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Acrylic Paint Too Thick on the Canvas: A Few Simple Fixes

Acrylic paints are a popular choice for new and experienced artists and can be a colorful and affordable way to get started in the world of painting. However, you might be struggling with the consistency of your acrylic paint straight out of the tube. Which is a common struggle for beginners.

If your acrylic paint is too thick on the canvas, you can add water or simply a few different acrylic mediums to make it thinner.

In the rest of this article, we will explore these methods in depth. We will see how adding water will impact your final painting. We will also explore what kinds of acrylic mediums will be best for you depending on your style and desired outcomes.

Using Water To Thin Your Acrylics

You can use water for thinning out thick acrylic paint- simply mix it in. You can use the water from your tap, or you might opt for distilled or purified water if you are concerned about the damage caused by the microbes in your water system. 

Water usually works well to thin down paint. If you discover your paint is too thick, you can add a few drops to thin the paint down. Acrylic paint is water based so water can be used to mix with the paint.

To give it a try, grab a small container or a palette. Slowly add water into to your paint until you get the consistency you need.

The amount of water you add will be based on personal preference. Some painters like to dilute the acrylic paint quite a bit until they get a consistency that resembles watercolors. Others just need one or two brushes loaded with water to give the paints a slightly smoother uconsistency. Somewhere up to 30% water is typical for artists working with acrylic paint. 

Even if you think your acrylic paint is far too thick, a little water can go a long way. Take your time and add water slowly and incrementally until you find the consistency that will work.

Remember, if you add too much water, you might struggle to apply this to your canvas effectively. This can negatively impact the outcome of your painting. 

Water will give you a matte finish also. This is a result of the water breaking down the polymer binding of the paint itself, and it loses its glossy sheen of non-diluted acrylics.

If you are just getting started with acrylic paint, check out my Acrylic For Beginners Bundle. I tell you everything you need to create your first acrylic masterpiece. 

Using an Acrylic Medium To Thin Your Acrylics

There are many kinds of acrylic mediums that will give you the desired result you are looking for. You will need to purchase your medium in addition to your acrylic paint. Most of them can be mixed right into your acrylic paint to achieve the desired outcome.

Gel Medium

If you are looking to make a wash with your paint, consider purchasing a gel medium. These mediums are perfect to highly dilute your acrylic while still giving you an even coat and the shine you want. You can often find these in a variety of finishes, from matte all the way up to gloss. 

If you’re looking for a highly recommended medium that many artists use, simply check out this Liquitex Professional Fluid Medium from Amazon.com. It comes in every finish you might need. 

You can also find this medium with a slow-dry option that will keep your paints from drying out too fast. As acrylic paints tend to dry quickly, this can be a big help for artists just getting started with the medium or more advanced painters looking to do blending work and have their paints workable for longer periods of time. 

Another option is Gloss Glazing Liquid. It’s my personal fav medium to work with. Not only does the glazing liquid thin down your paint consistency, it also extends drying time so you can make gorgeous blends and makes your paint colors brighter as a bonus -with the glossy sheen!

And you don’t need exact ratios/measurements of paint to medium- like you do with other acrylic mediums. It’s a simple way to achieve optimal paint strokes and blending work. I find when adding glazing liquid to acrylic paint the paint just glides smoothly across your canvas similar to spreading cream cheese on a bagel. Thank you to the person who invented this good stuff, so grateful for it!

I made the video below so show you how easy it is to use glazing liquids to get some pretty amazing results.

Pouring Medium

Another option you have with mediums are pouring or flow mediums. These are also designed to thin out your acrylics and give you the final finish you want. When you use a pouring medium, you will be thinning out your paint without making it any more transparent. It is a great way to keep the original color and only impact the thickness of the paint.

If you’re looking for a high-quality pouring medium, you can check out this Liquitex Professional Pouring Effects Medium available on Amazon.com. It is an excellent choice and is a popular and respected brand when it comes to high-quality art supplies. 

Using Mediums Effectively

If you choose to use a medium with your next acrylic painting, make sure you follow the instructions carefully on the bottle. With something like pouring or flow medium, you may be prompted to mix up to 95% medium with 5% paint. 

This will differ depending on the type of medium and brand you purchase. Simply read the instructions and learning the proper ratios to learn how to mix them.

Remember to make sure you have purchased an acrylic medium. Other mediums exist, like those used for oil paints. These wont work with your water-based acrylics, so double check before you make your purchase and begin mixing. 

Final Thoughts

If you are struggling with the thick consistency of the acrylics on your canvas, you have ways to make the painting process smoother. You can add water, making the paint smoother/thinner to work with. Additionally, there are acrylic mediums that you can use to get the property you want from your acrylics while not affecting color or finish. Use the above methods and your paint consistency will all work out on your canvas.

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