What is Heavy Body Acrylic Paint?

July 23, 2020 3 min read

What is Heavy Body Acrylic Paint?

It’s not a particularly heavy question but there is more to it than simply “acrylic paint but thicker”. In this article we’ll elaborate on what heavy body acrylic paint is and some ways you can go about using it.

Heavy body acrylics have a higher viscosity than standard acrylic and come right out of the tube with a denser, more buttery consistency and will keep their shape without levelling out. Unlike standard acrylic it’s stiff enough to hold peaks and brush strokes without the need for additional thickening agents. This means it is ideal for the impressionist style of thick impasto works like those of Paul Cézanne and Van Gogh. The impressionist painters of the 1890’s used oil paint back then as modern acrylic paint only started to come around the 1950’s.

The Starry Night by Van Gogh's creates a flow and motion to the painting using this brush strokes, despite being painted in oil it's a great example of the impasto technique.

Nowadays heavy body acrylic paints are widely available to artists and are produced by many manufacturers. Daler Rowney, Liquitex and GOLDEN all offer ranges of artists quality heavy body acrylic which feature extensive ranges of bold, highly pigmented colours. GOLDEN also offer a number of shimmering iridescent colours to add a pearl-like shimmer to your paints. In additional GOLDEN and Liquitex also offer a range of additional acrylic mediums you can add to the paint to give it an even thicker texture or change the dried finish from matt to either gloss or satin.

If a more economical paint is called for we are more than happy to recommend our new STUDIO Heavy Body Acrylic 200ml Tubes. They can act as a perfect starting place for someone looking to experiment with heavy bodied paints or, for artists searching to add bulk colour to their palette at a reasonable price. Not only that, they come in a robust range of 31 highly pigmented colours.

This combination of colour, strength and consistency gives heavy body paint similar qualities to oil paint but without the long drying times that oils tend to suffer. This means you can build up thick layers of strong colour quickly with only minimal waiting between layers.

Take note of where the paint has crested around the edges of mark, where its oozed from under the palette knife and created a raise lip of colour.

This makes it an ideal medium to use with stiff bristle brushes like hog hair or palette knives, to get big fat marks of colour or wispy curling peaks on brush strokes.

You can apply clean smooth swatches of paint and then run back through them with a silicone painting wedge, the tip of a palette knife, or the end of your brush to score and texture the paint’s surface. Once dry you’ll have crisp texture rendered in the paint where you’ve scraped and pulled at the paint. Such techniques can help you to achieve some stunning effects, where the light and shadow of the texture is just as much a part of the painting as the pigment in the canvas.


A piece from "White on White" a series of ghostly impasto portraits by Salman Khoshroo.
Check his instagram @salmankhoshroo for more stunning work.

Ben Platt
Ben Platt

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