Back to Basics – Creating Colour Swatches with Acrylic Glazes

Posted by on Jan 28, 2015 in Blog | 1 comment

Back to Basics – Creating Colour Swatches with Acrylic Glazes

As part of the usual New Year’s resolutions I make (and remake) each year (e.g. exercise more, eat less, etc.), I decided to go back to my acrylic painting roots.  In high school as part of my final year portfolio, I played with acrylic paints and mediums to paint a series of abstract self-portraits.  It was a good experience to have to generate a large body of work on a single theme, but I can’t say that I really learned much the potential of acrylic paints and mediums (aside from trying to dry them faster with my hair dryer the night before a deadline).  I am going to try to keep one of my many resolutions – try new things, or better yet – get back to basics!

I had been doing my usual deep dive into a subject by collecting books on acrylic painting and mediums with an eye to doing mixed media applications (still my main interest).  In addition to reading, I also watched a number of DVDs – my favourite artist by far is Chris Cozen – she is a fun and enthusiastic teacher – educator first, artist second.   She has a book out with Julie Prichard, “Acrylic Solutions” and several DVDs.  I’ve always been interested in learning about glazing with acrylics, and Chris has a DVD just on glazing – plus, tons of other great tips!

Materials to prepare a tinted gesso over a substrate (watercolor paper).

Materials to prepare a tinted gesso over a substrate (watercolor paper).

My first step in my acrylic painting journey started with prepping my substrate – 90 lbs watercolour paper.  I always find it to be more efficient to perform experiments in bulk – steamline all that repetition.  I prepped a series of watercolour sheets with stripes of different coloured grounds – beige -tinted clear gesso, white gesso and black gesso, plus a mix of the white with each to see how paints performed over a varied colour base.

Mixing the Titan Buff fluid acrylic paint in a 1:1 ratio with clear gesso.

Mixing the Titan Buff fluid acrylic paint in a 1:1 ratio with clear gesso.

I started with a 1:1 mix of Titan Buff mixed with clear gesso, mixed well with a spatula and then painted on with a broad bristle brush on to the end of the watercolour paper.

Painting a stripe in the middle of the watercolor paper with white gesso.

Painting a stripe in the middle of the watercolor paper with white gesso.

White gesso was painted next in the centre stripe of the paper.  Next, I used a cosmetic sponge wedge to pounce both the beige gesso mixture and white gesso in the column between the solid light colours to give a varied background colour.

Using a cosmetic sponge wedge to pounce a mixture of white gesso and beige coloured gesso.

Using a cosmetic sponge wedge to pounce a mixture of white gesso and beige coloured gesso.

I rotated the paper to paint the other outer edge of the paper with black gesso and also pounced with the sponge wedge in the column between the black and centre white gesso stripes.  This gave me a prepped watercolour paper substrate with different colour underpainting.

Painting black gesso on edge of watercolour paper and pouncing it with a cosmetic sponge wedge.

Painting black gesso on edge of watercolour paper and pouncing it with a cosmetic sponge wedge.

Completed watercolor paper substrate prepped with beige gesso, white gesso and black gesso.

Completed watercolor paper substrate prepped with beige gesso, white gesso and black gesso.

Once completely dry, I divided the painted paper into each nine one-inch strips (the paper was 9 x 12 inches), twelve inches long.  I used a paper cutter to cut each of the strips.

Cutting the gesso paper into a strips with a paper cutter.

Cutting the gesso paper into a strips with a paper cutter.

My goal now was to create a series of colour swatches of all my acrylic paints.  By painting each colour over the different underpainted zones, I could see how sheer or opaque the coloured glaze would be.  Plus, now I would also see how strongly pigmented different brands of paint were, and be able to compare and contrast for whichever shade of blue I needed in the future.  Using an Excel spreadsheet, I entered each paint colour’s name, type of paint (e.g. fluid, solid body, etc.), brand and reference number in a separate column – this information would be used to make labels for each paint colour swatch.

Spreadsheet used to keep track of each acrylic paint’s colour name, type of paint and brand.

Spreadsheet used to keep track of each acrylic paint’s colour name, type of paint and brand.

I went through each batch of paints in groups of ten, doing some mild eye-balling of colours to pick colour families.  I also had ten paintbrushes ready to go (I would clean them after each set was complete) and deli paper to wipe off excess paint (no need to waste good paint).

Preparing the first group of paints for acrylic glaze colour swatches.

Preparing the first group of paints for acrylic glaze colour swatches.

I used about a quarter-sized amount of Golden’s Acrylic Glazing Liquid (Satin) and a drop of the Golden Fluid acrylic paint.  I wanted to get a sense of how each paint colour would act a glaze and get a sense of the pigment load – so lots of glazing liquid to paint ratio!

Glazing liquid in a quarter-sized amount is then mixed with a drop of fluid acrylic paint.

Glazing liquid in a quarter-sized amount is then mixed with a drop of fluid acrylic paint.

You can see how the colour pops over the white, warms up in tone over the beige and disappears over the black.  You can also see how a tonal variation in the underpainting also gives some structure and volume to the painted colour.

Coloured acrylic glaze is painted over watercolour paper strip with the different coloured gessos.

Coloured acrylic glaze is painted over watercolour paper strip with the different coloured gessos.

Excess paint on the brush is brushed on to deli paper which can then be used later on as a collage element in a mixed media paining.  If matte gel medium is applied to the art work as an adhesive, the frosted look of the deli paper disappears and the paint will appear to ‘float’ over the collage surface.

Excess paint is brushed onto deli paper to be used later as a collage element.

Excess paint is brushed onto deli paper to be used later as a collage element.

Knowing that I was going to generate a lot of painted deli paper, I used a clothing drying rack to hang each wet deli paper.  I use this system when doing Gelli monoprints, generating lots of wet artwork at fast rate.

Clothes drying rack is used to hang painted deli paper to dry.

Clothes drying rack is used to hang painted deli paper to dry.

After repeating all these steps for each one of my acrylic paints, I organized all my painted strips into a big colour family, starting with warm tones and ending with cool tones.  You can see that some paints were actually visible over the black, indicating that they are fairly opaque and not a good choice for glazing.

Acrylic paint colour swatches showing the opacity of each acrylic glaze colour over a coloured ground.

Acrylic paint colour swatches showing the opacity of each acrylic glaze colour over a coloured ground.

I divided each set of painted strips into groups of 12, which gave an overall sized square of 12 x 12 inches.  I applied each cut out paper label (from the Excel sheet prepared earlier and printed) with a glue stick to its corresponding reference number.  Next, I applied blue decorator’s tape in strips to hold down the painted paper strips, without masking the labels.

Preparing the colour swatches into a 12 x 12 square.

Preparing the colour swatches into a 12 x 12 square.

 

Adding the labels to the colour swatches and taping the painted strips together.

Adding the labels to the colour swatches and taping the painted strips together.

This taped 12 x 12 painted square fits inside a scrapbook clear plastic page protector and can be stored inside a scrapbook three ring binder (found at any big-box craft store).  This gives you an easy to see swatch of each paint colour tone, and its name, band and type of paint.  Plus it lets you see the paint opacity/transparency over a variety of underpainted substrates.

Colour swatches are inserted into a 12 x 12 scrapbook page protector and stored for easy reference in a three-ring binder.

Colour swatches are inserted into a 12 x 12 scrapbook page protector and stored for easy reference in a three-ring binder.

This acrylic glazing experiment was a a bit labour-intensive, but it also a fairly Zen-like process – one that gives a me a great reference tool to all of my paint colours and what they actually look like when dry on a substrate.

 

One Comment

  1. Brilliant