7 Ways to Stop Acrylic Paint Drying too Fast

acrylic-slow-drying-mediums

Acrylics are a great medium. Pick up a few well-chosen materials, and after a simple set up, you can paint on almost any surface.

But.

They dry quickly. And sometimes really quickly.

If you’re new to painting, the seriousness of this small window of free-flowing acrylics begins to dawn on you, little by little.

The paints don’t seem to blend quite as well as they did when you first put them out on your palette. In fact, that expensive paint you took so long deciding on has now gone completely hard, and there’s a distinctive shift in colour.

This is not just frustrating but feels like an undisclosed complication.

You thought it was going to be getting the painting techniques right that would be difficult, not battling with the paint drying out too quickly.

So how do you stop it from happening?

Paint faster? Invest in specialist paint mediums? Use a broom rather than a brush?

Humidity

Everything revolves around evaporation.

Controlling water evaporation is the key principle to manipulating the drying time of your acrylics.

Acrylics dry by evaporation. So, the wetter the air around the acrylics, the longer they stay wet. You might be painting in a dry climate and not realise how much that affects the paints’ workability.

The drier the air, the faster the acrylics will dry.

  • Wet air (around acrylics) – paints stay wetter.
  • Dry air (around acrylics) – paints dry out quicker.

humidity-monitor-acrylics

In my studio, I’ve got a humidity and temperature monitor. This helps to keep an eye on the water content of the space, so I can adapt my techniques if needed.

I’ve noticed when I’m painting near the coast, and there’s a higher amount of water in the atmosphere, the paints will keep working for a lot longer. If you are based in an extremely dry climate, you could introduce a humidifier into your space that will emit steam or water vapour to increase the air’s moisture levels.

Heavy Body Acrylics under ambient conditions of 70ºF/21ºC and 30% Relative Humidity in a 0.15mm brush stroke.

wet: under 5 minutes
workable:  10 minutes
touch dry: 30 minutes
locked down: 3+ days

Temperature & Air Flow

If it’s a hot summer day, you might have placed an air conditioning unit or fan next to your painting space; this will shorten the working time of the paints as airflow aids water evaporation, definitely something to consider.

Pro tip: It’s also handy to check the ambient temperature of your studio. If you drop below 9° C, it can cause issues when creating a strong paint film.

Acrylics are ideally used at room temperature, above 60° F / 16° C, and avoiding any applications below 49° F / 9° C, which is the so-called “minimum film formation” temperature (MFFT). Below that temperature acrylic paint cannot form a strong, coherent film and will be prone to failure and various drying defects, such as cracks, poor adhesion, and cloudiness – Golden Paints 

On top of your studio environment, there are a few successful ways to manipulate the drying times of acrylics by controlling evaporation. However, I don’t use them all in one painting but pick and choose whatever would work best for the style or stage of the piece I’m working on at the time.

How would you speed up the drying time?

Here’s an inversion thought experiment.

What would you do if you had to dry acrylic paint as fast as possible?

Paint in a thin layer? Warm room? Wind turbine? Sunshine? …Blow torch?

If I had to get a painting to dry as quickly as possible, I’d use a hairdryer on thin paint. High airflow, high heat, about 1 cm from the paint surface! This expels water the quickest from the paint.

And this knowledge is the secret to your success.

All we have to do is work on the opposites.

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Starter Set Challenge: Acrylic Street Scene – A Mediterranean Washing Line

Starter Set Challenge: Acrylic Street Scene - A Mediterranean Washing Line

Will Kemp, A Mediterranean Washing Line, Detail, Acrylic on Board

For this week’s free step-by-step acrylic lesson, we’re returning to the gorgeous faded paintwork and quiet cobblestone streets of Corsica.

After the challenging perspective in our first Starter Set Challenge ‘Warm Shadows in Corsica’ the simpler shapes and clear blue sky of ‘A Mediterranean Washing Line‘ should be plain sailing.

I particularly love the multiple wires threading your eye towards the sea in this scene and the washing strung up between the buildings brings a human presence of day-to-day life, breathing real energy into the composition.

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Starter Set Challenge – Painting Street Scenes with Acrylics

acrylic-starter-set-challenge

Will Kemp, Warm Shadows in Corsica, Acrylic On Board (detail)

It’s hard to believe that city breaks, art exhibitions and museum visits were something we used to enjoy almost casually.

Here in the U.K, we’re back in another full lockdown, a cold and wet one!

I was looking through some photos from last summer’s trip to Corsica needing a bit of escapism. They instantly transported me back to the atmosphere, the colours and smells, meandering down sun-dappled side streets, ice cream in hand with the anticipation of undiscovered delights around the next corner.

Drawing and painting can be very therapeutic; so with that in mind, I’ve created a couple of acrylic step-by-step street scenes to help get us through the next few weeks.

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How to Loosen up your Acrylic Paintings – Impressionistic Apples Tutorial

How to Loosen up your Acrylic Paintings - Impressionistic Apples Tutorial

Morning class, this week we’re going to look at how to paint fast and loose with your acrylics in this two-part apple study.
I get lots of emails from students who want to develop a more painterly impressionistic style but find when using a photo reference; they get too obsessed with the details, and the whole piece gets a bit overworked.

So in the first lesson of this two-part still life, I approach the drawing out of our apples in a bit more detail. The method I demonstrate is sometimes called ‘Envelope Drawing’ and is an approach that helps you to draw something more accurately.

In the second lesson, we approach the painting without pre-mixing the colours using our intuition and being a bit looser with our brush marks I’ve used a limited palette and simple painterly techniques with just two brushes and four colours.

Why are we drawing more accurately when we want to paint looser?

Well, it depends.

It depends on your skill level of drawing.

If you’re pretty good at drawing, then ideally you’d go straight in with your paintbrush and draw and paint at the same time, so you’re essentially drawing with your brush. That’s how you get the loosest, freshest paintings.

But if you’re a complete beginner, then spending the time getting the drawing accurate is a more failsafe way of creating a painting that looks loose but captures the subject. It gives you the confidence to paint more loosely knowing you’ve got a good structure underneath.

I paint this study with acrylics, but you could also use water-mixable oils.

So grab a brew, a couple of biscuits, and you can download a reference image below to follow along with the video.

How to paint loose with Acrylics – Part 1 – Drawing

How to paint loose with Acrylics – Part 2 – Painting

Downloading the reference photograph

The photo below can be downloaded, so you can use it as a reference image, print it out and follow along with the steps below.

How to Loosen up your Acrylic Paintings - Impressionistic Apples Tutorial

You can download a larger 30 x 30 cm version of the image here.

Materials you will need:

  • 30 x 30cm canvas or board or you could work on a smaller square

Paints:

I use Artist Quality acrylics but you follow along with any brand.

For the coloured ground:

  • Raw Umber (Golden Paints)
  • Ultramarine Blue (Golden Paints)
  • Titanium White (Golden Paints)

For the painting:

  • Titanium White (Golden Paints)
  • Cadmium Yellow Light (Golden Paints)
  • Ultramarine Blue (Golden Paints)
  • Burnt Umber (Winsor & Newton)

Brushes:

  • Isacryl Filbert, 6572, Size 6 (Isabey)
  • Small round synthetic (any brand is fine)
  • 1 1/2 inch XL Elite Monarch decorators brush (Purdy)

Extra tools

  • An HB Pencil – (I use a Kuru Toga Roulette Mechanical Pencil 0.5mm Uniball)
  • An Eraser – (I use a Putty Eraser by Faber Castell)
  • Burnt Umber chisel nib acrylic marker (Liquitex)
  • Delacroix Charcoal & Pencil fixative (Sennelier)
  • Acrylic Glazing Liquid Gloss (Golden Paints)
  • Palette Knife (I use a diamond shape size 45 by RGM)
  • Metal dipper or small pot for mediums
  • Jam Jar for water

I’m using a 30 x 30 cm cotton canvas and I toned my canvas by applying a diluted grey mix that matched the colour of the linen in the reference image.

A coloured ground helps to take away the glare of the white canvas and gives me a head start – if you want to learn more about the benefits of painting on a coloured ground see: How a prepared canvas can drastically improve your paintings

Line drawing

Here is the line reference image from the end of Part 1.

How to Loosen up your Acrylic Paintings - Impressionistic Apples Tutorial

 You can download a larger 20 x 20cm image of the line drawing here:

Finished Painting

How to Loosen up your Acrylic Paintings - Impressionistic Apples Tutorial

I really hope you enjoy the lesson, have a great festive week!

Cheers,

Will

 

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Acrylic Painting Tutorial – Fishing Boats in St Ives Harbour

fishing-boats-st-ives

Longing for the sea during lockdown, I decided to have a look through some of my old travel photos from trips around the coast.

sketches-for-fishing-boat

I did a few thumbnail sketches looking at different images; I liked the diagonal composition in the first sketch. I used an Acrylic Marker by Daler Rowney (FW Marker) filled with Sepia High flow acrylic (Golden Paints).

I settled on an image looking down on some fishing boats, moored in the harbour of St Ives, Cornwall.

You can download a reference image below to follow along with this acrylic lesson, hope you enjoy it!

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How to Dilute Acrylics vs Water-mixable Oils (Comparison Video)

How to Dilute Acrylics vs Water-mixable Oils (Comparison Video)

Morning class,

Over the past few months, I’ve been experimenting with various mediums, recording drying times and noting the handling of water-mixable oils – all in the process of creating a new course.

Amongst the copious footage, I wanted to share this introductory lesson where I compare the dilution of acrylics to water-mixable oils.

Simple but fundamental observations.

You may find there are times when acrylics dry off too quickly or are difficult to blend especially when you’re painting in thin layers. Using water-mixable oils can be fantastic because they give you that extra working time. Painting wet-into-wet is one of the significant advantages you’ll notice because you gain a lot more time for smoking together colours.

But how do they both compare when diluting with water?

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Simple Acrylic Still Life Tutorial – Painting Morning Sunshine

orange-segment-acrylic-tutorial-wkas

Morning class, this week I’ve been enjoying taking my breakfast outside onto the terrace which gets great mid-morning sunshine. Because the angle of the sun is lower at this time of the day, it can create a lovely backlight for translucent subjects.

I really liked how the sunlight coming from behind the orange segments gave them this wonderful backlit glow and thought it would work well as a little weekend acrylic study.

You can download a reference image below to follow along with the lesson, hope you enjoy it!

Continue ReadingSimple Acrylic Still Life Tutorial – Painting Morning Sunshine

Acrylic Still Life Painting Tutorial – Terracotta Plant Pots (Free 1 hr video tutorial)

terracotta-pots-acrylic-tutorial

“No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition.”
Claude Monet

Morning class! This week we’re taking inspiration from around your home.

You might have always wanted to capture the corner of your sunlit living room or an interesting collection of books stacked up on your coffee table or a section of your garden or patio with all the vibrant greens and spring colours.

But when faced with a new painting subject, where do you begin?

How do you decide on the pigments to use or what’s important to focus on?

The tendency can be just to get started and work it out as you go along.

But without adopting a systematic approach to your painting, you can be faced with frustration with your colour mixing, wasted time on your drawing and an unsatisfying result; I want to show you an easier way.

In this acrylic still life tutorial, I go through the steps of how I think through my colour composition, from choosing the coloured ground to introducing the pigments and then slowly building up the piece before putting the brush to canvas.

So let’s grab a brew and any remaining biscuits you may have left, and let’s get painting!

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Edition // 001: Notes from the Artist’s Studio

Edition // 001: Notes from the Artist's StudioMorning Class,

My name is Will and I am an obsessive notetaker.

I get sidetracked easily.

If I’m listening to something that has piqued my curiosity, it can send me down a rabbit hole of research….usually halfway through a painting.

And then the copious note-taking follows.

It got so bad at one stage, Vanessa had to prevent me from buying new notebooks because after furiously filling them with fascinating insights, I’d annoyingly lose where I’d put them or worse couldn’t decipher what my own scribbling all meant.

On a positive, my last birthday present was The Remarkable Tablet (an e-ink notebook that feels amazingly close to writing on paper) which has helped add order to the chaos and made the kitchen table decidedly neater.

Some of my research notes do come back to inspire my practice and if they bring me a new understanding or appreciation, I figured they are worth sharing.

So here are my top 5 art inspirations that I’ve read, experimented with or listened to this week, when I should have been at the easel, with the hope they might inspire your own work too…

Continue ReadingEdition // 001: Notes from the Artist’s Studio

Peonies in Water-Mixable Oils (How do they compare to Acrylics?)

Peonies in Water-Mixable Oils (How do they compare to Acrylics?)

Will Kemp, Peonies (Detail) Acrylic & Water-mixable Oils on Canvas, 60.96 cm x 60.96 cm (24 inch x 24 inch)

Over the New Year, I’ve been in the studio working up a large scale floral still life painting, from a series of sketches I did over the summer. The original composition had been inspired by the dramatic oil paintings of the Dutch Golden Age (you can see the progress of my painting further down the article).

To achieve the soft blends between the petals, delicate smoked edges and the ability to work across subtle shifts in hues, oils would allow me a longer working time. Then I could build up the painting as a whole piece, adjusting tones, working wet-into-wet.

But being in the middle of a British winter and the studio doors firmly shut with little ventilation, the thought of having a pot of thinners or strong solvents in an enclosed space was discouraging me from getting started.

After a prolonged period of procrastination, it occurred to me, maybe it was time to break out the water-mixable oils.

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How to Choose a Colour for a Tonal Ground (My Top 5 Pigment Choices)

How to Choose a Colour for a Tonal Ground (My Top 5 Pigment Choices)

Inspired by the dramatic, dark Flemish oil paintings I saw in Antwerp; I’ve just started working on a still life set up of some fab oversized pink peonies. I’m going to begin simply with acrylics then build up the piece using water-mixable oils.

Yesterday, I talked about the importance of a coloured ground and how this very simple step of preparing your canvas, can transform your working method. And I received lots of emails asking
‘How do you go about choosing a colour for your tonal ground?’

Well, the first thing I do is make a decision.

What is the most important thing or the most important problems that I can foresee within the painting I’m going to be working on?

For this still life, judging the values of the flowers and getting the drawing right are going to be the two trickiest areas –  but get them right….and they can pull the whole painting together. Choosing a sympathetic tone for the coloured ground will help me achieve this.

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NEW Beginners Acrylic Colour Mixing Course is Live!


 

Learn more about the course here: New Simple Colour Mixing Course

I’ve designed this brand new, downloadable video course to help you understand the theory behind colour mixing, discover how to mix and match colours accurately and then put theory into practice, creating a series of 4 still life paintings.

You might have been struggling to understand colour mixing for years, sometimes getting it spot on but other times when it goes wrong, have no idea why or how to fix it?

Or maybe you’ve read articles on colour theory but not had the confidence to put that new knowledge into an actual painting practice?

On this colour mixing video course, we take a really simple practical approach, over 5 hours + of tuition, you’ll gain an understanding of the properties of paint, learn the foundations of colour theory and put brush to canvas.

And we’re just going to take it one step at a time, starting with learning the language of colour, everything broken down simply so that the painting exercises and studies give you the confidence you need to develop your colour mixing skills.

I demonstrate using a traditional, 3 primary & 3 secondary colour wheel to teach you a step-by-step approach and working through these progressive tutorials; you’ll be guided by your new colour mixing intuitions, opening up the fantastic world of colour.

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Distracted by Light (how a bowl of apricots sent my schedule out the window)

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Will Kemp, Still Life with Apricots (detail), acrylic on canvas

I’ve been distracted by an apricot.

It’s not the usual thing that grabs your eye but I’m deep in the midst of filming a new simple colour mixing course and the apricots have got me.

They were the perfect subject to teach colour theory for one of the studies and as I arranged them in the studio, a light, impressionistic, muted blue and orange composition began to form.

Pleased with the setup, I headed down the garden for a tea break.

Continue ReadingDistracted by Light (how a bowl of apricots sent my schedule out the window)

Painting the Winter Light in Cornwall

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Will Kemp, Cornish Fishing Boat, Acrylic on Canvas (detail)

Last week I was lucky enough to spend a few days in South Cornwall and caught the most fantastic weather. I’d visited this stretch of coastline before and enjoyed fabulous Summer sunrises & sunsets, fresh seafood and sparkling Mediterranean colours.

Seasons can often show you new sides of a landscape and experiencing it all again in Winter was totally invigorating.

Atmospheric mist enveloped harbours, it was wilder with more dramatic changes in light, and the sombre Winter palette reminded of James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s landscape paintings.

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