot of fine detail or are after realism then you won’t get that with a painting knife.


There are various types of sponges that you can use in your painting to create interesting effects. They are very handy for spreading out paint over a large surface area.


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