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Acrylic: Secret Techniques to Expand Your Creativity

Acrylic is an extremely flexible painting medium, unlike oil paint which takes years of patience, and watercolor, where you live or die by each brush stroke. Acrylic is versatile for layering color, creating texture, and reproducing interesting effects, and it dries quickly. This flexibility affords for great experimentation, and that's what we're exploring here.

Acrylic Basics
To get the most from this great medium, here are a few foundations to remember:
1. Keep brushes wet and paint moist while painting. Acrylic, as we mentioned above, dries quickly, so save your paint and brushes by keeping them wet when exposed - a squirt bottle is an easy way to do this, spraying the paint periodically. Also, to save paint, squeeze out a little at a time.
2. Thin the acrylics with a medium or with water. You can use water to thin acrylics, but if you use too much, the colors are less saturated. Acrylic mediums are a great way to retain the color fidelity of the paint, as well as the glossy finish.
3. Mix acrylics with a palette knife or painting knife. Because they dry so quickly, it is best to mix acrylics with a painting knife instead of a brush. This is especially important if you're using them in mixed media projects.
4. Use mediums for a number of things: matte medium lessens the look of acrylic's gloss; texture gels change the dimension and feel; primers prepare a surface for acrylic.

Acrylics and Oils
One of the great things about acrylic is it can be used with different mediums. The key to painting with acrylics and oils, for example, is to apply the acrylic first and make sure it is dry before covering it with oil paint. Oil paint over acrylic can act as a "relief" effect, as well as producing some very nice texture and look results.

Acrylics and Watercolors
Acrylics and watercolors work well together, too, since they both work with water as a medium. The only thing to remember when combining acrylic and watercolor, is that one of them must be completely dry before applying the other to aid the bonding process. If they are both wet, then they won't bond.

Transferring with Acrylics
Transferring an image from what it is printed on to another surface is a common technique, especially in multimedia artwork. Well, you can transfer using acrylics, too! A great acrylic medium to use for this is a clear acrylic gel medium - you can get clear, detailed transfers using it alone, or you can tint it, mix in texturizing elements, or smooth it out with retarder. It is a wonderful medium that capitalizes on acrylic's flexibility.

Here's what you'll need:
- acrylic gel medium
- a brush
- an image to transfer (photocopies and uncoated newspaper and magazines work well)
- tray of water

1. Apply a thin coat of gel medium to the image with smooth, even strokes. Allow to dry, and wash your brush while the first coat dries. They should both by dry at the same time.

2. Apply a second coat in the opposite direction to make sure the of even application. Allow to dry, turning from milky to clear, before adding more layers. You should have at least 5 coats, and no more than 10, depending on the thickness of each layer, and how thick you want the final transfer to be.

3. Let the image dry and set completely. This could be anywhere from 2 to 3 days. The more set, the better.

4. Once set, soak the image to dissolve away the paper. Trim it down to the areas you want so you don't have to deal with excess paper. Then use lukewarm water and soak the paper for 10 - 15 minutes.

5. Carefully remove the soaked paper, and rub the paper side until the paper starts to pull away from the gel medium. The more paper you remove from the transfer, the clearer it will look.

6. Rinse the transfer one you've removed the paper fibers, and allow it to dry on a hard plastic or glass surface.

Once dry, you can use your transfer for almost anything you want. Let the creativity start.