Painting with Acrylics for Beginners by Nancy Reyner
Although many of the materials used in acrylic painting–paint, brushes, mediums, and a surface–will be familiar to any painter, to approach acrylic in the same way you would oil or watercolor, for example, would inhibit you from exploiting the medium’s full capabilities. The more you know about acrylic, the better prepared you are to explore the unique characteristics of this versatile medium, experimenting and varying techniques to suit your needs.
There are two choices for thinning acrylic paint: water or acrylic medium. Water breaks down the binder in acrylic, thinning the paint so that it looks like watercolor and allows it to sink into the surface, resulting in a matte finish. Acrylic medium minimizes the need for the addition of water and allows the paint to sit on top of the surface, maintaining a rich, glossy appearance. The amount of water you add depends on the desired effect and the surface. Adding up to 30 percent water to acrylic paint thins it but still allows it to coat a surface. Adding 60 percent or more water creates a watery paint application called a wash. Rubbing a wash into an absorbent surface so that only a hint of the color remains is called a stain.
Similarly, adding more or less medium to acrylic paint creates different qualities. Up to 30 percent medium added to paint will thin it, but still allow it to coat the surface. Adding 60 percent or more medium creates more transparency, often called a glaze.