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Get to know your Golden Mediums!

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Written by Golden Expert, Andrea Warren

Acrylic Gels and Mediums 101
Of all the questions I’ve been asked by students over the years, most have had to do with acrylic gels and mediums - what they are, how to use them, and the difference between them. I distinctly remember my own first encounters with these products when I first started painting- going to the art store and staring at the shelves of seemingly identical jars of ‘white goop,’ feeling utterly overwhelmed.

In this post, I’ll give you an overview of gels and mediums, which I’ll expand on in the next few posts. My hope is to demystify these materials, so you can take advantage of their many, many possibilities.

The Basics
To start, gels and mediums are essentially acrylic paint without pigment - they are the binder that’s in acrylic paint (acrylic polymer emulsion), which comes in a variety of consistencies and sheens.

Gels and mediums can be mixed in with your paint, or used on their own. You can use gels and mediums to:


- change the consistency of your paint

- change the sheen of your paint

- create interesting texture

- make your paint more transparent

- extend your paint to save money

- change the drying times of your paints (in some cases)

- use as a collage glue

- create clear layers

Gels and mediums can generally be mixed in any ratio with any other acrylic product. 

Most gels and mediums are white when they’re wet, but dry clear (with the exception of Pumice Gels). A color mixed with a gel will look much lighter when it is wet, but will dry back to its original color (though the transparency may have changed, depending on the ratio of the mixture.) 

Many of these gels and mediums come in a variety of sheens- matte, gloss, and semi-gloss. Gloss gels and mediums retain excellent clarity. Those that are matte remain clear in thin applications, but in thick layers can give underlying layers a bit of a haze.

Gels vs Mediums
It’s important to note that the term ‘medium’ is used in a few different ways when talking about art materials. Firstly, it is an umbrella term used to describe anything you mix into your paints- there are acrylic mediums, watercolour mediums and oil painting mediums. In that sense, everything we’re talking about in this post is an acrylic medium.

In the world of acrylics, however, ‘medium’ is also used to describe acrylic polymer emulsion that is fluid and pourable in nature. Mediums and gels are essentially made of the same thing, but mediums are thin, while gels have more substance to them.

Types of Gels and Mediums

Mediums 
There is a huge variety of mediums, from your standard gloss and matte mediums, to slow-drying, pouring and speciality mediums that can be used for things like stiffening textiles and painting on fabric. Mediums are useful for a variety of reasons, but because of their liquid nature, one of their main uses is for thinning down thicker acrylic paints.

Leveling Gels
These gels, as the name suggests, level on their own. They hold no brush or knife marks, and will become nice and smooth as they dry. Though they do technically pour, they are thicker than mediums - it’s the difference between, say, molasses and a thick cream. You can use them to get smooth surfaces, resin-like clear layers, or drip them to create ‘Pollock’-esque effects. They dry to a high gloss. GOLDEN makes two kinds- Clear Leveling Gel (formerly Self Leveling Clear Gel) and Clear Tar Gel. These function similarly - Clear Tar Gel is just a bit thicker than Clear Leveling.

‘Texture’ Gels

These gels are thicker, and can hold a knife or brushmark. I often compare these to yogurt, ranging from plain old yogurt to the thick, Greek kind. They are perfect for when you’re wanting to create texture. 


Regular Gel is the exact same consistency as GOLDEN’s Heavy Body tube paints. Soft Gel is a little bit thinner, but still holds a brush mark, and if you want to go nice and thick you can try the Heavy Gel, Extra Heavy Gel, or High Solid Gel. These are available in different sheens- gloss, matte and semi-gloss.

MEDIUMS
*Gloss
*Matte
*Fluid Matte
*Super Loaded Matte
*Acrylic Glazing Liquid
*Pouring (Gloss)
*Pouring (Matte)
*OPEN

CLEAR LEVELLING GEL
(Gloss)

CLEAR TAR GEL
(Gloss)

SOFT GEL
Gloss
Matte
Semi -
Gloss 

REGULAR GEL
Gloss
Matte
Semi-Gloss

HEAVY
GEL
Gloss
Matte
Semi-
Gloss

EXTRA HEAVY GEL
Gloss
Matte
Semi-Gloss

HIGH SOLID GEL
Gloss
Matte 

Fluid.
Great for thinning  down paints.

Thin, stringy and pourable.  Levels out smooth, retaining no brush marks.

Pourable, honey-like.  Great for “Pollock-like” dripping, pouring.  Thicker than Clear Levelling Gel.

Slightly thinner than HB paints. 
Buttery, creamy, holds a brush mark.  Good collage glue.

Same consistency as HB paints.  Useful for extending  HB paints and increasing transparency while maintaining viscosity. 

Slightly thicker than HB paints.  Great for creating texture.  

Much thicker than HB paints.  Great for creating thick impasto. 

Much thicker than HB paints, with the least amount of shrinkage as it dries. 



Aggregate Gels

Aggregate gels have a gel base, but have other things added to them to create interesting texture - for example,  glass beads, little chunks of acrylic, and pumice. Like all of these products, they can be mixed in with your paint or used on their own to create uniquely textured surfaces.

Gels and Mediums vs Molding Pastes
These are the main categories of acrylic gels and mediums, but I also wanted to mention molding pastes, as I know they can often be another source of confusion. Like the aggregate gels, molding pastes have an acrylic base with an additive - unlike gels and mediums, however, molding pastes are white and opaque, and are usually used to create interesting surfaces before painting. Molding pastes are great for creating texture, but can also change the quality and absorbency of your painting surface. Light Molding Paste, for example, makes any surface highly absorbent, and perfect for any kind of watermedia.  

Gels and mediums can open up a whole world of possibilities in your artistic practice, and are one of the best parts of using acrylics (in my humble opinion). Stay tuned for future posts where I’ll talk more about specific products, and give you some tips and ideas for using them effectively. In the meantime, I definitely encourage you to check out GOLDEN’s website (www.goldenpaints.com), where you can find technical information, how-to videos and more.   

Photo sources: www.goldenpaints.com

Disclaimer: While the info in my posts are based on my training and work as a GOLDEN Working Artist, the views in my writing are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of GOLDEN Artists Colors.


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