GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics Offer Great Versatility

GOLDEN Heavy Body Acrylics were the first line of paints produced by Golden Artist Colors, Inc. in 1980. Formulated to have an exceptionally smooth, thick texture, these paints were regarded as the best quality available; however, they did not meet the needs of all users. Many artists were thinning the Heavy Body paints with water. They wanted a paint that flowed from the brush more easily; that they could pour, puddle and drip, stain with, or use as an alternative to watercolors. Others wanted to spray apply the acrylic paints. Simply adding water or medium to the Heavy Body Acrylic paints was sufficient to meet some of these needs. However, this was not always satisfactory due to the difficulty of mixing in water and the loss of tinting strength and coverage.

Taking all these needs into account, Golden Artist Colors, Inc. started creating Fluid Colors on a custom basis for artists requiring a thinner, yet fully pigmented paint. The first development was for an artist wanting to achieve the color saturation Morris Louis obtained from the Magna products. Eventually, the popularity of these Custom Fluids reached the point where GOLDEN was able to introduce them as a standard product line.

The main difference between GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics and Heavy Body Acrylics is their viscosity or consistency. Formulating the Fluid Acrylics is a more difficult process, as there is a tendency for highly loaded paints at a low viscosity to thicken over time. They are produced with the same pigments at the same load as the Heavy Body paints, yielding similar tinting strength. However, many artists believe they are actually stronger than the Heavy Body colors due to their greater leveling.

Although the Fluid Acrylic line is less extensive than the GOLDEN Heavy Body line, it offers a broad range of pigment options. Missing are some of the heavier metal pigments which do not remain stable in the thinner Fluid consistency. They tend to settle to the bottom of the container, packing densely enough to prevent easy restirring.

Properties of Fluid Acrylics
Fillers are frequently added to acrylics to give all colors in a line a uniform finish and opacity. As with GOLDEN Heavy Body Acrylics, flattening agents and opacifiers are not formulated into Fluid Acrylics. Subsequently, there are large variations in gloss within the line, as is quite evident when looking at the hand-painted color chart. For example, Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna are quite matte, while Quinacridone Gold and Vat Orange are extremely glossy. Each color’s sheen and degree of opacity depend upon the unique nature of the pigment used. Like oil paints, where lean colors tend to be very matte and fat colors tend to be quite glossy, the colors have what many artists describe and appreciate as “the organic look”.

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By maintaining purity, the colors retain their clearest and cleanest quality, especially when used in brilliant washes or glazes.

There are options for artists requiring a uniform sheen from the paints. These include blending the colors that are relatively glossy or matte with an offsetting matte or gloss gel or medium. If it is important to maintain a thin consistency, Fluid Matte Medium or Polymer Medium is the best choice. While these will adjust the sheen of the resulting mixture, color strength will be reduced as well. If high color strength is important, then the best option is to apply a matte, satin or gloss varnish once the artwork is complete. This will unify the sheen of the entire surface.

The Fluid colors retain excellent flexibility when dry, greatly diminishing the possibility of the type of cracking that can occur in natural and other synthetic polymer systems. Acrylics withstand the constant stress and strain of the canvas as it moves with changes in humidity, temperature and during shipping. However, it is important to note that acrylic will begin to harden at 15 degrees Centigrade or 59 degrees Fahrenheit, and will become quite hard and brittle at temperatures near and below freezing. This is especially important when considering handling a painting under such conditions. Extreme care should be exercised. It is important to allow the painting to warm sufficiently before rolling, unrolling or any other handling occurs.

Reducing GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics with water is much easier than the thicker Heavy Body Acrylics. Being closer in viscosity, the two are more physically compatible and less work is required to achieve a homogenous mixture. This results in less foam generation and a more uniform mixture. Remember, the more water added to the acrylics, the greater the subsequent shrinking of the paint layer. Also, too much water reduces the binding capability of acrylic paints and tends to flatten their sheen. Generally, when used for applications other than staining and washes, the maximum recommended dilution is a 1:1 mixture of Fluid Acrylic to water. When using the Fluids specifically for staining or watercolor techniques, there is no limit to the amount of water that can be added, as film integrity is less important. Instead, the integrity of the system results from the substrate absorbing the paint mixture.

Applications of Fluid Acrylics
As a result of their low viscosity range, the Fluids brush out smoothly and evenly. They load a brush better than thicker paints, and flow consistently, allowing for longer, more uniform strokes. Thin, highly pigmented passages may be laid down, which are not possible when using a thicker paint that has been diluted.

The Fluid Colors can be mixed with all other GOLDEN paint lines, including Heavy Body Acrylics, Airbrush colors, High Load Colors, Iridescent Colors, Paste Paints, and Matte Acrylics. This allows artists to create any consistency paint desired, whether extremely thick or thin, without color loss. Mixing with GOLDEN Mediums and Gels is also an effective method of changing the consistency of the paint, if the subsequent loss in color strength is acceptable. For example, when a heavier stroke is required, blending in GOLDEN Soft, Regular, Heavy or Extra-Heavy Gel will work to thicken the paint to the extent required.

Glazing Applications
When highly transparent glazes are desired, the Fluids are the best colorants to use. They mix very easily into any of the gels or mediums, especially the thinner products. This reduces the chance of incorporating foam into the mixture, which reduces transparency. As the Fluids are highly pigmented, to achieve a transparent film, add less than 2% Fluid color into a gloss Gel or Polymer Medium.

Pouring and Other Applications
The Fluids are excellent for pouring, puddling, dripping and dragging to yield unique effects. One can control the size and shape of a pour or drip by altering the speed, distance from the surface or container nozzle size. Try GOLDEN Clear Tar Gel in mixes with the Fluids for dripping purposes, and making lines ranging in thickness from spider-web fine to relatively thick. Pouring applications result in relatively thick films that can be affected by the shrinkage acrylic paints experience upon drying (approximately 25-40%). This, coupled with their thin consistency, may yield surface defects called crazes. Crazes may appear as rips, tears or valleys, and result from the tremendous force exerted on the surface of the paint film as it shrinks while drying. Adding up to 5% of Fluids to GOLDEN GAC-800 can reduce the crazing that occurs in thick pours.

Achieving Watercolor Effects
When mixed with water, or water with GOLDEN Acrylic Flow Release to reduce surface tension, the Fluids are very useful for staining or watercolor techniques. In addition to paper, suitable surfaces include raw or gessoed canvas. They also work well in conjunction with GOLDEN Absorbent Ground which can be applied onto any gessoed support to create the absorbent qualities of a watercolor paper.

The main differences between Fluid Acrylics and watercolors is that the Fluids dry quicker and are not water-soluble when dry. While this will limit the ability to remove color, it results in background washes that stay in place when overpainting. It also allows for much more distinct, sharp edges when painting over dried colors, compared to watercolors which resolubilize and bleed together. Because a stain created with the Fluids is not resoluble, it may be painted over or varnished with any other waterborne system without concern. This lack of water resolubility of the Fluid Acrylics does require that tools and brushes be cleaned with water before the paint has a chance to dry.

A single application of a Fluid Acrylic stain will create an intense color, while watercolors typically take several layers to get the same intensity. This may be an economical advantage, as the Fluid colors can be diluted further than watercolors while yielding similar color intensities. GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics and watercolors can also be used together to take advantage of their various attributes. An example is to use Fluids for background stains or areas that require a distinct edge, while using watercolors for overpainting and softer edges. Another technique is to apply undiluted Fluids as a permanent resist. After allowing them to dry on the surface, watercolors or Fluid stains can be applied, and they will only be absorbed into areas that are not already painted with the Fluids.

Another attribute of using Fluid Acrylic for watercolor effects is that when thicker, more intense areas are desired, the Fluid can be used at a lesser or no reduction in order for it to remain on the surface. Watercolors do not lend themselves to such techniques due to their brittle and delicate nature in thick applications.

Spray Applications
Diluting the Fluids with an equal part of GOLDEN Airbrush Medium generally yields a mixture with excellent sprayability. This allows the paint to flow smoothly through the spray unit, while minimizing tip build-up and clogging. Although the Fluids can also be diluted with water, they typically will not spray as smoothly. Generally, the Fluids spray well through spray assemblies ranging from fine airbrushes to industrial spray guns. The spray unit should have a nozzle size of 0.3 mm or greater. Smaller nozzle sizes will work, but will require further dilution with GOLDEN Airbrush Medium. Typical air pressure required is 30 – 60 psi.

When using the Fluids for commercial illustration purposes, thinning with Airbrush Medium may lead to frisketting problems. In heavier applications, the slow drying Airbrush Medium causes the paint film to stay soft for as long as a few days. During this time, the paint may stick to the frisket, causing lifting problems. To avoid this, the Fluids should be thinned with the faster drying GOLDEN Airbrush Transparent Extender.

Application on Apparel
A 1:1 mixture of the Fluids and GOLDEN Airbrush Medium creates a paint that works very well for airbrushing artwork on clothing. The spray consistency allows for creating very fine detail. The colors are durable enough to withstand multiple wash/dry cycles with minimal loss of color intensity. Even after spraying on several layers, the garment does not get stiff, offering a relatively soft hand. Another advantage is that it is not necessary to heat-set the paints to get good laundering fastness. Simply allowing them to air dry for a week or more is sufficient. If this is not possible, run the garment through a clothes dryer for 40 minutes on high setting to accelerate curing.

Hard Edge Work
When using the Fluids for hard edge taping techniques, there are some specific techniques that will help yield the cleanest line possible. First, the selection of tape is an important consideration. Tapes that have elasticity (such as electrical tape) make it more difficult to achieve a perfectly straight line. Tapes with high tack may cause lifting of lower layers of paint. Lower tack masking tapes used in household and automotive painting are quite useful. It may be beneficial to condition tape to reduce the tack by adhering it to and removing it from a clean surface prior to use.

A problem often encountered while doing hard edge techniques is that the paint will bleed under the tape, resulting in a jagged edge. A way to avoid this and to maintain a true hard edge, is to apply a clear sealant over the tape before applying color. After the tape is in place, apply GOLDEN GAC-200 over the edges that are to be painted. If spraying, thin it with GOLDEN Airbrush Transparent Extender. After the GAC-200 dries, apply the paint. Whenever possible, pull the tape up while the paint is still wet.

GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics are highly versatile paints that work well in many applications. If you are interested in trying them, call 1-800-959-6543 for a color chart and other information.

4 Responses to GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics Offer Great Versatility

  1. William Renken July 10, 2016 at 9:51 am #

    Are Golden Fluid Acrylics suitable for plastic surfaces? Is there a surface preparation required? Can I get a color chart and information emailed to me?

    Thank you.


    • Michael Townsend December 13, 2016 at 4:28 pm #

      Hello William.

      First, sorry for the long delay in response! Painting with acrylics onto plastic is possible, but in some cases a primer may be necessary. Not all plastics accept acrylic paint the same. Here’s an article that was written about the subject:

      We’d be happy to send you an information packet with hand painted color charts and product literature, just send your mailing address to and we’ll get them right out to you!

  2. Selena November 19, 2016 at 8:43 am #

    I read several articles that include frisket and masking in discussion but you never say what tape and frisket products work best. I sure would like to know this.

    • Michael Townsend December 13, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

      Hello Selena,
      Housepainting masking tapes work well for many artist applications, as they are intended for use with acrylic (a.k.a. ‘latex’ housepaint). Frogtape ( works well with our paints, including the Fluid Acrylics. #M scotchblue is another ( If you try any other tapes, be sure to do some adhesion testing, where you create stripes of paint colors, allow the paint to dry well, then apply the tape in question. I will also say that even a great tape should not be left on a painted surface longer than absolutely necessary. Heat, escaping moisture and other paint volatiles, and time can cause the glues to want to stick more than they should!
      Frisket masks are also a big range of products, and they will behave differently on different paint lines. I like the crescent line of masking films Grafix films ( ) have worked well with our acrylics. “The Incredible Nib” liquid mask is also a product to evaluate: .

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