Acrylic paint dries fast

Watching paint dry.
The advantage to acrylic paint is that it dries really fast.
The disadvantage to acrylic paint is that it dries really fast.
The challenge is to find a happy medium (no pun intended)

I work very quickly, especially when painting on location. I like to glaze and layer colors using the subtle textures on the surface. So it is to my advantage that the paint dries fast. On the canvas. The problem is the colors I have painstakingly mixed are also drying on the palette.

Even in the studio, the time it takes for acrylic paint to set up on the palette is variable. Humidity,heating, the addition of medium, even the specific color can be a factor. Some brands of paints dry faster than others.

Wet palette for acrylic paintI swear by my “wet” palette. A layer of thin dampened sponge, under a strong porous paper , with a tight fitting lid. I use a Masterson palette, and they come in several sizes. They are a little expensive, but worth it in the paint, time and effort spent re-mixing.

My rule is to pre-mix lots of the colors that I might need. Better to have a bit left over that run out half way through the sky. On a large canvas I sometimes revisit areas of the painting several times over a couple of weeks – I still have usable paint the original color.

You can buy refills for the sponges, (keep them rinsed and clean and they last longer) and I have nowstarted using sheet sponges available at the supermarket, cut to fit. They work just fine.

Not so with the paper liners. I have yet to find a cheap substitute for the porous paper that Masterson supplies. It remains damp without deteriorating – so I keep lots of sheets on hand. It will depend on your mixing and painting style how often you change your paper liner. Soak it well before using.

My second tool of defense is a very fine spray bottle. There are sprays that you can buy that keep your paint from “skinning” but a fine mist of water works well. You can add a drop of bleach to your spraybottle that keeps the paint from going off if you have to leave it stored a long time. (If your paint starts to smell sickly sweet…it has become “fungal” and it’s time to throw it out)

Not to worry if you are on a budget (and just blew the inheritance on a tube of Cadmium Yellow…) A recycled airtight container works just fine. If you have lots of leftover paint, or need to store pre-mixed paint for a specific project on hold…just spritz it with a mist of water and seal it up.I have kept pre-mixed colors for several months in good condition.

If your paint starts to set, like pudding or crumbly paste…don’t try and remix it. The polymer binder has started to set and will not provide a good “bond” when the paint is applied. You cannot salvage drying acrylic paint ! it is not soluble like Watercolor.
Make sure that you start with an excellent layer of quality gesso primer on your board or canvas – it doesn’t matter the quality or viscosity of the paint if it does not bond to your substrate.

Tips for beginners: Use a erase marker to label your paint colors on the palette.

for a great independant comparison of Acrylic paint supply/product
check out Wonderstreet – a UK based artist/gallery site.


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