View Full Version : dulling acrylics

10-21-2010, 12:36 PM
I was wondering if other people have experienced this.
I paint with acrylics, I use good quality ones, liquitex mostly (not student grade). Anyway. I seem to not be able to get that vibrant colour look. I dont use any medium usually and I paint on unstretched canvas (I gesso it myself). I feel like I lose that vibrant colour. I layer and layer and layer and I still cant get it to my liking. I know oils can create this wonderful look but I dont haev the space and ventilation to use them. Is this a natural acrylic look and I will be able to get more vibrancy by going glossy with a medium or something??? Should I maybe sand my canvas to get it very smooth with no surface coming through? Any suggestions

chammi kaiser
10-21-2010, 12:57 PM
I always sand my canvas once or twice. I love Liquitex, and for glazing - instead of water, I always mix my colours with Gloss Medium and Varnish. This makes all the colours glow through each layer. I also paint my canvas with a neutral shade mixed with GM and V before starting on my painting. I also mix my undercoats with the same medium. Hope this helps.

10-21-2010, 01:03 PM
I agree with Chammi on this and also: it is amazing what a final coat of varnish will do for the colors. good luck, Derek

10-21-2010, 01:12 PM
thanks guys,
Chammi do you mix your colours with gloss medium and varnish just as you would water?
Also, how thick a layer do you gesso it? I guess enough to sand right?

Lady Carol
10-21-2010, 03:36 PM
Varnishing will solve your issues.

Charlie's Mum
10-21-2010, 04:09 PM
I use water and seldom use mediums for mixing/layering but using a gloss medium at the end will lift the colours enormously - it's all a matter of personal choice!

Layering/glazing will give more luminosity than mixing on the palette.

In my sig. line below, there's a link to the Information Kiosk - when there, go to the Classroom Index and look up Maverick's classroom threads on glazing - you'll see from the first one, painting an apple, how the colours build up richness through glazing.

If you mix with a lot of titanium white or some of the other opaque colours, your colours will tend to be duller. :)

10-21-2010, 04:40 PM
thanks maureen
that helps as well. I think I need to experiment a little more. I've been painting for a while but my work is evolving and I am unhappy with the finish of it. On the other hand, I dont love glossy finishes

Lady Carol
10-21-2010, 05:58 PM
use a satin varnish

10-21-2010, 07:30 PM
I may be completely off but are you using paints with transparent pigments or paints with opaque pigments? You are going to get a completely different look depending on whether or not you are using one or the other.

10-22-2010, 02:48 AM
White and water will make your paintings dull ...............

I have only just started painting in acrylic but I did plenty of research before I did. I was struck by a couple of artists who stated that they only use water to wash their brushes ..... Why? I thought when water is so cheep and readily available? Vibrancy was the answer, they claimed, and after a few small experiments I could see for myself what they meant.

Using a Gloss Medium to thin your paints means that you are using the same polymer resin that the manufacturer used when making the paints. Water is great, it is free but it does affect the final outcome, it has a tendency to make the paints cloudy.

Using white in the mix at an early stage of a painting can also give a dullness to a painting. Being opaque white kills any transparency and transparency is what is needed to make vibrant paintings. I change my colours by adding more colours rather than adding white. I was once told to bring light into a painting use colour not white. I use this as a mantra while I am learning and painting as I reach for the white paint I ask myself is there another way to get to where I want to without dipping into the white paint.

Saying that I do use white but only in the later stages of a painting either to control tone or to add the opacity needed to lift the area I am working on.

So IMHO if you want to keep your paintings vibrant stay away from water and white paint.

10-22-2010, 06:14 AM
Thanks for raising this lefks- I too have noticed this.

And thanks for the valuable information in the responses - I'm going to have to delve into the information kiosk sometime soon, and lay my hands on some medium. --Renita

10-22-2010, 08:54 AM
I dont use any medium usually and I paint on unstretched canvas (I gesso it myself). I feel like I lose that vibrant colour.
Is this a natural acrylic look and I will be able to get more vibrancy by going glossy with a medium or something???
It sounds to me like you're having issues not just with finish but with the colours you're mixing; I'd suggest looking at that first.

In terms of finish, generally speaking the matter the surface the duller the colour and the more glossy the finish the more colours will 'pop'. Most acrylics dry to some variety of satin finish, but some brands have some variation and I think Liquitex is still one of those - certain colours like Mars Black, the earths, Titanium White, Chromium Oxide Green and a few others in some brands dry very matt compared to some other colours in the range.

Should I maybe sand my canvas to get it very smooth with no surface coming through?
A smooth support won't really help much with achieving brighter colour, but it's certainly something to try anyway as you might like it.

On the other hand, I dont love glossy finishes
Satin is the way to go then. If you want to use medium to help control gloss (be aware, this will make all your paint more transparent) then you can mix gloss and matt mediums to make intermediate finishes.


10-22-2010, 09:06 AM
Too much white will dull down most colours like Maureen already mentioned (inorganic pigments in particular), but just a little actually enhances it in certain cases! Organic pigments can in many cases benefit from the addition of a little white; Dioxazine Purple, phthalo blues and greens and a few others, when modest amounts of white are added the chroma goes up and you get a much more vivid colour than the paint straight from the tube.

Also white used when it's not appropriate will dull colour - when it doesn't give the colour that's intended, but often white plus yellow will do wonders for example...

Using just water to thin is often thought to make the paint go dull, and it can in certain circumstances (particularly when used to excess) but it is not a given, i.e. if you thin with water the paint will dry more matt, that's not correct. If you apply four or five diluted coats of paint to achieve a smooth passage you can end up with a surface with pretty much exactly the same gloss as one coat of the paint used straight from the tube.

And Kev, you don't need to use paint transparently for vibrant colour - just look at how vivid the colour of many paints are straight from the tube, that's a good indicator :cool:

Some examples, this look dull to anyone (scroll down for details)?
A couple more, all achieved with thicker applications of paint:


10-22-2010, 09:06 PM
thanks everyone...great advice. Shannon I use both, transparent and opaque depending what I want to do.
The white paint and water issue. Thanks...That is really good to know and experiment with. It's probably the white thats doing it. I was using certain greens lately. I thought I might buy some tube greens instead of mixing. I now realize that apart from hookers green and phthalo green I'd rather mix yellow and blue mixes.
I was mixing alot of white with deep green, phthalo, hookers, viridian and perm green. I guess then, If I want a very light green, use a little white and make the rest of the greens darker??? I can;t think of another way to lighten without using white. I never use black, I always mix for that.

10-23-2010, 12:42 AM
I guess then, If I want a very light green, use a little white and make the rest of the greens darker???

Yellows are always a good method for lightening a green, either alone, or with some white added too.


10-23-2010, 06:31 AM
Yellow is a good suggestion, also try some zinc white rather than an opaque titanium white. This can lighten the mixture much more subtly and stop it becoming too flat.

I'm afraid I work contrary to all the advice here ;) and am complimented by the color depth of my paintings. I am essentially a colorist and work in very thin thin glazes with water only, and matte varnish. :D But don't follow my example. I agree that a bit of medium and/or a varnish will probably help you achieve the look you're going for.


10-23-2010, 12:56 PM
With your tube greens you can get lots of changes by adding yellows, Cad Yellow and Cad Yellow Light give you great colour changes. Or you can darken them by adding Blue.

Also don't forget red when mixing greens ......... small spots of red added to any green gives you a greyer deeper version of the colour. Only add small touches of red at a time though.

You may need to make yourself some colour mixing charts, either look here on this site or get a book from the library on colour mixing and see how you can make your own charts from the colours you own. You will be surprised at the amount of different colours and shades you can come up with.