Rubbing Alcohol will lift acrylics off if you need to change them. On a gessoed surface they come off almost completely - on softer surfaces it lifts off less readily so test it first. Rubbing Alcohol comes in different strengths - - I don't know which one to recommend!

If you don't like what you've done, rub some denatured alcohol on the thing, and get out your trusty razor blade. All the paint will scrape right off and you'll have your drawing back... or whatever the last layer you crystal clear'd was. Of course, this only works for acrylics, and it's messy.

Do you have any tips for keeping your paint moist? I have tried to use acrylics on several occasions, but my paint always seems to dry out while I'm using some other color. As a watercolorist, I'm (maybe spoiled) but used to having all my colors on the palatte when I need them. I tried this approach with acrylics, but they had all filmed over after working for an hour...Do you thin them with water?

I'm asking all these questions about other media 'cause I'm getting a little weary of the "no turning back" problem with watercolor. One mistake, and ...

I'd love to be able to FIX something by working a little more on it. So often in watercolor, working a little bit more on a bad situation is usually the kiss of death and you have to start all over. And I haven't figured out yet how to make digital files that look good in print as well as on the screen.


Actually, I use these little plastic trays with thirty tiny cups for which were designed for airbrushing. Then I put a folded up wet cloth on top of that, covered with a folded up plastic bag and a phone book on top, which weighs it all down. Sounds absurd, I know. Guess what... they don't make those little trays anymore either! Must I adapt?

I'm quite partial to acrylics, over watercolors... (though I use watercolors as well for many things)

I think acrylics are more flexible, with more distinct colors and the ability to do washes over acrylics is terrific. Imagine trying to do a light blue wash over a strong red watercolor base! Also, one can ink over acrylics, without the ink bleeding... and use acrylics both as opaque and transparent mediums.

John Nez / Illustration

Well then, you've just got to try acrylics. I've been telling Lainey about the advantages of acrylics. You can use them exactly like watercolors... Only the more washes you put on the brighter and stronger the color gets. Also you can use them like gouaches... as opaque paints to cover the painting below. The colors don't bleed... so you can put down strong reds and greens... And then wash over it all with a light blue or yellow... without a trace of colors bleeding. Then you can put inkline down over it all... again without any feathering of the line.

Most people think of acrylics as thick impasto paints... but most illustrators use them in a way similar to watercolors. I use mostly acrylics in my work. Also, they're great for making corrections....either to watercolors or acrylic painting.


One trick to keep them from drying on you (I forget if I've mentioned this before or not) is to squirt out your colors onto a wet paper towel, on a palette with a lip (like an old meat tray). Keep a spray bottle handy. If the paints or the towel start to dry, you just spritz them with the sprayer. If you have to leave, just tightly cover the whole thing with a layer of plastic wrap... I've managed to keep my palette wet for over a week before this way. :)

Specifically, I am a super huge fan of the Liquitex brand. Solid, consistent colors.

Date: Thu, 04 Feb 1999 22:51:26 +0000
From: Lula
Subject: Re: illustration: Acrylics

I use acrylics to paint needlepoint canvases by watering them down and keeping the mixture in little plastic labeled capped jars, just like little bottles of liquid colors. If I want to blend, I'll just dab some on a plastic plate or liner. Easy clean up!

One thing I learned in art school about using the Dr Martin, Luma dyes, gouaches and acrylics was to paint very fast to get a smooth, even finish/wash with broad, even strokes - just something my professors emphasized and I guess I picked it up as I went along so I paint pretty fast.

Of course one can use acrylic drying retardants to keep the paints wet longer.

It's a good idea to keep bottled or covered acrylics in the fridge because the cold will keep certain colors from developing mold after awhile.

Some of my colors develop mold in the summer even though the AC is on but in the winters when the studio is very cool, I don't have much of a problem.


"I too would like to hear any tips on working with acrylics like watercolors. How exactly do you keep your puddles of color washes wet while you're painting?"

Put your paints out on a paper towel, and spritz it with a water bottle every so often to keep it moist.

"What kind of palette do you use, or do you use a palette? How do you clean the stuff up?"

I use a huge old meat tray with a lip. I love the ice cube idea, I'm going to try that. One perk about clean up... because they dry into those big plastic blobs, you can pull the whole thing off in one big "skin". :) And scrape the rest off with a razor blade. If you emerse your pallette in water, the old dried up stuff will wrinkle and come right off.

"In school I was taught to mix acrylics up in ice cube trays with water to the consistency of cream. This is fine if you want fairly opaque paint. If you want washes do you just add more water?"

Yep... although you can also add mat or gloss medium. I used to apply a layer of gloss and a layer of mat medium between each layer of paint. It gave my work this incredible sense of depth... although it won't print quite as well as something more flat.

You can use acrylics the same way you would tube water colors... just keep them well "misted"

- -Heather Capelli

Date: Fri, 05 Feb 1999 09:10:40 -0500
From: "J.Hiscox"
Subject: Re: illustration: Acrylics

I stopped after a VERY brief trial because I found the colour didn't seem to dissolve completely. That is, instead of turning into a smooth wash, I got little lumps (grains) of colour. This was a very long time ago, what do you think, was it just crummy paint? Or does that still happen with some colours?

But my reason for posting is to say: You people who struggle with acrylic drying time, why don't you just use retardent? Is there something I don't know about it?

"If you want washes do you just add more water?"

According to what I was taught, no, if you're thinning a lot you need to add acrylic medium.

I say "according to what I was taught" because I haven't done a whole lot of experimenting with acrylic, it's my least favorite medium. I did however, paint an ancient Turkish carpet on my kitchen floor last month, which I am SO PLEASED with the way it turned out. I used latex paint thinned with acrylic medium to be like water colour, over an opaque latex base. If you want to see it it's on my studio tour tape!


I use acrylics for most of my painting. I keep them in a little plastic tray with thirty little cups that was made for airbrush painting... but just my luck... they're not made anymore. So I'll be on the lookout for the right sized ice cube trays, I guess. I mix the paint to the consistency of cream within the cups, by adding water. To store them, I simply soak a folded cloth over the tray (old tee shirt fabric work great) and I put a folded platic bag over that with a phone book on top to hold it all down. That way the colors last for months on my desk. (I wouldn't want them in the fridge)

To paint, I dip the brush into the colors.... then mix colors on a butcher tray.... and add more water to dilute them with an eyedropper. It's quick and efficient. I might start with a yellow and then change it to an orange by adding red... I might add blue to make it a brown... and so on. I might have five or six little color puddles on the tray. After about fifteen or twenty minutes of painting... I clear off the whole palette with tissue paper and start over again. What I don't like about watercolors is that the colors bleed so easily. Once you've put down some strong reds, you can't touch that part of the painting again. Since I work in lots of washes, acrylics work great. I often use an opaque wash to simplify a part of a painting that looks too busy. Also, acrylics are great for line work... you can load a pen with an acrylic color by painting it with a brush.


I mix my acrylics in old yogurt containers. When I am ready to take a break I just spritz them a bit and put the lid on.


Date: Fri, 05 Feb 1999 13:08:56 -0500
From: linda & karl
Subject: illustration: acrylics . . .

. . . are a beautiful thing.

Phyllis, I use a 11x 14 plastic covered palette (with little wells around the side and a big open mixing space) to keep my paints wet and a spray bottle to keep spraying them every 5 or 10 minutes while I'm a-paintin. You just clean your brushes with soap and water, and some palletes you can have a blast peeling off the dried up paint. I can do that for hours.

You don't have to use them the way you were taught. I don't premix mine with water, I just put em on the tray in globs like oil paint and add water according to what I am doing. I start with washes like watercolor, then go to some heavily thick opaque painting, then do lots and lots of glazing with gel mediums. It is wonderful the many ways you can work with it.


Date: Fri, 05 Feb 1999 13:28:04 -0500
From: linda & karl
Subject: illustration: acrylics

Most colors I use are fine thinned with water for washes. Once I start glazing over other paint though, some colors are ok with water, but some will bead and clump unless I use medium.

As for the mold-- heck, I just paint it into my painting. And any bugs that make a wrong turn too. Adds that decayed look I'm going for...But boy does blue smell bad after a few days. I haven't figured out yet which blue it is, but I suspect the ultramarine....

Date: Fri, 5 Feb 1999 17:14:08 EST
Subject: Re: illustration: Acrylics

Hi Phyllis

I use an old time white butchers tray and only put out the colors I'm going to use usually a BIG blob of white and raw umber. Acrylic color can be too intense for my taste and I usually tone them down with the raw umber. I've found that once a 'skin' forms over the top of a blob of paint the inside stays just right for some time. I pull the paint from bottom side under, not disturbing the top.


While I was browsing around the water media area of the store I spotted these small plastic bottles/jars of Liqutex acrylics (I always find small bottles of things intriguing!). I don't know how new these are, or if anyone on the list has used them, but there was a color chart that explained about them and so I read on.

They are 'medium viscosity' instead of high viscosity like the acrylics that come in the tubes, which means that they are slightly more matt than the regular ones. (The consistency is about what John described after he added a little water... very creamy like heavy cream almost.) They come in small squeezable bottles and the cap also twists off if you want to dip a brush or palette knife into the bottle. Does not yellow, crack or chip. Can be used for airbrush, watercolor and tempera techniques. Is equal to high viscosity formulation in the amount of pigment by volume or weight. Comes in 136 standard and specialty colors. There's a complete write up on it and their other products at Also... this note for Phyllis C... I got a bottle of Acrylic Slow Dri Medium. It's suppose to slow down drying time so that you can blend, shade and do washes. Replaces water for that.


Date: Fri, 05 Feb 1999 20:27:51 -0500
Subject: illustration: Acrylics - Golden

Now for more to check out - Golden acrylics has a number of colors that are designed to be more translucent. They looked at the traditional paints, i.e. the cadmiums that were copied from traditional oils, and noticed how opaque and matte they were. So they developed others that would work more translucently.

And especially helpful is Zinc white instead of Titanium, which we were always told to use. Well, Titanium always grays out, whitens up and opaques another color when mixed. We want it to lighten a color and we get alot more than that! Zinc lightens without the grayed whitening. VERY handy!!

And Golden has several mediums for thinning but holding the pigment in suspension better than water. Matte, glossy, drying retardant gel, etc...

Denise (R)

Date: Sun, 07 Feb 1999 15:42:11 -0500
From: Joel Wilkinson
Subject: illustration: Acrylic resource

Noting the talk here about acrylics, I'd like to suggest you check out "Golden Artist Colors". Their swatch catalogs are actual strokes of paint, so you see exactly what you're ordering. They also have excellent literature. They have fluid acrylics, heavy body acrylics, iridescent colors, interference colors, balanced primaries, mica flake, heavy gloss gel, clear tar gel, polymer varnish, matte soft gel, white absorbent grounds, molding paste, retarder, flow release, etc. They know what they're doing.

Their Web site is:

Okay, I'm done.


The jars are good... they're more watered down than the paint from the tubes. And the pop tops make them convenient. I like the distinct range of colors that acrylics come in ..... try the medium magenta (it's one of my favorites) it's a color that I have not found to be available in watercolors... a lovely shade of pink that seems to be reproduced well in printed samples. Also the permanent light violet (diosazine purple) is one of my favorites for mixing with other colors... then there's paynes grey for toning down the brighter colors. I've never had any success with the additives... I just use plain old water.

Happy Painting!


Date: Sun, 07 Feb 1999 12:18:41 -0500
From: linda & karl
Subject: illustration: acrylics

There is a whole world of acrylic mediums and varnishes I haven't fully explored, but I use Liquitex Gloss Medium & Varnish (one product, not two) to mix in with the paint for glazing, and then after as a varnish coat-- it completely transforms the acrylics from flat to deep rich gorgeous color. My stuff is fairly smooth, mostly glazing with texture underneath, but acrylic can be used in SO many different ways, that is why I love it. My next door neighbor at school was this kid who did these gorgeous thick juicy paintings with a lot of pallet knife work. They were so beautiful and everyone assumed they were oil cause that's what we all worked in, and his really looked like it. There was a big shock when he told everyone that they were acrylic and that they just looked so juicy because he used the gloss medium. That is what changed my mind about acrylics.

Now though I've been having some trouble with the extra shiny-ness for scanning. One of my art directors complained about it, so I just ordered some Liquitex Matte Varnish (not medium) because it claims to bring out the richness like the gloss without the shiny-ness. I am going to try mixing them together for the final coat.

You can use the Matte Medium and Matte Varnish to keep it matte, though I've never tried that.



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