Thinning Acrylic Paints

Thinning of Acrylic Paints

this lens' photo

I am going to cover my remarkable explorations in my attempts to use ordinary acrylic paints and run them through the airbrush. The main thinner I will discuss will be Pledge Floor Care with Future shine( Formerly Future) which is basically a clear acrylic emulsion with the viscosity of vegetable oil. It is not so much a thinner but more of an extender or flow improver.At a later time I will discuss use of other conventional and unconventional thinning mediums such as isopropyl alcohol, water, glass cleaner, Fantastik Cleaner, as well as fluidizers formely designed for such uses.

Thinning craft acrylics with floor polish and other media


Thinning craft acrylics can be a tricky proposition! I have been reading about all these forums from model rocketry, model railroad, and model builders in general. For the most part they all swear about using Future Floor polish as both a clear coat on finishes, as a barrier between two different kinds of finishes, and more imporantly as a flow improver and thinner for acrylic paints.
NOTE=Future Floor polish is now called Pledge Floor Care with Future shine. It is the same products and still works great.I will discuss primarily the results of putting mixtures of the paint with the Future to thin with the additional help of a little water. In the photo shown here, I have a mix of blue metallic paint mixed with an equal volume of Pledge Floor Polish with some water. As you can see it worked OK but I would like to mention that your paint MUST be like skim milk WITHOUT any lumps! Otherwise the airbrish will just clog up every 20 seconds and you will be doing more cleaning than painting.After repeated ventures with this stuff it is a great all around reducer for most types of acrylic paints. Sometimes I even use it neat without water to reduce paint. It did well with the thicker Createx airbrush paints and they came out smoothly.

It should be mentioned that there are a number of other unexpected materials that are use with various levels of success. I would also like to comment on the comparison of these in contrast to acrylic media designed for blending with paints.


Preparing some stock thinner


Floor polish flow improver/thinnerWhile using Pledge floor finish as a paint flow improver/thinner, I found that mixing up 1 part acrylic floor polish and 1 part water thins acrylics better for airbrushing. Using floor polish alone doe not get the mixture thin enough to get through a airbrush nozzle. It is best to make some extra and keep it in a bottle so you use the same mix proportions while thinning acrylics.On my continued use of this floor finish as a medium, I have found that sometimes a more uniform consistency of paint can be had if I extend the paint with straight Pledge with future instead of adding water. For heavy bodied acrylics, I will thin with water just to get them into a mayonaise consistency before adding the Pledge as this reduces mixing times and helps eliminate lumps. More on this later.


Floor Polish clearcoat


On this second attempt on thinning with Pledge Floor Care, I used just plaint flat aqua acrylic paint as opposed to the metallic blue in the first run. It seemed easier to thin and when in skim milk consistency, it sprays evenly. I allowed it to dry then applied 2 coats of pledge straight from the bottle. As you can see it leaves a shiny clear coat.


Thinning acrylics with glass cleaner


WindexAnother option for thinning water based paints is to use glass cleaner. In it usual form, it is a blue tinted liquid. Unlike the floor polish, glass cleaner has no acrylic binder so it cannot extend the paint. Therefore you should use sparingly. The principle here is that glass cleaner has a tiny amount of detergent and some alcohol to reduce surface tension of the water. Most glass cleaners also have ammonia which helps to keep acrylic emulsions liquified. Acrylic emulsions are most stable at slightly alkaline conditions. Ammonia, being moderately alkaline, serves this purpose admirably.CAUTION: I would like to mention that ammonia solution can dull, corrode or even damage metallic airbrush components with continued use! The ammonia concentration in window cleaner is low however but keep this in mind. It might be advantageous to find a glass cleaner that is ammonia free. <:hgroup> 

Novaplex 235


Novaplex 235This time we are heading in the direction of using more professional materials to thin acrylic paints. I will be talking about Novaplex 235 from The medium is more fluid than regular gel mediums. I wanted to thin down some purple Sargent art Liquid metals paint to be airbrushed. What I did was I used volumetric disposable syringes and drew up 15 ml of Sargent Art Liquid Metal purple. I then proceeded to extract 15 ml of NovaPlex 235 into a second syringe. I mixed them in beaker and stirred until the gel disappeared into the metallic paint. If you have a larger 5 mm airbrush tip you will be able to spray this as is. If you are using smaller tips, you will need to add a little water until the paint is of skim milk consistency.
Acrylics can be thinned with ordinary distilled water but adding too much effects the integrity of the finish.  Therefore, in a pinch,
an artist can make there own airbrush medium for spraying acrylics.  Using gloss or matt medium with about 50% water
produces a thin milky liquid that when added to paint thins it so it may be sprayed all the while contributing extra acrylic resin
to the paint mixture maintaining film strength.

6 thoughts on “Thinning Acrylic Paints

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  4. Christy says:

    You never said how much paint. I’m looking for something on how to think “Folk Art Acrylic Paint” with the Pledge but again, you never said how much paint to put with your parts of water and Pledge.

    • Good reason that I did not mention amounts. This requires experimentation. Different acrylics have different concentrations and viscosities. So you will need to adjust your thinning liquid to your paint accordingly.

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