Color Shift-Shrinkage

Acrylic color shift and shrinkage

GOLDEN Heavy Body Color and acrylic mediums provide a range of options to artists wanting to paint thickly. This video demonstrates two factors that should be considered when working with these products – color shift and shrinkage that occur as acrylic paints and mediums dry.

Color Shift: The binder used in acrylic paint appears milky or white when wet and clarifies as it dries, resulting in a darkening of colors. The color shift may be less noticeable in lighter colors (like Benzimidazolone Yellow Light) and more noticeable in darker colors (like Ultramarine Blue).

We generally recommend mixing your acrylic colors a step lighter than you desire, so when it dries darker, it will be within the range you need. It’s often helpful to apply a little of your color or mixture and let it dry as a test to see if it is still the color you desire. Another way to compensate for this value shift is to add a small amount of Zinc White to the color, which is a transparent white. Titanium White can also be used and will result in a lighter and more opaque color. 

Shrinkage – Acrylics dry by the process of evaporation. As the water releases from the paint, the acrylic polymer spheres coalesce and eventually fuse to form a continuous film, shrinking in volume. In the video, you can see the thickness of the application decrease and the edges pull in as the mixtures dry and shrink. The thicker products are applied, the more apparent these changes will be. A thicker application of acrylics will also have a longer drying and curing time.

2 Responses to Color Shift-Shrinkage

  1. Lori Saxe December 17, 2019 at 2:14 pm #

    Can shrinking be reduced by building up layers slowly? Or does that result in the same amount of shrinkage, just achieved bit by bit?

    • Scott Fischer December 18, 2019 at 10:23 am #

      Hello Lori,

      Thanks for your question. The acrylics will still shrink to the same extent, but like you say in smaller increments. The benefit of building up thinner layers is that they can dry more quickly depending on your studio environment, so it may be possible in some cases to get to a similar lever of thickness more quickly by doing multiple thin layers. If you have more questions feel free to email us at


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