Which is Best?
Imagine the scene.
You’re halfway through your painting, it’s going really well.
This could be your breakthrough piece, a personal Mona Lisa.
A quick look on your palette and you spot the perfect mix to finish the piece, you dip the brush in with vigour, and guess what?
Its dried on the palette.
You then try to mix more of that exact colour,
2 minutes goes by, then 5 minutes, when we hit 10 minutes and review our mixes, the initial colour has become a distant memory.
Emergency tea break with chocolate is needed.
So what’s a painter to do?..
One of the most common issues beginners have with acrylics, is they dry too fast.
You’ve already invested money in your acrylics and don’t want to work with oils or the smell of turpentine. There are a few options to help increase the working time of your paint.
- You can add slow drying mediums (called retarders)
- Use a stay-wet palette will keep the acrylics open for longer
- Put out larger quantities of paint
But what if this is not enough?
A few paint manufacturers have developed ranges of paints that aim to address this issue.
- Chroma’s Atelier Interactive Acrylics: These paints allows you to re-activate paint that has gone to the touch-dry stage, using either a fine mist of water or Atelier Unlocking Formula.
- M.Graham & Co: Their acrylic range is formulated to have a longer working time than most acrylics, up to about an hour, depending on conditions.
- Golden OPEN acrylics: These paints have an extended working time, up to 10 times longer than Golden Heavy body Acrylic range. They can also be re-activated with a fine mist of water or Golden OPEN thinner.
But do they work? And are they any good?…
The review below looks specifically at the comparison between Golden Heavy Body Acrylics and Golden OPEN Acrylics.
Regular Heavy body Golden acrylics vs Golden OPEN acrylics
When learning how to paint, you’ll hear artists talking about the ‘working time’ of paints.
This refers to how long the paint is available to move around on the canvas and ‘work’ with. This can also be called the ‘open time’ of a paint.
Golden OPEN acrylics have an extended working time, in comparison to regular Golden heavy body acrylics, a drying time of up to 10 times longer than standard acrylics.
- Standard Acrylic paints have a short working time (short open time)
- OPEN acrylic have a longer working time (long open time)
- Traditional Oil paint has an even longer working time (longest open time)
So are these paints the perfect solution?…not quite.
Lab test review
In a Golden Paints lab test using a 6mil. (mil to mm convertor) – about the same as a thin brushstroke, the following drying times applied.
Standard Heavy body Acrylics: Less than 5 minutes
OPEN acrylic: 30 to 60 minutes
Standard Heavy body Acrylics: Less than 10 minutes
OPEN acrylic: 1 to 3 hours
Re-worked (this means you can add water or a thinner to ‘reactivate the paint’)
Standard Heavy body Acrylics: N/A you can’t re-open
OPEN acrylic: 12 hours
Standard Heavy body Acrylics: Less than 30 minutes
OPEN acrylic: 24 + hours
Standard Heavy body Acrylics: 24 hrs
Golden OPEN Acrylics: Minimum of 30 days before varnishing if you have used thin layers. You can apply an isolation coat in half the time (minimum 14 days) to help protect the surface.
Let’s have a look through some of the key characteristics between the two.
Standard Golden Heavy Body acrylics have 110 colours (not including specialist effect paints)
Golden OPEN acrylics has 80 colours.
Is this a problem? Not really, I always adhere to the approach of less is more.
It’s better to have 3 or 5 pigments you really get to know rather than always jumping to the next paint colour to try and ‘help’ with the colour mixing in your painting, so this isn’t really an issue.
The consistency and flow of the paint with the Golden OPEN’ acrylics is slightly thinner than the heavy body. This means it doesn’t hold its shape as well or hold in stiff peaks.
Is this a problem? If you like painting thickly with a palette knife, yes.
Compared with standard acrylics they have a softer consistency. This can feel nice straight from the tube in comparison to heavy body paints that often need a touch of water added for mixing the perfect consistency.
Golden recommends a thickness of paint application of no more than 1/16” thick.
That’s thin for an impasto painting.
With standard acrylics, you can apply the paint as thick as you like.
Why do they recommend such a thin application?
You can paint thicker with the OPEN acrylics but there are consequences.
You’ll have a paint film that takes weeks to dry and the paint, when pressed, feels mushy and a very strange surface to work with.
Also, when drying, the OPEN acrylics go through a strange process of ‘tacking up’.
The paint surface starts to become tacky before it finally dries completely. It goes through different textures under the brush which can feel damn right weird if you’ve used standard acrylics. The paint initially feels very oily and slippery and as it dries becomes increasingly stiff.
So although the paint has a long drying time, the actual working time is a lot less if working in such thin layers.
You have to work quickly before the painting starts getting tacky, and then if you miss your window of opportunity, you’ll have to wait, for what can feel like a really long time for the layer to completely dry before you paint on top.
You can easily find yourself accidentally lifting up the previous layer of paint from underneath – you thought was dry.
Golden refers to this drying period as a “Sweet Spot” where you find the perfect texture for your particular needs.
I’ve found it to be the ‘not really sure when the sweet spot was’.
When you’re first starting it can be hard to judge when this perfect moment is and as the thickness of paint application varies, so does the timing of the drying.
The paint seems to get tacky after an hour but remains workable for longer. You need to let your layers dry completely before you attempt to add a new layer, otherwise, you risk ruining a layer that hasn’t set yet. This is something you could get used to, though.
If you’re used to applying acrylics thickly and with a stiffer brush this can cause havoc to your painting as you are constantly reworking the layer underneath you thought has already dried. You can quickly ruin an area.
But when is this useful?
If you are using soft brushes (such as sables), paint in thin layers and you are looking to achieve a very subtle, diffused blend to the paint surface.
Subtle diffused blend using OPEN acrylics
The coverage or opacity of the paint depends on the amount of pigment in the paint (called pigment load) and the binders used in the paint manufacturing process (called the vehicle)
The OPEN acrylics have a good pigment load but I’ve found the acrylic binder used, gives the paint a poor coverage in comparison to standard acrylics. So the appeal that you easily paint over your mistakes and create clean colour mixes when you’re first beginning, is lost.
All acrylics darken slightly as they dry, the better quality paint, the less the colour shift. However, with OPEN acrylics, I have noticed a definite colour shift when the paint film dries.
One of the great things about OPEN acrylics is you can mix them with standard acrylics. So you could paint 80% of your painting with heavy body acrylics and then introduce a few paints of the OPEN colours for areas of your painting that you just need to increase the working time slightly.
For example, adding a soft blend to the edge of a cloud or working on thin glazes over a portrait painting.
You can mix OPEN acrylics in with standard acrylics easily and without any real problems.
An increase in the number of standard acrylics that is mixed in, the quicker the drying time will be. So say you love the opacity of standard Titanium white but want it to stay workable for a bit longer then you can add in some OPEN acrylics to the mix.
Convenience & cleaning
Not having to constantly put out fresh paint or work on a stay-wet palette can be a joy, especially if you are working on a portrait where the subtle colour changes need very slight adjustments in pigments.
Cleaning wise they are more convenient than standard acrylics as the paint doesn’t dry on the brush. You can leave the paint on the brush for a couple of hours and still be able to easily remove in by dipping in OPEN thinner and then washing with soap & water.
If you’ve painting outside, or in hotter climates than the UK they can be great as in a large pile of paint remains workable for such a long period and if you mist the paint with water or OPEN thinner the paint can stay wet even longer.
But if you like to work quick, or have deadlines for clients who want paintings that can’t be varnished in time – it can be tricky.
Pro tip: OPEN acrylics remain tacky when drying so it is advisable to leave your paintings in a dust-free environment before varnishing.
So should you rush out and buy OPEN acrylics? It depends, I think the labelling is a bit misleading, they should have called them:
Golden glazing paints for thin layers and fine detail
Because, essentially, this is what they are best for.
If you use standard acrylics for 90% of your painting, this leaves you free to apply thick impasto and painterly brush marks, then use the OPEN acrylics for the final 10% you can achieve some lovely results. Especially if you’ve been finding standard acrylics dry too quickly for subtle blending and glazing.
As they are compatible with regular acrylics it might be a worthy investment to buy a couple of tubes to experiment with and get the feel of them.
You might also like:
1.The 5 key differences between Acrylics & Oil paints – a beginners guide
2.The 8 key differences between Artist quality vs Student grade acrylic paints
This Post Has 116 Comments
I’ve bought a Modern Open colour set to try. Currently struggling with the very very high tinting strength compared to a traditional palette and the Hansa yellow included in the set.
I’d be interested in a comparison with oils, especially drying time, but also in use for a finishing layer to regular acrylics in the same way as you suggest a suitable use of Open acrylics for final subtle glazes and blends.
The Hansa yellow can be a useful colour for creating some very nice glazes as it is so transparent, but can easily mix some harsh greens.
Cheers for the suggestion,
I really liked this article Will. I have heard there where different acrylics for drying times but didn’t know what they where called.
It’s very interesting to know what the options are and what are the key differences between this types of paints and when to used them. Also will help out to pick better quality and working paints rather than experimenting and ruining a piece because you didn’t know how to work them.
Thanks a lot. Cheers!
Pleased to hear it Jasson, the choice of materials can make a big difference in the success of your painting, it’s nice to be aware of what’s out there.
Thanks Will, I had been wondering about these paints and how long they took to dry. I tend towards very thin layers of paint, I personally am not a big fan of impasto techniques so that isn’t an issue here. Because of their longer open time I had been considering trying these paints out. It is great to hear an unbiased review from you, since I value your opinion so highly. The color greater color shift is a deal breaker for me and it is good to hear this from a reliable source. I may try a color or two in time, but if find misting my palette with a super ultra-fine mister will keep my paint workable for over an hour outdoors if you are diligent about keeping it in a humidified environment. I have used a stay wet palette for this, but I found an ultra-fine mister works better for me. Thanks for the review!
They might be perfect for you if you work in those thinner layers, as you’ve had experience with acrylics I think you’ll be able to handle the colour shift, no problem. The ultra fine mister is a good tip, I stole mine from Vanessa’s hair salon!
Great stuff, Will! That was very interesting indeed.
Pleased to hear it Dale,
Thank you Will for a great review. I might actually purchase a few for finishing touches. I’m used to oil and find it very difficult when i go back to acrylics.
You’re welcome, if you’ve worked with oils previously the open acrylics can help to add that extra working time, and for finishing touches they can be perfect.
Thank you Wil; much appreciated. It’s great to be learning so much about art and paints in the convenience of my own home.
Hi Andriana, thanks for stopping by, pleased to hear you enjoyed the article.
A very fair and balanced review, very honest. They had caught my eye in the Jacksons catalogue but on balance no, retarders work well enough for me when necessary.
Pleased it was helpful,
Thank you Will that was really interesting. I was actually considering replacing my entire palette with these Open Acrylics expecting them to behave much more like oils. Having seen your review I am not sure now that the Open acrylics would be the right choice for me so you may have prevented a very expensive mistake! You mentioned Atelier Interactive acrylics, have you tried these at all yourself?
You’re welcome Paula, as for Atelier Interactives, I’ve had a quick play with them but haven’t really used them enough to give a rounded review, if any reader have used them extensively I’d love to hear their experiences with them.
Thank you for such a wealth of information! Your tutorials have given me the confidence I was lacking in transitioning from graphite to paint, and your work has inspired me to leave my realistic comfort zone and experiment with more impressionist techniques.
Tim Gagnon (http://www.timgagnon.com/) is an artist who works almost exclusively with Atelier Interactives, focusing mainly on realistic landscapes and wildlife. It may be worth a shot to ask him for his experiences with that particular brand of paint.
– Kate M.
So pleased to hear the tutorials have helped in giving you the confidence to take the leap into paints!
And thanks for letting me know about Tim’s use of Atelier Interactives.
Thanks so much for this very informative article. It is sooo helpful. I am learning so much from you and I am grateful! I think I might buy a couple of tubes of Open Acrylics and check them out.
Cheers for the comment, really pleased you found the article helpful.
Enjoy experimenting with the OPEN acrylics!
Many thanks for this great article.
Got all the answers needed.
It’s great to get such brilliant info straight into my mail box ~ I love this ‘updates’ thing!
Your article is full of interesting, useful and practical info ~ I really appreciate you taking the time to write and post it, thanks!
I’m pleased to be able to get an idea of your experience with Open acrylics before having a play myself ~ I’m kind of itching now to have a go at some fine blending with them!! Oh, and thanks for the links at the bottom of the article :) also excellent!
Oh Hi Carol,
Thanks very much, really pleased you enjoyed the articles.
Thanks Will, It’s helpful. I’ll keep that in mind while painting. Thanks a ton.
Can I see some of your own paintings?
Hi Babli, pleased it helped, you can see examples of my paintings throughout the demos on the blog. Click on the about page for some more examples.
This is my first comment on your blog. Like the rest of your subscribers I, too, appreciate and enjoy your tidbits of valuable and practical information. Thank you very much for them. As to trying out new paints I learned that, like you said, fewer is better. After doing watercolours for years I find myself favoring fewer colours and stocking on them and no longer have a need to buy exotic/uncommon colours. I hope to remember that lesson now that I’m learning to paint in acrylics, which are a bigger investment overall. And I like the way you present your ideas and opinions.
Hi Eduardo, nice to hear from you.
Yes, the less is more approach can help in so many ways when first learning a new medium. So pleased you have found the articles helpful in your paintings.
Thanks again for your kind words,
I live in Australia where it can get quite ‘warm’ and I find Artelier Interactive Acrylic to be a great paint to work with. As I tend to work slowly in layers. I don’t use the impasto style very often and would probably recommend a more structured paint for that.
As you mentioned the Interactive paint can be rejuvenated with a spray of water and if used with a painting medium instead of water have a lovely look and feel to them.
Thanks for your comments on using Atelier Interactive paints,
I would like to say Thank you as your webside is helping me!
I’ve just started painting I was confused but when I watched your videos on youtube then I’ve got lots of easy way.. Thank you
filiz study in KCC collage chelsea, Fashion designer class
You’re welcome Filiz, great to hear it’s helping you understand painting.
Will, just went through your still life on-line course and learned a ton. One question I kept having is “how does he get so little paint to go so far?” It seems I have to mix far more paint and coverage is less. I assume you used heavy body paints for that course. Does the brand of paint (I am using student grade Liquitex Heavy Body) affect coverage?
By the way, love the site. Painted a little in oils 30 years ago and just started again in Acrylics. Learned more in one lesson than 4 months of weekly lessons in oils in High School.
Thanks for dropping by, really pleased you’ve learnt loads on the still life course. The difference in coverage is down to thw quality of the paint. Artist quality paints will always have much more covergage than student quality. I would invest in an artist quality titanium white first so you can see the difference. The liquitex artist acrylic heavy body are the closest to the paints I use in the tutorial. Have a look at this article for a further look at the differnces.
Very helpful review. I have experienced the problem of assuming that Golden’s open acrylics are dry – i.e., dry to touch and after even several days of waiting – only to find that the paint lifts or rubs off when another layer, notably a glaze is applied. Now, at least, have have a clearer sense of why I had a problem and a clearer sense as well of how and when I should add open acrylic paints to my acrylic palette. Thanks!
Pleased you found it helpful, in the right context the OPEN acrylic they can work really well, having the paint rub off can be molto frustrating!
I am loving your lessons! I haven’t painted in some years, and then just with crummy (cheap) acrylics on my kids walls, doing fanciful murals. Now, I want to put one on canvas — a 49″ x 49″ canvas. So, I’m worrying about the open time of my heavy body paint. Heading out to purchase some regular gel and a large pot of yellow ochre for the background, a large paintbrush and a drop cloth. Any tips you have for doing really big pieces is welcome. Wish me luck!
Hi Laura, pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons. Depending on the style of painting you’re after the 49″ will be fine with standard acrylics. Just make sure you can get back from the canvas throughout the painting process so can view your work from a distance, this will make the biggest difference in bringing all the elements together when working on the larger scale.
Good luck with your painting!
How kind of you to get back to me! I will certainly take your advice. I do have one question. This will be primarily a landscape with a slender section of blue sky at the top. I watched your video suggesting putting down a base coat of yellow ochre. Will this somehow be a barely perceptible tone under the blue of the sky and the water in the canyon, etc. that somehow pulls the pallet together? Or is it just so you don’t accidentally leave any white canvas? I understand that it makes the canvas texture easier to work on, but unclear why a color is suggested. Thanks!
the coloured ground colour can change depending on the scene you are painting and the mood you are after. The yellow ochre is great for sunsets/beach scenes/ scenes with a glow of sunlight on them. If you’re after a cooler effect you can use a neutral grey colour (raw umber & white) or a soft blue (ultramarine blue & white). The ground helps you to judge tonal values in your painting, pull the colours in your painting together and stop any accidentally left white canvas.
Hope this helps,
This is a great article! I am wondering what Golden Open vs. Atelier Interactive reviews are. I have a few tubes of each. I see they are softer, thinner but have not painted with them…just dabbled. I think Atelier was on the market first but not where I live in Western New York. I used to read about European artists using them.
I haven’t had much trouble until last summer when paint was drying on the trip from my palate to my canvas. It was a dry summer. I use deep wells of paint, a stay wet sponge sitting above the wells and sometimes a mister. Just trying to learn all I can about this.
Cheers Bernie, pleased you found the article of interest.
This article is awesome!
I am a beginner and I have found answers to most of my questions in this blog!
Although, I have a couple of questions regarding using swarovski crystals on canvas.
I am planning to paint leaves and embellish them with Swarovski crystals over my summer break.
Which brand of acrylic paint is the best available in the United States?
Also, which is the best adhesive to keep the swarovski crystals in place?
Can I use Martha Stewart glitter as a replacement to swarovski crystals?
Appreciate your suggestion.
Pleased you enjoyed the article, to answer your questions:
Which brand of acrylic paint is the best available in the United States?
I like Golden paints, Liquitex are also nice.
Also, which is the best adhesive to keep the swarovski crystals in place?
Check out this article on gluing swarovski crystals.
Can I use Martha Stewart glitter as a replacement to swarovski crystals?
Mmm, you got me, not up on Martha Stewart glitter! But I can’t see any reason why not.
Hope this helps,
I really love Golden OPEN acrylics. My experiments are ongoing. I find that at times (especially summer w/ more humidity) I can put a dollop of this paint on my palette, and it will be sitting there quite wet and ready to use 24 hours later! By contrast, I can do a very thin wash on unprimed paper and it’ll be dry in minutes, especially if there’s a fan about. Everyone should remember that a sealed surface will significantly increase open time. I love that I can go in and soften edges so well w/ OPEN, especially on a sealed surface.
I like to paint flat and I like to do impasto. Generally I’ll have OPEN versions of my regular colors, as well as regular versions (usually Golden and Winsor & Newton). I like that I can program in my desired drying time by mixing OPEN w/ regular acrylic, and I like that I can work a little longer doing more impasto type if things by adding a bit of OPEN to regular acrylic (regular acrylic holding the peaks better). Of course OPEN can be used atop regular acrylic which has been used for impasto, so there’s that option as well. It’s a drag that OPEN isn’t really good for heavy impasto on its own, but then again, regular acrylic for heavy impasto is nice in the sense that it doesn’t have the extremely long drying times of thickly-applied oil.
I use retarder at times as well (I like W&N’s). It all depends on what is called for by a given situation.
Thanks for taking the time to write a detailed analysis of your experience using Golden OPEN acrylics.
Thanks Will for this just what I needed to know will try OPEN Acrylic just for my sky . What would I do with out you. Sue D
You’re welcome Sue, really pleased the article helped.
Amazing article! Thanks so much for sharing your expertise & experience. Thanks to you, I have a much clearer understanding of OPEN acrylics.
Thanks Debbie, pleased to hear you’ve got a clearer understanding of the OPEN acrylics. Enjoy experimenting!
Do you think using Golden Heavy Body acrylics and mixing in your own retarder is just as good as the Open Acrylics? I don’t want to buy two sets of paints but do need a longer open time for some projects. I already own a ton of Golden heavy body paints so I’m thinking of just mixing in my own retarder as needed.
You can add in the retarder, but only up to about 15% into the mix, otherwise the paint won’t dry fully and can go a strange texture. The OPEN acrylic will have a longer open time, but the retarder mixed with the heavy body paint will give you a drying in-between the two.
Hope this helps,
This article is amazing, I own golden heavy body Acrylic’s and gels, was searching for a review for the open ones. Gonna try them for sure. Watched alot of videos of yours on YouTube, inspiring and an amazing artist, love all the tips. Good luck
Thanks Fatima, so pleased you’ve been finding the articles and videos helpful, thanks again for your kind words.
I’m a novice painter from The Netherlands who enjoys the extensive information you provide on your website and Youtube channel! Thank you for that. Great tips that improve my skills gradually.
As for my question. You like using Golden heavy body and W&N artist’ acrylics. Have you always used them or not? I wonder because my local art shop owner always speaks highly of brands like the French Sennelier, German Schmincke and of course our Dutch Old Holland when I buy some Royal Talens Amsterdam acrylics. Do you have any experience with these brands, and if so, what did you think of them in comparison to the brands you use currently?
Thank you in advance for responding,
Hi Remon, nice to hear from you, yes I do also use old Holland, Sennelier and Schminke, both the oils and acrylics.
I found the Old Holland, New masters acrylics to be particularly nice. They dried to a lovely soft sheen that can help with the vibrant scenes in the colours without varnish.
I’d like to ask about OH New masters acrylics. This is from their website:
“In contrast to the many major producers of acrylic paints, Old Holland chose a 100% pure acrylic medium from a product-oriented European manufacturer above the more obvious resins available worldwide. While more expensive, this choice adds a unique characteristic to the New Masters, unequalled by its competitors. In other words, as the world’s first producer of oil paint, Old Holland is rightly proud of the fact that New Masters Classic Acrylics have the same characteristics and texture as Old Holland’s oil paint.”
What is your experience? Can you say more about drying time (faster or slower compared to other brands), viscosity, opacity, etc.?
Hi Ivan, the New Masters Acrylics are really nice, they dry to a slight more sheen than other acrylics so can appear with more saturation, they’ve also got a nice painterly feel to them.
Hope this helps,
Thank you for answer. The thing is, I can’t decide between Golden Heavy Body and OH New masters. I’d like to know your opinion. Which one do you prefer (or you’d recommend) and why?
Hi Ivan, I really like the golden titanium white and the range of viscosities available in the brand. The choice of mediums are also excellent. OH have a nice flow to them and a similar feel to the Old Holland oils which I also paint with so I vary between the two. Best thing to do is buy a couple of tubes of each, the earth colours series 1 will be the most affordable and have a play with them to see which you prefer.
Hi I have not used Golden Open but have used acrylics a lot. I cannot see the advantage of Golden Open over water soluble oils. I prefer regular oils anyway thinned with Zestit and Liquin anyway when I need to paint this way. Maybe Golden Open offer something better?
Hi Dave, if you’ve been getting good results with the watersoluble oils that’s great, also if you’re used to working with regular oils and altering the consistencies and drying time with Zest it and Liquin I wouldn’t say the OPEN acrylics would add anything extra to your current working method unless you just wanted to work with acrylics in one piece.
I love to work with watercolours however I find it difficult to work on large sized paintings using watercolor. I decided to try and use acrylics with a watercolour technique. I am testing this on watercolor paper for the time being amd hopefullu move to canvas when I am confident enough. I bought a set of the Golden heavy body. Any tips? And is it ok to use acrylics like water colours?
Hi Claire, you can use heavy body paints diluted with water or mediums to create a thin mix to be closer to the watercolour consistency, but you might also be interesting in having a look at high flow acrylics or the new Qor Watercolours from Golden, that have many of the properties of watercolours but with a more intense coloured finish.
Hi Will !
I was wondering if open acrylic paints are anyway similar to the fevicryl fabric paints that are available in India.Fabric paints seem to me like a more liquidy version of acrylic paints.I would appreciate any comments re the differences between them.
Hi Sumita, I haven’t personally tried the Fevicryl fabric paints so am not sure of the similarities and differences.
I’m from Brazil and as you must know, here is very hot! I use regular WN acrylics and the drying time is frustrating. Even using retarder. I recently bought Golden Open to try. I bought also the heavy body medium to regular acrylics to blend with the open and solve the problem. I didn’t try yet. Do you think it can be a good thing? Before I buy the Golden Open I wondering to work with watersoluble oil like Artisan but here is dificult to find and is very expensive. But only for comparison, would you make a review between the two type of paint?
Hi Ricardo, I think you’d find better working time with the Watermixable oils, here’s a good video comparison of the drying times of watermixable oils. you might find helpful. It compares standard oils to watermixable oils and standard acrylics, it doesn’t include the Golden OPEN but will give you a good idea.
Hope it helps,
Thank you, Will.
Hi Will, Is it possible to paint portraits in a traditional way ,with a limited palette in Acrylics— [ Golden open or say Atellier interactive ] —-giving a longer open time
for blending and working.
Most of the examples Acrylic Paintings I seem to see, look quite bright, and lack
that richness and crispness of a traditional oil portrait . [perhaps i`m not looking at the right Paintings! ]. Thanks for you Website– its very informative. cheers Alex.
Hi Alex, yes, you can paint portraits in a traditional way using acrylics to create a classical portrait. Here is an example of a recent Acrylic portrait from Michael Gaskell that has a very fine/photrealist detail to it. For a more impressionistic feel you ight be interesting in acrylic portrait course that looks specifically at creating muted, natural skin tone with acrylics.
Hope this helps,
Hi Will, thanks for your reply, the link to Michael Gaskell is very interesting.
Incredible that his work is painted in Acrylics.
I sometimes think Acrylics are not taken as seriously as Oils.
Yes i have looked at your Acrylics course, but my download speed is only 1.05
and sometimes freezes!. Anyway i will have to think my way around that
one. cheers Alex
You’re welcome Alex, yes with that download speed it might be a little tricky, have a look at this skin colour mixing video just to give you a starting point for a muted skin tone.
How do Golden acrylic mediums (e.g. Retarder, Glazing Liquid) work with Old Holland New Masters acrylics? Have you tested it? For example the description on the bottle of my Golden Retarder says that recommended ratio paint:retarder is up to 1:1 when painting thinly. On the other hand OH recommends adding max. 10 % of their retarder to the paint. Also, there is this thing with New Masters binder which, as OH says, is somewhat unique. You might say “why don’t just buy also OH retarder”, but OH sells it only in 500 ml dose and that is just too much.
So, if Golden Retarder works well with OH, it might save me some money. What do you think? Do you have any experience with it?
I prefer using the Acrylic Glazing liquid over the Retarder as with a glazing liquid you can add any amount to the paint and it won’t have any adverse effects.
Old Holland have a slightly slower drying time than other acrylics so could already have a slight retarder within the paint formulation (Please note: I don’t know this for 100% sure, but that’s just from my own experience of using OH New masters acrylics.)
Golden Retarder recommendations are pretty similar to OH and recommend no more that 15% retarder mixed in with the paint.
From Golden Website: (bold is by me)
Saying that, I have used Acrylic glazing liquid with OH and had no problems.
Hope this helps,
As for Golden Retarder; hm, that’s strange. On their website there is an instruction not to exceed 15 %, but right now I’m looking at my Retarder bottle and it says: “For thicker applications do not add more than 1:8 retarder:paint. For thinner applications do not add more than 1:1 retarder:pigment.” Whatever… I painted with Heavy body today and added retarder almost to ratio 1:1. Paint dried properly, that is the texture looks “normal” and I didn’t notice any oddities.
Anyway, thank you for your answer, it helped me.
Dear Will, many thanks for this clear and concise explanation. It helps me as a beginner in acrylics tremendously.
You’re welcome Reinhard, so pleased it helped.
I’m looking to update my paints and this detailed comparison is just what I was looking for. Thank you so much – very helpful as always. It answered every question I had and more on the differences.
Pleased you found it helpful Sophia.
What would be the wise choice of colors from golden open acrylics for the six
There are so many different Hansa yellows and cad red
Hi Nick, it depends on the colours and style of painting that you’re most drawn to, you might find this article of interest about the different colour palettes through different painting eras.
Hope this helps,
Why not just use the golden open medium? As you then just need one bottle of that and add it for those moments you need longer drying time?
Hey Brendan, you would only be able to increase the drying time slightly more and run the risk of having too much medium to paint ratio to give you a nice workable paint.
Hello Will, a debutante. The retirement crisis has struck me, sold my recreational fishing boat ( too expensive to run), I’m now wanting to take my chance in a creative activity, painting. Without a very good drawing skill set I’m leaning towards making some colorful – collage – type tableaux. Subject matter is all around us which is good for inspiration. My question is; what type of materials ( paints,canvases or boards) would you recommend for this type of project?
Would I be correct in thinking that acrylics ( open) be a good choice?
Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.
Hi Mark, nice to hear from you, standard acrylic paints would probably be better for collages so you have quickly drying time for the other media that you’re using, And you can use them thickly and they will hold their shape better than the open acrylics.
Hope this helps,
Thanks for your reply. Next subject – brands of acrylic paint.
Could you suggest a few examples of what you would consider good quality/price ratio products?…….and is there a genuine source of purchasing paints through internet?
I emphasis the value/quality/price ratio as there’s no substitute for quality but I do try and avoid paying too much for it!
Thanks again Will.
Hi Mark, I mostly use Golden brand and Winsor & Newton Acrylics.
Thanks for all the great information on your site. I’m starting with acrylics, and before buying paints, I wanted to ask some info.
I wanted to ask about the differences between Golden and W&N. I tried (very briefly) both at a friends house, and I think Golden is smoother out of the tube, which I like, while W&N looked much thicker (somewhow pasty). Is this true across the range (maybe W&N was old)?
Also regarding other characteristics: W&N say they dry slower than other acrylic brands, and have less of a colour shift. Is this correct with respect to Golden (and does it even matter that much for example if they dry 20% slower?). Is there any other tangible difference between the 2?
Sorry for all the questions – I would like to buy a few tubes of good quality paint (following your tip to shy away from student grade); I like the smooth feel of Golden, but as I don’t have much time to paint, they will last a while so would like to make an informed purchase.
Also, what is your personal preference?
Hi Francis, I tend to intermix brands so use both Winsor and Newton and Golden, both are great. I’ve found the Golden titanium white has more opacity and the heavy body range from Golden have a slightly stiffer texture than the Winsor and Newton so it depends which feel you prefer. The colour shift is very minimal in the Winsor and Newton so they can be a great starting place.
I started using Golden Open acrylics recently on my portrait. I really like them, but I do have to be careful not to over work an area and instead let it dry first. Definitely different than regular acrylics. But they work for me. Thanks for your reviews. I love your website and videos. I hope to take your acrylic portrait course soon.
Thanks very much Ilene, so pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons.
Hi, thanks for the article. It’s great. I am a watercolorist and recently got a large commission (152cm x 152cm triptych ) in acrylics. I was abou to buy Golden heavy body acrylic paints but l came cross of Open acrylic paint. I am living in Australia and at the moment the weather is hot and humid. My painting subject is underwater with lots of fish and corals. Now l am wondering if l should go for Open acrylic paints because I need to paint fish and corals in great detail. And it seems the Open acrylics are softer and blend better which is good for detailed work. But l am not sure if this will be good for the background. Do you think lt will be better to use heavy body acrylic for the water and the background and then use Open acrylic paint for the fish and corals? Or should I buy Open acrylic paints for the whole painting? I will appreciate the answer. Thanks a lot. Ferie
Hi Ferie, the OPEN paints will give you a much longer working time for the scale of your piece so might be the better choice for this project. Humidity helps standard acrylic stay wetter for longer so you could work with standard acrylics for blocking in the base colours and then switch to the OPEN acrylics for longer passages of colours, also if you’re used to working in thin washes with watercolours it might suit your painting style. You can also intermix them with standard acrylic which can be handy to fine tune the dry time to your environment and working process.
Hope this helps and good luck with the commission!
Thank you so much for the reply. Your comments are very helpful. I appreciate it.
My pleasure Ferie.
Will, do you ever come to USA to conduct classes in person or do you only teach online and at your studio in UK?
Hi Linda, nice to hear from you, I don’t currently run any live classes, but good to know it would be of interest.
Hi Will, I’ve been trying the Golden Open acrylics but I’ve been having some frustration with a few points you mentioned such as poor coverage and previous layers lifting up. I’d like to try using the heavy body acrylics for my underpainting and then doing the detailed layers with the Open paints. My question is, how long will the heavy body paints be wet on the palette without adding a retarder? In your article above, it says that the heavy body paints are only wet for 5 minutes. Does this also include on the palette? In other words, are the paints going to be unusable on the palette after only 5 minutes? If I try misting the palette with water, how much longer will the paints stay wet? Thanks so much!
To answer your questions:
How long will the heavy body paints be wet on the palette without adding a retarder? In your article above, it says that the heavy body paints are only wet for 5 minutes. Does this also include on the palette?
It depends on the size of the blob of paint on the palette and the environmental conditions.
This is from the Golden website as a comparison between the OPEN and heavy body paints
Wet – 30-60 min
Workable – 1-3 hrs
Touch dry – 24 + hrs
Heavy Body Acrylics
Wet – under 5 min
Workable – 10 min
Touch dry – under 30 minutes
The best way to increase the working time on a palette with heavy body acrylics is to use a stay-wet palette.
Thanks so much! I appreciate it.
My pleasure Kim
I’m hoping you don’t mind me commenting to ask a question a year after the last one.
I am extremely frustrated by the dry time of my heavy body acrylics, but I love the opacity/coverage. I paint in a more traditional style, so thick layers aren’t usually an issue. My fear is that the open acrylics will be soft and transparent like the student level paints which I despise.
Which option will be best for me–use retarder or use open acrylics? Thanks for your input! :)
Hi Nat, yes, I think you’ll find the OPEN acrylics a little too transparent if you like to coverage quality of heavy body acrylics, what you can do it buy a tube of OPEN titanium white and then test your other mixes against it. You can also mix heavy body and OPEN together to tweak the drying time/opacity ratio although there will be a change in handling properties.
Hope this helps,
Thanks so much, Will! That was an option I had also wondered about. Looks like I’m going to give the OPEN white a go and use it for mixing. Thank you for saving me the grief of fighting with my next painting! :)
having just discovered these paints and convinced myself they were the answer to my prayers, i was within a gnats whisker of buying some today, but instead i bought Windsor and Newton Slow Drying Medium to mix with my existing paints. My paintings still very amateurish (Im a slow learner lol) but the extra time is making all the difference
Glad you’ve been finding it helpful Lynn.
I have spent a lot of time experimenting with Golden Open paints. I wanted a solution to extend drying time just a bit to allow more comfortable painting outdoors in the summer. Initially I used just their whites for mixing with W&N professional range. This noticeably extended the time. I got very exited and switched completely to Golden Open. To overcome the problem of lifting layers below I kept using W&N for rough underpainting though. This combination worked ok and allowed comfortable outdoor painting. However, after the initial excitement I started noticing other problems. Firstly, some colours have significantly lower pigment concentration. For example burn umber. More importantly the shift in tone after drying is very inconsistent and strong. Different colours shift differently, different mixes shift differently. Comparing to W&N pants that almost do not have any shift at all, it was very annoying and frustrating. Frustrating to such degree, that I eventually decided to ditch Golden Open paint completely and return back to W&N professional. Shame as I had spend money on them and still have a lot of paint left. Perhaps one day I may find some use for it. On the other hand this failure forced me to get into oils.
Thanks for sharing your experiences with the paints Artemi, much appreciated.
I’ve bought several of your tutorials and I find your teaching approach tangible and also relaxing.
I’ve been considering open acrylics myself for blending purposes, so this article has been really helpful. I can’t imagine waiting hours for the paint to dry before adding another layer. But just to have 30 minutes at specific moments to blend is perfect. I like the suggestion to mix heavy body and open acrylics for an in between solution. Cheers!
Cheers Lori, pleased you found it helpful.
Thanks for your advice!
For acrylics, I use small plastic jars with lids to store acrylic paint mixes.
You can also buy Open medium from Golden. It has the consistency of a soft gel. I like it because you don’t have to buy all new paints. It doesn’t have as much open time as pure Open paints, but you can control how much by how much Open medium you add.
Glad you’ve been enjoying working with the OPEN mediums Kris.
Bit late to your fab article but thank you! I’ve been struggling under the misapprehension that OPEN are workable longer! The trouble that has caused me as a new acrylic user and it’s down to the marketing of them by golden. Your info has saved me a lot of time, disappointment and waste of money I spent on the OPEN. I hit upon doing thin layers when trying unsuccessfully to paint over an area a few minutes after applying first brushstrokes so confirmation of the technique that suits them best is much appreciated, thank you again!
Glad it helped Jane.