Paintable Acetate

The acetate that graphic and commercial artists use is a strong, transparent or semi-transparent sheet of plastic, available in various thicknesses and used in covers for artwork, in color separation, in retouching, and in animated drawing. A clear paper that has been treated with gels and sizing, it accepts inks, straight watercolor, watercolor thinned with water, gouache or mixes of gouache and watercolor without having the color bead or the paper roll up. Grafix manufactures two forms of watermedia-treated acetate; both are clear. The first, called simply Wet-Media Acetate, is treated on both sides, but it’s not recommended for archival projects. The second, which is archival, is called Dura-Lar and will accept any watermedia (inks, watercolors, acrylics, etc.) on the one, treated side. We asked Ann Pember, author of Painting Close-Focus Flowers in Watercolor (North Light Books) to try both.

The test results:
“I did the exact same mingle of color on each surface,” she said. “The acetate that was treated on both sides accepted the paint fairly well, but it seemed to buckle a little. I preferred the Dura-Lar (the acetate that’s treated on one side), because the paint lay completely flat and seemed more luminous.” What use could a watermedia artist make of acetate? “You could use the acetate to paint on or you could incorporate it into a painting as a collage element (see the article, “Accidentally on Purpose” by Pat San Soucie, Autumn 1999). One good application would be to make monoprints—painting the acetate and then printing on a standard sheet of watercolor paper,” says Pember. “I use acetate for correcting. I put a piece over an area I’m uncertain about. Because it’s clear, I can see what would happen if I made a change; the acetate helps me see if I want to go in that direction. I can try a color and if it doesn’t work, I can just wash it off the acetate (with a tissue, paper towel or a sponge) and try another color. Working with acetate can be easy or hard—it depends on what kind of painter you are. If you put the clear acetate over a troubling spot and paint on the acetate so that the sides and edges remain clear, it’s easy to mop up the paint. If, on the other hand, you are sloppier and paint to the edges, you have to be careful the paint doesn’t run from the acetate onto your painting.”

Product information:

Dura-Lar is available from your local retailer or mail-order catalog. For a store near you or for more information, visit Grafix online at www.

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