Acrylic Paint Texture Guide

What is acrylic texture and how to apply acrylic paint texture. Learn the difference between acrylic medium and gel, its uses.Tools for applying gel

Texture medium is a material in gel or paste form mixed with paint to change the consistency, making it versatile to achieve structural texture and effects. There are several acrylic products in the craft store labeled as acrylic texture gels or texture mediums. Each product is designed to bring different effects and finishes. The key is to choose the right one for a specific purpose. 

These gels, pastes, and mediums give more flexibility and creative freedom than acrylic paints. For example, add a gel or medium in the paint to change the consistency and then apply it as a texture layer. You can change the texture from thick impasto to small peaks, and consistency can be changed from thick to thin flowing liquid. You can even alter the drying time, and so on. 

Needless to say, there is endless scope for the abstract painting textures you can create. In this guide, let's understand what these products are and when to use them.

What is a gel?

A gel is a binder without a color pigment. This binder is also present in acrylic paints.  It has a thick consistency, so the brushstrokes retain the shape. These gels are available in different viscosity like heavy body, regular and soft body. 

They are opaque in their original form. Once you mix them with paint, they become transparent and take the color of the paint. This is a great advantage of using them as an extension of paint. Instead of using excess paint, create texture using a gel and paint on that layer. In this way, you can save a lot on paint and add texture effects. 

Super Heavy Gel:

Super Heavy Gel for creating texture with acrylic paint

                                Pic credit: Liquitex

As the name suggests, its super heavy body will increase the volume and thickness. Such high viscosity gel is used to create heavy texture as it can hold peaks and shapes. When added to paint, it increases the transparency and depth of color. Due to its nature, it can also be used as collaging glue.

Heavy Gel:

Heavy Gel for creating texture with acrylic paint
                                 Pic credit: Liquitex

If you take a tub of gel, you will see it has the consistency of buttercream. If you scoop out a lump with a palette knife, the gel holds its shape. It will not drip or droop but stays. They are incredibly versatile. You can create grooves and peaks with a palette knife or brush strokes with a coarse-haired brush. 


Gel for creating texture with acrylic paint
                                Pic credit: Liquitex

This gel has a regular consistency and can be used for light texture work. When you add this to paint, it will slightly increase the volume of the paint. This gives the same depth and color transparency as the other two. When you wish to add little texture without holding peaks, use this regular gel.

What type of sheen gels have?

A Glossy gel is used to add more shine to the already glossy acrylic paints. Mixing glossy gel to acrylic paint will give little to some transparency, depending upon how many layers you have applied.

Matte gel, when added to the acrylic paints, layers become more opaque and less transparent. So depending upon the requirement, one can choose the type of sheen.

Before buying the gel, check the label. Different brands of acrylic texture medium are  labeled as pastes, gels, and mediums. A few of them will dry completely translucent, while others will probably be slightly opaque or stay white.

Sometimes you find that medium makes your colors look lighter than you'd intended. This is completely okay. You will learn with a bit of trial and error that in what ratio should you mix these two to get the desired result.

Drying time? 

Most of the gels have extended drying time, giving enough time for an artist to work on them before the paint dries out. Now thin layer textures will dry soon as compared to thick layer texture. Very thick layer texture will dry from the top in a while, but they will not dry all the way through. The bottom-most layers may take a few hours depending upon the weather.

So have patience and let it dry for a couple of hours and don't touch them again and again. Remember, it is possible to paint over the texture medium. If something is not right, color when it's dried, it is not a failed attempt.

What is a medium?

Mediums are pourable liquids used to thin out paints. It provides the acrylics with additional working time for blending. The viscosity of the medium is far lower than gel. Hence you can mix medium with paints using a paintbrush. They are opaque or white when wet but become transparent when dry.

The medium also behaves as a drying retarder to provide you with more time to work. They are cheaper than paint, so it's an added advantage to include an acrylic texture medium for economic reasons.  

Some brands and also some people often interchange the words gel and medium while using it.

What to do with Acrylic Texture?

Redish black Acrylic Texture on canvas

Abstract acrylic texture with circular ring design

Acrylic gel medium creates really cool effects that would be difficult to make by using just the acrylic paint. Here are few ways to use them:

  • Create peaks and valleys with impasto effects 

  • Sculpt the acrylic gel before it has dried on the canvas
  • Use wood cutting tools to carve into the acrylic gel on the canvas
  • Give effect of heavy texture acrylic paint
  •  Use tools with an engraving attachment to etch fine designs into dried mediums like molding paste 
  • Use acrylic gels to highlight areas of a painting

Acrylic Paint Texture is an excellent addition to unconventional types of painting such as abstracts or mixed media. 

Look for a bit of inspiration, and you could also come up with creative ways to use these mediums to enhance more traditional art styles such as realist still life, landscapes, or portraits.

Acrylic gel medium could be applied to surfaces like canvas, paper, wood, etc., anything which can normally take acrylics. So start experimenting and look at the amazing results you are going to get.

Paint on Acrylic Gel Medium

They are translucent and will normally dry to a white or off-white if no color is added. Once the gel has dried on your canvas, the surface is ready to be painted. You can paint any colors that you would otherwise paint on the canvas directly. 

Acrylic paint, when mixed with gel medium, will also give the same effect as if they are applied as separate layers. This will save time and effort.

Tools to apply Acrylic Gels

You may use any sort of instrument to use texture paste on a canvas or sheet of paper. Various tools will create different textures. A painting knife is easy to use and also to scratch patterns into the paste. 

You can apply the texture gel with:

Stiff brush, comb, bubble wrap, metal objects, stencil, kitchen knife, spatula, old paintbrush, your palms, and most important tool is palette knife! 

Wire brushes and other abrasive tools may produce interesting effects both on moist or wet paint layers. 

Use a scratchy tool to partially reveal the bottom-most surface layer. If you are a creative person, you will find there are endless ideas to use acrylic texture gel.

Fixing over Texture gel

When the gel has dried, you can paint it over without disturbing it. Brush on the surface gently. The paint strikes only the top ridges of texture. By pressing on a brush firmly against the outside, it is going to move in between the ridges too. Another choice is to use very fluid paint, which will stream off the ridges and puddle between them. 

Using Mediums and Gels as collage glue

One of the various ways of using them is as collage glue. In mixed media, brush them on the surface(canvas or paper) and stick media pieces over them. For heavy paper or surface, use a heavy body gel, so both are consistent. 

Remember, you cannot use heavy body gel on light paper. The soft gel will work with most of the paper and canvas. It  dries clear, so do not worry if you leave it unpainted here and there.

Using Mediums and Gels together

Get creative and try new possibilities. Technically, gels and mediums can be mixed together without any issue. Give your imagination a run by using them in mixed media! 

I hope this guide has given you substantial knowledge on how to use acrylic gels and mediums.

Happy Painting!