What is Acrylic Medium? A Comprehensive Overview

Acrylic painting is a popular form of art that has been growing in popularity over the years. One of the reasons for its popularity is the wide variety of acrylic mediums available. 

However, for beginners, the terminology can be quite confusing. What is Acrylic Medium? This is a question that gets asked frequently in the art world, and it’s an important one to understand.

Acrylic mediums are additives you can mix with your acrylic paint to achieve different results. They can alter the paint’s consistency, finish, and drying time. You can customize your paint using acrylic mediums to suit your needs and preferences.

In this blog post, you will get to explore what acrylic medium is, how it works, and the different types available. 

What is Acrylic Medium

What is Acrylic Medium?

Acrylic medium is a versatile product artists use to modify acrylic paint’s consistency, texture, and drying time. It can be used to extend the paint, create glazes, increase transparency or opacity, and more. An acrylic medium can also be used as a varnish or a sealant to protect the finished artwork and enhance its appearance.

Acrylic medium is made from acrylic polymer emulsion, a type of synthetic plastic composed of polymers suspended in water. Other ingredients may also be added to the mixture to give the medium-specific properties and characteristics.

One of the benefits of using acrylic medium is that it allows for greater control over the paint and the painting process. Adding medium can help achieve a desired effect or texture by creating a smooth, glossy surface or a thick, textured finish. It can also be used to dilute the paint for a thinner consistency, making it easier to blend and mix colors.

Acrylic medium is available in various types, including matte, gloss, and satin finishes, allowing artists to tailor the look and feel of their paintings to their desired outcome.

What Purposes Does Acrylic Medium Serve?

Acrylic medium is used for a variety of purposes in art and crafts. It can modify the consistency and flow of acrylic paint, making it easier to work with and helping it adhere better to various surfaces.

An acrylic medium can also be used to extend the drying time of acrylic paint, allowing artists more time to blend and work with the paint before it dries. Some common uses for acrylic medium include:

  • Mixing with acrylic paint to create a smoother, more fluid consistency.
  • Extending the drying time of acrylic paint allows for more blending and working time.
  • Creating a glossy or matte finish on the surface of the paint.
  • Adding texture or dimension to the paint.
  • Mixing with other materials, such as glitter or beads, to add visual interest.
  • An acrylic medium can also be used to create various special effects. For example, it can create a glossy or matte finish on the paint’s surface or give the paint a textured or dimensional effect. 
  • It can also be mixed with other materials, such as glitter or tiny beads, to add visual interest to a project.

Types of Acrylic Medium

Artists can choose from several types of acrylic mediums, depending on their preferred painting technique and desired outcome. It all depends on whether you want thin or thick acrylic paint. 

The different types of mediums are:

Gel Medium

The viscosity of gel medium is akin to that of a dense paste, rendering it ideal for producing impasto effects or imparting texture to a painting. Additionally, it serves as a means to prolong the drying process of acrylic paint.

Matte Medium

This medium is designed to decrease the amount of shine in acrylic paint, providing a more subdued matte or satin finish. Matte medium is also effective in thinning paint without altering its color or adhesive qualities.

Modeling Paste

Modeling paste is a frequently used acrylic medium that is composed of marble paste. It has strong adhesive properties and can adhere to a range of surfaces. Once it has dried, it can be sanded or painted. It has an opaque white color and a rough texture when it is dry.

Gloss Medium

Gloss medium is an additive that can enhance the glossiness and shine of acrylic paint. It is also utilized to prolong the drying time of the paint.

Flow Medium

An acrylic flow medium is a useful tool for artists who want to thin the consistency of acrylic paint to make it more fluid and easy to spread. It’s ideal for creating smooth and consistent, even washes of color.


Varnish is essential for protecting finished acrylic paintings from dust, moisture, and UV light. Artists can choose between a matte or gloss finish depending on their preferences and the overall look they want to achieve.

Retarder Medium

A retarder medium is an excellent solution for artists who want to slow the drying time of acrylic paint. This gives them more time to work with the paint, blend colors, and create the desired effects in their artwork.

Texture Medium

An acrylic texture medium is a versatile tool that can be utilized to produce various textures in a painting, such as sand, stone, or wood. It allows artists to create intricate details and add depth to their artwork.

How to Use Acrylic Mediums

Acrylic mediums are a great addition to any artist’s toolkit. These mediums are used to modify the consistency, texture, and transparency of acrylic paints. To use acrylic mediums, one must first understand what they are and how they work.

Start With a Clean and Dry Surface

To get the best results, preparing the surface properly is essential. Begin by ensuring that the surface is clean, dry, and free of any debris. This will help the acrylic medium adhere better to the surface.

Mix the Medium With Acrylic Paint

You’ll want to mix the medium with your acrylic paint to achieve the desired effect. Add small amounts of the medium to the paint, and mix thoroughly. The medium you add will depend on the specific effect you want to achieve.

Experiment With Different Mediums

It’s worth exploring different types of acrylic mediums to find the one that suits your project best. You can try mixing different mediums together to produce unique outcomes.

Apply the Paint and Medium Mixture

Utilize a paintbrush, palette knife, or any other painting tool to apply the amalgamation of paint and medium to the surface. Play around with different application techniques to attain diverse textures and effects.

Allow to Dry

After applying the paint and medium mixture, it’s important to let it dry completely before adding more layers or a varnish. This will ensure a smooth and even finish.

Clean Up

Clean your painting tools and brushes with soap and water right after use. This will prevent the acrylic medium from drying and hardening on the tools, making it easier for you to use them in the future.

How To Make Your Own Acrylic Medium

If you’re an artist, you’ve probably heard of acrylic mediums — substances that can be mixed with acrylic paints to alter their properties, such as increasing their transparency, glossiness, drying time, or texture. Although store-bought acrylic mediums are readily available, sometimes it can be fun to make your own! Here’s how to make your own custom acrylic medium.

Step 1: Gather your supplies

  • White glue (such as PVA glue)
  • Vegetable glycerin
  • Water
  • Acrylic paint (Optional)
  • Plastic Container

Step 2: Mix the glue and vegetable glycerin

In a plastic container, pour some white glue and add a few drops of vegetable glycerin. Mix the two together until they’re fully blended.

Step 3: Add water

Slowly pour in some water and stir until the mixture is thin and runny.

Step 4: Add acrylic paint

This is an essential step if you want to change the color of your medium. If so, add a small amount of acrylic paint (you can mix colors to create new ones) to the mixture. Stir until the color is fully blended.

Step 5: Pour the medium into a container

Once you’re satisfied with the consistency and color of the medium, pour it into a separate container. This will be your custom acrylic medium.

Step 6: Store and use the medium

Once your medium is in a container, make sure to tightly seal it and store it in a cool, dry place. Now you’re ready to use your own custom acrylic medium!

Tips And Considerations for Homemade Acrylic Medium

Remember that a homemade acrylic medium may have different properties and characteristics than a commercial one. It may not be as durable or long-lasting, and it may produce a different level of gloss or texture.

  • If you want to create a glossy medium, add a small amount of glycerol to the mixture. 
  • If you want to create a matte medium, add a small amount of cornstarch or matte medium.
  • You can also experiment with adding other ingredients to the mixture, such as small amounts of sand or other texturing agents, to create a unique texture or effect.

Making your own acrylic medium is a great way to customize your painting and add a unique touch to your artwork. 

What Can I Use Instead Of Acrylic Medium?

If you don’t have any acrylic medium on hand, or if you are looking for an alternative material to use in your art or craft project, there are several options that you can consider. Some materials that can be used in place of acrylic medium include:


Water can be used to thin acrylic paint and adjust its consistency, although it will not have the same effect on the paint’s drying time or finish as the acrylic medium.

PVA Glue

PVA glue, also known as white glue or school glue, can be used as a substitute for acrylic medium in some cases. It is not as durable as an acrylic medium and may become yellow over time, but it can be used to thin paint and extend its drying time.

Hair Gel

Hair gel can be used as a substitute for acrylic medium, particularly if you want to create a textured or dimensional effect. Remember that hair gel is less durable than an acrylic medium and may only last for a short time.

Creating Your Own Flow Medium to Save Some Money

Can Acrylic Medium Be Used Instead of Water to Dilute Acrylic Paint?

Using acrylic medium instead of water to dilute acrylic paint offers several benefits. However, the benefits of adding water to acrylic paint cannot be overlooked. While acrylic medium helps to preserve the consistency and stability of the paint, water can facilitate better flow, improve transparency, and enhance blending capabilities. Both options have their advantages, and the choice depends on the desired outcome and personal preference.

Can you use Acrylic Medium with Oil Paint?

Acrylic medium can indeed be used with oil paint, allowing artists to experiment with a combination of both mediums. However, it is important to note the fundamental differences between acrylic and oil paints. While acrylic dries quickly, oil paint takes longer to dry, allowing for more blending and layering techniques. Understanding this comparison of acrylic and oil is crucial in achieving desired results when using them together.

Can Acrylic Medium be used as a substitute for Latex Paint?

When considering the key differences between acrylic and latex, it’s important to understand if acrylic medium can substitute latex paint. While both acrylic and latex offer water-based alternatives to oil-based paints, acrylic medium cannot truly replace latex paint. Latex paint contains a higher vinyl content, making it more flexible and durable for exterior applications, which acrylic medium lacks.

Can Acrylic Medium be Used as a Base for Applying Vinyl?

When considering the compatibility of vinyl with acrylic paint, it is important to understand that acrylic medium can indeed be used as a base for applying vinyl. The versatile nature of acrylic paint allows it to adhere well to vinyl surfaces, providing a solid foundation for the application of vinyl decals or designs. This compatibility ensures that the vinyl adheres securely and maintains its visual appeal, making the combination of acrylic medium and vinyl a popular choice for various artistic projects.

Is Acrylic Medium Needed When Using Acrylic Paint on Walls?

When using acrylic paint for walls, it is not always necessary to use acrylic medium. However, using an acrylic medium can enhance the overall performance and durability of the paint. It helps to improve the flow and workability of the paint, resulting in smoother application and better adhesion to the wall surface. Additionally, acrylic medium can also extend the drying time, allowing for easier blending and layering of colors.

Is Acrylic Medium Safe to Use on Styrofoam?

Using acrylic paint for styrofoam can be risky since it can cause the foam to dissolve or melt due to its chemical composition. It is advisable to opt for a safe alternative like water-based paints specifically designed for Styrofoam crafts. These paints offer vibrant colors and adherence without compromising the integrity of the foam material.


Acrylic paint medium is a highly adaptable material that can enhance the qualities of acrylic paint. It comes in various forms, each with its own set of features and uses. 

Knowing how to use acrylic mediums properly is essential to achieve the desired effects. Artists can experiment with different acrylic mediums to find the perfect fit for their artistic needs. 

Creating personalized acrylic mediums is also an option that can provide tailored solutions. However, some household items can be used as substitutes for acrylic mediums, but the results may vary. 

Acrylic paint medium can provide limitless possibilities for artists to explore and create unique effects in their artwork. With practice and experimentation, artists can master the use of acrylic mediums and produce spectacular works of art.

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