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How To Water Down Acrylic Paint Properly

Water Down Acrylic Paint

For painters who want to bring their artwork to life, acrylic paints and acrylic blends are generally the way to go. But first, you must know how to water down acrylic paint the right way.

Due to the unique way it brings visions to life on canvas, various brands of acrylics are favoured by painters all over the world.

Acrylic paints also lend themselves to easy use in various painting techniques because of their unique paint pigment. It provides variation in color and consistency and is remarkably easy to use.

However, to be able to make the best of this resource as an acrylic beginner, you need to know how to properly thin this paint with water.

Without knowing how to properly thin acrylic paint with water, even professional painters may struggle to make acrylic paint usable.

Acrylic Paint – Everything You Need to Know About This Type of Paint

Before you can understand everything that goes into making the perfect acrylic paint thinner, you need to know a few things about this substance first.

Most acrylic paint manufacturers design their product to be water-based. As a result, it is very easy to dilute it with water and get great results.

Acrylic paint manufacturers use various binding agents and color pigments to create the vivid colors observed with this paint.

Also, they put in certain acrylic additives that ensure the durability of the paint, no matter your choice of surface, be it a piece of paper or cotton canvases.

Thinning Acrylic Paint

While you can always use acrylic medium exactly as it is, you often get better results when you thin out the paint.

There are several ways that you can do this. You can thin an acrylic paint layer using water, an acrylic binder, or a pouring medium. But before going into greater detail about the basic thinning techniques involving water or other substances, you should know a few characteristics of this product.

Characteristics of Acrylic Paint

1)      Acrylic paint dries faster when compared to most other paint types.

2)      The application of paint is considerably easier.

3)      Acrylic paint gives off a faint odor, similar to those observed in odorless mineral spirits.

4)      Better-quality acrylic paints are also non-flammable.

5)      Acrylic paint layer or acrylic polymer doesn’t give off any toxic or harmful fumes.

Many professional painters add binders to their acrylic art pieces or beautiful landscape paintings. This special acrylic blend is used to achieve specific results. We’ll be delving into what those are now.

The Importance of Binder in Acrylic Painting

Acrylic binders serve a very important purpose. While these substances don’t contribute to the abilities of the paint, they significantly extend the shelf life of the acrylic colors.

Another function of acrylic binders is that they make various brands of acrylic paints more waterproof. They also help your acrylic palettes acquire that special glossy appearance.

Lastly, they positively influence the drying process of acrylic paint. It does this by speeding up the drying time of your painting.

However, even with all of these perks, you’ll find that a lot of better-quality acrylic paints don’t contain these additives. The main reason for this is that these acrylic binders are potential health hazards.

The Best Way to Thin Out Your Acrylic Paint

As has been established, an acrylic medium is composed of an array of coloring pigment molecules as well as certain other constituents.

And, to get the most use out of acrylic products, you have to employ basic thinning techniques. These can help you truly bring out the hidden potential of the color pigments.

A bit of water is usually enough to lessen the acrylic viscosity and serve as a powerful flow improver.

When water is used as an acrylic paint thinner, you can achieve more spreadability, whether on cotton canvases or paper. As a result, acrylic paint with water can help your paint supply last a little longer.

Painting with acrylics is easier when you can find the ideal ratio of paint to thinner volume. You shouldn’t  use just any random ratio as this may reflect on your art piece poorly.

Moving forward, we’ll be looking at the ideal thinning agent for acrylic paints and how to mix to achieve the perfect ratio of paint to thinner.

You can use this method with any type of brush and be rest assured of good results.

Using Water as Your Acrylic Paint Thinner

At the top of this list, we’ll be explaining how to thin out acrylic paint with clean water.

Clean water is a perfect acrylic paint thinner because it is one of those few flow additives that don’t impair the coloring pigment molecules of your paint.

When you use water, the color pigments remain as vivid as ever while giving you more material to work with.

Yet another reason why water is such a popular option is that it remains the simplest and cheapest material for thinning everything from golden acrylic colors to even the most stubborn acrylic paint.

Even with this, you need to mix your acrylic palettes with water properly if you want your color-lifting technique to turn out just right on primed canvas.

To that end, using the right ratios of water to absorbent acrylic is crucial. The most common ratio used is 30% to 50% of water to your paint.

The exact volume of water will have to vary depending on the acrylic products you’re using.

But that being said, there are times when it’s okay to not use any ratio when working with flow additives like clean water. We’ll be highlighting some of those instances now.

Instances When You Don’t Need to Use a Ratio to Mix Water and Acrylic Paint

You can still get a water and acrylic mixture that perfectly suits your needs if:

·         You’re working with watercolor paints, paper, or canvas.

·         Your wooden painting surface doesn’t have primer.

·         You’re working on a highly absorbent surface.

·         You’re not working with acrylic gesso. In cases where your primed canvas or choice of surface doesn’t have gesso, it is fine to prepare an acrylic mixture without following a percentage ratio.

Outside the scenarios listed, it is vital that you follow a percentage when considering these methods of acrylic thinning.

How to Water Down Acrylic Paint

Here is a simple 5-step guide you can follow to make the perfect water and acrylic mixture for your painting sessions today.

Step One – Prepare Distilled Clean Water

While the effect might not be immediately obvious, you have to be careful with the type of water you use.

Although you can use tap water, these can contain chemicals and particles that could ruin your acrylic art piece. So, to avoid this, make sure you use only distilled, clean water for this process.

Step Two – Mix Only in Small Amount

As we’ve discussed, acrylic paints have a fast drying time. As such, you can’t afford to mix much too much paint and water at once. Otherwise, much of the mixture could end up wasted.

To avoid this, mix only a small amount of acrylic with water at a time.

Step Three – Use 30% Water When Painting on Primed Canvas

If you plan to paint on a non-absorbent surface or primed canvas, make sure you use a ratio of 30% water to mix with your paint.

This ensures that you have the right acrylic paint layer for this surface and that the color pigments of the paint shine more vividly.

Step Four – Apply Water Liberally When Painting on Absorbent Surfaces

When painting on surfaces that can absorb a heavy amount of water, you can afford to use as much water as you want.

This is because any excess water in your paint will be readily absorbed by the surface without reducing the effect of the coloring pigment molecules.

Step Five – Remember, Less is More

When using water as an acrylic thinning medium, there is less chance of negatively influencing the binding properties of the paint if you use less water.

While there are cases where you may have to apply more than 30% of water, you can rest assured that if you use less than this figure, your painting won’t suffer.


Simply knowing how to water down acrylic paint is all you need to harness more of the power of this medium.

The process is affordable, uncomplicated, and most importantly, it doesn’t negatively affect the quality of the paint in any way! Mixing acrylic with water in the right proportion doesn’t take time and can propel your art to the next level.

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About Lisa Bohrer

Lisa is a native Texan who says she wears many hats. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, farmer, animal lover, fisherwoman, gardener, and college student. Lisa is a sophomore at Liberty University where she is taking classes to earn her Associates Degree in Creative Writing. She and her husband of 35 years fill their days with life on the farm raising goats and chickens, and then most evenings she can be found at the computer writing, or researching a topic that has piqued her interest.

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