Common Paint Media Used By Artists

art bin paint boxAn artistic medium is the painting material used by artists to create their art. Everything a piece of art of made with is its medium. (The plural of medium is media.) For example, an artist may use “oil on canvas” or “tempera on wood”, etc. to compose a painting. Each of the items used in the creation of the painting are media. In this article, however, we are only going to look at paint as a medium. There are four common paint media: acrylics, oils, tempera, and watercolor.

Acrylics
Acrylic paint is a man-made, water-soluble paint containing pigment suspension in acrylic polymer emulsion. Even though they are water-soluble, they become water-resistant after they have dried. Depending on how thickly the paint is applied to canvas, an acrylic painting can resemble a watercolor or an oil painting. Clean up involves using soap and water. Acrylic paints are popular with many painters because of their fast-drying qualities.

  • Binder: acrylic polymer
  • Vehicle (solvent): water
  • Ground: prepared (gesso) or raw canvas, paper, wood, glass, etc.
  • Dries fast/permanent
  • Opaque/translucent/transparent
  • Versatile media – can be applied to almost any surface and can mimic oil, tempera, and watercolor paints

yellow rose flower painting“Yellow Rose of Texas”
Flower Art by Teresa Bernard
18″ x 18″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Oils
Oil paint is a type of slow-drying paint that contains ground pigment (color) suspended in a natural drying oil (binder), commonly linseed oil. However the binder can also be walnut oil, poppyseed oil, or many other forms of oils from plants. The artist uses turpentine or mineral spirits for cleaning oil paint from brushes. Oil paint has been the dominant medium since the 1500’s. The richness and glow that oil gives to the color pigments is what makes oil paint a popular choice with many painters.

  • Binder: linseed oil
  • Vehicle (solvent): turpentine, mineral spirits
  • Ground: prepared canvas, paper, wood
  • Dries slow/permanent
  • Opaque/translucent/transparent
  • Versatile media

Tempera
Tempera (also called egg tempera) paint is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigment mixed with egg yolk and water. Because egg tempera dries so quickly, painting with it requires the painting to be worked section by section. Clean up with soap and water. Egg tempera painting was the main method of applying paint to panel until after 1500 when it was superseded by the invention of oil painting. Tempera paintings are very long lasting and colors do not deteriorate over time.

  • Binder: gum Arabic and water
  • Vehicle (solvent): water
  • Ground: paper, prepared wood panel
  • Dries fast/water soluble
  • Opaque
  • Dry, matte surface
  • Egg Tempera: egg yoke can be added to make it enamel-like and permanent

Watercolor
Watercolor is a water-based painting compound that can be either transparent or opaque. The pigment is suspended in a binder, generally natural gum arabic. It is a moist paint that comes in a tube, thinned using water and mixed on a dish or palette. Use them on paper and other absorbent surfaces that have been primed to accept water-based paint. Uses soap and water for easy cleanup.

  • Binder: gum arabic and water
  • Vehicle (solvent): water
  • Ground: paper
  • Dries fast/water soluble
  • Transparent to translucent

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