Soft Body Acrylic To Heavy Body Acrylic Paint

Updated: Mar 11, 2020

My experiences with using soft body acrylic paint to achieve the impasto style has fallen flat (excuse the pun)


This appears to be the case with every time that I practice, and it has lead me to wonder what I was doing so poorly. Or what if the problem was my painting skills? Why didn’t the paint retain brush strokes? Why was the paint so thick on other impasto paintings and the total opposite on mine? Am I missing something? And since, my curiosity has risen more and more, so I jumped on to the internet to find out for myself. This is a little anecdote about the transition I made from using student acrylic paints to high quality paintings and the awaking process that I experienced. It’s not that deep and philosophical, so I’ll get to the point.



Soft Body Acrylic Paint



If you are aware of my latest style, you’ll know that I’ve been employing the palette knife more frequently to generate texture. Since I wanted to use my palette knife more in my pieces, I’ve wanted to push around thick acrylic on the canvas board. It’s such a satisfying experience. It turns out that the soft body/student grade acrylic paint that I have been using wasn’t willing to participate in my new desires, and rightly so!


Soft Body Acrylic Painting 'White Delphiniums'



See, student grade acrylic paint is soft body because it’s primarily used for broad, smooth coverage. Which is why you’ll see art schools provide their students with the loose, soft body acrylics. Depending on brand, it also may contain less pigment. Don’t get me wrong! Soft body is excellent for covering backgrounds and large flat paintings, but in my opinion it’s practically useless for impasto and textural artwork.


Of course, you can add gels and thickening mediums to increase the viscosity of the paint - feel free to experiment, but in my experience, the lack of pigmentation in soft body acrylics may de-saturate the final hue once mixed. You just can’t achieve the results you would with a heavy body, highly pigmented acrylic paint. Heavy body acrylic is formulated to behave like oil paint, so it's thick, more pigmented and heavily bodied. Just perfect. It's unfortunate that I wasn't aware of the broad collection of other acrylic paints which existed in the market. I mean, there are so many options out there now. Considering that I haven't used or experimented with oil paints. Its save to say that acrylic heavy body paints are the perfect transitional medium if pursuing oil paints is your goal. The apparent similarities in thickness and buttery-ness allow you to comprehend oil painting. The direction I wanted to ultimately take.



Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylic Paint



Let be honest, I just became comfortable with the acrylics I had. Here I was toying with the same student grade acrylic paints for the past 7 years and I never once thought to myself, why is the quality still below par. The lack of texture, saturation and finesse I had hoped for, never came.


My urge to explore impasto work pushed me to seek the correct material. That, on top of the frustration of failed, unsatisfying paintings But it’s how we learn, and it’s how we can develop and learn as artists, trying to paint out best work and make it in the real world. We must make those discoveries by ourselves. That’s why I’m so grateful for all the experimentation and failed attempts I’ve committed so far. From here on now, I start a new chapter of exploring heavy body acrylic paintings, experimenting with mediums and gels. In my head, everything looks like it will go to plan and turn out perfect, but I know that it will take time to get there. But I’m okay with that.

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