Sunday, February 7, 2010

What’s So Great About Fluid Acrylics?

In the Tall Grasses Behind the Dunes
9" x 12"
acrylic on paper

Having bought small bottles of fluid acrylics--first for learning color theory and later for a watercolor workshop--I have been experimenting lately.

Using ideas from Celebrate Your Creative Self by Mary Todd Beam, I used the acrylics watered down and washed over various dried mediums and gesso with good results. She also has interesting projects using an acrylic retarder medium.

But having handled them for about two weeks, I wonder what all the fuss is about. I find them cumbersome to work with. When diluted with water, they can be like watercolors (I’m guessing here since I haven’t tried tube watercolors). Undiluted, they are very slippery and glossy. They do not travel well and dried paint clogs the spout openings. Often, flecks of paint splash onto a piece I’m working on rather than in a tray; both of these paintings have them! When wanting to only use a few drops, some bottles squirt a long stream instead.

Although I have mixed them with my heavy bodied acrylics, I honestly don’t understand the attraction of using fluid acrylics. I do not like the way the big washes and dilution warps even watercolor blocks (glued on all four edges). While some of the unintentional puddling can later add some exciting features in an abstract painting, they can almost ruin landscapes. Their drying time varies greatly.

Once I use these bottles up, I’m not greatly encouraged to buy more. Am I missing something? Who wants to relate their love for fluid acrylics?

Full Moon at the Dunes
12" x 18"
acrylic on paper


  1. "Full Moon at the Dunes" is brilliantly done. The contrasting textures are excellent!

  2. Very happy with acrylics so ahven't tried them of felt the need to.Nice work!

  3. I've been frustrated with watercolors in the past and won't pick up them again but have never tried fluid acrylics. I would probably feel the same as you. I love the colors though. Maybe it's something that's more happenstance and we have to learn to give up that control?

    Keep up the great work.

  4. As I have trouble with watercolour I would never think to try fluid acrylics though I have definitely been tempted to try heavy-bodied ones! I think it depends on your style and what you feel most comfortable with. Love the second painting, though!

  5. Welcome, Sadia. Thanks so much for your feedback about my paintings.

    Hi, Von. Yes, I’m more happy using tube acrylics than fluid acrylics. The only watercolors I’ve tried are little travel kits of dried half-pans and water-soluble crayons, which I actually like. Tube watercolors would be interesting to try sometime; must experiment sometime.

    Hola, Chris! It takes a special patience to use watercolors, I would think. But, I’ve long ago given up control in painting and that’s why I look upon it as play. When I wanted to be a writer I found it so difficult it became a burden not a joy. So, I never want painting or art to turn into frustration.

    It’s strange but I’ve never heard many people say they LOVE watercolors, Andrea. Although you’d think with the coverage it gets in magazines—aren’t there two devoted to it—you’d think there would be more artists working in it, wouldn’t you? But I think acrylics are more popular for the very reason that they are re-workable and so versatile. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Hmmm....I LOVE my fluid acrylics!!! They glide so easily across the page, or canvas...especially with acrylic glazing medium, which furthers the drying time, and allows better blendability.

    The colors are glorious. Strong, bold, bright.

    I also have used them basically from when I picked up painting. I do have some tubes of heavy-bodied acrylics, and enjoy those, but there is something magical about fluids.

  7. I’m glad to see someone who enjoys fluid acrylics. As your blog shows, you have done some fine things with them, using them in your journals.

  8. Love, love watercolors and fluid acrylics, but now shifting to full-bodied after abt.40 yrs:-)

    Different strokes for different folks, and at different times. I especially liked diluting the fl. acrylics to wash tissue paper and get a very FLAT surface for embellishing and collaging.

  9. Yes quite true, Nina. Different times call for different paints. I saw that technique you described on a DVD with the artist Carrie Burns Brown called “Mixed Media Collage-Watermedia Collage Workshop”. Very cool!