View Full Version : Acrylics darken when drying. How to adjust?

Ellis Ammons
03-25-2018, 04:26 PM
Hello all
Acrylics darken when drying. Has anyone found a way to completely get rid of the color shift? Or advise on how to adjust. I've read about not using water. Using W&N or using a touch of zinc white.

Has anyone noticed a difference when using opaque vs translucent paint?

Are the W&N artist acrylics that good? I have Golden fluid acrylics and really don't want to buy a new line. Maybe just the T. White in W&N would make a big difference..

It really started bugging me today when I sat down and color matched a whole range of values and color. Haven't really noticed it this badly before. The greens and blues in particular had the biggest shift. I think maybe the carbon black or pthalo blue was the culprit. Not sure.

03-25-2018, 04:43 PM
Ellis: I hear you. It took me quite a while to work instinctively with the darker drying aspect. Many hours of painting and I don't even think about it now.
I understand W&N does make a difference, but I'm not going to buy a new set of acrylics. I have a ton of Atelier, Golden, and Liquitex.
Maybe someone here has a good answer, But my take is just paint paint paint and the adjustment will come naturally.
Good luck my friend.

03-25-2018, 07:29 PM
I agree with Derek. The shift to darker when dry is just something you adapt to over time. Some brands are a bit worse than others. Some years ago W&N said they reformulated their acrylics and used a clear base that eliminated the wet-to-dry shift problem. I haven't tried the new W&N paints, so I can't say whether or not it's true. At this point in time, I have settled on the paints I like best and don't plan on investing in something else.

I also use a lot of Golden Fluid Acrylics (also Golden Heavy Body acrylics and M. Graham acrylics). We all have our own working methods so mine may not be useful to others. When I begin a painting I often mix up a batch of the colors I'm most likely to use in the painting. I mix them in small porcelain palette dishes that are shaped somewhat like a flower and have individual wells for each color (they are available at most art supply sites). I spritz the paints lightly with distilled water during my painting sessions. The depression of the small wells help keep my paints from drying out. I put a piece of plastic food wrap over each dish at the end of a painting session and store several of these little porcelain palettes in an airtight resealable plastic container. I can keep a set of paints wet and usable like this for weeks. If I need to mix more of these basic colors, it's much easier to match the colors when the paint is still wet. I use a stack damp paper plates with wet paper towels between each one to mix other colors using the basic set and adding other colors to achieve what I need. If the mixing surface of one paper plate becomes too crowded, I just peel it off along with the wet paper towel below it and have a fresh, new mixing surface ready to go. I don't save the used paper plate "palettes" for use the next day. I just start fresh with a clean one. These porcelain palette cups and dishes are very easy to clean and come in different sizes. Any dried acrylics will just peel right off them after a brief soak in warm water.

After so many years of working with my chosen set of acrylics, I don't even think about the wet-to-dry shift issue anymore.


Ellis Ammons
03-25-2018, 09:49 PM
thanks for chiming in Derek and Beverly. Awesome to get different views.

I've found a good review of color and gloss shift in diffferent types of acrylic by Jason Morgan. Watching it now. He favors Primacryl and shows that it doesn't go dull and shift in color. Whereas he also shows that W&N black goes matte. Not sure if he's sponsored. Good watch anyway.


03-26-2018, 03:53 AM
Hi Ellis, , best is to mix and make samples to compare when dry. Or make a sample, let dry and compare to wet, then calculate how dark is the shift.
Since I use normally airbrush it dries far faster than just brush application so you tune your colors to the dry sample.
Maybe you can glaze or layer some lighter green/blue over? It can shift the tone a bit. Just use your same mix, but to a lighter tone.

03-26-2018, 03:22 PM
I agree with Derek. After a while you get used to it and adjust accordingly.

Ellis Ammons
03-26-2018, 05:32 PM
Thanks for voicing your take Fedetony and Cliff.

Now that I've realized how dramatic the color shift is I've started to adjust and change my process. Mostly by not adding water or medium except to clean brushes. I was adding way to much water. Today I mixed my paint in cups and worked from that mostly. Mixing special colors on a glass palette as I needed them which I scraped off whenever it started to dry instead of trying to add water and reconstitute the paint. And then blending by mixing the half steps on the palette. Not by trying to blend the half steps on the canvas, which is fundamentally wrong for realism anyway. I spent alot more time mixing and putting paint on the canvas than trying to keep the paint workable with misting. Which in itself saves paint. The different process seemed to work better.

And then there's having the patience to wait for a test strip to dry,.. I mean thats ok for your big colors. But I want to finish the painting this year. I was able to judge much more accurately without adding water. I just started making everything a little lighter than the color I was matching.

03-26-2018, 05:37 PM
Great Ellis: sounds like the right plan.

03-26-2018, 07:31 PM
And then there's having the patience to wait for a test strip to dry,..

Mr. Hair Dryer is a friend who can take care of that for you. Just make sure the surface cools back down before adding the next layer unless you want to hasten its drying.