How to thin acrylic paint? Acrylic Paint thinning for Beginners

Thin acrylic paint is mostly used by the artist to get the differences in consistency and color. Acrylic paint is a medium that helps the artist to understand the effects which are impossible without the thin acrylic paint. These flat acrylic paints can be used in watercolors. Even in some oil colors as well. You just need to learn about some painting techniques with acrylic and some basic thinning methods to get the benefits of the thin acrylic paint. Let’s see some steps which will help you to know how to thin acrylic paints?

How To Thin Acrylic Paint
How To Thin Acrylic Paint

Steps to know about thin acrylic paint

If you want to learn about the thin acrylic paint, you are in the right place. In this article, we are going to help those people who want to learn about the thin acrylic paint. The whole process can be divided into three main parts.

1. Thinning your acrylic

This is the very first part of using the thin acrylic paint. You need to follow the below steps in this part.

A small amount of paint

Take a small amount of paint in your painting palette or in any other bowl or container. We are just saying the small amount because acrylic can dry in 20 to 30 minutes, depending upon the environment. So if you take too much acrylic, this can be wasted. It is a quick-drying paint, so always try to make it according to your need.

Add the water

Now it’s a time to add up the water in it. Make sure to add the water in the proper amount because too much amount of water or less amount of water can also be responsible for the wastage of the thin acrylic paint. Just add the water according to the paint amount and mix it with the brush. Make sure to mix it properly to make the right solution. Whenever you are going to use the brush, make sure there is no moisture on the brush because too much moisture on the brush can thin your paint. This can also be responsible for the forming of drips in your color.

Mixing the thinning agent

You can also use the thinning agents as compared to water. Thinning agents are more beneficial because thinning agents prevent the paint from drying too quickly. You just need to add the thinning agent according to your paint amount. This addition actually varies depending upon the different colors. So as the best solution, you can just start by adding the small amount of thinning agent in the paint.

Check the consistency

You can simply continue adding the thinning agent until you get the desired composition. For the consistency checking, you can simply use your palette knife. You can simply take the palette knife and spread the paint to check the consistency.

Add gesso

The last step in this part is the addition of the gesso in the water and paint mixture. Gesso reacts as a primer for the surface of the thin acrylic paint mixture. You can use it for the water and oil paint mixtures as well. Some people also use the gesso for thinning and paint extension purposes. Simply use the clean paintbrush to add the gesso in the paint. If you use the gesso with any other thinning agent, your color will be thinner.

2. Restoring the hardened paint

The second part is consists of restoring the hardened thin acrylic paint for future work. You can follow the below steps for this purpose.

Identifying the savable paint

The very first step is to identify the amount of hardened paint that can be saved. For example, we can’t restore completely hardened paint. So firstly you need to separate the color which is completely hardened. But the color which is thickened and little hardened can be saved. You can check the surface of the paint with the brush handle or paint knife. If you feel the color is a little softer, it’s a good sign because this paint can be restored.

Revitalize the stubborn acrylic paint

The next step is to revitalizing the stubborn acrylic paint. For this purpose, you can use the palette knife. Add a little water or thinning agent in this stubborn acrylic paint and start mixing it with the palette knife. Make sure to have a good grip on the knife and palette because it can take a little extra time. Sometimes people accidentally throw their palette on the ground during this process. This can create a big mess for you.

Use grinding motions  

Sometimes the conventional mixing techniques are not perfect for restoring the thin acrylic paint. These acrylic paints are a little more hardened, and you need the unique grinding motions to back them in a useable form. For this, you can move the knife in the paint with more power. The powerful movement will force the water to mix with the hardened parts of the color. If you see the difference in the consistency of the paint, it’s okay. Otherwise, this paint is not in the restoring condition.

3. Using thin acrylic paint

The third part is about the usage of thinned acrylic paint. You can simply follow the below steps for this purpose.

Know about your chosen acrylic

It’s essential to know about the limitations of the acrylic you are going to use. Art supplies are costly, so you can simply start with the student grade paints. These are affordable paints as compared to artist-grade acrylics. There are some disadvantages of the student grade paint like their area coverage is less. In contrast, the artist-grade acrylics have more area coverage with a wide range of colors. Moreover, there is a limited color shift in the artist grade acrylics while drying. But when we talk about large scale projects, the student’s grade paints are more beneficial. So it’s essential to know about your chosen acrylic limitations depending upon your needs.

Understanding the constraints of the media             

We know the acrylic dry very quickly, but we need to know some other constraints of the acrylic as well. You should need to know about them before choosing the acrylic paint. Generally, we can say the acrylic paint, which is not fully dry, can be restored. But it is impossible to rehydrate the acrylic paint once it’s completely dry. So you need to take into account these things while you are going to use the color lifting techniques. The watercolor paints like gum Arabic are not good with the acrylic. The acrylic used in the wash is not able to rehydrate. So you need to understand the constraints of the media.

Practice to tint your target

We can achieve different styles by using acrylic. We can get the same results as watercolor and oil painting. But this requires some practice and experimentation. Different paints have some unique properties depending upon the ingredients. But with the experiments and experience, you can know about the features of different colors. You can simply note the whole process, which gives you the best results. The common finishes in the acrylic paints are gloss and matte.

Creating the acrylic washes

Creating the acrylic washes are essential because we can freely paint over them. When you continue to thin your acrylic paint until it gets the consistency of the watercolor, you can easily create the backdrops with this paint. Moreover, when this paint dries, you can freely use the watercolor over it. When the thin acrylic paint dries, it’s become the water-insoluble. Your painting will not become muddy by using the watercolor over it.

Blend colors

When you are blending the colors, it’s sometimes taking too much time. This is very awkward for some people, and to get rid of this, they use the acrylic, which hardened very quickly. To prevent the too quickly hardened process, you can use the dampened piece of paper or card stock during mixing. If you are using the plastic palette, don’t forget to mist your paints.

Creating the sharp contrast edges

When we talk about creating the sharp edges, the acrylic paint is perfect. It’s great to create the layers. This is due to its quickly hardened feature. When it’s completely dry, it’s not affected by any kind of moisture and types of paints. You can simply use the masking tape to create the high contrast edges. The masking tape is perfect for protecting the tips from the external application of the paint. Although the masking has a little risk of ripping the color free, still it’s a good thing to use for creating the edges.

How much water is affordable in acrylic paint?

As we discussed above, we can thin our acrylic paint by adding the water. But how much water we can add safely without the braking of the color. There are no hard and fast rules for this. Many people from the years using the 50% water in the acrylic paints. When we study it all over the world, we know that there is no fixed rule. It varies from 45% to 55% depending upon the quality and many other factors. Our tests show that we can add much more water without affecting the acrylic paint. The more addition of the water is also suitable for painting purposes. Let’s see how the different factors like adhesiveness and sensitivity vary in our tests.


Our tests show that there is no difference in the adhesiveness of the acrylic paint, depending on water addition. You can simply add maximum water without the adhesion failure. Especially when it’s applied on the top of the acrylic gesso. So you don’t need to worry about the adhesion of the acrylic paint.


We are also observed that the maximum water addition also not affect the sensitivity of the acrylic paint. Especially the colors we have testes like yellow, and blue-green shade. Even there is no difference in the sensitivity when we added the 20 parts of water. Even the sensitivity is mostly limited in worst-case scenarios.

Safe way

The safe way of making the blend is 1 part acrylic paint and ten parts of water. We actually eliminated the sensitivity to water. Even the highly sensitive pigments are also thinned with this ratio.

Some limitations

Although the above-mentioned ratio is perfect for acrylic paints, there are some limitations as well. Many glossy acrylic surfaces cause the issues of the wetting. So a little test before the use is essential to know about the behavior of the different acrylic surfaces. Especially when we talk about the plastic and metal surfaces, make sure to test before use. Moreover, you also need to check first for the glass and glazed ceramics.

What are the pros and cons of acrylic paint?

The whole above discussion is a little bit helpful to know about the pros and cons of acrylic paint. Let’s separately discuss the pros and cons of the acrylic paint to know more about it.

  • It’s easier for everyone to use acrylic paint. You don’t need any unique experience to do the acrylic paint.
  • Acrylic paint is inexpensive and very easy to apply as compared to many other colors.
  • Acrylic paint forms a hard shell on drying, which makes it perfect for long-lasting. You don’t need to do the acrylic paint again and again.
  • The newer acrylic paint is very easy to apply like lacquer and long-lasting like enamel. These both features of the acrylic paints make it perfect.
  • The two-stage system of this color is recommended, which uses the paint and clear coat.

Like all many other paints, the acrylic paint also has little disadvantages.

  • When we talk about the acrylic lacquer paint, it is a little soft and doesn’t last very long.
  • When we talk about the enamel acrylic paint, it’s a little bit difficult to apply.
  • Acrylic colors dry very fast, so you always need to make colors in small quantity which can be used in a limited time period.

Watch How to Thin Acrylic Paint?


From all the above discussion we can conclude that the acrylic paint is a unique kind of paint which is universally used as compared to many other expensive paints. You can easily use it with the water as well. Moreover, the adhesiveness and the sensitivity of these colors are also not affected by the maximum amount of the water. Although there are some disadvantages of acrylic paint as well, still it’s excellent as compared to many other inexpensive colors.

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