Fluid or Heavy Body Acrylic Paint – How to Paint with Viscosity Differences

When purchasing artist-grade acrylic paint, you often encounter the choice between two different consistencies: fluid and heavy body. These terms refer to the varying viscosities and textures of acrylic paint, which directly impact how the paint behaves on canvas or other surfaces. By understanding the differences between fluid and heavy body acrylic paint, artists can achieve different effects and expressions in their artworks.

Difference Between Fluid and Heavy Body

The main distinction between fluid and heavy body artist acrylic paint lies in their consistency and viscosity.

Fluid acrylic paint has a thinner consistency and is more fluid compared to heavy-body acrylic paint. It easily spreads across a surface and is suitable for techniques where you aim for smooth, flowing, and transparent layers. It can also be easily mixed with water or mediums to achieve a more diluted effect or transparency. The fluid acrylic paint dries slower and allows for easier blending over a longer period.

On the other hand, heavy-body acrylic paint has a thicker and more paste-like consistency. It’s denser and stickier, holding its form and structure better when applied to a surface. It’s ideal for techniques that require textured brushstrokes or palette knife applications, where you want to build up thick layers and texture. Heavy body acrylic paint is usually more opaque and has intense color.

The choice between fluid and heavy body acrylic paint depends on your preferences, the desired effect, and the techniques you plan to use. Fluid acrylic paint is suitable for achieving watercolor-like or airy effects, while heavy-body acrylic paint is better suited for impasto (thick layers) or sculptural effects.

Making Your Own Fluid Acrylic Paint

There are several acrylic mediums you can use to thin your acrylic paint and give it a more fluid consistency. Feel free to experiment using heavy body paint from brands like Golden.

Here are some common acrylic mediums that make your acrylic paint more fluid:

Acrylic medium for fluid paint: These types are specifically designed to thin acrylic paint while preserving its properties, simultaneously giving it a more fluid consistency. You can find various brands and types of acrylic medium for fluid paint on the market. Read the instructions to know how much to use. Some mediums require drops, while others require milliliters.
Water: You can also thin acrylic paint with water to make it more fluid. Gradually add water to your acrylic paint until you achieve the desired consistency. Be cautious, as too much water can affect color vibrancy and binder durability.
Acrylic liquid polymer: This medium is a diluted form of acrylic polymer and is often used to give acrylic paint a more fluid consistency. It also contributes to enhancing the paint’s gloss and transparency.

A good place to start is simply with water.

Guide to Painting with Fluid and Heavy Body Paint

By combining heavy body and fluid acrylic paint, you can create paintings with dynamic and varied visual effects.


  • Canvas or surface to paint on
  • Heavy body acrylic paint in your chosen colors
  • Fluid acrylic paint in your chosen colors
  • Brushes and/or palette knives
  • Water container
  • Palette or palette knife for color mixing
  • Cloths or paper towels for cleaning and drying tools

Step-by-Step Guide

  • Preparation:
    Ensure you have a clean and dry surface to paint on.
    Organize your colors and materials for easy access during painting.
  • Planning:
    Consider the desired composition and color palette for your painting.
    Think about where you want to use heavy-body acrylic paint to create texture and structure, and where you want to use fluid acrylic paint to achieve more fluid and transparent layers.
  • Heavy body acrylic paint:
    Select a brush or palette knife of the appropriate size to apply heavy-body acrylic paint.
    Apply the heavy body paint in thick strokes or textured layers to the desired areas of the canvas.
    Use different techniques such as brushstrokes, palette knife application, or sculptural effects to create interesting surface textures.
  • Fluid acrylic paint:
    Choose a brush or brush of appropriate size to apply fluid acrylic paint.
    Apply the fluid paint in smooth and flowing strokes to the desired areas of the canvas.
    You can choose to mix colors directly on the canvas or use your palette.
    Utilize the transparency of fluid paint by letting previous layers of heavy body paint show through or creating transitions between colors.
  • Mixing acrylic paint:
    Use your palette or palette knife to mix colors together.
    Blend heavy body and fluid acrylic paint together to achieve different consistencies and transitions between thick and fluid layers.
  • Experimentation:
    Be open to experimenting with different techniques and combinations of heavy body and fluid acrylic paint.
    Try to create interesting textures by applying heavy body paint over layers of dried fluid paint or vice versa.
  • Cleaning:
    Clean your brushes, palette knives, and palette after use to avoid color mixing or residue drying.
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