Common Paint Media Used By Artists

common Paint MediaAn artistic medium is the painting material used by artists to create their art. (The plural of medium is media.) An artist may use “oil on canvas” or “tempera on wood,” etc., to compose a painting. Each item used in the creation of the painting is media. In this article, however, we are only going to look at paint as a medium. There are four common paint media used by artists: 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, acrylics 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 may mimic oil, tempera, and watercolor paints.

Oils

Oil paint is a type of slow-drying paint containing ground pigment (color) suspended in a natural drying oil (binder), commonly linseed oil. However, the binder can also be walnut oil, poppyseed oil, or other 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 1500s. The richness and glow that oil gives to the color pigments make 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tempera painting was the primary method of applying paint to panels until after 1500 when the invention of oil painting superseded it. 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. Use 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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