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Acrylic Illuminations

Reflective and Luminous Acrylic Painting Techniques Nancy Reyner

Cincinnati, OH

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Special Offers Introduction About This Book

Crash Course on Acrylic Your Acrylic Toolbox Pigment/Color

Acrylic Binders: Mediums, Gels and Pastes Inventing With Your Toolbox

Application Tips and Materials

Distinctive Metallics Essential Tips for Metallics

Basic application of gold leaf Mixing Metal Leaf Textured Metal

Sanding Metal Leaf High Gloss Leaf

Gold Leaf Backgrounds

Intensify Metallic Hues Decorative Designs

Subtractive Glazing Tarnish Effects

Faux Leaf Patinas Drawing on Leaf

Glitter and Metal Flakes Metal Paint

Prismatic Effects

Essential Tips for Reflective Paints Multicolor Imprint

Veiling Layers with Pastes Matte Skins Construction Soft Melted Effects

Multiple Layering Fake Wax

Underglow Effects Overglow Sheens

Prismatic Layering

Embedded Pearlized Color

Secret Tricks to Pouring Essential Tips for Pouring Surfboard Finish Dirty-Mix Pours

The Supreme Pour Smoothing Pours Poured Glazing Deep Pouring

Embedding Objects

Pouring Veiled Effects Halo Staining

Metallic Rainbow

Color Field Staining

Marbleizing Color Fields Shaped Edge Washes

Hard and Soft Edge Pouring

Optical & Luminous Effects

Essential Tips for Optical and Luminous Effects The Paint as Itself

Polished “Stone” Effects Sheen Shifting

Subtractive Metallic Grisaille Metallic Drawing Surfaces Stained Glass Effect Veiling Metal Leaf Glass Refraction

Pouring Embedded Leaf

Fluorescent and Phosphorescent Paints Vibrating Optical Effects High Contrast

Contributing Artists About the Author Dedication Acknowledgments Copyright

Introduction About This Book

Art enhances our lives. Whether we view it for pleasure or create it as artists, art can serve us in ways both private and public. Making art just for ourselves is similar to writing in a diary: the writing is personal and not meant to be read by others, eliminating the need for editing. On the other hand, artists intending to communicate through their work to others will first need to grab someone’s attention with the work visually. Getting attention has more up its sleeve than loud colors or provocative imagery. This book offers fifty ways to “catch the eye.” The range of techniques swing from subtle glazing on metal leaf, to pearly sheens of exotic beetle wings, as well as boldly colored optical effects. Similar to my previous books, Acrylic Revolution and Acrylic Innovation, Acrylic Illuminations is a recipe book of techniques, meant to be used like you would a cookbook for a dinner party. Start by selecting what inspires you and vary the ingredients to your liking. Incorporate them into your current process or allow them to move your work in a new direction. All of my books, like my teaching, are created with the intent to offer ways of inventing, not copying. Step-bystep instruction allows mastery of a technique. It is up to the reader to transform the technique into a finished painting of his or her choice. Some techniques just by themselves can produce a complete painting. Often, however, working further than the technique dictates will push the work from a singular technique into a more satisfying painting. Use the techniques for personal or professional work, for abstract or realistic styles, as backgrounds, top layers or for accents layered in between. Try combining several techniques in one painting by layering each technique separately (see Technique 19 for multiple technique layering). The instructions are not set in stone, but meant to inspire you to change them, encouraging our wonderful innate sense of play. I’d also like to emphasize that techniques are not styles. This means that every technique in this book can be used to create a representational or abstract image in any style. I have purposely varied the artwork examples as reminders, hopefully dispelling a myth that working in acrylic also means that the work must be abstract. As an example, the pouring technique in Technique 26 can be used to create some interesting organic and abstract forms, yet can also create beautiful landscape elements and backgrounds for still life and portraits. Each technique is demonstrated with concise illustrated steps and finished painting examples. A bonus chapter, Crash Course on Acrylic, opens the book and offers an overview on how to use acrylic paints and products to their fullest potential. This first chapter has great tips to guide you through any technique you choose with greater ease. Please read this section, as even experts can benefit. Terms are defined, while general tips and information that pertain to techniques are explained, allowing a fuller understanding of the technical process. This chapter adds multiple ways to individualize techniques by expanding and varying them to your preferences. The remaining four chapters contain fifty techniques, grouped together by particular materials or visual effects. Specific tips for those techniques are included in the first two pages of each chapter. These tip pages are vital to obtain best results. Please read these as they can save you both time and money. Best wishes for inspiration, new ideas and eye-catching results!


Crash Course on Acrylic

Acrylic offers a wide variety of painting possibilities. This example combines Techniques 33, 34 and 41.

The techniques in this book are meant to be self-explanatory. Yet the more we know about the paint and medium the better we can play around with instructions, experimenting and changing them to suit our own needs. This first section is dedicated to exploring essential aspects of acrylic for the painter. Reading through this section will hopefully equip you with helpful ideas and tips allowing more ease and success with the fifty techniques that follow. In workshops I often use the following analogy to help students understand that acrylic is not “just paint.” For me, acrylic paint is to all other mediums as Photoshop is to a typewriter. Imagine only using Photoshop to type a letter! We would be missing out on the vast possibilities that Photoshop has to offer. It’s the same with acrylic. To approach acrylic only as if we are painting with oil or watercolor would inhibit us from its broad range of painting potential. To help explain this concept, I’ve created a chart covering an overview of acrylic

painting. For those who don’t like charts, keep reading the pages immediately following for an explanation of each facet of the chart.

Your Acrylic Toolbox

Inventing with Your Toolbox

Your Acrylic Toolbox

For our purposes as painters, let’s simplify the concept of paint into two components: pigment and binder. Pigment adds color while binder makes it paintable. Binder, also referred to as vehicle or medium, transforms the pigment particles into a wet form creating a substance we can use as paint. All paints have these same two main components. Oil paint is colored pigment held together with oil as the binder. Casein is colored pigment held together with milk as the binder. Egg tempera uses egg as binder. Watercolor’s binder is not water but gum arabic. Acrylic paint is colored pigment held together with acrylic binder (also referred to as polymer or plastic). Whatever term you choose, acrylic binders create wonderful paint. Acrylic is now considered the most archival of all paints. It won’t yellow or crack like oil and is not delicate and resoluble like watercolor. Labs that test the longevity of acrylic for stability and permanence use accelerated time testing to simulate what the paint film would be exposed to (such as light, dust and air) for 500 years or more. Even though acrylic has only been available as a paint for a little over seven decades, these tests verify its archival potential. Other factors like storage conditions, quality of substrates used, painting methods, and whether the artist incorporated archival materials and methods such as varnishing with UV protection also play a role in a painting’s archival capacity.

Acrylic—More Than Just Paint Paint stickers is a term and process invented by the artist whereby acrylic is painted onto self-stick vinyl creating homemade “stickers.” VELOCITY (INSTALLATION) Jane Callister

Acrylic on canvas (painting on wall), acrylic on foam sculptures (floor) and acrylic paint stickers (walls), 72" × 25" × 12" (183cm × 762cm × 366cm). Courtesy of the artist.

VELOCITY, (DETAIL) Jane Callister Acrylic on canvas, 48" × 60" (122cm × 152cm) Courtesy of the artist.


There are plenty of scientific articles on this topic; however, for simplicity we can organize artist paint colors into three main categories based on their pigments: mineral (also called inorganic), modern (also called organic) and reflective (iridescent and interference paints). The pigments in the mineral category, as well as the reflective categories, contain both natural and synthetic pigments, while pigments in the modern category are all synthetic. Modern paints tend to have new-sounding names like Phthalo and Quinacridone, while mineral paints usually have familiar-sounding names like Ochre, Cadmium and Burnt Sienna. If you could see pigment particles in a microscope, the pigments in the mineral category look like dusty boulders while the modern ones resemble pieces of stained glass. Mineral colors have a consistent hue whether applied thinly (to reveal its undertone) or thickly (to create its masstone), offer more opaque coverage, apply evenly with a brush, and dry to a matte sheen. Modern colors are opaque and darker in hue when applied thickly, while super bright and transparent when used thinly. Modern colors appear streaky when brush applied due to this dramatic visual difference between thick and thin applications and dry glossy. Some other differences include tinting strengths. Minerals get immediately dull and chalky when white is added, while moderns “pop” or get intensely brighter with a small amount of white. When mixing colors, moderns are “cleaner” and don’t turn muddy as fast as minerals. Moderns are powerful color mixers that strongly affect the resulting color when added to a mixture. Reflective paints reflect light and refract color. These unique pigments have their own special set of guidelines covered in more detail in Section 3: Essential Tips for Reflective Paints.

The wide variety of acrylic paint colors open up incredible possibilities for abstract or representational imagery. SPACE AND TIME Sandra Duran Wilson Acrylic transfers and collage on aluminum with poured resin, 8" Ă— 8" (20cm Ă— 20cm)

Acrylic Binders: Mediums, Gels and Pastes

Visiting the acrylic section of an art store can be mind-boggling, yet most products are either paint or binder. Paint has color pigment with acrylic binder (polymer), while the other products represent various binders that can be divided into three main types: mediums, gels and pastes. Consider the chemist’s process for making a good polymer painting binder. Beginning with a high quality polymer a few additives like retarder and mold inhibitor are included for ease of use and storage. Adding thickener creates thicker mediums and gels. Adding more retarder will create a slow-drying medium. Adding matting agent makes matte mediums or gels. Adding white or opaque components makes pastes. Additional materials such as pumice, glass beads, metal and fiber are added to make unusual gels. Of course, adding pigment makes paint. For painters there is much to choose from. Acrylic binders are keys to interesting new special effects, allowing opportunities to change nearly all aspects of the paint and painting surface.

Transparent vs. Translucent vs. Opaque When dry, the mediums and gels have turned clear and glossy, while the paste still remains white and opaque. A small swatch of matte medium and matte gel are applied to the bottom of their gloss counterparts to show the translucent quality of matte products. Colors look deceivingly tinted when wet, but dry to their natural color. This means the more mediums and gels that are added into a color mixture, the greater the difference in color between wet and dry. Pastes are an exception since they are white when wet and stay white when dry. Mix pastes into your paint and the colors stay almost the same from wet to dry.


Polymer, which is naturally thin, combined with pigments makes fluid paints. Thickeners are added to the polymer to create heavy-bodied paints. Acrylic paint is available ready-made in these different consistencies: fluid and heavy body. Thicker paint allows for texture, while fluids make it easier to obtain watercolor-like effects, and smooth or brushless paint applications resembling enamel or gouache. Acrylic inks (high-flow and airbrush colors) are thinner than fluids and produce interesting results when used in some techniques such as pouring (see Technique 27). What does paint consistency mean to us as painters? A common misconception is that fluids are merely a diluted version of heavy-bodied paints. Their color intensities are the same since a fluid paint is not a diluted

version of the thicker paint. The pigment-to-binder ratios are the same for both, so price per volume is also the same. You will not save any money by diluting heavy body paints to create your own fluid paints. Let’s say you wanted a washy watercolor effect with no texture. If you start with the heavy body paints you would need to heavily dilute them with water, which also heavily dilutes the color’s intensity. By starting with fluids, you’ll need less water to make a wash, keeping the color intensity strong. UNDERSTANDING TRANSPARENCY

Each type of binder, as well as each paint color, has its own quality in terms of transparency versus opacity. You can customize the transparency and opacity of paints by adding binders. Transparent binders (such as gloss mediums or gels) allow an underlying color, image or surface to show through, while opaque binders (such as pastes) cover up whatever is underneath. Adding gloss mediums or gels to paint increases transparency, while adding pastes increases opacity. Adding matte mediums or gels to paint creates translucency, offering opportunities to replicate wax and other veiling effects (see Techniques 17, 20 and 45). Adding more or less of each of the above creates varying degrees of transparency, translucency or opacity. As an example, glazes are made by mixing very small amounts of paint color into mediums. Substitute gels for mediums in this scenario to make contemporary textural glazes (read further in this section for more glazing information). In summary, mediums are thin and pourable, smoothing the paint or surface. Gels and pastes are thick, adding texture to the paint or surface. Gloss mediums and gels are transparent, matte mediums and gels are translucent, and pastes are opaque. Additives such as retarder and flow release are not acrylic binders. These need to be used in correct proportions as described on their product labels.

Dramatic combinations of paint and binders (gels, mediums and pastes) are used in this large-scale painting to create a variety of texture, sheens, transparencies and color vibrancy. ROUND MIDNIGHT

Jim Waid Acrylic on canvas, 72" × 60" (183cm × 152cm)

Inventing With Your Toolbox

We can call our toolbox components The Big Four: paint, mediums, gels and pastes. By mixing, combining and layering these four we can customize, change, experiment and invent in our painting process, materials and art. WATER VERSUS MEDIUMS

There are two choices for thinning acrylic paint: water or acrylic medium. Water breaks down the binder in acrylic, and like a solvent, will thin the paint so that it appears like watercolor and will result in a matte finish. Adding acrylic mediums instead, while minimizing any addition of water, maintains the rich, glossy acrylic appearance. The more water you add, the more it is affected by the surface on which it is applied. Up to 30% water added to paint thins the paint, but still allows it to coat over a surface. Adding 60% or more water creates an over-diluted watery paint called a wash. Rubbing a wash into an absorbent surface so only a hint of the color remains is called a stain. Similarly with mediums, adding more or less medium to paint creates different qualities. Up to 30% medium added to paint will thin (a thick paint) allowing the paint to coat the surface. Adding 60% or more medium creates more transparency, often called a glaze. Adding water or medium are both viable ways to change the paint; however, it is helpful to know that adding either of the two choices produces very different results. Many techniques in this book require the use of one or the other where a layer of paint is created by a wash using water to sink into the surface or else mediums to coat the surface by sitting on top. When paint sinks into the surface, the color is less intense and has a matte appearance. When paint sits on top of the surface, the undiluted binder enhances color intensity and appears glossy. For paint to sink down into the surface it needs two components: 1) enough water mixed into the paint to create a wash and 2) surface absorbency. For acrylic to sit on top, or to layer, keep the use of water to a minimum and instead add any amount of mediums or gels. You can have more control over your paint and painting effects by avoiding continually spraying acrylic paint with water or haphazardly adding water to slow drying times. SURFACE ABSORBENCY

A surface primed with gesso is a bit midstream, neither absorbent or non-absorbent, so applying washes over it will not always get good results. You can easily change surface absorbency by applying a ground before painting. A ground is an acrylic gel or paste applied over a primed or gessoed surface and allowed to dry before painting. The ground changes how the surface accepts paint (see Techniques 11, 33 and 34). Pastes, such as Light Molding Paste, Coarse Molding Paste, Crackle Paste and Pumice Gel, make great absorbent grounds for creating watercolor effects. Nonabsorbent or glossy grounds, however, repel washes, creating unusual variegated effects (see Technique 34). Nonabsorbent grounds include Molding Paste, any gloss medium or gel such as Soft Gel Gloss, and pouring mediums. Best results are obtained when grounds are allowed to dry at least overnight before applying washes. Increase the washy effect by spraying the dried grounds with water before applying washes.

The gold leaf background is visible through layers of transparent and opaque paint colors. These are obtained two ways: diluting paint color with water to create a wash and mixing paint color with mediums to create a glaze. LANDSCAPE & GALACTIC DUST Nancy Reyner Acrylic and gold leaf on panel, 48" Ă— 60" (122cm Ă— 152cm)


A wash and glaze are both terms for transparent applications of color, however one is made with water, breaking down the binder, while the other uses mediums, maintaining a rich polymer content allowing better covering power. (See Section 4: Essential Tips for Pouring, as the descriptions there of wash pours and coated pours parallel the differences between washes and glazes.) Washes and stains are easy to use on absorbent surfaces or layers (usually matte). A glaze is best used on a nonabsorbent surface or layer, (usually glossy). When you wish to apply a transparent layer of color, take a moment to look at the surface absorbency. If it is matte then use a wash, if it is glossy, use a glaze. If it is matte and you would rather use a glaze, apply a coat of gloss medium, let it dry, then apply the glaze. The reverse is true as well. If your surface is glossy and you want to apply a wash, first apply a product with a transparent grit, like a clear acrylic gesso or acrylic matte medium over the gloss to change the surface.


When would glazing be an appropriate technique? Glazing shifts underlying colors. It is mainly used as a transparent layer of color applied over an existing color layer. Let’s say you painted a realistic portrait and the skin tone turned out to be too yellow. Applying a transparent layer of purple (yellow’s opposite on the color wheel) would neutralize the yellow, correcting the skin tone. The trick is in applying the purple evenly, subtly and transparently. Modern paint colors (i.e. Quinacridones, Phthalos, Dioxazines) are transparent when used thinly but are tricky to use alone as glazes. Modern paints are so vibrant they easily overpower any colors underneath and may apply streaky. Adding a slow-drying medium in a 1:1 ratio (or more) will ease application and tone down the intensity of color, even for a high-powered Dioxazine Purple. Always make a glaze mixture starting with medium and slowly adding to it very small amounts of paint color. Mix well with a knife, and test it periodically to see if it is the right transparency by brush applying the glaze mixture onto a scrap surface. Quickly dry the area with a blow dryer to see the actual color when dry (see Technique 7 for glazing over gold leaf).

A variety of techniques are used here including wash pouring wet in wet, splashing into the wet paint, and applying “paint stickers” (invented by the artist by painting directly onto self-stick vinyl). EXPELLED Jane Callister Acrylic on canvas, 36" × 72" (91cm × 183cm) Courtesy of the artist.


Combining binders (mediums, gels and pastes) with paint is a key painting tool, offering opportunities for inventing and personalizing techniques and processes. Acrylic paints and binders can be layered in any order, as well as combined in any mixture with no technical problems or risks. For example, mixing a gloss gel with a matte gel makes a custom semigloss or satin gel. Combine any acrylic gel, medium, paste or color altogether in one mixture to invent a unique concoction that won’t yellow, crack or separate. Be aware, though, that some mixing can cancel out special qualities. For example, a reflective paint when mixed with too much of an opaque paint color will no longer be reflective. There are three easy ways to think about combining paint with binders:

1. Add Binder Into Paint to Extend or Customize. Binders can be added into paint as extenders, which increase the paint quantity without adding more of the expensive pigmented paint. Add binders into paint to change any of the paint qualities. For instance, adding gloss gel slows down the drying time, while adding paste quickens drying times. Gloss gels and mediums will enhance color as the gloss increases refraction, while matte products can mute color. Add gels or mediums to increase transparency, or add paste to increase opacity. Gels can add texture while mediums enhance leveling. Mix white paste into a mineral paint color to tint or lighten it without the usual chalkiness that occurs when adding white paint. Add gel into a modern paint color to even out the difference between its dark masstone and bright undertone, allowing for an even application of paint. Add gels to fluid paints to thicken, and add mediums to heavy body paints to thin. 2. Layer Binder Under Paint as a Ground or Wet Layer. As mentioned previously in this section on Surface Absorbency, binders (mediums, gels or pastes) can create a ground, changing surface absorbency. Many special effects are obtained this way. Apply grounds in the beginning or at any point in the painting process to change how the paint is absorbed into the surface of the underlying layer. In addition to absorbency, applying grounds can smooth or texture a surface, add color, and make the surface reflective or matte. (See Techniques 15, 42 and 43 for unusual ground effects.) 3. Layer Binder Over Paint to Change Surfaces and Sheens. Gels, pastes and mediums can be used as overlayers, applied over paint or layers to change sheens and absorbencies, protect underlying delicate materials, and add or smooth out texture. Overlayering can be done under or over any particular painting layer, giving maximum flexibility in the painting process. (See Techniques 18 and 24 for wet layering. See Techniques 16, 22 and 45 for dry layering. See Section 4: Essential Tips for Pouring.)

Multiple poured layers of clear gloss (Technique 25) over layers of painted color create a luminous quality. RAVEN’S MARK 2 Bonnie Teitelbaum Acrylic on panel, 18" × 18" (46cm × 46cm)

Application Tips and Materials

Acrylic can be used underneath other mediums (such as oil, gouache, watercolor, pastel or casein) for underpaintings or custom surfaces. Avoid applying acrylic over oil, encaustic or other non-acrylic mediums, or mixing together in wet mixtures. Keep in mind the following: • A layer is when one wet application of paint or products is applied over a dry one. • Acrylic is a glue. Add mixed media collage materials into acrylic paint or binders while wet and all will stick. • In general, it’s better to mix paint with a knife. Brushes are meant to hold paint, while knives easily release it. Mix a batch of paint with a knife for a clean, homogenized mixture. Use a brush for mixing paint in a hodgepodge manner, for a painting technique called dirty brushing. A residual amount of soap from processing sometimes creates bubbles with vigorous stirring or handling. Avoid bubbles by mixing with a palette knife instead of a stiff bristle brush, stir gently and avoid shaking. • As you paint, keep brushes in water until you can clean them well with soap. Soap removes paint from the brush more effectively than water alone. If a brush in use is left out of water too long, paint will dry on the brush, making it difficult to remove later. To make cleaning easier, slightly dampen the brush bristles with water before dipping them into the acrylic paint. • Acrylic shrinks or reduces down in volume by about 30% as it dries. This is most noticeable when using thick applications. Generally, apply a paint layer that is a little thicker than what you want at completion. • Be aware of the “tacky phase.” While the paint is still wet, it is very malleable. You can scrape it, wipe it off and rework it with ease. As you continue to work into this wet paint, however, it is already beginning to dry. Once it dries to the touch, it has a wonderfully resistant surface on which you can overlay new paints without disturbing what is underneath. It is between the wet stage and this dry-to-the-touch stage when problems can occur. Between the wet and dry stages, the acrylic gets tacky, and continued working over this tacky area can create unwanted effects such as streaking or pulling as the paint sticks to your brush. Initially, acrylic glides smoothly and easily, but as it reaches this tacky phase, it will begin to pull and feel difficult to manipulate. At this point, stop painting in that area, and move on to a dryer area of the painting. If you need to keep working in the tacky area, use a blow-dryer for a minute to dry it quickly, then resume painting. Avoid blow-drying very thick layers. Also, be aware that the paint on your brush will dry quickly. Make a habit of rinsing frequently to keep the paint from getting tacky on your brush. • Do not freeze unused acrylic paints or products. Sometimes oil painters freeze the excess paint on their palettes to prolong the paints’ life. Avoid this with acrylic. Acrylic contains a certain amount of antifreeze, but after a few freeze-and-thaw cycles, the unused paint will no longer be reliable. ARCHIVAL METHODS AND MATERIALS

There are three acrylic products best defined separately from paint or binder categories. They are: stain sealer, primer and varnish. Each is used for specific archival purposes. This means that correct use of these in your work will keep your work looking the way you want for a longer period of time. Stain Sealers Apply a stain sealer to the painting support in order to avoid yellowing or staining that may seep from the support into layers of acrylic paint and products. Thick or multiple layers of acrylic increase chances of this staining. Use commercial stain blockers found in home improvement and paint stores, or fine art stain blockers (i.e. GAC 100) available in art stores.

Primers Apply a good quality acrylic primer over any stain sealing to add adhesion between the first layer of paint or grounds applied to the substrate. A common primer used for oil and acrylic painters is acrylic gesso. A cheaper gesso may be adequate for oil painters. Priming is recommended for protecting the surface from dissolving from oil painting solvents. Acrylic, though, will not harm substrates and so a primer is not needed for protection. However, added adhesion strength with just one coat of a good quality acrylic primer is recommended. The painting will have a better chance of staying intact if exposed to harsh climate situations. Avoid using gesso as a white paint, as it may crack when used thickly. A support or substrate comes with its own particular absorbency quality, and priming with gesso can change that if desired. When applying thick layers of products as your first layer on a substrate such as Pumice Gel, priming with gesso underneath helps the layer to adhere better. A primed support using gesso will inhibit warping if you are working with lots of water or washes of paint. There are many reasons you may or may not want to prime your support. When in doubt apply one coat of a good white gesso as a primer on your raw or sealed support before applying paint or other acrylic products. Varnishes Apply one or more coats of an archival (fine art quality) painting varnish as a final coat. Archival varnish is removable. This allows the painting to be cleaned in the future by removing the varnish. Varnishes are available with added UV protection to keep the colors from fading, and come in your choice of sheen (gloss, matte or satin). Avoid using varnish in mid-layers; instead, use acrylic mediums. Varnishes can be brush applied over smooth or slightly textured paintings, but are best sprayed for thinner applications and for highly textured or delicate surfaces.

Choosing Archival Materials A manufacturer interested in high quality paints for artists will choose a good binder. There are over a hundred polymers commercially available. For fine art, polymer that will not crack, yellow or change in structure or appearance for 500 years or more is required to be considered archival. Water-based craft glues and house paint use non-archival polymers adequate for other non-art purposes. Choosing to use high quality art materials will enable your work to last longer in the way it is meant to be seen. There are a vast amount of choices in paint colors. Each has a lightfast rating listed on the container or obtainable from the paint manufacturer. For example, if you are going to paint an outdoor mural exposed to sunlight, choose paints with good lightfast ratings to diminish fading. Adding a final application of a UV varnish helps even more. CARE AND STORAGE

Acrylic has a two-part drying process. The first part of the acrylic drying process, known as dry to the touch, means the top layer of the paint skin has dried due to the evaporation of the water in the paint. This allows for fast layering. The second part of the drying process, the curing phase, takes several days to several weeks for the polymer to “lock down� or fully cure. The actual curing time is dependent on the layer’s thickness and environmental factors but in general plan on two weeks. During this time, it is important to allow air to flow around the finished painting, so avoid tightly wrapping the painting, storing the artwork in a closed environment or exposing it to temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If your painting freezes during this phase it may never recover enough for the paint to continue curing to form a strong paint film and bond.

Once cured there are still some considerations to proper handling. When wrapping your painting, be sure to only allow smooth wrapping materials to touch the painting surface. Acrylic paintings soften in hot temperatures and stiffen in cold. If the painting is wrapped in bubble wrap with the bubble side touching the painting’s surface, when it gets hot (i.e. while in transport) the acrylic may soften and take on the impression of the bubbles. Heat will also cause it to stick to other surfaces that contact it, especially for glossy surfaces. Use cardboard for transport or a nonstick plastic such as High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). Occasionally wipe the painting off with a damp cloth to remove dust and any other elements which may come through to the upper surface long after the painting is cured. Be kind to your paintings, they are worth it. TOOLS AND SURFACES

Apply acrylic paints and products on just about any surface, whether flexible like canvas and fabric, or rigid like wood and panels. The few surfaces that acrylic will not stick to can be used as removable surfaces for mixing palettes and creating skins (see Techniques 17 and 39). Nonstick surfaces include HDPE plastic used for garbage bags and painting drop cloths, freezer paper (not waxed paper), plastic wrap (not ones with extra cling), and protective report covers found in office supply stores. Apply a mold release or release spray onto glass for another nonstick surface option. Please note that acrylic will stick to most other forms of Plexi surfaces. Adhering paint to slick non-acrylic surfaces like glass and metal should be strengthened by applying a commercial primer or light sanding. Tools for applying paint can be anything. Any type of brush or knife will work. Experiment by using homemade tools, objects found at home and other nonart items like combs, feathers, hands, credit cards and brooms. Mixed media and other nonpaint materials such as paper and objects can be adhered into the painting, but often are not lightfast. To reduce fading of these non-archival materials, apply a finishing coat using a product with UV protection. CUSTOMIZE DRYING TIMES

Acrylic generally dries quick, making it easy for layering. Acrylic drying times vary according to climates. Wet and cold climates slow down drying time, while dry and warm climates speed it up. New slow-drying acrylic paints, recently introduced on the market, are available in fine art stores (i.e. Golden’s line of slow drying acrylic called Open offering up to 24 hour open, or wet, time). The thicker the paint is applied to the painting or palette the more time it takes to dry. Likewise, if the paint is spread out thinly on the painting substrate or palette, it dries faster. Paint applied on absorbent surfaces dries faster than if the surface is glossy and therefore nonabsorbent. Adding gloss gel, retarder, slow-drying mediums or a small amount of water into the paint will all slow drying times. Use a room humidifier to slow drying. To quicken drying times put the painting in the sun, near a heater, near circulating air such as an open window or fan, blow dry with a hair dryer, add paste into the paint, or apply thinly.

Archival methods were used to keep this painting lasting longer. On a wood panel, one coat of stain blocker using GAC 100 was applied, followed by one coat of acrylic gesso. After painting was complete, a final coat of varnish with UV protection was applied to seal and protect the painting. THE BOOK OF CREATION (TRIPTYCH) Nancy Reyner Acrylic and gold leaf on panel, 36" Ă— 64" (91cm Ă— 163cm)


Distinctive Metallics

BLACK BOWL Sherry Loehr Acrylic and gold leaf on board 24" × 24" (61cm × 61cm)

Collection of Robert and Carol Lamb

The high sheen and reflective qualities of metal are quite seductive and eye-catching. Techniques in this section include materials such as gold leaf, metal leaf, sheet metal and metallic paints. Gold leaf, in particular, has been used throughout history for Eastern Christian icons, illuminated manuscripts and in paintings from the Byzantine period to Michelangelo. Modern artists such as Gustav Klimt and contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst continue the aesthetic.

DESERT DUNES Suzanne Donazetti Painted and woven copper 16" Ă— 24" (41cm Ă— 61cm) Photo credit: Mike McKee

Essential Tips for Metallics

Metal leaf refers to squares of metal hammered into very thin sheets sold between pieces of tissue for ease in handling and storing. Metal leaf comes in many forms and is easily obtained from art stores and gilding supply companies. In some cases using real gold leaf is essential, especially for traditional water gilding methods. For the techniques in this book it is not necessary to use real gold leaf. When a leaf surface is eventually covered with layers of paint, mediums or placed over texture, it is not worth spending the extra cost for real gold. Imitation leaf is still made of metal and has its own luminous metallic sheen and qualities. The demonstrations in this section that use imitation leaf can also be used with real gold leaf, thicker sheets of metal or metal paint. Feel free to substitute metal sheeting or metallic paints for most techniques in this section that call for metal leaf. Leaf needs adhesive to adhere to a painting surface. There are two types of adhesives (also called glue or size): water-based or solvent-based. Either one can be used for the techniques in this section. The solvent-based adhesive levels out easier for a smoother look, but is toxic, so I prefer the non-toxic water-based version. Some imitation leaf is available already prepared with glue on one side, but its mesh texture becomes visible on the surface. I prefer using the loose or unprepared leaves as they can be applied without this texture. Layering gold leaf over a surface is called gold leafing or gilding. Traditional water gilding is the most difficult approach, with its process remaining virtually unchanged for hundreds of years. Water gilding produces a very smooth and glossy sheen useful for framing and icon painting. I prefer adhering leaf with size which reveals the artists hand and will better integrate visually with added paint techniques. The water gilding technique is not included in this book as it requires a book in itself and there are other comprehensive ones already available.

Metal Paint Versus Metal Leaf There is a big difference in reflective qualities between the metal paint and metal leaf, shown here. Fluid Iridescent Gold (Fine) paint is knife applied on the left, while imitation gold leaf is adhered on the right. Iridescent paints reflect more than regular paints, but leaf still wins out regarding high sheen. See Technique 5 to get the most reflective effects.

Gold Leaf and Metal Leaf Real gold leaf is often confused with imitation gold leaf. Real gold leaf comes in squares measuring 3.25" × 3.25" (8.3cm × 8.3cm). Prices vary according to the price of gold. Imitation gold leaf is commonly referred to as gold leaf but is made with a combination of zinc and copper, containing no real gold. It comes in squares measuring 5.5" × 5.5 (14cm × 14cm) and is significantly cheaper.

Metal Leaf Comes in a Wide Variety

Compare how the gold and silver leafed backgrounds in these paintings evoke warm or cool undertones. MOUNTAIN POEM IN SILVER

Nancy Reyner Acrylic and silver leaf on panel 16" × 12" (41cm × 30cm)

STARGATE Nancy Reyner

Acrylic and gold leaf on panel 48" × 36" (122cm × 91cm)


Basic application of gold leaf

Create a dramatic metallic surface with gold leaf or other types of metal leaf on most painting surfaces. The last step in this demonstration seals the leaf to inhibit tarnishing, and to enhance adhesion between paint and leaf. For more information on leaf, see Essential Tips for Metallics. Before applying the leaf, consider your preference for the final outcome. The smoother the surface under the leaf, the more glossy and shiny the leaf appears, while a textured surface such as canvas or those with applied textural grounds offer a softer satin appearance. Prepare the surface accordingly by following Technique 5 to smooth a surface or Technique 3 for adding texture. The smooth premade wood panel used in this technique needs no preparation. If desired, paint the surface with your preferred acrylic paint color. It will only be visible in small areas where the leaf does not stick.

Materials List

Substrate Any painting surface Tools A large flat soft paintbrush, a small flat stiff-bristled paintbrush, rag (or cotton balls or cheesecloth), waxed paper Products Gold or metal leaf in square sheets, oil or water-based leaf sizing, solvent-based clear gloss acrylic (i.e. MSA Gloss Varnish for brush application or Golden’s Archival Spray Gloss) For Clean Up Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Apply Adhesive to the Surface Using a soft brush, apply leaf adhesive (also called glue or sizing) to the dry surface in a very thin layer. Do not dilute the size with water to thin, instead work quickly with moderate pressure on the brush to spread it thinly. To avoid applying thickly, see how far a small amount of sizing can extend instead of continually loading up the brush. Let dry until sizing goes from wet to tacky, about 20 minutes in average climates. This can stay tacky for up to 24 hours giving ample time to apply the leaf. Test for correct tack by touching the applied adhesive lightly with your knuckle. If size is tacky but still stays on the surface and doesn’t transfer to your knuckle, it’s ready. Like most acrylic products, the sizing is white when wet and dries clear.

STEP 2 Handling the Metal Leaf Cut a piece of waxed paper slightly larger then the square leaf. Lower this firmly down onto the leaf and with the side of your hand wipe gently over all the wax paper area creating static which temporarily sticks the leaf to the wax paper.

STEP 3 Adhere the Leaf The leaf, attached to the waxed paper, can now be easily carried to your support and positioned over the area it will be placed. Take a moment to see where it’s going, then lower it down. Rub gently with your hand over the wax paper and leaf so the leaf transfers, sticking to the size. Remove the wax paper. Repeat with more leaf, allowing each square to generously overlap with each other, until the surface is fully leafed.

STEP 4 Fix Gaps as Necessary For gaps accidentally occurring between squares, simply fill in with smaller pieces of leaf using your hand.

STEP 5 Burnish the Leaf Using a cotton ball, soft cloth or cheesecloth, rub the entire surface using firm pressure over wax paper to protect the leaf while burnishing all leafed areas.

STEP 6 Clean off Excess Leaf Gently pick off the excess leaf in overlapped areas using a small stiff bristle brush. Let dry at least three days.

Finished Example

STEP 7 Seal the Surface Sealing the leafed surface allows easier applications of subsequent paint layers. It also protects the leaf from abrasive techniques that use sanding or removing paint layers. Sealing enhances adhesion for paint layers (important for some imitation leaf that is coated with wax by the manufacturer). Sealing inhibits imitation leaf from tarnishing by exposure to air or ammonia (a common ingredient in acrylic products). Seal using a spray for textured surfaces or brush apply for light texture or smooth surfaces using a solvent-based clear gloss acrylic. Companies that sell leaf usually sell an appropriate sealer. After applying the sealer, let dry a few days then apply a thin coat of an acrylic (polymer) gloss medium (do not dilute with water) for additional protection. The leaf surface is now ready to overpaint or use with other techniques in this book.


Almost any surface can be used for leafing, however, rigid sturdy panels work best if planning to continue overpainting the leaf with other techniques such as sanding or pouring. Use a lint-free rag to apply the size instead of a brush for smoother applications. Spray leaf adhesives are available if preferred. Instead of applying leaf over the entire surface, apply leaf over painted or selected areas of a painting already in process.


Mixing Metal Leaf

Combine a variety of metal leaf for a dazzling metallic effect. For leaf choices, see Essential Tips for Metallics at the beginning of this section.

Materials List

Substrate Any painting surface with adhesive applied (see Step 1, Technique 1) Tools Wax paper, flat soft paintbrush, flat stiff-bristled paintbrush, rag (or cotton balls or cheesecloth) Products Two or more varieties of metal leaf, leaf adhesive For clean-up Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Prepare Surface, Then Rip Metal Leaf in Shapes Prepare the surface by following Step 1, Technique 1 to apply the size. Sheets of metal leaf come sandwiched between tissue. Grasp the leaf with the tissue and gently rip or cut into desired

shapes. This multi-colored leaf is called Variegated.


Seal the leaf surface to inhibit tarnishing and for ease in overpainting techniques (Step 7, Technique 1).

STEP 2 Adhere Shapes to the Surface Place ripped leaf shapes where desired on the tacky adhesive surface, using the wax paper method in Step 2, Technique 1 or just place the leaf with your hands as pictured. Allow leaf shapes to overlap. Here is red variegated leaf and blue variegated leaf applied over a smooth wood panel pre-painted with Red Oxide then sized with a water-based adhesive.

STEP 3 Continue to Leaf in Areas Continue to use a variety of leaf. Here imitation gold leaf contrasts the red and blue variegated ones previously applied. Apply leaf in all desired areas.

STEP 4 Finish Burnish and clean off excess leaf (Steps 5 and 6, Technique 1). Here is the finished combination using three leaf varieties.

A combination of leaf types adds a visual texture. Continuing from Technique 2, Step 4, additional variegated leaf is applied on the bottom, while other areas are overpainted using Techniques 4, 7 and 9.

CAIRN Nancy Reyner Acrylic and metal leaf on panel 40" × 30" (102cm × 76cm)

Variegated gold leaf is applied over a painted textured surface.

LEVITATE Bonnie Teitelbaum Acrylic and gold leaf on panel, 16" × 12" (41cm × 30cm)


Textured Metal

Metal leaf takes on various personas visually shifting according to what is underneath. A textured surface using acrylic pastes and gels under leaf looks like textured metal, with a soft reflective quality. For this demonstration, a wood panel surface uses Step 1, Technique 34 with knife-applied Molding Paste and black paint in a soft natural texture.

Materials List

Paint 1 or more acrylic paint colors Substrate Any primed painting surface Tools Painting knife or other textural tool, large flat soft paintbrush, small flat stiff-bristled paintbrush, rag (or cotton balls or cheesecloth), mixing palette or container Products A thick acrylic paste or gel, a slow-drying gloss acrylic medium, metal leaf, leaf adhesive, wax paper, solvent-based clear gloss acrylic spray For clean-up Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Add Texture to the Surface Combine a paint color with any thick acrylic gel or paste and mix well with a knife. Use enough paint color into the binder to keep the color strong. Apply the mixture to the surface with a knife. Use more for high relief or less for low relief. Create textural patterns with a knife or other tool.

Imitation gold leaf over low relief texture

Imitation gold leaf over high relief texture

STEP 2 Apply Metal Leaf Use Steps 1–7 in Technique 1 to apply the leaf and seal.

STEP 3 Emphasize Texture (Optional)

Optionally emphasize the texture by glazing. Combine a paint color with a slow-drying acrylic medium in a 1:1 ratio and mix well to make a glaze. Brush apply the glaze liberally over the surface. While wet, gently wipe the mixture off with a clean, dry rag. Leave some glaze in the lines and crevices created from the texture. This glaze combines Cobalt Teal and Acrylic Glazing Liquid Gloss.


Experiment in Step 1 using textural gels such as glass bead gel or pumice gel. Substitute iridescent paint for the leaf in Step 2.

Textural Tools Choose from a wide variety of tools to create texture, including easily accessible household items such as combs and credit cards.

A “textured metal” technique is used here to great effect. Molding Paste, squeezed out of a hole in a plastic bag, creates this texture on canvas, prepainted with red and yellow. Gold leaf is applied over the texture, and rubbed with umber and black for a tarnished effect. KNOTTED Maya Malioutina Acrylic and gold leaf on canvas 30" × 30" (76cm × 76cm)

Molding Paste mixed with iridescent paint is applied in a combed texture. Collaged papers create the ribbonlike designs. Interference glazes are added on top to enhance the metallic refraction. See Techniques 22 and 23. MERRILY, MERRILY, MERRILY, MERRILY 2 Patricia Forbes Acrylic and paper collage on panel 24" Ă— 24" (61cm Ă— 61cm)


Sanding Metal Leaf

Fragments of colored paint add visual contrast to metal leaf with this sanding technique. A fun way to create unique surface areas and underpaintings.

Materials List

Paint 1 or more acrylic paint colors Substrate A rigid sturdy panel (either smooth or textured) leafed and sealed (Technique 1) Tools 120 or 240 grit waterproof sandpaper, paper towels, spray bottle or water container, large flat soft paintbrush, small flat stiff-bristled paintbrush, rag (or cotton balls or cheesecloth) Products Water, acrylic (polymer) gloss medium, metal leaf, leaf adhesive, wax paper, solvent-based gloss acrylic

STEP 1 Prepare the Surface and Paint the Metal Leaf Start with any painting surface. Choose to keep the surface smooth or add texture. Here a textured surface is created from Step 1, Technique 3. Follow steps 1–7 in Technique 1 to apply

leaf and seal. Brush apply one or more coats of an acrylic gloss medium as extra protection for sanding later. Let fully dry. Select one or more acrylic paint colors and liberally apply using a brush, knife or rag, covering the leaf surface. The following fluid paint colors are applied here: Quinacridone Magenta, Transparent Red Iron Oxide, Cobalt Blue and Green Gold. Let fully dry.

STEP 2 Wet Sand in Select Areas Add water to the surface with a water sprayer or brush and dip sandpaper into water. Rub sandpaper vigorously with pressure over paint to remove. Wipe frequently with a rag or paper towel to take away the excess paint, continuously adding water so there is always water between sandpaper and surface. Sand until only some fragments of color remain. Let dry, then apply a coat of acrylic gloss medium to restore metallic sheen.

The Surface After Sanding Remnants of paint colors remain after sanding, emphasizing the underlying textured surface and creating an interesting appeal.

Finished Example Repeat with other colors until satisfied. Here Raw Umber is applied over the previously sanded surface, then sanded again.

Carbon Black paint is sanded from a smooth leafed surface in the top left section. The middle section shows sanded green paint colors.

LAVA & BLUE LAKE Nancy Reyner Acrylic and gold leaf on panel 48" × 36" (122cm × 91cm)

Starting with an unleafed textured surface, Micaceous Iron Oxide is applied over the texture then sanded adding the antique effects visible on the bottom half. A final wash pour (Step 2, Technique 33) of Iridescent Gold adds a metallic shimmer to the top half. LATE DAY Aleta Pippin Acrylic on panel 6" × 6" (15cm × 15cm)


High Gloss Leaf

You can enhance the metallic sheen of metal leaf and metallic paints with smooth surfaces and gloss layers.

Materials List

Substrate Any smooth painting surface Tools A large flat soft paintbrush, a small flat stiff-bristled paintbrush, rag (or cotton balls or cheesecloth), waxed paper Products Gold or metal leaf in sheets, oil or water based leaf sizing, solvent-based clear gloss acrylic, acrylic (polymer) gloss medium or gel For cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

Fluid Iridescent Gold (Fine) brush applied over canvas.

Fluid Iridescent Gold (Fine) knife applied over a smooth surface.

Imitation gold leaf applied over canvas.

Imitation gold leaf applied over a smooth surface.


Iridescent metallic paints or leaf over textured surfaces yield softly reflective sheens. Smooth underlying surfaces, however, yield highly reflective sheens. Use the following process to enhance reflective sheens for metallic paints or metal leaf.

1 Start With a Smooth Surface The smoother the surface the higher the reflective sheen. Here are three options: • Purchase a panel pre-made with a smooth surface, such as hardboard or masonite. • Brush apply a paint color or acrylic gesso on the surface. Let dry. Wet sand as instructed in Step 1, Technique 12. • Pour an acrylic medium over the surface following instructions in Technique 25 for a “surfboard finish.” 2 Apply Metal Leaf Over the smooth surface, apply metal leaf following all steps in Technique 1.

3 Add Additional Gloss Layers Adding layers of gloss over the leaf increases the reflective quality. Here are three options to try over sealed leaf (Step 7, Technique 1): • Brush apply or spray one or more coats of acrylic gloss medium. Let it dry in between coats. • Knife apply a thick acrylic gloss gel and let it dry. • Pour a clear gloss acrylic over the leaf using Technique 25.

Acrylic paint color creates the abstract landscape imagery and is painted over a high gloss leafed surface. Some of the leaf surface was left unpainted so it is still visible.

TURQUOISE SKY Nancy Reyner Acrylic and gold leaf on panel 16" × 12" (41cm × 30cm)

This steel surface is colored with an acid patina, embellished with acrylic, and further enhanced with a final industrial clear coat. VEIL Destiny Allison Acid and acrylic on steel 48" × 48" (122cm × 122cm)


Gold Leaf Backgrounds

A background in gold or metal leaf can add a unique appeal to your painting. This technique saves time and money by applying leaf only in desired areas after painting. See Technique 8 to add delicate leaf designs over a painting.

Materials List

Substrate Any painting surface pre-painted with an image Tools A large flat soft paintbrush, a small flat stiff-bristled paintbrush, rag (or cotton balls or cheesecloth), wax paper Products Gold or metal leaf in sheets, oil or water based leaf sizing, solvent-based clear gloss acrylic For clean-up Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Paint an Image Start with a painting using any technique or style, optionally leaving the background and other areas unpainted that you want leafed. This painting of birds has a sky left blank for leafing.

STEP 2 Add Color to Background Dark or bright colors work best under leaf, showing through only in small areas of leaf imperfections. If needed, paint areas to be leafed with traditional Red Oxide, Carbon Black or a bright color such as Pyrrole Red Medium. Let dry.

STEP 3 Apply Leaf Follow steps 1–4 in Technique 1 to apply size and leaf over selected areas, butting the size as close as possible to the painted imagery and continuing by applying leaf over the sized areas. Allow leaf to slightly overlap unsized image areas. Burnish as instructed in Step 5, Technique 1.


For any painted areas accidentally covered with leaf, lightly sand off the leaf before sealing, or touch up after sealing by overpainting the unwanted leaf areas. For any gaps where leaf didn’t get close enough to painted areas, touch up with iridescent (or metallic) paint.

STEP 4 Clean off Excess Leaf Clean off excess leaf following Step 6, Technique 1. Wait at least 3 days for the size to fully cure. Seal the entire surface using Step 7, Technique 1, including both painted imagery and leaf to get an even sheen. If desired continue painting over the leaf with glazes (Technique 7), opaque paint color, or any preferred technique.

The gold leaf background adds striking contrast and a contemporary aesthetic to a traditional still life. PLUM ANTIQUE

Sherry Loehr Acrylic and gold leaf on board 48" × 36" (122cm × 91cm) Collection of Alice Vargo

Contemporary artist Michael Bergt uses the traditional technique of egg tempera and real gold leaf on panel, a combination used in the early Renaissance for icon painting and religious altarpieces.

THE GLANCE Michael Bergt Egg tempera and gold leaf on panel 40" × 34" (102cm × 86cm)


Intensify Metallic Hues

Metal’s subtle coloring shifts when viewed from different angles. For example, the gold coloring of gold leaf subtly flips between a red-gold and green-gold. Steel, aluminum or silver can shift between yellow and violet, while copper often shifts between blue and orange. Adding transparent glazes of those colors will intensify the color shift. Use this technique on surfaces such as metal sheet, real gold leaf, imitation leaf and metallic paint. For more dramatic enhancement pour these colors using Technique 29.

Materials List

Paint A pair of complementary acrylic paint colors Substrate Metal or leafed surface that is either smooth or textured (if leafed, seal before starting as in Step 7, Technique 1) Tools Painting or mixing knife, cups with lids, lint-free rag or smooth flat paintbrush Products Slow-drying acrylic gloss medium (or retarder or gloss gel) For clean-up Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Prepare Paint Select a pair of complementary colors and mix each color into a glaze by combining the paint color with a slow-drying medium. Here Quinacridone Crimson and Permanent Green Light are each mixed with Acrylic Glazing Liquid Gloss in a 1:1 ratio. Lid the containers to keep them from drying while continuing to the next step. For best results test the mixture’s transparency over a scrap surface, to determine that the metal is still visible and reflective under the glaze when dry. Transparency is obtained two ways; by applying opaque color in very thin applications, or transparent color in thin or thick applications. The 1:1 ratio is a good starting point, but can be changed to accommodate the colors you choose and the way you work. Blow dry to speed drying time, or wait until fully dry to see the true transparency and color intensity of your glaze mixture.

STEP 2 Apply the Glaze Use a rag for thin applications or brush apply for thick. Since the mixture is slow drying it can be removed easily by wiping off with paper towel directly after applying if application is unsatisfactory. For larger areas, apply in small size patches like a quilt, adding uncolored slowdrying medium at the borders where one patch will meet the other to avoid a quilted look or heavier color applications at edges.


Substitute Acrylic Glazing Liquid in Step 1 with other slow-drying mediums or any gloss gel in the same ratio. If using the additive retarder, change the ratio 10:1 color to retarder. If the glaze color is too opaque, add more medium. If using retarder, now add more medium. If the color intensity is not enough, opt to apply several layers, letting each dry before applying the next.

Finished Example Red and green glazes add interest to this gold leaf surface.

Metallic hues are intensified with many glazes of transparent color over a gold leafed background keeping the gold gleaming through the paint colors.

PARADISE David L. DeVary Oil and gold leaf on canvas 58" × 46" (147cm × 117cm)


Decorative Designs

Metal leaf designs, patterns and embellishments on a painting add accents, interest and visual focus.

Materials List

Substrate Any painting surface pre-painted with an image or color Tools Small paintbrush (for intricate design areas) or large paintbrush (for broad design areas), rag (or cotton balls or cheesecloth) Products Gold or metal leaf, leaf adhesive, wax paper. For clean-up Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Apply Adhesive Here a knife is dipped into leaf adhesive then drizzled onto a surface painted with Red Oxide, creating free-form patterns.

STEP 2 Apply Leaf Apply leaf (Steps 2–5, Technique 1) over entire surface or in excess of your design. Remove any excess leaf placed over non-adhesive areas following Step 6, Technique 1.

Adhesive Drip Applied Finished example with adhesive dropped from a cooking baster.

Adhesive Brush Applied Finished example with brush applied adhesive in a design.

An exquisite example of devotional art, a traditional New Mexican art form, using gold leaf in delicate design work, by award winning contemporary artist Arlene Cisneros Sena. Sena used traditional materials including homemade gesso,

natural pigments, twenty-three karat gold leaf, pine sap varnish on a sugarpine panel. NUESTRA SEÑORA DEL CARMEN Arlene Cisneros Sena 28" × 11" (71cm × 28cm) Photo credit: Corrie Photography


Apply leaf adhesive using a brush for intricate designs, or try a more abstract approach by dripping or pouring the adhesive in free-form patterns. Alternatively use squeeze bottles or pour adhesive directly from a container. For repeat designs use a ready-made or handmade stencil. Place the stencil over the painting, taping it securely onto the surface with masking tape. Spray adhesive over the stencil then remove stencil carefully. Whatever application method you choose for applying adhesive, let it dry at least 20 minutes or until tacky before continuing.


Subtractive Glazing

Add dramatic lights and darks to an underlying composition with this playful and quick technique over metal surfaces. A dark luminous glaze is wiped away to reveal lights, brights and mid-tones.

Materials List

Paint Red Oxide, Yellow Oxide, Carbon Black, Iridescent Silver, Iridescent Copper Substrate Any smooth or slightly textured metal surface or a leafed and sealed surface (see Technique 1) Tools A lint free rag, a large flat paintbrush, mixing palette or cup, mixing knife, rag (or cotton balls or cheesecloth) Products A slow drying acrylic (polymer) gloss medium (or add 1 part retarder to 10 parts medium), For clean-up: Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Apply a Dark Glaze Mix a dark-colored metallic glaze with the following formula: 2 parts Carbon Black, 2 parts Iridescent Silver, 1 part Yellow Oxide, 1 part Red Oxide, 6–8 parts slow-drying medium, 1 part water. Mix colors, medium and water thoroughly with a knife on a palette or in a cup. Use a large, dry, flat brush to apply the glaze liberally over the entire surface. If the glaze application is streaky or too dark gently wipe over the surface with a rag or paper towel to smooth and thin out the layer. If your surface is large or the glaze is drying too quickly, apply glaze only on a portion of the surface, continuing to Step 2 for that area, then repeat for remaining areas. Continue to the next step while this layer is still wet.

STEP 2 Remove Glaze in Select Areas Decide where you want lighter or mid-tone areas in your composition. Wipe the wet glaze firmly with a lint-free rag removing it completely for light areas. Wipe gently in other areas leaving a thin glaze layer to create mid-tone areas. Allow the glaze to remain on the surface for dark tonal areas. If the glaze is wiped off an area mistakenly, simply reapply more glaze and continue. Just like working on a blackboard, this process is very giving, so some areas can be added, erased, then added again. When satisfied with the overall arrangement of lights and darks, let dry.

STEP 3 Intensify With More Glaze Use the same glaze from Step 1, or opt to change colors to create more interest. Here a new dark glaze using Iridescent Copper, Carbon Black, medium and water is brush applied over some dark areas for emphasis. Complete the painting using opaque and transparent paint colors to further define forms and add detail.

Subtractive glazing using the dark-colored metallic glaze formula in Technique 9 creates ghostlike mountains over a gold leaf surface. The leaf area revealed after subtractive glazing used Technique 7 to add red and green glazed color shifts.

EMERALD Nancy Reyner Acrylic and gold leaf on panel 53" Ă— 40" (135cm Ă— 102cm)


Expand and personalize the metallic glaze formula in Step 1 by substituting colors and changing ratios. For more specific highlights apply opaque white paint. Add variety to the unglazed metal areas with colored glazes (see Technique 7).


Tarnish Effects

Exposure to air causes imitation gold leaf to tarnish over time. To quickly obtain this antique quality, commercial tarnish solutions are available, but are strong and will disintegrate the metal leaf. This technique uses ammonia for an easy, inexpensive tarnish. Imitation gold leaf contains copper that reacts with ammonia to tarnish, as will copper leaf. Real gold leaf will not tarnish. To add faux patina coloring, see Technique 11.

Materials List

Substrate Any painting surface leafed with imitation gold or copper leaf (Steps 1–6, Technique 1), left unsealed Products Acrylic (polymer) gloss medium, household ammonia, solvent-based gloss acrylic Other Large plastic garbage bag, sawdust or wood chips, bucket and smaller sized container

STEP 1 Prepare the Surface and Create a Design (Optional) Have ready a leafed surface using imitation gold or copper leaf following Technique 1, steps 1–6. Do not seal the leaf until all the steps in this technique are complete. You can opt to add designs by drizzling, pouring or brush applying acrylic gloss medium on the leaf to create a design that will resist tarnishing in areas. Here acrylic gloss medium is squeezed directly from the bottle onto the leaf surface in linear designs. Let dry until acrylic turns clear. The thicker the medium is applied, the easier it is to peel off later.

STEP 2 Prepare Setup and Pour Ammonia Using a plastic garbage bag that is much larger than the leafed surface, place a large bucket or container inside. Add a smaller container inside the bucket as a pedestal and place a good amount of sawdust inside the bucket around the pedestal or outside the bucket but in the garbage bag. Place the leafed surface on the pedestal so it is protected from touching the sawdust and the plastic bag when closed. For a softer, mottled effect sprinkle dry sawdust lightly over some of the leafed surface, otherwise continue for an overall darkening. Pour ammonia over the sawdust mound (about one cup for a pillow-sized amount of sawdust). Avoid inhaling the fumes. Close the bag securely. Periodically open the bag to check the tarnish

progress. Tarnishing can take 10 minutes or all day. When satisfied, remove the surface from the bag.

STEP 3 Finish and Seal Immediately remove any acrylic gloss medium by picking it off with your fingers (or let the medium remain on the surface to turn a green color). Here, lightly sprinkled sawdust has created a mottled effect. Follow instructions in Step 7, Technique 1 to seal.

Optional Effect Place the leaf surface face down directly on the ammonia soaked-chips for a more dramatic effect. This tarnishes quickly and if left on ammonia too long will disintegrate the leaf.

Squares of leaf are intentionally applied with gaps between them revealing the dark red underpainted surface. The leaf took on a beautiful green patina and along with the varying red patchwork grid add a textural and aesthetic interest to the background, masterfully setting off the blended skintones in the portrait. AN ALMOST INSIGNIFICANT SHIFT (DETAIL) Pamela Frankel Fiedler Oil, acrylic and gold leaf on canvas 48" Ă— 36" (122cm Ă— 91cm)


Faux Leaf Patinas

A patina is a tarnish that colors or discolors metal. Pre-made commercial and fine art patinas are too strong for the thin metal leaf, and will dissolve the leaf when applied. Here’s an easy and fun trick using acrylic pastes to fake color patinas. To tarnish or darken the leaf without any color or texture see Technique 10.

Materials List

Paint Iridescent Bronze, Carbon Black, Jenkins Green, Turquoise Phthalo Substrate Any metal surface, or a painting surface using leaf and sealed as in Technique 1, or a surface painted with iridescent paints Tools Painting knife or other application tool, flat paintbrush, container or mixing palette Products A white absorbent acrylic paste For Cleanup Water, water container

STEP 1 Prepare the Surface and Apply Paste Start with a metallic surface. (i.e. Leaf the surface as in Steps 1–7, Technique 1. Use a sheet metal surface or apply iridescent paint.) When dry select one or more acrylic pastes that are absorbent, white and opaque, such as Light Molding Paste, Coarse Molding Paste, Crackle Paste or Fiber Paste. Using a brush, knife or other application tool, apply paste over one-third of the metallic surface in selected areas. Vary the thickness of the paste. Create thin layers by scraping the paste back with the knife instead of diluting the paste with water. Let dry overnight.

STEP 2 Apply Color Washes In a container or mixing palette, combine Iridescent Bronze with water 1:2 to create a wash. Wet the surface well with water using a spray bottle, sponge or brush. Brush or pour the Iridescent Bronze wash over the watery surface. The wash will separate into rust and green colors if you’ve added enough water. Leaf areas with no paste applied naturally resist the washes so no need to blot. Let dry undisturbed on a level surface.

STEP 3 Intensify Color When dry a subtle patina effect is created. To intensify colors, repeat Step 2 one or more times. Add Carbon Black, Jenkins Green and Turquoise Phthalo into the wash or drip these colors directly into wash puddles already on the surface. Here those colors were added and the patina effect is intensified.


Applying small amounts of metallic flake gels like Black Mica Flake and Gold Mica Flake in some areas, in addition to the white paste in Step 1, will enhance the overall faux patina effect.

A tarnish or faux patina effect is obtained here using an alternative to Technique 11. A glossy, colored, textured surface is created using a mixture of gloss gel and paint color. Applied over this (Technique 34) are washes of Iridescent Gold, Bronze

and Silver. The top half has an additional layer of Fine Pumice Gel under the Iridescent washes for a soft reflective effect.

SANDBAR Gail Henderson Acrylic on board 14" Ă— 10" (36cm Ă— 25cm)

Unlike the delicate leaf, this steel surface is strong enough to be colored with acid patinas then enhanced with acrylic paint and a final clear coat. URBAN LANDSCAPE V Destiny Allison Acid and acrylic on steel

36" × 36" (91cm × 91cm)


Drawing on Leaf

Drawing with materials such as pastel, conte, pencil, markers or charcoal present an exciting opportunity to contrast the glow of a metal leaf background. See Technique 43 for another metallic drawing surface. Most drawing materials such as charcoal, graphite pencils and chalk pastel, need a gritty or toothy surface created by sanding in Step 1 and are otherwise unable to leave their mark on glossy metal leaf. Some drawing materials, such as markers and oil pastels, will work fine on the leaf surface without sanding. Before sanding, test your drawing materials on the surface to see if it is necessary.

Materials List

Substrate A surface prepared with metal leaf and sealed (see Technique 1) Tools Any preferred drawing materials, paintbrush, rag or paper towels, spray bottle Products Waterproof sandpaper 220 grit, acrylic (polymer) gloss medium Other Water, water container

STEP 1 Sand the Surface to Add Tooth The leaf should be sealed with a solvent-based clear gloss acrylic (Step 7, Technique 1). Add additional protection for sanding by brush applying two or more coats of acrylic gloss medium. Let fully dry (at least 6 hours or more). Add water to the surface with a water sprayer or brush. Start with a fine grit (220) waterproof sandpaper, dip it in water, and sand the surface using circular motions with firm pressure, continually adding water so it stays wet between sandpaper and surface. This keeps dry sanded acrylic particles from becoming airborne and therefore toxic. Frequently wipe away the wet sanded material with a rag or paper towel until the entire surface has been worked. Avoid sanding too deeply into the leaf layer. The sanded surface turns matte but will regain its glossy sheen after sealing in Step 3.

STEP 2 Draw Onto the Surface Draw your image or design using a variety of drawing materials to create different line qualities. Avoid covering up the leaf surface entirely so it shows through for an interesting contrast.

STEP 3 Seal the Drawing Pour acrylic (polymer) gloss medium over the entire drawing. Gently pull the wide part of a knife across the surface to smooth the polymer without touching the drawing surface. Apply more polymer as needed to cover. Let dry. As an alternative to this step, spray with a solvent-based clear gloss acrylic.

Finished Example

The variety of drawing materials used on this gold leaf surface show up boldly with the added tooth created by sanding in Technique 12. In addition, the use of strong darks, lights and bright colors work well with the gold.

GOLD MAGICIAN Nancy Reyner Acrylic, charcoal, pencil and gold leaf on panel 10" Ă— 10" (25cm Ă— 25cm)

Chalk pastel is used here adding an interesting soft, powdery tactile quality to contrast the shiny gloss of the gold leaf surface. GOLDEN BLESSING OF THE SUN Sara Novenson Pastel and gold leaf on panel 8" × 10" (20cm × 25cm)


Glitter and Metal Flakes

Reflective materials, such as glitter and metal flakes, guarantee an eye-catching experience, creating interesting backgrounds or unusual abstract paintings. There are two ways of combining reflected materials such as glitter and metal flakes into a painting: either purchase ready-made acrylic products that are reflective, or make your own. Ready-made ones combine reflective materials with an acrylic binder. There are a wide variety of these available at art supply stores. To make your own, add raw reflective materials, (such as glitter, pieces of glass or mica) to a gloss acrylic (polymer) medium or gel in a container and mix well. Another option is to first apply a thick layer of acrylic gloss gel onto a painting or surface, and while wet, sprinkle the raw materials on top. Let dry as is or push them deeper into the gel with a knife.

Materials List

Paint Paint colors are optional Substrate Any primed painting surface Tools Painting knife or other application and textural tools Products One or more reflective acrylic gels or pastes For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

Reflective Materials

A sampler of several ready-made reflective acrylic products, each applied thickly and thinly with a knife over colored paint.

Vermiculite Coarse

Gold Mica Flake (large)

Coarse Alumina

Glass Bead Gel

Gold Mica Flake (small)

Black Mica Flake (small)

Black Silicone Carbide Paste

Raw Vermiculite

STEP 1 Apply Products Using a painting knife or other application tool, apply products directly onto a plain painting surface, or one that is prepainted with a color or image. Vary applications both thick and thin for a variety of effects. Note, the products appear lighter and nonreflective when wet.

STEP 2 Subtract Out Designs (Optional) Scrape through the wet products with textural tools to add linear and design effects. This finished example uses all the products from the sampler. A knife and other textural tools scraped back the products while wet to reveal the white background. Keep as a finished piece or continue applying more products, colored glazes, or collaged images until satisfied.

Pieces of colored, recycled glass are embedded in gloss gel. Iridescent Copper and Iridescent Pearl are mixed with colored paint to create the background, and variegated leaf (Technique 2) adds a metallic accent in the center top half. ROCKY ROAD 2 Patricia Forbes Acrylic, paper, metal leaf and glass on panel 9" Ă— 9" (23cm x 23cm)


Metal Paint

Iridescent paint (also known as metallic or metal paint) comes in a wide variety, offering beautiful reflective options for painting. Customize them with these tips and techniques. For more information on iridescent paints see Section 3: Essential Tips for Reflective Paints.

Materials List

Paint One or more acrylic modern paint colors, several iridescent paints Substrate Any primed painting surface Tools Palette knives or other mixing and application tool, paintbrush, mixing palette Products (Optional) Slow-drying acrylic gloss medium or gloss gel For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Make Iridescent Color Mixtures On a palette or mixing plate, apply some of each of a variety of iridescent paint colors forming a semi circle along the outside rim of the palette, leaving the center space free for mixing. To extend the open time, add up to 30% slow-drying medium or gloss gel to each quantity of iridescent paint on the palette. Create new color mixtures in the palette’s center by mixing combinations of two or more. Here Iridescent Silver is mixed with Iridescent Bronze to get an interesting new metallic color. Keep mixtures condensed into small, high piles instead of spreading out thinly so they stay wet longer. Mix as many combinations as you like.

STEP 2 Add Paint Color Make new piles on the palette by mixing a few drops of modern paint colors (more information on moderns in Section 1) into one iridescent or combination of iridescents. Here Phthalo Blue is mixed into Iridescent Stainless Steel to create a cooler color version of steel.

STEP 3 Apply Mixtures onto the Surface The palette should now have a wide range of choices. Using a brush, knife or rag apply these to an unpainted surface or a surface prepainted with color or an image. Vary applications thinly and thickly to get a variety of tonal qualities.

Iridescent Silver visually heightens the white ground underlying strong yellow and black gestural elements. WHILE TURNING Jill Moser Oil and acrylic on canvas 55" Ă— 56" (140cm Ă— 142cm) Photo credit: Kevin Noble

Iridescent Bronze paint adds a striking contrast with blue and black paint colors. SHEDDING MY SKIN

Bonnie Teitelbaum Acrylic on panel 48" Ă— 36" (122cm Ă— 91cm)


For more experimenting, try using a two-part patina solution found in art stores and online. These use iridescents that contain real metal with a compatible patina solution. Follow the instructions on the label for applying paint and patina solutions.


Prismatic Effects

WATER ABSTRACTION Barbara Kemp Cowlin Acrylic on canvas 24" × 56" (61cm × 142cm)


It’s good to remember that subtle can still be eye catching. If you like veiled, soft, waxy or Zen mood effects, then this is your section. This section uses color shifts like those found on an oil slick in a rain puddle, or the pearly insides of an abalone seashell. Layering, surface enhancing, refraction tricks and interference colors combine to create a wide variety of seductive techniques. The following techniques, in particular, offer lightcatching and tactile qualities that are striking when viewed in person, yet often are too subtle to detect in a photograph. You’ll just have to try them out to see for yourself.

FLOW Barbara Jackson Acrylic on canvas 60" × 144" (152cm × 366cm) Collection of VITAS Corporation

Essential Tips for Reflective Paints

A wide variety of iridescent paint colors including Iridescent Copper, Pearl and Gold are included in this reflective metallic painting. SKY’S THE LIMIT Patricia Forbes Acrylic and paper collage on panel 16" × 16" (41cm × 41cm)

Wash colors (paint diluted with water) are accented with Iridescent Pearl pigment. Alcohol is added into the wet layer creating the organic patterning. ENCHANTED FOREST Elizabeth Smarz Acrylic and pigment on canvas 24" × 30" (61cm × 76cm)

Techniques in this section focus on two groups of reflective paints: iridescent and interference. The names are deceivingly alike, yet offer very different results. Reflective paints create interesting underpaintings, grounds and surfaces, or can just simply be used as paint. Both types of paint require light to be reflective, so avoid adding too much paint color to them in mixtures. Use only about one drop of fluid paint for each 4 ounces of iridescent or interference paint and test the results before adding more. In general, choose modern paints for tinting, instead of mineral or opaque colors such as Titanium White and Cadmiums. Also avoid adding matte mediums or matte gels, or overpainting with matte varnish, as the matting agent’s white powder will block the light needed for reflective qualities. Please note that these techniques in particular produce special effects and sheens not always visible in photographs, so your results will be even more exciting than what you see here.


Iridescent paints (or metallic paints) fall into two categories. Some contain real metal (i.e. Iridescent Stainless Steel, Micaceous Iron Oxide) while others use a combination of mica chips and color to simulate metals (i.e. Iridescent Bronze, Iridescent Gold). See Technique 14 for customizing iridescent paint color. The iridescent paints that simulate metal create unusual variegated patterns when heavily diluted with water. Iridescent Bronze, in particular, produces very dramatic results, as it separates into its components of pigment and mica. (See Techniques 11 and 34.) INTERFERENCE PAINT

Interference paints create unusual color-flip effects when used in specific ways and are key ingredients in the last four techniques of this section. Interference are fairly new paint inventions, available in art stores in a variety of colors. As you walk past a painting using these, the colors shift and change, creating somewhat of a holographic effect. Interference paints are made of mica platelets containing aluminum silicate. These platelets are coated with a thin layer of titanium dioxide. Depending on the coating’s thickness, the paint refracts different portions of the available light’s color spectrum. This means they do not contain colored pigment to create the “color,” and require different handling than normal paint colors. Here are some tips for getting the most out of the interference paints: • Interference colors are very transparent (unless applied very thickly) and will change appearances over colors or surfaces on which they are applied. Over a white or light colored background they look subtly pearlescent, translucent and color flip when seen at different angles between their pair of complementary colors. For example, Interference Green on a light surface will flip between green and red, while Interference Blue flips from blue to orange, and Interference Violet from violet to yellow. The intensity of their “undertone color” appears more dramatic when applied thinly over a dark or black background. For example Interference Violet becomes a highly illuminated refractive violet when applied thinly over black. • Mix a small amount of black paint into an interference to make it more opaque and further enhance the undertone coloring. • Use interference as top layers or final paint layers allowing the most light to reach them. Mix gloss gels and gloss mediums into interference paints to increase the refraction and effects. • Add acrylic paint colors in small amounts to interference for unusual effects. The added color appears as the masstone while the interference undertone color is still visible.

Interference Gold washes are applied over a dark and light underpainting, creating a mesmerizing gold color flip when seen in person. The dark-light underpainting is created by applying dark colored washes over a textured surface using molding paste and gloss gels. The dark washes resist over gloss showing as the white areas in the underpainting, while puddling up over the molding paste areas to create the darks. For a similar wash, see Technique 34. GALACTIC Barbara Jackson Acrylic on canvas 48" Ă— 60" (122cm Ă— 152cm) Collection of Dr. Kelly Wirfel and Dr. John Holcomb


Multicolor Imprint

This exciting printmaking technique was inspired by friend and colleague Julia Santos Solomon and her master printer, Julio Valdez, who work with a process called silk aquatint. The technique described here is a variation, more similar to a collagraph. Gels and pastes are applied to a surface to create a “printing plate,” enabling transfer of an image to canvas or paper. Tonal effects and vibrant colors are obtained creating Julio Valdez’s phrase “painterly graphics.”

Materials List

Paint A variety of modern colors (see Section 1) Substrate One rigid support, such as wood or panel; one flexible unprimed absorbent surface, such as paper, canvas or fabric, slightly larger in size than the rigid support (if using raw canvas you may need to prewash it to remove any coatings) Tools Painting knife and other application and textural tools, a few favorite paintbrushes, pencil, spray bottle Products An absorbent acrylic gel or paste, a non-absorbent acrylic gel or paste Other Paper towels or rag, water, water container

STEP 1 Create a Printing Plate

Draw out a design using pencil or marker on a rigid support. Apply an absorbent product over the surface that dries to a matte finish or is textural, such as the Fine Pumice Gel used here. Over this surface, either wet or dry, brush or knife apply a generous amount of nonabsorbent product for the main forms so they are higher in relief than the background. Here Molding Paste and Regular Gel Gloss were used for the vase. Add as many different products as you like anywhere on the surface, such as Glass Bead Gel used in the foreground. Let this dry fully. Note the white areas shown here will dry clear.

STEP 2 Add Paint Using modern colors for best results, add about 10% water to several fluid modern paint colors. Use more water for heavy-bodied paint. Brush apply the colors onto the printing plate. Use a rag to wipe away paint to create any highlights for the transferred image.

STEP 3 Transfer the Image Lightly dampen the transfer surface with water from a spray bottle. Place damp side down over the printing plate still wet with paint colors. Using firm pressure, rub your hand over the back of the transfer surface to allow the paint color to transfer. A brayer or other pressing tool may be used. After a minute of rubbing, gently peel the transfer surface off the plate and set down to dry. Rinse the plate with water to reuse.

Finished Example


Transfer multiple plates onto the same image. Use the plate by itself as a painting. Cut up the transferred images and use them as collage items.

Interesting tonal areas are created in these two paintings using silk aquatint, a process similar to the technique demonstrated here. CARIBBEAN TROUT Julia Santos Solomon Silk aquatint on paper 15" Ă— 22" (38cm Ă— 56cm)

PROFILE WITH THORNS Julio Valdez Silk aquatint on paper (Edition of 10) 31" × 25" (79cm × 63cm)


Veiling Layers with Pastes

Veiling, or translucent overlays, give a foggy, whitish or cloudy appearance and enhance the illusion of space. This technique uses thin layers of paste to suggest depth. For other translucent overlays using gels see Techniques 17 and 20.

Materials List

Paint Several preferred paint colors in dark and bright hues Substrate Any primed painting surface Tools Paintbrush, painting knife or other spreading tool Products A white acrylic paste For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Make an Underpainting

Create a vibrant and dark toned underpainting using bright and dark colors, so they will still be visible after veiling.

STEP 2 Apply Paste Thinly Apply a white acrylic paste very thinly, using a spreading tool such as a spatula, plaster knife or piece of stiff cardboard. Do not dilute the paste with water to thin, but instead apply by using some pressure with the spreading tool. The thicker the paste is applied, the more opaque it will be. It’s better to apply several thin coats to achieve satisfactory results than overkill with a heavy application. While wet, the paste appears more opaque than it will when dry.

Finished Example The paste, applied in a sweep through the center of the painting, has dried from opaque to translucent allowing the underpainting to show through.

Pastes applied thinly veil an underpainting using Iridescent Bronze and other paint colors. RED RIBBON

Helen McKeown Acrylic on panel 10" × 8" (25cm × 20cm) Collection of Mary Balzer

Thin layers of paste add translucency, the feeling of depth, and a surface quality similar to encaustic or wax. The underpainting uses acrylic paint, metallic inks, iridescent pastes, handmade paper, stamping and carbon transfer. SURFACING Cate Goedert Acrylic and mixed media on panel 16" × 16" (41cm × 41cm)


Matte Skins Construction

An evocative and subtle depth, like looking through pearly clouds or fog, is obtained using several separate layers of painted matte gel. Matte gels contain a fine white powder (a matting agent) and do not dry fully transparent. Instead, they take on a beautiful translucent, or veiled, appearance. Before starting this technique, determine the size of your final painting and use a surface that acrylic will not stick to, such as HDPE plexi. This nonstick surface should be at least three times the size of your final painting. For example, to make an 8" × 10" (20cm × 25cm) painting, a 24" × 30" (61cm × 75cm) piece of HDPE plexi will make four skins that size. (A skin is a piece of acrylic with no backing.)

Materials List

Paint One or more acrylic paint colors Substrate A surface with which acrylic will not adhere (i.e. HDPE plexi, plastic report covers, freezer paper or garbage bag) Tools Painting knife or other spreading tool, paintbrush Products An acrylic matte gel, an acrylic gloss gel For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Create Matte Skins Apply a generous amount of matte gel, such as the Heavy Gel Matte used here, onto a nonstick

surface and spread evenly, keeping thickness at least 1â „8-inch. The thicker the skins, the more veiling each will have. Each skin creates one layer, so make at least two or more skins. Let it dry overnight or when the skin goes from white to cloudy.

STEP 2 Paint the Skins When dry, the skins easily peel off the surface. One side of the skin will have texture from applying the gel, while the other side will be smoother. Paint on either side with any paint colors you prefer. Leave at least half of each skin unpainted. If the entire skin gets accidentally covered with paint, remove it by wet sanding (see Technique 4).

STEP 3 Arrange and Glue Assemble the skins in any order. Skins are reversible so either side is usable. When satisfied with an arrangement, glue them together by knife or brush applying a thin layer of gloss gel (undiluted) on one or both skins and immediately reassemble them. Let it dry.

Finished Example When all skins have been glued together, they create one thick gel slab.


Skins can be stored on clean plastic sheets and saved for later use. Cut skins into smaller sizes and shapes with scissors, and glue onto a painted background or plain substrate like canvas or panel.

REGALIA SERIES: LABYRINTH Patti Brady Acrylic on paper 29" × 27" (63cm × 69cm)

Matte skins are painted, then glued together for these vibrant paintings. REGALIA SERIES: DISROBING I Patti Brady Acrylic on paper 30" × 30" (76xm × 76cm)


Soft Melted Effects

Transform hard edges into soft edges by embedding them texturally into wet gel. Soft edges make blurred forms, offering the illusion of receding forms in space. See Technique 24 for an alternate method using interference paints.

Materials List

Paint One or more acrylic paint colors Substrate Any primed painting surface Tools Paintbrush, painting knife or other spreading tool Products A matte or gloss acrylic gel For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Rough Out an Underpainting

On a surface, create an underpainting using any style or technique. This ice cream cone on a violet background uses Cobalt Turquoise, Burnt Sienna, Vat Orange, Raw Umber, Carbon Black, Titanium White and Hansa Yellow Light.

STEP 2 Apply Gel Thickly Select an acrylic gel. Gloss dries transparent while a matte gel appears veiled or cloudy. Using a knife or other spreading tool, such as a spatula, heavily apply gel all over the surface at least 1â „ -inch (0.6cm) in depth. Here Heavy Gel Gloss is applied. Continue to the next step while the 4

surface is still wet.

STEP 3 Paint Into the Wet Gel Using a brush or knife, apply paint color on the wet gel. Heavier gels allow smoother applications of paint, while softer gels record the application texturally. Gel appears white when wet, temporarily hiding the underpainting. If you need to control where the paint is applied, use a knife to scrape away small areas of the gel at a time then push the gel back into place.

STEP 4 Embed Edges Using a clean knife, glide over the edges pushing the color down into the depths of the gel layer. Move the paint around to soften and blur until satisfied. When the gel is dry, the underpainting

and overpainting will visually merge as seen here.

This striking image takes full advantage of paint/gel combinations. Gels increase color vibrancy, add texture and embed paint creating a variety of hard and soft edges. MUSETTE Jim Waid

Acrylic on canvas 48" × 42" (122cm × 107cm)


Multiple Layering

When techniques are combined, layering each one over another, the possibilities multiply creating surprises in your artwork and process. Multiple layering can add sensuous physicality to the surface along with luminosity and depth. Almost every painting in this book uses multiple layering to some extent. This demonstration uses several techniques from the book, yet is only one of an infinite array of possible combinations. Pick several acrylic painting techniques of your choice from this book, other acrylic technique books, or your own invention. These can be layered in any order you choose. A layer, simply defined, is when one wet application of paint or products is applied over a dry one. For this demonstration three techniques from this book are selected: 22, 26 and 33.

Materials List

Paint One or more acrylic paint colors Substrate Any primed painting surface Tools Painting knife or other application tool, paintbrush Products An acrylic medium, paste or gel Other Additional materials as required for other techniques selected for layering For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Add Wash Pours, Technique 33 Follow wash pouring Steps 1 and 2 from Technique 33. Here Light Molding Paste is applied over the entire surface, and when dry Iridescent washes of Bronze, Gold Deep (Fine), Copper and Bright Gold are applied. Let it dry.

STEP 2 Add Overglow Sheens, Technique 22 The Overglow Sheens technique is used to apply glazes over the upper and lower thirds of the painting. A glaze mixture of Interference Green, Cobalt Teal and Carbon Black is used for the upper part, while the bottom uses Interference Red, Quinacridone Burnt Orange and Carbon Black. Let it dry.

STEP 3 Add a Dirty-Mix Pour, Technique 26 A Dirty Mix pour is applied over the bottom third, adding focal interest and new forms. Paint colors of Carbon Black, Iridescent Deep Gold (Fine), Green Gold, and airbrush ink colors Titanium White and Quinacridone Magenta are used in the pour.


Each application layer or technique does not need to cover an entire surface, but can instead be applied to selected areas. Let each layer fully dry before overlaying the next, unless the technique specifically calls for a wet layer application. Almost any technique can be applied under or over another, because acrylic loves to stick to itself. As you overlay try to allow some of the layers underneath to show through. A final surface can appear crusty and overly dense when techniques are applied too heavily or too opaquely hiding underneath layers.

Multiple techniques are used to create surprising layers, including crackle mediums, transfers, textural gels and acrylic paint. FRACTAL FUN

Sandra Duran Wilson Acrylic and mixed media on panel with poured resin 10" × 8" (25cm × 20cm)

Multiple layers create a tactile and visually exciting surface on this painting, including Molding Paste to smooth canvas texture, Crackle Paste for textural interest, washes for watercolor effects, skins for palm trees, squeeze bottle drawing with fluid paints, and a matte medium finish. UNDER THE CANOPY Bonnie Cutts Acrylic on canvas 26" × 36" (66cm × 91cm) Photo credit: Ed Bock Collection: Jim & Rhonda Boyette


Fake Wax

Encaustic, or wax, is a beautiful medium whose use in art can be dated to early Egypt. Wax, when used in painting, imparts a magical sheen, sensual warm refraction, and tactile surface with subtle translucent qualities. There are some downsides to working with wax. Wax can pose a challenge for transport and storage with its delicate surface. Acrylic, however, can easily replicate wax effects while remaining nontoxic and offering more stable surfaces. This technique offers the simplest faking method: using layers of matte gel, with suggestions for enhancements at the end.

Materials List

Paint One or more acrylic paint colors Substrate Any primed painting surface Tools Painting knife or other spreading tool, paintbrush Products An acrylic matte gel For clean-up Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Create an Underpainting Using one or more paint colors, create an underpainting using dark and bright colors, since they will eventually be muted, lightened or veiled with subsequent layers.

STEP 2 Apply Matte Gel Apply matte gel generously, using a knife, spatula or other application tool. Cover the entire surface or apply it to specific areas. Apply thicker for more veiling or thinner for more transparency. Since it is difficult to ascertain the gel’s transparency while wet, optionally test the application on a scrap painting with similar colors to your underpainting, letting it dry fully for accurate results. You can either smooth out the gel or increase texture with the knife. Use heavier gels for ease in smoother applications, while softer gels offer a buttery quality.

Finished Example Here matte gel is applied to selected areas, showing as cloudy or translucent, leaving parts of the underpainting uncovered. Optionally continue painting and/or repeat another matte gel layer. Alternate paint and gel layers until satisfied.


Heavily dilute paint color with water to create a wash. Apply over the matte gel layer while either wet or dry. Manipulate the color into the wet gel for softer edges as shown in Technique 18. See Technique 16 for another fake wax effect using thin layers of paste, or the final example in Technique 30 using a deep pour. For a custom formula try adding these other ingredients to the matte gel: 1) Mix in gloss gel for more transparency. 2) Add Interference Blue to enhance refraction. 3) Add small amounts of Interference Gold, Iridescent Gold, or Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold to mimic the yellow-gold color of natural wax. 4) Add medium or water to decrease texture or work with thinner layers.

A fake encaustic effect is obtained here by alternating thin layers of polymer medium gloss with thin layers of Fine Pumice Gel, while paint and drawing materials were applied in between. THE GREATEST LIMITATION, ONCE ACCEPTED, CAN BECOME AN OPENING Donna Baek Acrylic, pastel, charcoal and graphite on panel 30" × 30" (76cm × 76cm)


Underglow Effects

Combine the traditional old master’s method of underpainting called a grisaille with the unusual color flip of interference paints for a contemporary twist. Images with high contrast (strong areas of darks and lights) work best for this technique. For other interference paint ideas see the next three techniques. For an alternate grisaille using iridescent paints, see Technique 42.

Materials List

Paint One or more interference acrylic paint colors, Carbon Black Substrate Any painting surface primed with gesso or pre-painted with white Tools Paintbrush (or other paint application tool), painting or mixing knife, mixing palette Products Slow-drying acrylic gloss medium or gloss gel For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Make Dark and Light Interference Mixtures On a mixing palette place one or more interference colors. Divide each interference color into two halves. Add a small amount of black paint to one of the halves of each interference color, leaving the other half plain and unmixed. Here Interference Blue with two drops of Carbon Black creates a dark mixture. Optionally, create lighter mixtures using less black to create midtones. Add about 20% slow-drying medium or gloss gel to mixtures to keep them wet longer.

STEP 2 Apply Mixtures Using a knife, brush or rag, apply the dark interference mixture in the areas on your painting you want dark. Thickly apply the unmixed plain interference in the areas you want light. Add some water to the mixtures for thin applications and more varied tones. Avoid painting the areas of your image you want the lightest so the white surface shows through as highlights. Apply unmixed plain interference thin or thick over the dark areas for interesting highlights. Optionally apply Titanium White to correct light areas that accidentally got painted dark.

Finished Example

A finished grisaille is traditionally used as an underpainting. Continue painting over the dried grisaille using colored glazes. To make a glaze, mix any paint color with a slow-drying acrylic gloss medium in a 1:5 ratio and thinly brush over the grisaille. Consider using the grisaille as is for a finished contemporary painting without glazing.

Several interference paint colors including Interference Gold, Interference Red, Interference Blue and Interference Violet are well illuminated on a black gesso background. Gloss medium over the black creates the sheen shifting dark black trailing tentacles (Technique 41). JELLYFISH 1: LUMINESCENT JELLIES SERIES YENNY COCQ Acrylic on masonite panel 12" Ă— 12" (30cm Ă— 30cm)

Here the same image is photographed from a different angle. Interference colors are tricky to photograph since the viewing experience constantly changes. As the viewing angle changes, the color flips.


Overglow Sheens

Intensify color or add subtle color shifts with interference glazes, to create unusual refractive coloring and surfaces.

Materials List

Paint One or more acrylic paint colors, one or more interference colors Substrate Any primed painting surface Tools Painting knife or other mixing tool, mixing palette or cups, soft flat paintbrush Products Slow drying acrylic gloss medium For Cleanup Paper towels or rags, water, water container

STEP 1 Create an Underpainting Brush apply paint colors smoothly on a painting surface to create an underpainting. A simple landscape is used for this demonstration but any underpainted image will work. Let it dry.

STEP 2 Make Interference Glazes Mix up several glaze colors that relate to the underlying colors in the underpainting. For example, this blue interference glaze will be used to enhance the blue sky. Start your glaze mixture with a generous amount of a slow-drying acrylic gloss medium on a mixing palette or container. To this add an equal amount of an interference paint. Add a small amount of paint color (1:10 paint-to-mixture ratio) selecting a similar but darker version of the interference color. For instance, this mixture consists of 1 ounce Interference Blue (Fine), 1 ounce slow-drying acrylic gloss medium, and one drop of fluid Anthraquinone Blue. Mix well. Repeat for more mixtures of glaze colors.

STEP 3 Apply Glazes Brush apply each glaze color over the selected area, keeping the glaze application smooth by frequently removing excess paint onto a rag or paper towel and continuing to spread out the glaze into a thin application. When working with glazes, it is better to first apply a glaze that is not as intense as you like than one that is too heavy. You can always apply additional layers when dry to build up to the desired intensity.


To add texture to this technique, make a textured underpainting by applying heavy bodied paints with a knife. Then, in Step 2 substitute a gloss gel for the gloss medium to mix glazes, and knife apply thickly over the underpainting. These glazes can also be used in opposing fashion to contrast (i.e. choosing a red interference glaze to go over the blue sky instead would shift the sky to an unusual violet color).

Finished Example In addition to the Interference Blue glaze over the sky, a glaze of Interference Red (Fine) with a touch of Quinacridone Crimson overlays the mountains, and a glaze of Interference Green with a touch of Jenkins Green overlays the bottom green foliage.

On a red background, the ribbon shapes are painted first in black, then glazed with Interference Gold. The underlying black enhances the interference color. RAMBLE Barbara Jackson Acrylic on panel 10" Ă— 12" (25cm Ă— 30cm)


Prismatic Layering

Two shimmering categories of paint, iridescent and interference, are used in layers one over the other, resulting in unusual rainbow pearlescent effects. See more variations using interference paints in Techniques 21, 22 and 24. Helpful tips on these exciting paints can be found in the beginning of this section.

Materials List

Paint A variety of interference and iridescent acrylic paint colors, black paint Substrate Any primed painting surface Tools Mixing palette or cups, painting or mixing knife, paintbrush (optional masking tape) For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Create an Iridescent Underpainting Use any design. Here masking tape is used to mask off various stripes over a white surface. A variety of iridescent acrylic paints was then used to create this hard-edged design. Alternatively, feel free to create any underpainting you prefer, using at least several different iridescent paints applied with brush, knife or rag. Let it dry.

STEP 2 Create an Additional Design Create a second layer design. Here again masking tape is used for hard-edged stripes, now going horizontally.

STEP 3 Apply Interference Paints Brush apply interference paint colors over the iridescent underpainting. In some areas apply thinly to allow the underlying iridescent to shift the interference. In other areas, apply thickly for a pearly opaque effect. Mix in a small amount of black with some interference colors to create a more intense and opaque color.

Finished Example Using a striped grid pattern shows off the variety of effects obtainable using interference over iridescents. Continue adding new layers and new mixtures as preferred. Each layer should be dry to the touch before applying the next.

Interference Violet is applied over Iridescent Gold for a softly illuminated background with collaged papers in decorative designs. INDIGENOUS DREAMS Patricia Forbes Acrylic and paper collage on paper 16" Ă— 16" (41cm Ă— 41cm)

Interference Violet and Interference Blue are applied thickly to create a shimmering white dress. Bronze and silver paint are used in the background. Gold leaf is used for the dress decorations and in the background’s upper left corner.

INCUBATION OF POSSIBILITY Catherine Molland Acrylic, oil, mixed media and gold leaf on canvas 24" × 36" (61cm × 91cm)


Embedded Pearlized Color

Interference colors create unusual color-flip effects when used in specific ways. There are multiple ways to incorporate them into painting mixtures, techniques and products to produce shimmering color shifts. Here is a wild one sure to yield many possibilities, suggesting the magical sheen of abalone shell or insect wings. See Technique 18 for a similar method simulating wax effects.

Materials List

Paint 1 or more interference paint colors, several fluid modern paint colors Substrate Any primed painting surface (sturdy and rigid is recommended) Tools Painting knife, textural or other application tool, cup or mixing palette Products An acrylic gloss gel For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Apply a Base Mixture In a cup or on a mixing palette combine an interference paint color, into gloss gel in a 1:3 ratio. Here is Interference Red (Coarse) in Regular Gel Gloss. Mix well with a knife, then apply onto the surface at least 1â „4-inch (0.6cm) thick.

STEP 2 Swirl Color into Wet Gel Add a few drops of paint color into the wet gel. Gently move the colors around in the gel using a knife, brush, or other application tool, pushing the color into the depths of the gel and swirling them on top. Use color sparingly. Here, one drop each of Quinacridone Magenta, Phthalo Turquoise, Phthalo Green (Yellow Shade) and Quinacridone Burnt Orange are used. Add more base mixture if necessary to adequately cover your surface. Let it dry.

STEP 3 Add a New Layer with Texture Repeat Steps 1 and 2 with a different interference and gel mixture. Here a mixture of Interference Gold with Regular Gel Gloss is applied, then drops of the following colors were added onto the wet gel: Green Gold, Phthalo Blue (Green Shade), Iridescent Gold Deep (Fine), Iridescent Bright Gold (Fine). After swirling the color into the gel, use a knife or comb to remove and add texture to the gel. Let it dry.

The Initial Layer The first layer of gel and colors have dried, revealing a pearly effect.

Finished Example The pearly effect is visibly enhanced with a second layer and texture. If desired, continue repeating layers to add more effects.

The painting continues from Technique 24 with another layer of gloss gel. This smooths the top surface allowing the butterfly to be easily painted on top using Interference Blue, Iridescent Silver, Quinacridone Burnt Orange, Carbon Black and Iridescent Copper. BLUE WINGS Nancy Reyner Acrylic on panel 8" Ă— 10" (20cm Ă— 25cm)

The pearlized purple-blue bands near bottom and middle are created using Technique 24 but substitute Iridescent Pearl for interference and made separately as skins (Technique 39) then glued in place with gel onto the painting. Other collage

elements are added for playful effect.

FOUR FURRY FRIENDS Laura Casas Acrylic and collage on canvas panel 14" × 11" (36cm × 28cm)


Secret Tricks to Pouring

MONSOON RHAPSODY Ming Franz Acrylic on paper 16" × 26" (41cm × 66cm)

Contemporary paintings are notorious for showcasing a wide variety of special effects, especially when the imagery is abstract. Many of these effects are obtained by pouring. Think of Jackson Pollock, Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler. Pouring is actually a simple concept. It’s a way of applying paint without using brushes, knives, hands or other application tools. Open a container of any fluid or pourable acrylic and turn it upside down onto a painting surface. The acrylic pours onto the surface creating a fluid shape or layer. Further effects can be obtained by manipulating the pour directly out of the container by flinging, dripping and drizzling, or by tilting the surface so the wet pour can move around. Pouring is a great way to add some fun into your painting process, smooth out unwanted texture on your surface, get marbleized effects and rich colored glazes. Techniques in this section include a smooth glossy finish often called a surfboard finish, evenly applied colored overlays or glazes, embedding and canvas staining. Pouring may be simple, but not always easy. Read further for helpful tips to circumvent common pouring problems.

COSMIC COLLISION Jane Callister Acrylic on canvas 36" × 48" (91cm × 122cm)

Essential Tips for Pouring

Coated Pouring Problems Crevicing forms when layers are too deep or if left to dry on an uneven surface. Avoid by pouring thinly. Spread the medium out thinly while wet, or add small amounts of water to the pouring medium to ease thinner applications. Pour several thin layers, allowing each layer to dry before applying the next layer. Rippling is caused by trying to rush the drying time with a blow dryer or placing it to dry outside in direct heat. To avoid bubbles, pour gently from a low height and soft angle, and lightly spray with alcohol from a spray bottle immediately after pouring.

There are two categories of pouring, each requiring different processes and produce different effects. A coated pour uses paint or combinations of paint and medium with little or no water added, while a wash pour uses heavy dilutions of water with paint color. The more water added, the more the binder is diminished, encouraging the diluted paint to sink into the surface rather than sit on top as a coating layer. In general a good rule to follow is that if you want a pour to sit on top of the surface (as in Jackson Pollack’s layered drips or high gloss finishes), use a pourable medium and keep water additions to under 40%. If you want a pour to sink into the surface, (as in Helen Frankenthaler’s stained canvas effects), add little or no mediums, instead heavily diluting the paint with water (at least 1:1 paint-to-water ratio). A coated pour can resemble oil paint and will intensify colors since glossy binders refract light. A wash pour can resemble watercolor and mutes colors since the glossy binder is diluted with water. In this section, Techniques 25–32 involve coated pours while Techniques 33–37 are wash pours. Technique 38 combines both coated and wash pours. TIPS FOR COATED POURS

Coated pours are best obtained by starting with a medium or paint that is already pourable. Fluid acrylics are pourable and so are many mediums and gels. If it naturally pours out of a container when turned upside down, it will probably be fine for the pouring techniques in this section. Pours are very finicky with outcomes varying widely depending on climate, type of acrylic product used, surface absorbency and application. Test a product by pouring it on a scrap surface and let it dry. Compare final results with those pictured here for improvement tips. Pouring mediums come in thick or thin viscosities. Thin pouring mediums are not diluted versions of the thick. Instead, each is formulated specifically and will produce different results when used in a pouring

technique. For determining pouring quantities, plan on about 2 ounces of thin pouring medium to cover an 8" × 10" square (20cm × 25cm) or 3 ounces for thicker pouring mediums. Avoid haphazardly adding water to thin pouring mediums. Instead experiment with the pouring medium on its own first to determine if you need to add water. Consider these additional tips for coated pours: • Setup. Allow excess medium to spill over the sides by propping up the surface with containers or blocks at all four corners. Use a leveling device to ensure the surface will be level while drying. To level, add small bits of paper under propped corners until even. • Surfaces. Use a rigid substrate to prevent buckling while the pour dries. Stretched canvases need to have the center propped up to keep it from sinking. Before pouring apply a stain sealer, then prime with gesso to diminish stains coming through the surface into the poured layer (see Section 1: Archival Methods and Materials). • Color or Clear? Adding color to a pouring medium is always an option. Experiment by mixing color and medium in a container homogeneously for an even colored pour (Technique 29), add color into the container but don’t mix or stir for a dirty-mix pour (Technique 26), or add color after pouring directly into wet medium (Technique 27). Experiment with a variety of paints like fluids and very thin paints like airbrush colors, high flow, or acrylic inks. • Pouring Methods. For most techniques a pour can entirely cover a surface, part of the surface as a puddle or shape, or in a drizzle creating linear shapes.

A Well-Executed Coated Pour A perfect pour, fully dry with no crevicing or bubbles.


Fluid paints offer more color intensity for making color washes than heavy body paints. Substitute acrylic inks, high flow and airbrush colors in most wash techniques for alternate effects.

• Water. Add enough water to create the appropriate dilution for each wash technique. For most techniques finding the ideal ratio of paint to water gives best results. For additional information on diluting paint with water see Section 1: Water Versus Mediums. • Consider Surface Absorbency. Most techniques require a specific surface absorbency to produce best results. Wash pours on a glossy surface break apart into interesting variegations, while on matte or absorbent surfaces, such as watercolor paper and raw canvas, soak into the surface producing an evencolored stain. Easily change surface absorbency by applying the appropriate (matte or gloss) acrylic paste or gel before painting, as in Techniques 33 and 34. • Minimize Handling. Let the paint and water move around on their own while drying. Interesting effects with washes are more often created with happy accidents. Once a wash is applied it is often best to leave it alone undisturbed on a level surface.

A variety of soft and hard-edge forms are created with wash pours on canvas. Modern colors are used for the washes, keeping the color intensity bright. BIG YELLOW Mary Morrison Acrylic on canvas 42" Ă— 46" (107cm Ă— 117cm)


Surfboard Finish

How do you get that surfboard finish so popular on contemporary paintings? You know, that super clear, glossy, smooth top coat. This can be obtained using commercial resins, which come in two parts; a resin and hardener. Resins are very toxic, though, so here is a way to get a similar finish with no health hazards. Adding a glass-like smooth layer enhances colors and can be added as a top coat, or in between painting layers to enhance refraction.

Materials List

Substrate Any primed painting surface Tools A painting knife, spatula or other spreading tool Products A pourable acrylic gloss medium of your choice (see Section 4: Tips for Coated Pours), spray bottle with isopropyl alcohol For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Create an Underpainting

Start with any surface. This surface is painted with Permanent Green Light heavy body paint. The brushstrokes have a visible texture that will disappear after pouring.

STEP 2 Pour and Spread Medium Prop up the surface from the table or floor. (For more information on set up see Section 4: Tips for Coated Pours.) Select a pourable acrylic medium and gently pour over the surface. Use a spatula or knife to spread the acrylic evenly so it is not too thick. Immediately spray lightly with alcohol to remove bubbles. Let dry undisturbed on a level surface.

Finished Example This surfboard finish sports a clear glossy smooth layer.

A surfboard finish on this quintet painting integrates the five separate panels and creates an interesting contrast between the textural visual effects and the final smooth glossy surface. ODE TO A ROAD TRIP #9 Bonnie Teitelbaum Acrylic on five panels Each panel 48" Ă— 12" (122cm Ă— 30cm)


Dirty-Mix Pours

Add color to pouring mediums and allow the medium to move and swirl the colors on its own, creating unusual marbleized rainbow-like visual effects.

Materials List

Paint Several acrylic paint colors Substrate Any primed painting surface Tools A painting knife or other mixing tool, spatula or other spreading tool Products A pourable acrylic medium of your choice (see Section 4: Tips for Coated Pours), spray bottle with isopropyl alcohol For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Prepare Pouring Mixture Add enough pouring medium to a container to cover your surface. Add one drop each of two or three colors to 2 ounces of medium. This small amount of paint color still allows for part of the pouring medium to remain uncolored and transparent. Increase the amount of color for more opacity. Here is one drop each of Diarylide Yellow and Cobalt Teal. Stir minimally or not at all.

STEP 2 Pour Onto the Surface

Prop up the surface from the table. (For more information on set up see Section 4: Tips for Coated Pours.) Pour the mixture onto the surface. Here the slightly stirred mixture is poured over a dry surface prepainted with Carbon Black. For thin pouring mediums tilt the surface in all directions to help the pour spread over the surface evenly. For thicker pouring mediums gently move the pour with a knife to spread evenly. As you move the pour, by tilting or with a knife, the unmixed paint colors move around, over and under each other creating a feeling of depth. Lightly spray with alcohol to remove bubbles. Let it dry undisturbed on a level surface.

Finished Example The pouring medium has cleared now that it is dry. A dramatic effect is created with very little paint. The black background sets off these light and bright colors. Instead of black, consider painting the surface with a different color or image.

A glossy pour was applied over a colored underpainting and while wet, black acrylic ink was added to create watery shapes.

NEPTUNE’S REALM Bonnie Teitelbaum Acrylic on panel 48" × 36" (122cm × 91cm)

A dirty-mix pour is used for the first layer. Color is enhanced using Technique 29, and washes of interference and black (Technique 34) add a final accent. BURNISHED (DETAIL) Sandy Keller Acrylic on panel 48" × 16" (122cm × 41cm)


The Supreme Pour

This technique starts with a dirty-mix pour (Technique 26) and takes it to another level with intensified color and a more complex marbleized effect. For best results have all materials ready, including mixtures pre-made before starting, as this technique should be completed all in one session while wet.

Materials List

Paint Several fluid acrylic paint colors, several thin acrylic paint colors (airbrush colors, high flow or acrylic inks) Substrate Any primed painting surface (brightest results are obtained with a white surface) Tools A painting knife or other mixing and spreading tool, a textural tool of your choice (see Technique 3), mixing containers Products A pourable acrylic medium of your choice (see Section 4: Tips for Coated Pours), spray bottle with isopropyl alcohol For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Pour Wet on Wet Plan approximately 1 ounce pouring medium for 40 square inches (102cm²) of surface. Divide the medium into two cups. Into one cup add 1 drop paint color (here, Quinacridone Burnt Orange) per 1 ounce medium (here, GAC800), mixing thoroughly with a knife, to create an opaque, uniformly mixed color. In the other cup, prepare a dirty-mix pour (Step 1, Technique 26) yielding a transparent multi-colored mixture (here using Green Gold and Teal). Pour both mixtures onto the surface choosing to overlap, keep separate, or drizzle around each other, as pictured here.

STEP 2 Add Thin Acrylic Drip some airbrush colors or acrylic ink (or dilute fluid paint with water 1:1) directly onto the wet pour.

STEP 3 Merge Colors Lift the surface up and tilt for a few seconds in different angles so the colors and mediums move.

STEP 4 Continue With More Effects Continue adding more color if desired. Here drops of Hansa Yellow Medium airbrush color are added into the wet medium. Gently comb or rake the wet pour using a knife or other textural tool to allow more blending and marbleizing of colors. Spray lightly with alcohol to create interesting color separation effects, and remove any bubbles. Spray before the pour starts to set or the alcohol can create pits. Let dry on a level surface.

Finished Example When dry the result is dramatically different from its wet stage.

Several coated pouring mixtures were pre-made using color and medium in separate cups then poured while all were still wet, allowing colors to overlap. DRAGON BREATH Bonnie Teitelbaum Acrylic on panel 22" Ă— 22" (56cm Ă— 56cm)


Smoothing Pours

Pouring acrylic medium over a textured surface can smooth or eliminate the texture altogether. This can be used at the end as a final smoothing coat or between layers. This smoothing pour can also be used to protect and reinforce a delicate or uneven surface that contains mixed media or collage.

Materials List

Substrate Any textured painting surface in need of smoothing Products A pourable acrylic medium of your choice (see Section 4: Tips for Coated Pours), spray bottle with isopropyl alcohol For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Start With a Textured Surface Here Coarse Pumice Gel is applied, allowed to dry, then painted over using wash pours as in Techniques 33, 34 and 38. The advantage of starting with a textured surface such as this allows for soft blended edges and muted tones.

STEP 2 Pour to Smooth A textured surface conveys a physicality that left alone can be quite pleasing, easily finished with a final coat of spray varnish. If, however, you want to overpaint the textured surface with imagery, apply a smooth glaze to an area, draw, or any other technique that needs control, smoothing the texture will make it easier. Pour a clear acrylic medium over the dry surface following the steps in Technique 25. Lightly spray with alcohol to remove bubbles and let dry on a level surface. The texture is somewhat smoother, but still visible. Repeat pours for further smoothing until satisfied.

Smoothing Pours Reinforce Delicate Surfaces

Here Crackle Paste was applied as a surface ground, then painted using wash pours. Crackle Paste often needs reinforcement to keep from flaking off with rough handling or if used on a flexible support like canvas. GAC800 was poured on top and is thin enough to sink into the cracks, reinforcing the surface. Alternatively use a thicker pouring medium diluted with up to 40% water to thin.

A clear pour was applied over multiple layers that included acrylic paint, iridescent pastes, handmade paper collage, carbon transfer and stamping. Texture from the collage and Crackle Paste was smoothed by the pour allowing continued layers with transfers. An overall veiled encaustic look is obtained with translucent matte gels (see Technique 20). INITIATION Cate Goedert Acrylic and mixed media on panel 12" Ă— 12" (30cm Ă— 30cm)


Poured Glazing

Glazes can intensify and shift underlying color. When glazes are poured, however, the color is illuminated and intensified even more while smoothing the surface at the same time. See Technique 44 for fake stained glass effects using poured glazing over metal leaf.

Materials List

Paint One or more acrylic paint colors Substrate Any primed painting surface Tools Painting knife or other mixing tool, spatula or other spreading tool, mixing container Products An acrylic pouring medium of your choice (see Section 4: Tips for Coated Pours), spray bottle with isopropyl alcohol For clean-up Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Create an Underpainting Start by creating an underpainting using abstract or representational imagery. Keep the image light and bright as subsequent glazing can often darken or deepen colors. Let dry.

STEP 2 Mix a Pouring Glaze then Pour Decide what area of the painting you wish to shift in color or tone (or decide to shift the entire surface). Add enough pouring medium to cover the desired area into a mixing container. Add only one or two drops of color per 2 ounces of medium to keep it transparent. Stir well. Prop up the surface from the table. Pour the mixture onto the surface. Spread the acrylic out in the desired thickness over the surface evenly with a knife or other spreading tool. Immediately spray lightly with alcohol to remove bubbles. Let dry undisturbed on a level surface. Here is one drop of Green Gold added to 2 ounces of pouring medium.

Finished Example The poured glaze transformed the overall color palette to a yellow-gold.


The transparency and color intensity varies depending on how thick the pour will be. Test the mixture by making extra amounts of the pour mixture and applying it on a scrap surface in the same depth as the actual pour. Wait until dry to determine the results, then change the ratio of paint to medium to make the pour mixture more or less transparent.

Color is intensified by applying paint on both sides of clear vinyl. Poured glazes are mixed with clear resin. Interference paint colors are also used to add refractive qualities.

EARTHLY DELIGHTS Sandra Duran Wilson Mixed media with poured resin on vinyl 12" × 6" (30cm × 15cm)


Deep Pouring

Add a thick glossy layer over a painting without using toxic resins. Here are three options for deep pouring: 1. Pour multiple thin layers separately for a crystal clear and smooth deep pour. Choose to add duct tape walls around painting edges, otherwise allow the medium to spill over the sides. Pour gloss pouring medium and let it dry. Repeat the process until you’ve obtained the desired thickness. This method can be used with most pouring mediums without crevicing or cracking. 2. Fake wax effect with a deep pour (demonstrated below, using Golden’s GAC800). 3. Jump-start the deep pour with gels using Technique 31 (skipping the embedded object in Step 2). This produces a clear thick layer that looks like a deep pour, but uses gels for the depth, since gels do not crevice or crack. Visible bubbles will occur in the gel layer, creating an interesting textural element.

Materials List

Substrate A sturdy rigid primed painting surface cradled or with sides and painted with an image or color Tools Paintbrush or other application tool, duct tape Products A pourable acrylic medium of your choice (see Section 4: Tips for Coated Pours), gloss gel, spray bottle with isopropyl alcohol For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Create an Underpainting Use a rigid sturdy surface pre-painted with color or an image you wish to add a thick clear overlayer. (If using a flexible surface such as stretched canvas prop up the canvas with supports underneath to keep it from dipping in the center with the weight of the acrylic. It will need to stay in place until fully dry.)

STEP 2 Apply Duct Tape Walls

Apply duct tape along all four sides of the painting so part of the tape width (at least 1⁄2-inch [1.3cm]) adheres to the sides while the other part of the tape extends upwards creating wall structures for the depth you wish to create in your pour. For very deep pours, prop up the tape “walls” with extra support by taping cardboard onto the outside of the duct tape.

Noncrazing Pouring Mediums for Deep Pours

At the time of this book’s publication, there is only one non-toxic pouring medium that can be poured deeply all at once without crevicing or cracking: Golden’s GAC800. New pouring mediums are currently being developed, but as of right now, most mediums cannot be poured thicker than 1⁄4 inch (0.6cm) without crevicing. Experiment on a small piece of scrap work to test a medium, letting it dry fully to see if results are satisfactory. Although GAC800 does not crevice it does dry cloudy and yellow, presenting a great way to imitate wax or encaustic effects. For a deep pour that is crystal clear do Option A or C, or research to see if new pouring mediums are available that can be poured deeply in one pour, remaining clear when dry, without crevicing.

STEP 3 Seal Gaps and Pour Seal the place where tape meets the surface on the inside of the taped area with gloss gel and a brush or rubber shaper tool. This can remain wet or allowed to dry before continuing to the next step. Using GAC800, pour as much and as deeply as you like within the taped off area. Immediately spray lightly with alcohol to remove bubbles. Leave on a level surface undisturbed until fully dry. Remove the tape. If using other pouring mediums that crevice, do not pour more than 1â „8-inch thick all at once. Instead, pour in multiple thin layers as in Option A.

Finished Example

Golden’s GAC800 dries translucent, yellow and cloudy in this deep pour (about 5⁄16" depth when wet, reducing to 3⁄16" when dry), offering the appearance of wax or encaustic. For another fake wax effect (see Technique 20).

Example of a Deeper Pour

A deeper pour of the GAC800 (about 5â „8" depth when wet, reducing to 3â „8" when dry) almost completely veils the underlying painting.

Removing Excess Buildup When dry, if poured walls have risen up higher alongside where the duct tape was, shave off the excess using a single edge razor blade.

Embedding Objects

Here GAC800 is poured over another surface with the same underpainting very thinly following Technique 25, so the cloudiness/yellowing is less pronounced. A partially embedded object, a jeweled butterfly, is added while the pour is still wet. For more ideas on embedding objects see Technique 31.


Embedding Objects

Embed objects into acrylic for a playful approach, to add relief texture or to create a surprise focus.

Materials List

Substrate A sturdy rigid primed painting surface painted with an image or color Tools Painting knife or other spreading tool Products Heavy or thick acrylic gloss gel, soft or regular acrylic gloss gel, a pourable acrylic medium of your choice (see Section 4: Tips for Coated Pours), spray bottle with isopropyl alcohol Other Objects to embed For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Prepare Surface and Objects Start with a rigid sturdy surface prepainted with color or an image. If you’re using a flexible surface, prop up the canvas with supports underneath to keep it from dipping in the center. Keep the surface on the supports until fully dry. If the objects are from nature or have a fragile coloring, like rose petals, thinly brush apply gloss acrylic medium all over and let dry before embedding.

STEP 2 Glue an Object Glue object into place using a small amount of a heavy acrylic gloss gel, as pictured here with a shell. The gel does not need to dry before proceeding to the next step.

STEP 3 Embed the Object in Gel Knife apply a soft or regular acrylic gloss gel over the entire surface, or only in selected areas. Since the gel will reduce in depth by about one-third when dry, apply it substantially above the

object’s height if it is to be fully embedded. Apply less if the object will only be partially submerged.

STEP 4 Smooth Smooth with a knife as best as possible. Let dry, which may take anywhere from a week to a month depending on thickness and climate. Optionally, pour a thin layer of a pourable acrylic medium over the top to smooth out any gel application texture following Techniques 25 or 28. Let sit on a level surface undisturbed until dry.

Finished Example The shell is deeply embedded in the gel. Bubbles trapped in the gel layer are visible over dark colors, adding a textural element.

Twine and newspaper are embedded in drip-like shapes using gel. This painting also includes String Gel, Glass Bead Gel, Interference Blue, Interference Orange, Iridescent Bright Gold and Iridescent Bronze. ALPINE SUNRISE Marla Robb Acrylic and mixed media on canvas 11" × 14" (28cm × 36cm)

The copper leaf background contrasts with the landscape imagery using transparent and opaque paint applications. Embedded shredded paper for the tree trunks adds a textural element. POPLARS Asha Menghrajani Acrylic, copper leaf and mixed media on canvas 60" Ă— 60" (152cm Ă— 152cm) Private collection


Pouring Veiled Effects

Pour a pearly translucent layer, adding a whitish cloudy “veil� over painted areas, enhancing the illusion of depth. See Technique 45 for another veiling idea over metal leaf.

Materials List

Paint Zinc White, Iridescent Pearl Substrate Any primed painting surface Tools Paintbrush, painting knife or other mixing tool, mixing palette or cups, spatula or other spreading tool Products A pourable acrylic medium of your choice (see Section 4: Tips for Coated Pours), spray bottle with isopropyl alcohol For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Create an Underpainting

Since a veiled layer is translucent and meant to shift and change a painting layer underneath, start by creating an underpainting using abstract or representational imagery. Keep colors slightly darker and brighter as the veiling layer will lighten and mute colors. Let dry.

STEP 2 Make Veiling Mixture and Pour Add pouring medium into a mixing container, planning on approximately 2–3 ounces of medium to cover an area 80 square inches (203cm²), i.e. 8" × 10" (20cm × 25cm). Add either Zinc White or Iridescent Pearl (or use both) to a pouring medium starting with a ratio of 1:4, paint to medium. Stir well. Test on a scrap surface allowing it to dry fully to determine if it is translucent enough for the underlying layer to show through. The transparency varies depending on how thick the pour will be. If it is too opaque, add more medium. If it is too subtle, add more of the white and/or pearl to the mixture. Prop up the surface from the table. Choose to veil the entire surface or a selected area. Pour mixture onto the surface. Spread to the desired thickness over the surface or selected area evenly with a knife or other spreading tool. Immediately spray lightly with alcohol to remove bubbles. Let dry undisturbed on a level surface.

Finished Example A pouring medium with both Zinc White and Iridescent Pearl was poured over the top half of the painting, giving the illusion of depth. This painting will benefit from an additional clear pour over the entire surface following Technique 25 to

eliminate the relief edge where the pour ends along the horizon line.

Visible in the upper right quadrant is a muted violet veiling resembling an airbrush effect, produced by rubbing color onto the surface with a rag. This is an alternative way to get a veiled effect without using pours. Other areas of the painting used wet-in-wet coated pours (see Technique 44). FIRE ON SKUNK MOUNTAIN Jane Callister Acrylic on canvas, 48" Ă— 60" (122cm Ă— 152cm) Courtesy Royale Projects

Veiling over silver and gold leaf is achieved here with brush-applied glazes, creating a receding background, accentuating the vase and flowers. RED SPICE Asha Menghrajani Acrylic, copper leaf and mixed media on canvas 24" Ă— 24" (61cm Ă— 61cm) Private collection


Halo Staining

Colored halos are created in this technique using wet paint drops on a wet washy surface. A great technique for evocative backgrounds, translucent color fields or abstract paintings.

Materials List

Paint Several fluid acrylic paint colors Substrate Any primed painting surface Tools Painting knife or other spreading tool, a soft flat paintbrush, palette, spray bottle Products An absorbent acrylic paste Other Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Apply Paste to the Surface Using a knife, spatula or other spreading tool apply an absorbent acrylic paste thinly over entire surface. The more absorbent the paste the greater the bleed and halo effects. Here, Acrylic Ground for Pastel is applied fairly smoothly on a panel primed with gesso. Let dry.

STEP 2 Apply Background Washes On a palette, dilute acrylic paint colors separately in a 1:3 ratio of paint to water to create several colored washes. Wet the surface with water using a spray bottle or brush, then brush apply or pour washes onto the wet surface to create a blended background. Here two colored washes are applied in separate areas using Permanent Green Light and Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) naturally bleeding together in places. While still wet, continue to the next step.

STEP 3 Add Drops of Fluid Paint Apply drops of fluid paint, directly onto the wet background washes. As an alternative to using fluid paints, mix heavy body paints with water in a ratio of 3:1 water to paint. Experiment with water-to-paint ratios for both background washes and halo colors to find your preference.

Finished Example Fluid paint colors were dropped onto the wet wash using Anthraquinone Blue, Hansa Yellow Medium, Yellow Ochre and Cobalt Teal.

Absorbent pastes are gritty and naturally textural, and when applied as a surface or ground, allow paint to absorb into its layers, offering the most control for the halo-staining technique. For alternate effects use nonabsorbent (or glossy) surfaces, which enable color washes to separate, creating variegated effects as pictured in this example, using gloss gel instead of the paste in Step 1, Technique 33. For another example, see Technique 34. ROCK CLIFFS Nancy Reyner Acrylic on panel 8" Ă— 10" (20cm Ă— 25cm)


Metallic Rainbow

Stunning rainbow effects are created with colored paint washes on nonabsorbent surfaces. Each paint’s pigment has its own particular weight. In a washy puddle with lots of water, multiple colors will separate from each other, creating a variegation or rainbow effect. The rainbow effect varies greatly according to the painting surface as well as the paint colors selected. For more ideas with colored washes see Section 4: Tips for Wash Pours, Techniques 33, 36 and 37.

Materials List

Paint Various acrylic paint colors, including at least one mineral, one modern, an interference, an iridescent and Carbon Black. Substrate Any primed painting support Tools Painting knife or other mixing tool, textural or other application tool, flat wide bristle paintbrush, mixing palette or cups, water and water container, paper towels or rags Products A semi-gloss or gloss gel, or semi-gloss paste such as Molding Paste

STEP 1 Create a Custom Surface Here, a dark textured nonabsorbent surface is made with 2 oz. Molding Paste mixed with 1 tsp Carbon Black (about 30 drops of fluid paint). Vary ratios to your preference. Make more of the

mixture for larger surfaces. Mix well with a knife, then knife apply thickly, at least 1â „4-inch (0.3cm) depth to allow a relief texture. Let it dry at least six hours or until fully dry to the touch.

STEP 2 Apply a Wash Select at least one paint color from each of four different categories: modern, mineral, interference and iridescent. Add small amounts of all colors into enough water to create a single muddy wash. Brush apply a puddle of plain water onto the entire surface or in select areas. Add the colored wash with a brush or pour directly onto the wet surface. Drizzle small drops of undiluted paint to add more variety. Don’t overwork it. Let sit level and undisturbed until fully dry.

Finished Example

Detail of Example

A rainbow effect is used twice here. White waves at the bottom are created with white paint washes over gloss black. The distant mountains below the sky use colored washes over Glass Bead Gel.

NIGHT LIGHTS Nancy Reyner Acrylic on panel 48" × 35" (122cm × 89cm)


Color Field Staining

Obtain an even stain of color on raw canvas, or blend colors so subtlety they appear as though airbrushed. Great for abstract color fields or intensified areas of color, this technique can be used for an underpainting or softly blurred representational imagery.

Materials List

Paint One or more acrylic paint colors in your choice of fluid, heavy body, airbrush colors, high flow or inks Substrate Raw (unprimed) cotton canvas (12 oz. or heavier) Tools Masking tape, staples and staple gun, flat head screwdriver, household sponge, wide flat paintbrush, mixing palette or containers Other Particle board with dimensions in excess of canvas size, water, water container, paper towels

STEP 1 Prepare the Surface Rip or cut the canvas to the size you wish. Center it on the particle board, stapling in place every few inches along all sides, pulling taut while stapling. Apply masking tape along all sides over the

staples to ease their later removal. Saturate canvas well with water using a household sponge and applying pressure to push the water into the canvas. Continue to next step while wet.

STEP 2 Apply Paint Place one or more acrylic paint colors on a mixing palette. If using heavy body paints, add a small amount of water to slightly loosen (here, undiluted Naphthol Red Light fluid paint). While the canvas is still wet, apply colors with a sponge for an even color application or brush apply for more variation. Mist the canvas with water while working if it starts to dry. Continue to the next step while still wet.

STEP 3 Overlap Washes Continue adding colors until satisfied. Here, Titanium White and Hansa Yellow Medium are applied centrally over the red to lighten. If colors are too dark or intense, apply clean water to them and brush out or blot with rags. If colors are too pale, add more color.

Finished Example Brush and sponge were both used to apply paint, creating a subtly varied stain, including Carbon Black along the edges. When dry remove the tape and use a flathead screwdriver to pull out staples. If desired, adhere the canvas to panel with a wet layer of gel or stretch onto stretcher bars.


If planning to later stretch the canvas onto stretcher bars, measure with at least a 3-inch (8cm) excess margin on each side of the canvas for Step 1. Substitute flow release for water in Step 1 when wetting the surface. This reduces bleeding outwards while increasing saturation of color into the depths of the canvas making colors bleed to the reverse side.

Mary Morrison developed the specifics for this color-field-staining technique, using it to perfection in this piece. CANNA Mary Morrison Acrylic on canvas 34" Ă— 30" (86cm Ă— 76cm)

Red, blue, yellow and white color washes are applied onto absorbent watercolor paper in one wet-on-wet session. Salt is added to the wet washes creating some textural effects.

ORCHIDS Ming Franz Acrylic on paper 20" × 16" (51cm × 41cm)


Marbleizing Color Fields

Taking advantage of the flexibility of unstretched canvas, colored washes puddle up and merge in deep wrinkles to produce a marbleized effect.

Materials List

Paint One or more fluid acrylic paints (or acrylic inks, high flow or airbrush colors) Substrate Raw (unprimed) canvas in medium or heavy weight Tools Paintbrush, mixing palettes or containers, spray bottle, iron, bucket Products A good quality gesso or an absorbent paste or gel Other Water, water container, paper towels or rags, cloth towel

STEP 1 Prepare the Surface Rip or cut the canvas to the size you wish. If planning to later stretch it onto stretcher bars add at least a 3-inch (7.7cm) margin on each side. Using an absorbent paste (or a good quality gesso) apply several thin coats until the canvas fabric texture is barely visible and the surface is very matte. Let dry. Wet the coated canvas with water by soaking it in a sink or bucket. Remove the canvas and wring out water by scrunching it up into a tight ball. Unroll gently without fully smoothing the wrinkles.

STEP 2 Add Color Washes Dilute fluid acrylic paints with water in a 1:1 ratio of paint to water. Keep inks and other thin acrylics undiluted. Pour or brush apply each color in separate areas, then slightly move the colors with a brush or by tilting the surface to assist the colors in merging. Avoid overworking to keep the colors from getting muddy. Let dry. Place the canvas face down on a towel, spray the back lightly with water and iron using high heat to smooth out the wrinkles.

Finished Example Diarylide Yellow, Cobalt Turquoise, Titanium White, Carbon Black and Chromium Oxide Green were used to create the completed example.

This marbleized effect uses a different surface than described. Instead of crinkling wet canvas, a textured surface is created by applying Molding Paste onto a panel. While the paste was wet, it was sculpted with a variety of unusual tools including metallic foil with holes in it, plastic cork, thread spool, adhesive spreader, carpet netting, onion netting, plastic doily and mosquito netting. Puddled washes of Iridescent Copper Light are applied over the paste while still wet. After drying, an additional wash was applied using Cerulean Blue Deep and Iridescent Stainless Steel. ARCHEOLOGICAL REMNANTS II Teyjah McAren Acrylic on board 6.5" Ă— 7.5" (17cm Ă— 19cm)

Washes of red, blue, yellow and white are applied onto flat absorbent watercolor paper. The marbleized texture is created by dropping salt, alcohol and liquid detergent onto the wet color washes. JEMEZ FROM ABOVE Ming Franz Acrylic on paper 14" Ă— 28" (36cm Ă— 71cm)


Best results are obtained using canvas coated with an absorbent product. Canvas is naturally absorbent but without a coating will soak up paint in staining effects (see Technique 35) instead of the marbleizing. Commercially primed canvases are often coated with gesso that is not absorbent enough for this technique. These can still be used as long as several additional coats of an absorbent product or good quality gesso are applied as well.


Shaped Edge Washes

Combine chaos with control using wash pours for wild color blending effects and a method to maintain hard edged shapes. See Technique 38 for another way to combine hard and soft edges with pouring.

Materials List

Paint One or more acrylic paint colors (or acrylic inks, high flow or airbrush colors) Substrate Any primed painting surface Tools Paintbrush or eyedroppers, mixing palette or containers Products Acrylic gesso For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Prepare the Surface A satin or semi-absorbent surface works the best for this technique obtained with one coat of a good quality gesso, or using a pre-primed surface. If your surface is glossy, apply a thin coat of matte medium or acrylic gesso. Let dry. Dip a brush in water, then apply onto the surface thinly in areas and shapes wherever you will want color. Here a letter is being painted onto the surface with water. Immediately proceed to the next step while wet.

STEP 2 Add Color Select a few paint colors and dilute with water in a 1:1 ratio for fluid paints, more water for heavy bodied, and no water for inks or other thin acrylics. Dip a brush into the colored washes or suction into an eyedropper and apply color in one or more places in the wet areas on the surface. The color immediately moves outward on its own, filling in the wet shape. If the watered shape on the surface dries before you get the chance to add color, reapply water. Best results are obtained by letting the paint and water do its own thing without overworking. Let dry.

Finished Example

Coated pours create the background while shaped edge washes create the horse. NIGHT RAIN (DETAIL)

Sandy Keller Acrylic on panel 42" × 12" (107cm × 30cm)

A dirty-mix pour (Technique 26) creates an interesting glossy background. Iridescent Copper and Silver wash pours using shaped edge washes create the horse shape and highlight. CATCH A FALLING STAR (DETAIL) Sandy Keller Acrylic on panel 20” × 20” (51cm × 51cm)


Hard and Soft Edge Pouring

Wash pours and coated pours when used together in the same painting can create a range of hard and soft edged forms. In general, wash pours create soft edges, while coated pours create hard edges. A hard edge is simply defined as a clear visible boundary between two areas of color or between a color and background. A soft edge is when one color blends so softly into another that it is not always easy to discern where one ends and the other begins. A variety of edges can enhance the illusion of depth in a painting for both abstract or representational works.

Materials List

Paint Several acrylic paint colors Substrate Any primed painting surface Tools Painting knife or other mixing tool, a spatula or other spreading tool, paintbrush, several mixing containers Products An absorbent acrylic paste, a pourable acrylic medium of your choice (see Section 4: Tips for Coated Pours), spray bottle with isopropyl alcohol Other Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Start with Wash Pours Follow Steps 1 and 2 in Technique 33 for applying washes of color over an absorbent surface. Here Acrylic Ground for Pastel is applied thinly onto a panel surface. When dry it is lightly sprayed with water then colored washes of Phthalo Turquoise, Quinacridone Red and Green Gold are brush applied and poured over the surface while it’s wet. Let dry.

Soft Edges Washes create fluid soft edged shapes.

STEP 2 Add Coated Pours for Hard Edges Add pouring medium into a mixing container. Add one or two drops of paint color per 2 ounces of medium for a transparent color, or add more paint for an opaque color. Stir well. Pour the color mixture onto the surface, or spread it out to the desired shape with a knife or other spreading tool. Immediately spray lightly with alcohol to remove bubbles. Let dry undisturbed on a level surface. Here pouring medium is mixed with Violet Oxide in an opaque pour.

Finished Example Another coated pour using Cobalt Blue is added. The hard edge shapes come forward, while the soft edge forms from washes recede into the background.

This painting uses a combination of wash pours with coated pours, creating a variety of edges and spatial depth. RECKLESS Bonnie Teitelbaum Acrylic on panel 40" × 40" (102cm × 102cm)


Optical & Luminous Effects

1976 METALFLAKE J J.E. Newman Acrylic on Masonite 12" × 24" × 2" (30cm × 61cm × 5cm)

This book could easily be retitled “Luminous Painting.” Luminosity is a word used in astronomy to measure the brightness of a star, and in Photometry as the response of the human eye to light. In art, it can be unofficially used to describe artwork that glows, refracts, emanates or somehow seduces the viewer’s eye. Previous sections in this book covered luminous effects using metal leaf, reflective paints, prismatic effects and pouring. This section continues with additional luminous effects and materials including fluorescent and phosphorescent paints, refractive layering and optical color effects. Also included are combinations of techniques. Infinite possibilities abound when combinations are considered, and the several demonstrated here, like combining gold leaf with pouring, will hopefully inspire even more combinations, experimenting and inventing.


Acrylic, gold paint and ink on canvas 62" × 26" (157cm × 66cm)

Essential Tips for Optical and Luminous Effects Here is a summary of the techniques in this section with terms defined. REFRACTIVE

Peer into a river or the ocean to see gleaming and glowing pebbles and seashells. Take them home and when dry their colorful glow disappointingly turns to gray. The water added refraction, intensifying colors. A coat of gloss acrylic layered over paint will do the same thing. Multiple coats of clear acrylic applied between layers of color will enhance the effect even more. Pouring gloss layers adds a thicker coat offering more refraction. (See Techniques 5, 25–31, 41, 44, 46 and 47.) VEILING

How would the world appear viewed through a veil? Cloudy, foggy, muted, blurred, with forms receding farther into the distance than in reality. Veiling describes a process that mutes or blurs underlying colors to create this visual illusion. Veiling can be as simple as lightly rubbing or drybrushing a small amount of white paint over other colors. Veiling is also accomplished by adding a cloudy overlay. It is also used to replicate wax or encaustic effects using acrylic pastes and matte gels. (See Techniques 16, 17, 20, 24, 32 and 45.) WHITE

The natural glow of white paint, especially when polished smooth can be used to eye-catching effect in paintings. White pastes and thick applications of interference paints can also glimmer while adding special effects. Just like painting on high quality white paper, colors are enhanced. (See Techniques 21, 24, 40, 42 and 50.) REFLECTIVE AND LUMINOUS PAINTS

Paint by itself with its glossy binder will gleam and glow (see Technique 39). Modern paint colors have a different ratio of pigment to glossy binder than mineral colors (see Section 1 for more on pigment types) and being naturally glossy, refract differently than the more matte mineral colors. Some paints such as iridescent, interference, fluorescent and phosphorescent paints have built-in luminosity, see Techniques 13, 14, 21–24, 34, 42, 43, 48 and 49. REFLECTIVE AND LUMINOUS MATERIALS

Gold and metal leaf, glass and plexi can all be used as surfaces or incorporated into artwork to add reflective qualities. (See Techniques 1–12 and 44–47.)

Glazes of Iridescent Silver are layered for a pearly reflective effect. Black ink is added to wet acrylic medium and moved around to create organic forms and shapes. GHOSTS IN THE MACHINE Bonnie Teitelbaum Acrylic on two panels 40" × 36" (102cm × 91cm)

The shaped panel on the right uses a dark glaze over a textured molding paste surface along with iridescent paints (see Technique 3). A dirty-mix pour (see Technique 26) is used on the left panel. In person, the surface is quite eye-catching, textural and reflective. COPPER CONUNDRUM Sandy Keller Acrylic on panel 22” × 20” (56cm × 51cm)


The Paint as Itself

Paint has a beauty all on its own, gleaming seductively as it’s squeezed out of the tube or poured from a bottle. If you are ever in the mood to play with paint without having to think about making a painting, try making paint skins and storing them for later use. What’s a skin? It’s a separate piece of acrylic without any backing or support. Any acrylic product when applied to a nonstick surface and left to dry, can be peeled off, producing a piece of acrylic with no backing. This piece of acrylic, or skin, can be used as a collage item in a painting, or as an entire painting layer. Nonstick surfaces include HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) sold as plastic painting drop cloths at home improvement stores. Thicker rigid sheets are available at plastic and glass supply stores. HDPE is also used for most plastic garbage bags. Other nonstick surfaces are freezer paper found in grocery stores (not to be confused with wax paper), plastic wrap (not with extra cling) and protective report covers found in office supply stores. Apply a mold release or release spray onto glass for another non-stick surface idea. Please note that acrylic will stick to most other forms of plexi surfaces.

Materials List

Paint One or more acrylic paint colors Substrate A surface with which acrylic will not adhere (ie. HDPE plexi, plastic report covers, freezer paper or garbage bag) Tools Painting knife or other application tool Products Any acrylic product (paint, medium, gel or paste) For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Apply Acrylic on a Nonstick Surface Here acrylic paint is applied to a report cover.

STEP 2 Remove From the Surface Remove skin when dry or keep on surface and store for later use, stacking them together with non-stick surfaces in between. If it’s not fully dry then it will not easily release.

Finished Example

Four Ideas With Acrylic Skins

1. Roll. Roll skins into shapes and glue them onto a painting to add a three-dimensional relief onto the painting surface. 2. Collage. Cut skins into shapes with scissors and glue them onto an acrylic painting using any acrylic gel as glue. 3. Save. Make a variety of skins and store them for later use. 4. Layer. Create large sheets of translucent skins by using matte gels, or thin layers of paste, and adhere over a painting to create the illusion of depth. Or do the same thing with clear skins, paint something different on each one, and play with their arrangement as layers in a painting (see Technique 17).

Paint skins are coiled and sculpted to create an unusual textured and vibrant spiral or target design. MOVING TARGET: A FURROW SERIES J.E. Newman Acrylic on canvas laminated to plywood 25” × 25” × 2” (64cm × 64cm × 5cm)


This sculptural painting contains multiple pieces of thick paint skins assembled and glued together. VIEWING STONE 13-11

Mark Pack Acrylic on linen 18” × 24” (46cm × 61cm) Photo credit: Hadley Fruits



Polished “Stone� Effects

Sanded layers of pure paint create seductive surfaces resembling marble or polished stone. This beautiful surface can be a painting all on its own or used as an unusual background for an abstract or representational image.

Materials List

Paint One or more heavy body acrylic paint colors Substrate Any rigid painting surface (such as panel or wood) primed with gesso Tools Painting knife or other application tool, optional electric sander Products Molding paste (optional), waterproof sandpaper For Cleanup Water, spray bottle, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Apply Paint to the Surface Knife apply one or more heavy body acrylic paint colors onto a primed surface. Avoid diluting paint with water. Instead keep the paint thick so there is enough to sand later. Another option is to mix fluid or heavy body paints with molding paste in any ratio to thicken and extend paints.

Include iridescent paints to add sparkle. Instead of the bright and bold colors here, substitute neutral colors to appear like natural rock.

First Layer of Paint When Dry

STEP 2 Add Layers

Apply additional layers of any color(s) so the final depth is at least 1â „8-inch thick. Here gray paint covers the entire surface. Apply as many layers as preferred using different colors each time, allowing each layer underneath to dry before applying the next.

STEP 3 Sand Wet the surface with water, then sand surface by hand or with an electric sander using waterproof sandpaper until smooth. Periodically wash off the surface with water and a rag to see the progress as different colors from different layers emerge. Stop at any time you are satisfied with results.

Finished Example

Sanding Acrylic Surfaces

Start with a rough grit of 120, especially if your surface has a high relief texture, then progress to finer grits such as 220, 320 or 400. Always keep enough water between the sandpaper and the surface to keep fine particles from becoming airborne. If choosing to sand without water (not recommended) wear a respirator or protective mask for safety.

HALITE WITH BLUE AND BLACK SPOTS Mark Pack Acrylic on paper 36" × 48" (91cm × 122cm) Photo credit: Hadley Fruits

Sanding thick layers of paint created these surfaces resembling marble or stone. SUCHNESS

Mark Pack Acrylic on panel 24" × 18" (61cm × 46cm) Photo credit: Hadley Fruits


Sheen Shifting

An intriguing visual flip is created by alternating matte and gloss sheens. This eye-catching surface quality can be added to a painting already finished or in process and for additional interest to a minimal abstract color field. Sheen shifting qualities are visually attractive in person, yet remain subtle in a photograph.

Materials List

Paint One or more acrylic paint colors Substrate Any painting surface Tools Paintbrush, painting knife, mixing palette or containers Products Acrylic (polymer) gloss medium, acrylic matte medium For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Mix a Color in Gloss and Matte By using both matte and gloss paint colors, a surface will take on a sheen shift, creating visual appeal. Here is a mixed blue-gray of Titanium White, Phthalo Blue and Carbon Black divided into two halves. One half is mixed with gloss medium in a 3:1 paint to medium ratio. Similarly, the other half is mixed with matte medium. Best results are obtained by using opaque colors or mixtures which can be applied evenly, encouraging the viewer to focus on the sheen. If using a transparent color, add some Titanium White to make it opaque.

STEP 2 Apply Both Sheens in Patterns Brush apply the two mixtures in separate places in any pattern, design or image. Here the matte mixture is applied over the entire surface, then the glossy mixture is brush applied in stripes on top.

A Shifting Pattern Gloss and matte stripes create a subtle sheen shift.

Finished Example

Using it as background, here a black vase is painted on top. Gloss medium is then applied over matte black gesso in places. The flowers use matte and gloss colors as well.


Use two different colors where one color is naturally glossy (moderns) and the other matte (minerals). Pair an iridescent with a regular paint color. Apply gloss and matte mediums directly onto a finished painting to vary sheens. Apply gloss over an entire painting then sand in places to create matte areas.

Graphite applied with pressure in different directional patches creates sheen shifts that add elegant patterning and geometric forms to a minimal palette.

MEASURE 2 (AFTER “THREE PRISONS”) Jenene Nagy Graphite on paper 75" × 37" (190cm × 94cm)

Detail A detail from another of Nagy’s paintings shows graphite’s metallic quality in this application.

A glossy background using Micaceous Iron Oxide (a reflective iridescent paint) sets off matte painted forms using matte fluid Carbon Black. BLACK STAIRCASE Adria Arch Acrylic on canvas 120" × 120" (305cm × 305cm), installation of 6 canvases each 40" × 40" (102cm × 102cm) Photo Credit: Will Howcroft


Subtractive Metallic Grisaille

Iridescent paints can add sparkle to underpaintings, underlayers and backgrounds. Create a wide range of effects from graphic and bold to subtle tonal areas that can be used as a contemporary version of a grisaille (an Old Master’s technique of tonal underpainting that is glazed over with transparent color layers). See Technique 21 for another unusual grisaille using interference colors.

Materials List

Paint Micaceous Iron Oxide (or other Iridescent acrylic paints and Carbon Black) Substrate Any painting surface primed with gesso or painted white Tools Paintbrush, rag or other paint application tool, painting or mixing knife, mixing palette, textural tools (see Technique 3) Products Acrylic (polymer) gloss medium

STEP 1 Prepare the Surface and Apply Paint Either start with a primed white surface or apply white paint. Let dry. Brush apply one coat of an acrylic gloss medium and let dry. If using Micaceous Iron Oxide, pictured here, brush or knife apply onto the surface. For all other iridescents (i.e. bronze, copper or gold) first put the paints on a palette to make several mixtures, adding various amounts of Carbon Black paint to create a variety of tones. Then apply these to the surface. Continue to Step 2 while still wet.

STEP 2 Create Lighter Tones with a Rag Using a rag, wipe off some paint while the surface is still wet. Vary the pressure while wiping to create a variety of lighter tonal values.

STEP 3 Subtract Lines and Shapes While the paint is still wet, use a knife or textural tool to scrape back with pressure to remove paint altogether from some areas, wiping excess onto a paper towel or rag. Allow the white background to be revealed in lines and shapes.

Finished Grisaille Micaceous Iron Oxide dries a warm black-brown. Here it is applied in varying applications from thin to thick, offering a full range of tonal values with no colors or other metallic paints added. This grisaille can now be overlaid with colored glazes (see Section 1: Glazing Tips).

Micaceous Iron Oxide is applied thickly and thinly, wiped away and scratched through while wet, to create a tonal underpainting or grisaille, then overpainted with glazes of paint color, Interference Red and Interference Green (see

Techniques 22 and 23). The center sports a dripped and drizzled interference circular design. BUBBLES UP Helen McKeown Acrylic on panel 10" × 8" (25cm × 20cm) Collection of Joseph Snooks


Metallic Drawing Surfaces

Metallic powders combined with acrylic grounds create beautiful softly reflective fine grit drawing surfaces. See Technique 12 for an alternative drawing surface on gold or metal leaf.

Materials List

Substrate Any painting or drawing surface Tools Painting or mixing knife, paintbrush, any preferred drawing materials Products Dry metallic powder/pigment or iridescent acrylic paint, acrylic matte medium Other Mixing palette or container For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Make Metallic Mixture Mix one part of either metallic powder or iridescent paint with one part matte medium in a container or on a palette, mixing well with a knife. When mixing dry pigment or powder avoid inhaling airborne particles by wearing an appropriate respirator or mask. Here Metallic Copper powder is mixed with matte medium in a 1:1 ratio.

STEP 2 Apply Mixture Apply a thin coat evenly to the surface with a knife, brush or rag. Let dry.

STEP 3 Draw Over the Ground Use any drawing materials on the surface such as charcoal, contĂŠ, pastel, pencil, marker or crayon to create an image. If the ground has not fully dried, it will gum up the drawing materials. If unable to make marks and the drawing materials slip on the surface, repeat Step 1 using a grittier mixture by adding more powder. If using an iridescent paint, add more matte medium.


Add a small amount of water to the mixture in Step 1 to ease applications. Add more water to brush apply as a thin wash. Consider using a grittier gel or paste, such as Fine Pumice Gel, Coarse Molding Paste and Acrylic Ground for Pastel instead of the matte medium in Step 1. These will increase the grit and add a subtle texture.

The hand and partial figure is drawn over a gold leaf panel pre-painted with a toothed surface using a mixture of metallic powder and medium. BENT WITH THE WEIGHT OF PERMANENCE (DETAIL) Pamela Frankel Fiedler Oil and acrylic ground with metallic powders on canvas 24" × 18" (61cm × 46cm)


Stained Glass Effect

Colored glazes poured over silver leaf create an unusual reflective surface that looks like stained glass. Experiment using this technique with a variety of other metal leaf such as bronze, gold and copper and combine with a variety of colored glazes to increase possibilities.

Materials List

Paint One or more acrylic paint colors Substrate Any painting surface leafed and sealed (see Technique 1) Tools Painting knife or other mixing tool, spatula or other spreading tool, several mixing containers Products A pourable acrylic gloss medium of your choice (see Section 4: Tips for Coated Pours), spray bottle with isopropyl alcohol For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Prepare Surface and Pouring Mixtures

Follow steps in Technique 1 to obtain a leafed and sealed surface. Add pouring medium into several mixing containers, (as many containers as colors you are pouring) with enough medium in total to cover the surface. To each container add small amounts of color, about one or two drops of color per 2 ounces of medium. The transparency and color intensity varies depending on how thick the pour will be applied. Stir mixtures well. Here is a surface leafed with silver and four prepared pouring mixtures: Quinacridone Crimson, Permanent Green Light, Nickel Azo Yellow and Phthalo Blue.

STEP 2 Pour Glaze Prop up the surface from the table (see Section 4: Tips for Coated Pours). Pour one of the colored pouring mixtures onto the surface in desired shapes, or spread out evenly with a knife or other spreading tool. Repeat with other colors. Overlap while wet for soft edges and some blended areas or wait until each color dries before applying the next for more controlled shapes, cleaner edges and even color applications. Once one or more colors are applied and ready for drying, spray lightly with alcohol to remove bubbles. Let dry undisturbed on a level surface.

Finished Example The colors are more intense when dry, and being transparent, allow the silver leaf to show through adding an exciting metallic quality. For more color intensity, repeat using the same glaze colors in a second layer directly over the dry first layer.

Gold leaf in the bottom third of this painting is glazed with color then a black transfer is applied. Collage creates the midsection while the top uses textural pastes, embossing and glazes. Interference and Iridescent paints are used throughout. A poured resin finishing coat adds a glossy sheen overall. MY MOUNTAINS Sandra Duran Wilson Acrylic, gold leaf, collage and resin on panel 8" Ă— 8" (20cm Ă— 20cm)


Veiling Metal Leaf

Contrast the brilliant shine on metal leaf with matte or translucent designs. Metal leaf’s beautiful high shine when used in a painting can sometimes outshine and distract. By subduing some of the leaf with veiled, matte or cloudy effects, the contrast adds even more seductive appeal. There are several ways to accomplish translucent overlays. One of these methods, brush applying matte medium, is demonstrated here using a pattern design. More veiling options are listed below.

Materials List

Substrate A leafed and sealed surface (see Technique 1) Tools Paintbrush, pencil Products Paper or tracing paper, acrylic matte medium For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Create a Design Start with a leafed and sealed surface following Technique 1. Decide on a strategy or design that allows some areas of the leaf to remain unpainted. Here circles are penciled in freehand on paper over a silver leafed surface, leaving a slight indent on the leaf. For more intricate designs or tracing from a premade drawing, use carbon or tracing paper.

STEP 2 Apply Matte Medium in Specified Areas Using the indent to indicate the pattern or design, brush apply a thin layer of matte medium in design areas on the leaf. This will veil and decrease the gloss sheen of the metal leaf creating contrast. Let dry. If the contrast is too subtle, apply another coat of matte medium. Repeat with as many coats as desired.

Finished Example

Additional Veiling Methods Iridescent Silver was painted over some of the circles. Fluid Iridescent Pearl and Iridescent Silver paints are poured directly from the bottle in linear designs.


Substitute one of the following ideas for the matte medium in Step 2. Use thin layers of white acrylic paste for more pronounced veiling. Use an iridescent paint in the same metallic color as the leaf. For example, use Iridescent Gold paint in areas over gold leaf. The reflective qualities of leaf are much higher than those in iridescent paints so the painted areas look matte in contrast with the leaf. Dry brush paint color thinly over leafed areas, using a stiff bristle brush to apply small amounts of undiluted thick paint. Collage transparent tissue over parts of the leaf. To collage, apply undiluted gel thinly over areas to be glued, then place tissue over the wet gel. Lightly sand areas of the sealed leaf surface using a high-grit waterproof sandpaper (see Technique 12).

Several methods are employed here over metal leaf to achieve the soft veiled areas including tissue paper collage, applications of thin layers of paste, and scumbling or drybrushing paint color softly over the leaf. BLUE SAFFRON Asha Menghrajani Acrylic, gold leaf and mixed media on canvas 48" Ă— 48" (122cm Ă— 122cm)


Glass Refraction

Create a painting using multiple sheets of glass or plexi for a luminous glow, also known as reverse painting on glass.

Materials List

Paint One or more acrylic paint colors Substrate Three or more plates, 1â „8th inch thick (Use standard sizes for ease in framing and have glass edges sanded when cut to avoid handling dangerous sharp edges.) Tools Paintbrush, duct tape, wood or metal frame to fit the size of the plates Products Glass cleaner (for glass) or water or alcohol (for plexi) For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Apply Paint Clean both sides of glass or plexi plates using glass cleaner for glass (use water or alcohol for plexi). Handle plexi with care as it scratches easily. Paint on either or both sides of the plates. Avoid adding too much water to paint colors, instead add mediums for additional transparency. Avoid painting over the plates entirely, keeping some areas transparent or unpainted, allowing visibility through each plate to the underlying ones. Let dry.

STEP 2 Assemble the Plates Assemble the plates in any order you prefer, placing one over the other, rearranging until satisfied. Remember they are reversible so either side can be considered. The final top plate should be reversed with the painted side down so that the final outer surface of unpainted glass will protect the paint.

STEP 3 Attach Plates Together When satisfied with the arrangement, stack them together lining up all the edges. Apply duct tape along the sides to temporarily hold them together, or insert them into a pre-made wooden or metal frame that overlaps the plates in the front and holds them in place with a framing mechanism in the back.

Gloss acrylic was poured in between layers of paint. Multiple layers of gloss add the illusion of depth as if peering down into a tidal pool. EARTH DAY Bonnie Teitelbaum Acrylic on panel 24" × 24" (61cm × 61cm)

This painting was painted on both sides of PLEXIGLAS, adding an intriguing viewing experience that parallels the mysterious subject matter. GLANCE Darlene Olivia McElroy Acrylic and mixed media on PLEXIGLAS 12" × 12" (30cm × 30cm)


Pouring Embedded Leaf

Pieces of leaf are added to a clear acrylic gloss pour, highly illuminating the metal, creating a reflective pattern.

Materials List

Paint One or more acrylic paint colors Substrate Any primed painting surface Tools Painting knife or other mixing tool, spatula or other spreading tool, mixing container Products A pourable acrylic gloss medium (see Section 4: Tips for Coated Pours), pieces of metal leaf, spray bottle with isopropyl alcohol For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

STEP 1 Prepare the Surface and Pouring Mixture Paint the surface with a color or image. Let dry. Add pouring medium into a mixing container, planning on approximately 2–3 ounces of medium to cover an area measuring 8" × 10" (20cm × 25cm). Thicker pouring mediums will fully embed the leaf pieces, while a thinner medium allows leaf pieces to emerge from the surface in relief. Rip apart some metal leaf into small pieces or purchase precut pieces. Add the desired quantity into the pouring medium. Stir well.

STEP 2 Pour the Leaf Mixture Prop up the surface from the table (see Section 4: Tips for Coated Pours). Pour the mixture onto the surface and evenly spread to the desired thickness with a knife, spatula or other spreading tool. If more leaf pieces need to be added, sprinkle as many as you like onto the wet pour and fold them into the medium with the knife while spreading. Immediately spray lightly with alcohol to remove bubbles. Let dry undisturbed on a level surface. Since the leaf pieces are not sealed

they may tarnish while the pour dries or slightly darken the pouring medium around them, adding an interesting element.

Finished Example


For more control over the placement of leaf fragments, skip mixing the leaf into medium in Step 1. Instead, pour clear medium over the surface and while wet sprinkle leaf only in desired areas. Gently fold pieces into the medium with a knife.

This painting uses three different techniques, each one in a separate layer (see Technique 19 for multiple layering). The panel is first painted using a mixture of Iridescent Bronze and Copper. Over this metallic background a faux leaf patina

(Technique 11) is applied on the lower half with Light Molding Paste and Iridescent Bronze washes. The top band of blue is applied using Technique 7 with a Manganese Blue Hue glaze. Lastly, Technique 47 (pouring embedded leaf), is applied over the entire surface, adding textural interest and a smooth highly reflective and glossy finish. METALLIC SNOW Nancy Reyner Acrylic with gold leaf pieces on panel 10" Ă— 8" (25cm Ă— 20cm)


Fluorescent and Phosphorescent Paints

A must-include for an eye-catching painting technique book is a description of fluorescent and phosphorescent paints. Here are ways these two luminous paints differ from each other and tips for use. Fluorescent paints come in a wide range of colors that glow when exposed to UV light found in sunlight and some artificial lights. Often called black light paints, they look even more luminous under a black light. Fluorescent paints are made of dye-based material and will not last very long, often turning quickly to a graybrown as they fade. Applying UV protection is not recommended because it will also inhibit the specific light needed to make them glow. One solution is to limit the artwork’s exposure to light. American Modernist Frank Stella used these paints in some of his minimalist works, which still look good exposed to the low light of museum settings. Used for artists’ books, they will last longer as exposure to light is also limited in a book. There are two types of fluorescent paints: visible and invisible. The visible are bright in the light and more brilliant under black lights. Invisible ones are almost transparent in light, and only glow under UV light. These are more limited in color choices. Phosphorescent paints are glow-in-the-dark paints, often used as stars applied to ceilings and walls. They are fairly invisible in the light, yet glow luminescent in the dark. The green phosphorescent paint may be the easiest (and only) color available in phosphorescence. The ability to glow in the dark will last for up to twelve hours after being exposed to light. This trait, though, will not last long. For painters, therefore, these paints should be used as an extra subtle element. If painted thinly and in minor or peripheral imagery, the painting will still be complete in daylight, while the phosphorescent imagery is invisible (as well as after the phosphorescence has faded). As available light dims and goes dark, the painting transforms when the phosphorescent imagery magically glows. Apply thinly so it is invisible in light, yet will still appear luminous in the dark. Phosphorescent paints will continue to produce a luminous quality for a longer time than fluorescent paints and do not turn a gray brown like fluorescent paints as they start to fade.

Background Matters Matte black paint surrounds the fluorescent colors and brings out their glow more than the white background. Fluorescent paints are perfect for black-box entertainment environments such as theaters, bars and shrines. Outside in natural light the effect is often dulled.

Compensating for Fading Mix a fluorescent paint with a regular paint in a similar color. For instance, mix fluorescent orange-yellow with C.P. Cadmium Orange paint. As the fluorescent fades, the Cadmium Orange paint will still be visible in the artwork. Another option is to first paint a layer of regular paint color. When dry, overlay with the matching fluorescent color either thickly or thinly as a glaze. Here fluorescent orange-yellow is painted over a dry layer of C.P. Cadmium Orange paint.

A black background richly illuminates fluorescent (or neon) greens and yellows. NIGHT VISION

Donna Wetterstrand Acrylic on canvas 30" × 24" (76cm × 61cm)

Pink fluorescent paint adds striking visual elements in this abstraction. HELEN OF TROY

Juana Olga Barrios Acrylic with graphite and fluorescent paint on board 10" × 8" (25cm × 20cm)


Vibrating Optical Effects

Complementary pairs of colors are essential tools in painting. They are also called color opposites because they sit opposite each other on the color wheel. Our eyes and mind are attracted to these three particular color pairs: red/green, blue/orange and yellow/violet. When we see green we desire to see red, and similarly for the other two pairs of opposites. When a color pair of shapes closely touch at their edges, our eyes go back and forth so quickly it creates a visual vibration often forming illusionary patterns or optics. Popular in the 1960s for Op Art (Optical Art Movement) with artists such as Josef Albers, it is still used in contemporary work. Op Art also used a minimal palette of just black and white for optical effects (see Technique 50). The following illustrations use the green/red pair, yet are all equally valid for the other two color pairings: yellow/violet and blue/orange.

Edge-to-Edge When a pair of colors are at their brightest and touch, it produces the most vibrating optics. The green is made with Phthalo Green (Yellow Shade) while the red uses Naphthol Red Medium. Both are mixed with a small amount of Titanium White and Hansa Yellow Light.

Form and Ground One of the colors is enveloped by or sits inside its opposite.

Varying Quantities One of the colors is used in a different quantity than its complement. Here strong directional focus is created as the eye moves quickly towards red which is surrounded by large amounts of green.

Neutral Surrounding When a color pair is surrounded with neutrals or more muted tones it emphasizes their relationship even more, creating natural eye movement and focus.

Varying Intensity Complementary pairs will always create eye movement when used together in an image, regardless of whether both have the same value or color intensity. Here the red is dark and muted and the green is lighter.

Two complementary pairs used in asymmetrical placements, green/red and blue/orange, create vibrating color combinations. NEUTRINO BLOSSOM PARTY 3 Patricia Forbes Acrylic and paper collage on panel 16" Ă— 16" (41cm Ă— 41cm)

Sheet copper is gilded and painted with ink, powdered pigments and acrylic paint, then woven to create this innovative relief painting. In person, the visual vibration from complementary colors red and green is enhanced with the reflective copper material. SUMMER DREAMS Suzanne Donazetti Painted and woven copper 16" Ă— 16" (41cm Ă— 41cm) Photo Credit: Mike McKee


High Contrast

A book about eye-catching imagery cannot be complete without high contrast. Our eyes are naturally attracted to darks and lights. Like the gleam in someone’s eye, rich blacks next to sparkling whites get attention. The Op Art Movement in the 1960s produced art with optical illusions and vibrating visuals. This was accomplished two ways: with strong graphic black-and-white patterns and with pairs of complementary colors (Technique 49). Here are some ideas using darks and lights to add focus and interest to a painting.

Materials List

Paint One or more acrylic paint colors, Carbon Black, Titanium White Substrate Any painting surface Tools Paintbrush or other application tool For Cleanup Water, water container, paper towels or rags

Black and White Is Eye-Catching Here Carbon Black and Titanium White touch edges on a gray background. An optical visual vibration occurs as the eye moves back and forth between them at the edge. When separated the eye movement still exists but with less optical vibration as they are spread farther apart. The big visual step at the edge between the two makes this a high-contrast pair.

Create a Pair of High-Contrast Colors Color, not just black and white, can translate into dark and light. This pair of dark red (Alizarin Crimson Hue with a small amount of Anthraquinone Blue) and light blue (a small amount of Ultramarine Blue with Titanium White) are high contrast.

Create a Pair of Low-Contrast Colors Add black and white (a mixed gray) into most colors and they become muted in color, with lower chroma, or intensity. This pair of colors has a small visual step at the edge between the two colors, making it a low-contrast pair. The color on the left consists of the same red mixture used in the previous example, mixed with Carbon Black and Titanium White. The color on the right is the same light blue color from the previous example with Carbon Black added (it already contained white).

Combine High and Low Contrasts Apply both high-contrast and low-contrast pairs of colors in a painting to magnify the push and pull of forms to suggest depth. Here a low contrast background emphasizes the forward movement or attention-getting high contrast image of an

eye and geometric cross.

A full tonal range is presented here including rich blacks and bright highlights.

LETTING GO (DETAIL) Pamela Frankel Fiedler Pastel and acrylic ground on paper 24" × 28" (61cm × 46cm)

Bleach on black linen creates this striking contrasting imagery. The linen’s natural texture creates an appealing dialogue with the visual texture of the wrinkled dress.

SHROUD SERIES NO. 1 Mary Morrison Bleach on linen 40" × 22" (102cm × 56cm)

Contributing Artists Destiny Allison Pages 33 and 45 Adria Arch Page 117 Juana Olga Barrios Page 131 Donna Baek Page 67 Michael Bergt Page 35 Patti Brady Page 61 Jane Callister Pages 10, 15, 77 and 95 Laura Casas Page 75 Arlene Cisneros Sena Page 39 Yenny Cocq Page 69 Bonnie Cutts Page 65 David L. DeVary Pages 4 and 37 Suzanne Donazetti Pages 21 and 133 Sandra Duran Wilson Pages 11, 65, 89 and 123 Patricia Forbes Pages 29, 49, 54, 73 and 133 Pamela Frankel Fiedler Front cover, pages 43, 121 and 135 Ming Franz Pages 76, 101 and 103 Cate Goedert Pages 59 and 87 Gail Henderson Page 45 Barbara Jackson Pages 53, 55 and 71 Sandy Keller Front cover, pages 83, 105 and 111 Barbara Kemp Cowlin Page 52 Sherry Loehr Pages 20 and 35 Maya Malioutina

Page 29 Teyjah McAren Page 103 Darlene Olivia McElroy Pages 127 and 137 Helen McKeown Pages 59 and 119 Asha Menghrajani Back cover, pages 93, 95 and 125 Catherine Molland Page 73 Mary Morrison Pages 79, 101 and 135 Jill Moser Page 51 Jenene Nagy Page 117 J.E. Newman Front cover, pages 108 and 113 Sara Novenson Page 47 Mark Pack Pages 113 and 115

Aleta Pippin Page 31 Marla Robb Page 93 Julia Santos Solomon Page 57 Eliza Schmid Page 109 Elizabeth Smarz Pages 5 and 54 Bonnie Teitelbaum Back cover, pages 16, 27, 51, 81, 83, 85, 107, 110 and 127 Julio Valdez Page 57 Jim Waid Pages 13 and 63 Donna Wetterstrand Page 131

About the Author

Born and raised on the east coast in the USA, Nancy received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA from Columbia University. From creating costumes and sets for theater and film to coordinating public arts programs for the state of New York, she has had a wide-ranging career in the arts, all of which inform her work. She now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and has been painting for more than 30 years, exhibiting and teaching both nationally and internationally. Nancy’s DVDs and previous books, Acrylic Revolution and Acrylic Innovation offer a multitude of techniques and ideas with the intent to add inspiration to artists everywhere. Visit her website at to view her current work, painting blog, workshops, DVDs and gallery representation.

Dedication To artists everywhere who continue to create with passion and commitment.

Acknowledgments Thank you to my family, friends and colleagues for inspiration and support, with special acknowledgement to my son Jacob Cohen, and to Jim OHara, Mary & Alex Ross, Gwynn Nelson, Jeannette Arnon, Laura McClure, Sara Novenson, Destiny Allison, Patti Brady, Bruce Cody and to Bonnie Teitelbaum for assistance in preparing technique images and idea brainstorming. Thanks to Cynthia Machado for your beautiful hands in the photographs. Thank you Lori Brody and my ballet buddies for making life even more fabulous than it already is. Much appreciation goes to Dana Brown and Ampersand Art Supply for the painting panels. Thank you to Mark and Barbara Golden, and the staff at Golden Artist Colors for the wonderful paint inventions, products and support, with special thanks to the technical department. I appreciate F+W and the North Light Books staff, with extra thanks to Jamie Markle and my editors Kelly Messerly and Christina Richards.

GLYPHS & AQUAMARINE Nancy Reyner Acrylic and gold leaf on panel 24" Ă— 36" (61cm Ă— 91cm)

Acrylic Illuminations. Copyright Š 2013 by Nancy Reyner. All rights reserved. No part of this eBook may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. Published by North Light Books (IMPACT Books), an imprint of F+W Media, Inc., 10151 Carver Road, Suite 200, Blue Ash, OH 45242. (800) 289-0963. First Edition. Other fine North Light products are available from your local bookstore, art supply store or online supplier. Visit our website at eISBN: 9781440327117 1440327114 This e-book edition: February 2014 (v.1.0)

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