Paint Tips

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How is paint made?

How paint is made

Since you are using acrylic paint it pays to see how it is made. Liquitex provide us with a slide show demonstrating this process starting at
It is not comprehensive but does give you some idea of the process.

What are acrylic paints?

What is Acrylic paint?

What is acrylic paint? How is it made? Essentially acrylic paint consists of a binder and Pigment. The binder is an Acrylic polymer emulsion (made from acrylic resins). It is the binder that gives the paint its handling and durability characteristics. High quality acrylic resin is a necessary component of high quality acrylic polymer emulsion. Pigments are
dry, powdery materials that do not dissolve, but remain suspended when mixed with acrylic polymer emulsion. They are organic, inorganic, natural and synthetic. they won't stick to a surface by themselves. The binder is necessary to adhere pigments to a painting surface and dry as a paint film.
For more information and grpahic diagrams to show the chemisty of the paint go to

How do I convert colour from one brand to another?

Paint colour conversions

There are often colour conversion charts in books, there is a software package (TCS) dedicated to colour conversion and several conversion books. Americana offer an online conversion, and Jo Sonja recently published one in Artists Journal magazine. make a collection...However, while all these are useful I still find that they are not always satisfactory, and you can often mix 2-3 colours in one brand to match a colour in another. The colours will be similar or a close match, but never exactly the same. Sometimes all that mixing may well have been avoided by simply substituting a near match straight from a jar or tube. For example a conversion for Jo Sonja Teal green to Americana is Hauser Green dark and deep teal. Depending on the project I will often use just either the Hauser green drak or he Dep teal. The problems get further complicated when a project may mix teal green with another colour to make a different could then end up with 4-5 colours in your conversion mix! So...I tend to look at the conversion and check that with my that the colour I want for there or can I substitute it?
So...conversion (closest Match) are great and sometimes very useful...but substitution (a replacement colour) can also be a way around buying another bottle or tube just for that little bit there.

How do I use Genesis?

Using genesis

You will use a lot of white paint in mixing colours, so get a big jar of it. The colours are so strong you will be needing it.

What is the best glass paint for opaque painting?

Glass Paint

A glass paint brand with reknown is Perm Enamel. There is a 10 day air cure time during which no water or other liquid can come in contact with the paint. If you leave the work for this time, to cure naturally you will have quite good results. It is said that of all the glass paints this one is the most durable in dishawashers and microwaves...but my advice will always be treat a handpainted item with dishwasher and no microwave!

Why is my varnish milky?

Milky Varnish

Your varnish has not dried totally clear? It is cloudy? Then the simple answer is that it is not dry underneath. Water based varnishes dry incredibly quickly. If you put them on too thickly the top layers of paint will be dry to the touch. You think it is time for the next coat and away you go. The trouble is that layers of varnish under the top layer have not dried. The moisture has not had a chance to evaporate properly and now there are more layers on top preventing this process from taking place. The first step is leave it for a few weeks and see if in curing the varnish clears. If not sand it back with a piece of 1200 wet and dry sand paper and sand with a little water. Let this dry thoroughly and start over. Avoid the problem this time by applying thin layers and allowing the varnish to be really dry. the time depends on the actual varnish you are using so read the manufacturers instructions and follow them carefully.

How do I get Colour swatches in my TCS software?

latest Software from TCS

TCS Tru Colour have now added a colour bar to their software program. It is worth the update so now you have the colour swatches just like in the book!

What makes paint lumpy?

Lumpy White Oil Paint

If your white paint is lumpy don't be alarmed! Sometimes the consistency of the pigment that goes into the paint will do this. I suggest you blend a puddle of the paint well with a pallette knife to smooth it out. Take note too that some paints are harder to work with than others.

What is retarder?


Painters use retarder when we want more time to play in the paint. For example, we may want to lay on several colours and blend them together. But Acrylic paint dries so quickly it is dry before you can blend it well or get the effect you want. By applying a thin coat of retarder to th surface you create more open time when the paint goes on. 'Open' time means it is wetter for longer. You can blend and work the paint for 10 minutes instead of one. we often also use a mop brush to soften the effects of the brush marks with this technique. Careful though! Too much retarding medium will cause pools and puddles , will make your paint run and even separate colours, and take days to touch dry. Apply only a thin layer and ensure it has a matt sheen rather than a glossy wet one.

Is there a quick way to get paint conversions?


Make the investment of a Tru Colour software program and wich a few clicks of a button your conversions are done for you.

Who makes artist quality acrylic paint?

Major manufacturers of Acrylic paint

The major manufacturers of Acrylic products we use in decorative painting are Deco Art, Chroma (Australia: Jo Sonja), Delta, Folk Art, Matisse (Australian). There are others but these are the major players.

Why is genesis expensive?

Genesis price

Don't be frightened off genesis by the price. It is heavily pigmented and therefore more expensive. It also goes much much further than other paints. By the way different colours cost different amounts simply because some pigments are more expensive to buy than others.

What is crackle medium?

Crackle wont crackle

Sometimes crackle won't crackle as well as we would like. Give it a spray with water. That will help motivate the reaction. Also, avoid using a hairdryer to speed the drying process of both the crackle medium and the top layer of paint. If you are still unsure consider if you put enough medium on, had enough moisture in the paint for the top coat or if you are using compatible paints. Sometimes it does not pay to mix brands.

How do you thin genesis?

Thinning genesis

If you are going to thin down genesis for strokework be mindful that there should be no more than 40% medium added to the paint. Any more and it won't dry properly and believe me that can be frustrating!

Where do I get conversions from ?

TCS conversions

TCS colourmatch do conversions for current projects in Decorative Artist's Workbook and The Decorative Painter. Check the links in this section of folkart tips.

What is crackle medium?

Two Part Crackles

These are a bit different to the sandwich crackles. they go on after all the decorative painting work is done, and often result in the more refined look of crazed china. They require you to apply a coat of paint number one, usually a cracking medium. Tis is followed with a number 2 paint which sets off the crackle process. The cracks are fine and difficult to see so we finish off with an antiquing process which shows up the cracks in this top coat, making a painting look old and crazed. It is a really nice effect. In Australia a product called crackle varnish by Langridge does this really well.

What paint should I use?

Which Paint?

This is not a question so much of which brand but rather what quality! Cheap craft paints that carry no labels of standards are possibly not worthwhile using as they may not be permanenet, light fast or stand the test of time. Some painters buy for the colour, others for the way the paints feels when using it. We all buy for quality and permanency since we want our paintings to last the test of time. Among the more popular brands you will find DecoArt Americana, Delta ceramcoat, Folk Art, Jo Sonja, and Matisse. These are all quality artist paints and have been tested and labelled non toxic and very safe to use. I suggest you see what is available locally and buy according to availablity and your pocket. There is no point deciding to buy and use a brand if it is not readily available to you. Some of us have every brand. This is also unnecessary as there are colour conversions available.

Why is genesis expensive?


Avoid water based sealers under gensis paint. They won't handle the heat. You can use gesso, and other Acrylic paints though.

What is crackle medium?

Finger print ready crackle

For all crackle mediums please read the labels. Many are ready for the top coat when it is dried to a tacky stage. When you can leave an indentation of a fingerprint in it, it is ready. I have found that I get the best results when I do the top coat at this stage. If the crackle is much dryer the result are not as immediate or as effective.

What is crackle medium?

Crackle medium

There are a number of brands of crackle medium on the market and for the most part they work quite successfully. The most commonly used is a sandwich crackle, meaning it is sandwiched between two layers of acrylic paint. The medium sets off a reacton in the top layer of paint.

What is crackle medium?

Crakling effects

Crackling effects are done with a cracking medium. The best results will come from having a good solid sealed surface underneath the medium. Apply the medium generously by laying it on rather than brushing it back and forth. You can also sponge it on. The thicker it is the bigger your cracks will be to some extent. This is more determined by the next layer of paint. Once the crackle is dry enough to recieve the next coat (check the manufacturers instructions) lay the top coat on. Again, avoid brushing back and forth unless you specifically want a result of cracks which are not deep and distinct. You can apply the top coat paint with a sponge. If you want the cracks running in a specific direction be sure to apply the top coat paint in that direction. I usually overload a big flat brush and lay the paint on thickly and unevenly. The results are pretty good but never look the same way twice! It is most important that you don't brush back and forth as this interrupts the cracking process.

How do I prepare glass and plastic for painting?

Air Dry Perm Enamel Surface Conditioner

Is the little bottle of "surface conditioner" just alcohol???? No it is not: Here is what Nancy has to say:

"The Surface Conditioner is NOT just alcohol - if it were, there would be nothing to bond the paint to the glass. However, the bonding agents are suspended in a fine grade alcohol. When this product is used on a clear glass one can see that they are there for there is a film or haze left on the glass when the alcohol evaporates. This film is not to be wiped or washed away as it must be *sandwiched* between the glass and paint. Also, it has a life of 4 hours so the painting/glazeing must be completed within that time frame or the SC has to be brushed on the surface again."

How do I convert colour from one brand to another?

Conversion Charts

One of the best resources you can have at your fingertips is a book by Susan Adams Bentley called Acrylic & Fabric Painter's Reference Book, Fourth Edition. It contains excellent reference material on paint, colour conversions, tools and equipment and techniques. Go to
for more details.

What is wrong with my glass paint?

Glass Paint Flaking

There are a number of glass paints in the market place that allow you to paint directly onto glasses and dinnerware. These can be wonderful provided you follow the directions correctly and don't put them anywhere near heat once you have heat set them. I have a set of coffee mugs slowly losing their lovely paint because each time they are used for coffee the paint softens in the heat. It is no longer tough enough to stay put. The dishwasher is the same. Some paint brands may be better than others, but in the long term remember that heat can set the paint initially and lead to its ruin in the long term. You will often find if you scratch at them when cold, the paint won't budge.

How do you use genesis paint?

Heating genesis to set

When heating genesis to set it after painting on Craftwood be mindful of cut and routed edges. They may split and crack. Keep the heat away from these areas. Use acrylics to basecoat and seal first and you won't need to put genesis on these edges.

What varnish should I use for heat resistence?

Heat resistence

The best varnish for heat resistence that I am aware of is the JW etc Polyeurethane Varnish. I have heard also that other polyuerethane varnishes are heat resistant too, so try another brand. However, I caution once again that gentleness is needed with handpainted items...don't put a boiling hot saucepan or dish directly on a gentle!

Can I substitute different brands of paint?


Decoart Easy float and Delta Colour Float are all drying retarders, but the Jo Sonja takes much longer to dry than the others and it's overall properties are quite different. Americana's easy float dries comparatively quickly. Now the artist may choose the Jo Sonja one because it takes longer to may be very specific to the work. Read the instructions of a pattern before you go substituting...see if the alternative product you have might do the same job. Test it on a scrap piece of wood first.
The other concern is that while products within one painting system are compatible with each other they are not always compatible with other brands of paint. You will find different levels of success if you use say one brand of cracking medium with a different brand of acrylic paint. So again...try to stick with what is called for, or change the complete project paint list to another brand of paint.

What is retarder?


When using retarder take care to allow for drying time. Normal acrylic paint dries in a few minutes. It is 80 percent cured in a few days and is fully cured (completely dry to the last molecule) in a week. When you add a retarding medium you slow down the drying process considerably. You are looking at more time even with a hair dryer in hand to dry the painting in the same hour as you painted it, the next day is better for more coats of paint and you should wait a week or more before varnishing. remember retarder 'retards' or slows down the drying process. If you are in a hurry use water instead.

How do I use Genesis?

Use genesis thinly

When painting in genesis be prepared to use layers of colour rather than applying it thickly. Even with the heat gun it does take time to dry!

Why is genesis expensive?

Conservative Use of genesis

You don't need a lot of paint when you use genesis and you don't need to 'load' the brush with it. When you are moving from one colour to another it would be more economical to have several brushes on the go at once than to keep wiping one colour from a bush so you can pick up another. try also doing all the bits of one colour you need before changing colours.

Can I substitute different brands of paint?

1837 Colour Conversion

There is no known conversion guide for 1837 Legacy paint available in books, but it is available on line at thanks to the work of Susan Adams Bentleigh. I suggest you print a copy of it and put it with your other conversion materials.

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Guru Spotlight
Christina Chan