What are liquid, or fluid, acrylics?

Put simply, liquid acrylic is a water-soluble paint that is formulated using a synthetic resin, which acts as a binder to which pigments are added.

The water-soluble aspect of liquid acrylic allows the paint to dry in much the same way as a watercolour, but the advantage is that, once dry, it is permanent. This means the paint will not reactivate accidentally when either overpainted or adjacent colours are added. Think of the serious advantage of painting out mistakes gently.

Watercolour is often formulated using the same pigments as liquid acrylics, the only difference being their binder or carrying medium.

Top tip

It’s always advisable to purchase good quality art materials. Don’t be fooled into buying cheap paint in the first instance to practise with while planning to upgrade to a quality paint when more confident. Try instead to purchase a few quality colours, and, with practice, you should be able to produce some really good work.

What do I need? Your materials explained

  • Liquid acrylic - Always buy the best you can afford. Remember, the cheap versions usually include far more binder than pigment, and depth of colour and vibrancy can rarely be achieved.
  • Brushes - Ordinary watercolour brushes are perfectly good when using liquid acrylics, as the medium shouldn’t damage your brushes even if using Kolinsky sables. Just remember to wash the brush out thoroughly after use so the paint isn’t allowed to dry on it. If this happens, there are mediums available that will dissolve the paint and restore the brush.
  • Support - Paper, canvas or watercolour board can be used. If using paper, work on at least 200lb to lessen the need for pre-stretching. The choice of surface is entirely down to you and your style. Other surfaces, including wood, fabric and stone, can also be used.
  • Stay-wet palette - These are invaluable when using liquid acrylics, as they help to keep the paint workable for long periods by preventing it from drying out. While homemade versions work to a degree, the paint soon spoils on these improvised surfaces, turning too watery and intermixing with adjacent colours.
  • White tile or plate - These are useful for mixing larger amounts of paint with a palette knife. Simply place your colours onto the tile, mix together then, using a palette knife, lift the mixed colour onto the stay-wet palette to prevent it from drying out from the outer edges.
  • Palette knife  - bendy, trowel shaped
  • Mediums - Retarder and flow improver
  • Paper kitchen towels
  • Pencils
  • Eraser

Top tip

When using any new medium, it’s always a good idea to do a few practice pieces. When practising, just use the paint; do not add any mediums to it at this initial stage.

Demonstration: Badger’s Head

Badger’s Head, Procolour on Cornwall Matt NOT paper, (24x32cm)