Thursday, November 12, 2009

Acrylic paint tips and tricks for working in books and more

I've been using acrylics for over twelve years now, as long as I've been teaching. The paints that I use are a local L.A. paint company called Nova Color. One of my students turned me onto them several years ago. Before then I had loaded up on Golden for classes and it was soooo expensive. Now, don't get me wrong. It's still expensive. Good acrylic paint isn't cheap, but it's well worth it. I think it's better to spend a few bucks on a couple of bottles of colors and learn how to mix them and layer them.

I've also found if you use a good quality paint-one with a high pigment count, you won't have problems with pages sticking together. That's one trick. Spend a few bucks on good paint. Another trick for not having your pages stick-wipe them down. Put the paint on the page THIN. It's better to build up the layers thinly vs. thickly. Wipe 'em down with a dry rag or paper towel. Put some waxed paper between the pages and you should be fine. It's how I work with acrylic paints and mediums in all of my books and journals.

The colors I use are mostly transparent. I love transparent colors for cleaner color mixes and layers.

My favorites, my key colors are-

Hansa Yellow Medium or Azo Yellow Medium
Quinacridone Magenta
Phthalo Blue
Titan Buff or Raw Titan Matte
Burnt Sienna
Paynes Grey

With these colors, I can make every color of the rainbow. So can you.

One thing that I do to make my paints go further is to buy squeeze bottles (Nova has them. They have the best kind-the big open mouth bottles). I buy something called Gloss Medium or Polymer medium. I mix the medium and the paint together about 50/50. The trick is to pour a little paint in the bottle then pour some medium. Put the cover on and shake. Then repeat.

So, all of the paints my students are using in the squeeze bottles already have gloss medium in them. There's another step I do-

I buy gloss medium by the gallon. When I am painting, I have my paints in my pre-mixed squeeze bottles (like I said above). I also have bottles of pure gloss medium. I take my paint and squeeze out a little onto my palette. THEN I add gloss medium (about fifty/fifty again) to the paint. So even though I've already added gloss medium into the squeeze bottles, if you use a damn good acrylic it won't hurt the paint. By doing this, you get more paint for less money.

You're extending the amount of paint that you have, but do not buy what they label extender as that extends the drying time.

Gloss medium
Polymer medium
Fluid medium
Matte medium
Gloss medium/varnish
Fluid matte medium

are all basically the same thing. You can use any of the above to mix in with your paints to make them last longer. The only difference is gloss vs. matte. I prefer gloss. If you buy a good quality paint and if you buy a good quality acrylic medium, you have to use quite a few layers of gloss medium for it to be high sheen in your face gloss. I do not like matte. Matte has a substance in it that dulls the gloss. When the layers are built up, it can appear cloudy. It's all a preference thing.

Gel medium? What's that? Gel medium is a thicker version of the fluid mediums I just spoke about. I use the gloss medium to make my paints last longer. I use the gel medium to glue. I also use it to thicken up my paint if I want a different texture with the paint.

Soft gel
Regular Gel
Heavy Gel
Extra Heavy Gel

available in Gloss or Matte

Which gel medium do you need? You need ONE. Yup. ONE. If you scoop out your soft gel and let it sit on your palette, in a wee bit o' time you will have regular gel. If you let it sit longer, you will have heavy gel. Get my point?

I do recommend buying one fluid medium to mix with and make your paints last longer (I prefer gloss medium). I also only buy ONE kind of gel medium and it's usually regular gloss GEL medium.

When you glue something to paper, I put the glue on the back of the paper. Then I flip the paper over and adhere it to my page. I take a dry rag or paper towel and gently burnish what I've glued down. Then I leave it alone. I can keep layering and gluing other papers and the like but I do NOT put more glue on top of the image, usually that results in bubbles and wrinkles. I've found that it's best when working in a book or a journal to not put glue on top of the image. I've never had anything happen to any of my inside pages. If you do want to protect what you've glued down, take the time to let the glue completely dry. How can you tell if it's dry? Touch what you've stuck down. If it feels cold, it's still wet.

Oh, one tip-any time you take paint or mediums OUT of a container, do NOT put anything that is left back into the container. It contaminates what's inside the jar and it could get moldy. I only take small amounts of paint at a time. The more you play with paint and experiment, the more you will understand what you need and what works for YOU.

There are tons of different mediums on the market. They are ALL fun to play and experiment with. Some favorites that all do different things are-

Gesso-gesso can be used to prime or prep a surface to receive different mediums and materials. It can also be used like a paint and as a texture medium. It comes in a variety of colors though I usually only buy white or black. Try stamping with it. Try stamping into it. Write into it. Build up the layers. Yum yum.

Acrylic Glazing Liquid-this will make ANY paint into a glaze. You can mix it with an opaque color and make your own glazes. You can mix it with any color of acrylic paint. Paint with it. Paint on top of other layers with it. Another versatile and fun product to play with.

Clear Tar Gel-one of my favorite texture mediums to flick and fling and drip and ooze. I love this stuff. Put it in a squeeze bottle and go to town with it. Just be patient and give it time to dry-it needs lots of drying time. One thing I've learned is to also try to put it on thin when working in a journal and give it LOTS of drying time.

Micaceous Iron Oxide-Oh this is Heaven in a bottle. It's one of my favorite mediums. I love putting this down on a journal page and letting it dry. I've painted over it. I've painted it in layers. I've drawn in it, stamped in it, doodled in it, written in it, etc.. I've used my Caran d'ache Neo Art Watersoluble Wax Pastels on it (obviously once the micaceous iron oxide is dry) and then smooshed the crayons in with an old rag. Yum.

Molding or Modeling paste-another fun texture medium.

Don't shy away from playing and experimenting with mediums. Not sure what something does? Try it. Grab a palette knife (I prefer the plastic palette knives. They're cheap and you don't have to worry about them rusting if you leave them in water) and smear the mediums on your pages. After all, that is what an art journal is for-to experiment and try new things. To ask yourself, "What if?" I do this.

Brushes-I use cheap bristle or chip brushes. Some say you should spend a few bucks on good brushes. But for backgrounds, these brushes work hard and take a beating. Want to load up on them? Go to Harbor Freight.

Cleaning up-Whenever I paint, I fill up my jar with about an inch of water. When I go to clean my brushes, I bang the bristles against the bottom of the jar. I wipe off any excess on the lip of the jar. THEN I wipe off the brush on an old rag, old socks, or paper towels. The rag is what helps to clean the brush. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need clean water to clean your brushes. You can have the grossest water on the planet. When I'm finished painting, I do one of two things (depending upon where I am), I either put my paper towels or rag that I've been using to clean up into the paint water to suck up and soak up the water and then I throw away the paper towels or the rag. OR I let the water in the jar evaporate. I don't like pouring water down the drains, in the sinks or especially outside where it could seep into ground water. Just my two cents.

Cleaning my hands- I use a barrier cream on my hands. It protects your skin from anything "bad" getting into it. The trick is to put it on your hands like it's hand cream before you paint. Then before you go to clean it up, put more of it on. Wash your hands with soap and water on a paper towel (or even a baby wipe). Apply more cream when you go to paint again. I apply it multiple times when I am making art. The kind I use? EZ Air Invisible Care. Dick Blick sells it. Frenzy Stamper in Scottsdale carries it.

Safety-I don't use "bad paints". I shy away from cadmiums and chromiums and the like. I don't use paints that contain heavy metals. If they get into your body, there's no way for them to get out. I stay away from them or any kind of medium with a big orange black X on the container.

Common sense says don't eat or drink while painting. Put lids on anything you're going to drink from. Wash your hands before you eat. Do NOT dump paint water in a sink that has eating utensils, dishes and cups in it. Do NOT use drinking cups as paint cups.

Oh, yes, you can also write on dried acrylic paints. There's a whole list here of pens that work on paint.

I did another post last year on painting tips here.

The most important things with painting, or really any kind of art-
Use common sense. Safety really should always come first.
Have fun. Experiment. Learn the rules and then learn how to break them.
Play again. Play more.

I do NOT work for any company. I work for ME. I ONLY recommend products and materials that I have purchased myself and played with. I have to LOVE something to recommend it.


GoodchefT said...

Great post. Always good to get a refresher. Thanks!

Bren Graham Thebeau said...

Thank you so much Kelly for this post, being new to mixed media/art journaling the information you've shared helps me a lot. I've already placed an order with Nova Color :-)

Anonymous said...

Kelly...thanks for the helpful post...Why buy all the various products when one or two will do the same job? I found something out by accident...hand sanitizer will loosen acrylic paint off your hands and then you just wash with soap and water. Again, thanks for the info.

Brian K said...

Ok here is a question, where do you get your little plastic squeez bottles? AND when are you writting a book on your art???


Kelly Kilmer said...

Brian-as I said in the post, Nova has the squeeze bottles.

Hand sanitizer isn't a barrier cream. Barrier creams protect your hands from things getting IN through the skin. The one I use has natural ingredients and nothing funky.
As far as the different products-as I write in the post, I recommend gloss medium because it's fluid to add to your paints and make it last longer.
I recommend gel medium to collage with because it is thicker. With gloss medium as a glue you get bubbles and wrinkles.
The other products that I recommend all do different things and are fun to play with but none are totally necessary to make art.

crimsoncat05 said...

...I second the question-- when are you writing a book about/of your art?? LOL!! great post, and you are definitely inspiring me to play in my journal!!

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

Kelly, this is a great post and I also used the link to the pens post from May. I've been to Nova Color once and next time I need paint, I will definitely go there again.

I'll refer others to your blog. You have so much good info on it.

Renee Troy said...

Wow! What great info. I'll send people to your blog for that.

Kristy C said...

Really great tips!! Thanks Kelly!! And I have to agree-you really need to write a book :)

Unknown said...

Thanks for all that information Kelly : )

Terri Kahrs said...

Kelly, whether you're a newbie or a seasoned mixed media veteran, this is an awesome post! Went back to read your "pen post" - I too love the Sharpie poster paint pens. They'll be a real loss! Great posts - BOTH of them! Hugs, Terri xoxo said...

kelly--you are just too cool, lady--i knew it from the first workshop i took from you in willow glen--your sharing has no boundaries--you are exactly how of all of us should be to one another--you add so much to the art community--your on-line workshops have always been so fun--through you and your blog, i have "met"
so many super artists--especially seth apter and lynne hoppe-another 2 people who share and are kind hearted souls--thanks xxxooo "sam"

sharon said...

great post kelly! love the solid tips and tricks for working with acrylics! you rock!

Anonymous said...

when i first started mixed media...i used Golden...and mixed the polymer...but always wondered the difference in the gels!!! thanks. i love working with the tar gel...the flakes ...the beads..all of it.
judy in arizona

Judy Shea said...

what a great post, Kelly.. thank you much for all the effort you put into it.. great to refer to.

Sharyn said...

As always, you rock!! If it helps anyone, I just bought squeeze bottles made by Wilton (the cake decorating company). They now make 8 0z. bottles that come in 2 packs for around $2.
I have learned a lot from you as your are always a wealth of good info.
I will have to try the clear tar gel next and agree micaceous iron oxide is really cool.

lee said...

thanks kelly, great post

MB Shaw said...

Great post, Kelly!! I love the energy that comes through in your writing :-)

Laurel said...

Chiming in on the "you need to write a book" idea's time! thanks as always for such great and extensive information!

couragetocreatewriteandlove said...

you are so kind and generous sharing your tips and products.
I thank YOU very much!
i will give it a try to the nova acrylics and i will check your friend Hannah's shop too.
wishing you more to you because you give a lot!

Seth said...

Tremendous post Kelly. Really chock full of info. Thanks so much for taking the time and making the effort to share all this information!

Emily said...

Kelly - Thanks so much for all these fabulous tips. I need all the help I can get!

Dymphie said...

what a wonderful resource. Thank you so much for the effort you put into this post. Kudos to you :)

Lara said...

Quick questiom... is there any one brand of medium that's better or does it not matter? Thanks!

Kelly Kilmer said...

I'd recommend at least getting a name brand like
Nova Color

Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this with us.
Ik know now what I need and more important what I don't need.

Sharyn said...

This is seriously THE most concise, helpful information I have read on this subject. Thanks Kelly!

Cat said...

Great information - thank you!

Would consider writing a post about color mixing? I love the idea of creating my own colors. It would save much space and money.

After last night's huge fail and wasting of paint attempting to mix my own brown (yes - brown. the one color I seem to always be able to create/mix when I don't want it) -
I need a better understanding of "color a + color b = color c". I did research a little bit before and during last night's attempt, but most of the information I found was so in depth it was difficult to break it down.

Kelly Kilmer said...

Cat, if you see this, can you email me directly, please? Thanks!

ArtZest said...

Fabulous information. Going through a divorce has definately squashed my budget, so your money saving tricks may be my life saver in the months to come. I love gel medium and am glad to hear you use it to glue also. I value your opinion. Thanks also for the pen products link.