Fluid acrylics are acrylic paints with a runny or thin consistency, designed to flow and spread easily without sacrificing color intensity. Fluid acrylics are ideal for pouring or dribbling paint, rather than applying it with a brush.
Various paint manufacturers sell fluid acrylics, but if it's only something you're going to want occasionally, you can make your own version from your usual, more buttery acrylics (it works best if the tube of paint you're using is artist's quality and soft-body). Here's how to do it:
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Step 1: Find a Suitable Container
Ideally, you want a container that is squeezable and has a nozzle for creating a fine line, but also has an opening that's big enough to put a brush into should you want to load your brush. You can often find inexpensive squeeze bottles at a craft store or discount store.
If you know someone who does a lot of fabric painting or decorative painting, they'll likely have paint in a similar bottle, so ask them to save you an empty one. Or you can purchase your own squeeze bottles in various sizes (Buy from Amazon), depending on how often and how much fluid paint you will use.
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Step 2: Add Medium/Water
You can just use water to dilute acrylics, but remember you don't really want to use more than 50% water (to the volume of paint) otherwise you run the risk of the paint losing its adhesive properties. It is better to use a 50:50 mixture of water and a glazing medium such as Golden Acrylic Glazing Liquid (Buy from Amazon) or Liquitex Professional Glazing Fluid Medium (Buy from Amazon).
A dispersing medium would also work, but check the label to see how much is 'safe' to use. With some, if you use a lot, the paint may become water-soluble which could be a nuisance when applying further layers of paint.
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Step 3: Add 'Normal' Acrylic Paint
Once you have your fluids in your container, it's time to add some paint. How much is something you'll have to figure out through trial and error based on the thickness of the paint you are using. Too much and the paint won't be fluid enough, too little and your fluid acrylic won't have much strength in its color. It is best to stick to opaque colors rather than transparent for a stronger result. Titanium White in a tube is an opaque white that can easily be made into a fluid white paint with good coverage.
Another option worth considering is to use an acrylic ink rather than paint, as these have a very fluid consistency and intense colors.
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Step 4: Consider Making a Funnel
If you are having trouble pouring medium into your container, make a funnel using a piece of aluminum foil. Fold it into a triangle, then around your finger or pencil to keep a hole open, and crimp the edges together. Don't stress over it; it's meant to be functional and disposable, not a work of art!Continue to 5 of 9 below.
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Step 5: Mix It All Together Thoroughly
Mixing it all together is the boring part as you have to ensure it's done thoroughly. Otherwise, you will get medium on its own and little lumps of paint. Use a coffee stirrer or an equivalent to stir it or shake the mixture gently so as not to get air bubbles. If you can get hold of one, add a small ball bearing in the bottle to help with mixing.
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Step 6: Using Your Fluid Acrylic
Spend a bit of time practicing the kinds of marks you can make with your fluid acrylic. It will be influenced, for instance, by how narrow the nozzle is on your bottle, how fast you move across the canvas, and how hard you squeeze.
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Step 7: Clean the Nozzle When You're Done
Take the time to clean the nozzle of the container thoroughly when you have finished painting. Yes, it's tedious to do, but if you don't do that the paint will dry in it and clog it. You might find a meat skewer, toothpick, or large sewing needle useful for keeping the tip of the nozzle clear.
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Step 8: Ensuring an Air-Tight Seal
As acrylics dry when the water evaporates, you need to check that the container you are using for your fluid acrylics is air-tight or well sealed. To ensure the paint is sealed in air-tight and thus won't dry out too quickly, unscrew the nozzle, place a small piece of plastic wrap over the bottle, then screw the nozzle back on again.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
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Step 9: Experimenting With Fluid Acrylics
Fluid acrylics are good for many different ways of painting. They are the best acrylic paints to use for watercolor-like effects without diluting the color, since it takes less water to thin them than is needed to thin heavier-bodied acrylics. For watercolor effects, thin the paint down even more than you normally would. A ratio of one part paint to three parts water should be enough to break down the acrylic binder so that the paint acts like watercolor.
Also use fluid acrylics for glazing over another color, for creating drips (an eye dropper works well for this), for bleeding colors into each other, and for pouring. To get an even surface when pouring, mix fluid acrylics with Pouring Medium (Buy from Amazon) in a ratio of 1 cup of pouring medium to 1 tablespoon of paint.
Watch Liquitex Pouring Medium and Using Liquitex Pouring Medium, by Michele Theberge to see how to create a resin-like coat on your paintings.