Before discovering the techniques I will present in this section, I was concerned about the claims that many people state about the problem that acrylic paint exhibit color shifts when they dries.
It is generally presented as a problem with using acrylic paints. Before learning what I will present here, I also had a traumatic and puzzling experience with acrylic color shift. I was doing a plein air painting of a sailboat. It was in a very beautiful later afternoon light. There was a beautiful highlight running along the mahogany deck rail. I meticulously put in this highlight and took my painting home with a sense of satisfaction. The next day when I looked at my painting, the beautiful highlight that I had worked so hard to capture had completely disappeared! At the time I wondered why did this happen???
With time I learned why it happened and how to avoid the problems of color shift pretty much completely. This information is a key foundation to the painting methodology that I am presenting in this website. Before I describe this secrete, I want to state clearly that the type of painting methodology that I am presenting is a technique for achieving realist paintings and achieving results similar to those obtained by oil painting.
The Composition of Paints
All paints consist of two primary components - pigment and a medium In which the pigment particles are suspended. The pigments are a ground up substance that has the characteristic of the color that is desired. The medium is the liquid substance that the pigments are suspended in, and enable the pigments to be spread over the painting surface.
The various types of painting media, acrylic, oil, watercolor, etc. all tend to use the same pigments, but suspend them in different media, such as an acrylic medium versus an oil medium. The differences between the paints is then heavily based on the properties of the medium that is used.
The Proerties of Acrylic Medium
The acrylic medium in which the pigments are suspended has the property that when wet has a slight white haze. When it dries, however, the haze becomes completely transparent. I do not believe that this is a problem, or that this is even the problem that people refer to when they describe the problematic acrylic color shift.
The real problem is that when the acrylic medium is exposed to water it becomes quite white. This can be seen in the photo below.
In the above photo, I first painted a thin patch of acrylic medium. I then lightly misted water onto the right hand side of the patch of medium. Note that you can barely see any haze in the area of pure medium on the left hand side of the patch. On the other hand, in the area misted with water, the medium has turned noticeably white, and It turned a brighter white in the areas that received more water. However, upon drying, the whole patch will be transparent.
Below is another example of a thick patch of medium. Notice how white and opaque the water misted areas are in this case. However, as with the thin example this will all dry transparent.
This is the heart of the issue. If you use water in the painting process you will lighten the paints that you are applying, but when they dry the whitened medium will turn transparent and the applied paint will appear to become darker. Another problem associated with using water in the painting process that if too much is used it will weaken the paint film.
The cure for this problem is DO NOT USE ANY WATER IN THE PAINTING PROCESS!
The people whom I have seen talking and writing about the color shift issue use a lot of water in their painting process in a number of ways. For example, they use water on the brushes to thin the paint, they mist their pallet with water, and they use a sponge base to keep their pallet moist.
The fact is - it is their use of water in the painting process that causes their "problem"!
If no water is used, the color shifts are really not noticeable. In fact even oil paints experience a slight change in color when they dry.
The painting methodologies that I present DO NOT use water in the painting process, with two exception. To clean a brush while painting I will dip it into water but then dry it thoroughly with a paper towel before using it again to paint. At the end of a painting session, I also use water in the process of cleaning my brushes. However, as I will describe in the appropriate section, water does not even do a good job of this, and I depend on the paint thinner that the manufacturer supplies to really get the brushes clean!
I will provide the details in the various sections of the website on how I avoid any use of water in my procedures. This will include items such as using a totally non absorbent pallet, and using the various mediums that the manufacturer supplies to control the consistency of the paint. It is totally analogous to the various mediums that oil painters use. They just don't use turpentine!