Making “Skins” with Fluid Acrylics


An acrylic “skin” is a dry acrylic film that can be made of paint, medium or a combination of paint and medium, that is not attached to any substrate.

While acrylic skins can be made with just about any GOLDEN Acrylic Medium, Gel, Paste or Paint, our Fluid Acrylics work particularly well since the consistency allows for easy pouring and spreading onto a casting surface. Fluids can be easily blended with any number of mediums or gels to thin, thicken, increase translucency, or alter surface sheen. Usable skins can be cast in one application, but building up your skins in thinner layers will actually speed up the drying process.  In this series we are using GAC 800 with the Fluids as it also has the advantage of reducing crazing in pours.


Materials for making skins

What You’ll Need:

  • Polyethylene plastic or “plastic sheeting”, commonly found in hardware stores (at least 4 mil thick) can be used as a surface for casting skins. Large polyethylene sheets can also be ordered from stores handling plastic supplies.  Acrylics have poor adhesion to this kind of plastic so acrylic skins can be peeled off easily. Glass can also be used. Do not use Plexiglas or any other acrylic sheeting as acrylic paints and mediums will adhere well to these surfaces. Very large skins are best made with Gels and cast thicker so they can be handled more easily. Thin skins tend to tear and fold in on themselves, making it difficult to pull them apart.
  • Fluid Acrylic colors of your choice
  • GAC 800
  • Spreading tool (palette knife, trowel, plastic joint compound spreader)
  • Tape or staple gun
  • Board or table of some kind that can accept staples or tape



Casting an acrylic skin by spreading Fluid Acrylics on a plastic sheet

The Process:

Staple or tape a piece of poly plastic sheeting to a board, such as a piece of smooth plywood. If there are wrinkles or creases, these will be cast into the dried skin, so if you need a completely smooth surface, use only plastic that is not creased or a piece of glass. Stretching and stapling the poly sheeting can help in this regard. You can simply pour and drizzle Fluid Acrylic paint onto the plastic or surface which will allow release of the dry skin. Let it dry overnight or for several days, depending upon the thickness and weather conditions. Very thin areas may tear or be too delicate after peeling up, so be aware of the thickness of the paint film during your application process and if you find it is too thin, add another coat.


Fluid Acrylics dripped into GAC 800

For variable translucent and wet into wet effects, pouring Fluid Acrylics onto a fresh puddle of GAC 800, or any clear or translucent painting medium, offers  some wonderful possibilities. This method also helps insure a thick enough film for easier handling. You can pre-blend GAC 800 and a small amount of Fluid Acrylic to create very translucent films that can be added to a collage to create optical color mixing effects. To avoid bubbles in the film it is best to allow those mixtures to sit overnight. And of course, you can use all these techniques to create a mixture of opaque and translucent areas. The wet acrylic can be allowed to flow naturally or manipulated with various tools. Another option is tilting the board so that the acrylic flows. Each method will allow for its own range of effects and experimentation is the best teacher here.


Fluid Acrylics blended with GAC 800 and poured

Depending upon the weather and environmental conditions, the drying time will vary. When completely dry, carefully peel up the skin, taking care not to let it fold on itself, as it can easily stick together.

The side of the skin next to the plastic or surface it has been cast upon will be very smooth with a distinctive look, while the top surface will be somewhat textured depending on how it was applied. These two very different surfaces give you a range of options for use. A good way to store skins, is to place them back down on a sheet of plastic and store flat with another piece of plastic on top or a sheet of silicone release paper. You can also roll the plastic as long as no skin is touching another skin.


Peeling translucent skin


Peeling up a dry acrylic skin









Uses for Acrylic Skins:

The most common use for acrylic skins is for collage. They can be easily glued down using one of our Gel Mediums or even just pressed into wet acrylic paint. Some artists have used skins as support-less paintings, but these will be very delicate and prone to damage. Possibilities exist with “free acrylic skins” attached to rigid structures, or with non-reactive plastic mesh or cheesecloth inside the skins to combat stretching from their own weight. Skins can be glued down flat with a medium or gel or they can be wrinkled or bunched or folded.

When cold, acrylics skins may be broken into pieces. When warm you can bend, twist, roll or fold them and collage them in a variety of ways. They can also be cut with scissors to make any shape you want. Very glossy skins can be stuck to glass and will stay put for a long time. Take some time to experiment making and using acrylic skins. We think you’ll find it can add a very effective tool to your studio practice.

selection of acrylic skins.image7

Selection of acrylic skins

26 Responses to Making “Skins” with Fluid Acrylics

  1. Nancy Coleman June 20, 2016 at 9:50 am #

    I’ve been making sheets of acrylics for a while, and find that they are much easier to peel off of parchment paper than off plastic. Then you can use the same sheet of parchment to store it for a while, such as until you have enough to complete your project, even stacking them, as they don’t stick.

    • Scott Bennett June 20, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

      Hi Nancy,

      Thank you very much for your input. Parchment paper sounds like a good idea. We would not recommend wax paper as there could be some residue left on the skin that might discourage adhesion when using the skins as collage elements. We don’t know if there is any residue left from parchment paper, but would think less than with wax paper. Thanks again!!

  2. Julia Skop June 20, 2016 at 10:00 am #

    Thank you for your article! I have been working on making skins and find that even once they are thoroughly dry their surfaces tend to be a bit tacky – for example they will stick to themselves. I am wondering if there might be something to treat the surface of the skin to harden or smooth or so that it would no longer stick to itself?

    • Scott Bennett June 20, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

      Hi Julia,

      Fine art grade acrylic films, especially glossy ones, will tend to be a bit tacky, especially at warmer temperatures. Acrylic gets softer and more flexible when warmer and harder and less flexible at colder temperatures. We are not aware of any product or material that can harden an already dry acrylic film, and hardening would tend to also make the skin brittle, which means that it would be more delicate and could crack more easily. I do know that some artists have used talc powder to make tacky skins less able to stick to themselves and other surfaces. If you do this, we would recommend using a damp cloth to remove any talc from the surface before adhering the skin to another surface. You might want to try the idea that Nancy ( see above comments ) suggested about using parchment paper to store your skins. I have always found it best to use them as soon as possible for collage so they do not get damaged.

    • Ruth Collis August 15, 2017 at 4:47 pm #

      Use matte varnish to cover already dried skins to be smoother, or use a matte medium to make the skin to begin with. Matte is not tacky. When finishing the skin in your work, add gloss varnish if you want the shine. 🙂

  3. Laima Gascoigne June 20, 2016 at 6:38 pm #

    As the skin remains somewhat tacky, could gold leaf be applied?

    • Scott Bennett June 21, 2016 at 2:50 pm #

      This might be possible with glossy skins that are tacky, and you might be able to increase the tack by warming up a glossy skin with a hair dryer, but this is not fully tested and we prefer to recommend a dedicated gold and metal leaf size. We happen to make one that is a custom product and can be ordered via a store that sells our products or directly from us. Here is more information for you about this product when it first came out as an experimental product.

  4. Cynthia Anne McLean June 21, 2016 at 4:22 pm #

    I recently saw a video of an artist who was making acrylic skins using your soft gel. She made them, and stored them, on a cut open sheet protector (polypropylene). Cut open for the making then, once thoroughly dry, closed for storage in a 3 ring binder. Is there any downside to using the sheet protector?

    • Scott Bennett June 22, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

      Hi Cynthia,

      One disadvantage would be that they may tend to get ferrotyped, which means that the relatively soft and flexible acrylic surface will be altered by prolonged close contact with the polypropylene plastic. This may or may not matter, depending on the artist. If you like the way a particular skin looks, then it is usually best to store it with nothing touching the surface and using it as soon as possible.

      The only other thing I can think of would be that thinner skins may stick too tightly and when peeled off, might tear or perhaps even become too firmly attached. We have seen glossy acrylic skins become very well attached to glass after they have been pressed to the surface for several months. This might happen with the polypropylene, especially if weight is applied.

  5. Alan Rich June 21, 2016 at 8:50 pm #

    I was commissioned to paint a men’s summer straw fedora. Since I do a lot of fluid pour abstracts and have made skins in the past for a 55 gallon plastic water barrel commission, I thought I would do the same for the hat.

    I made about 5 skins, some opaque and others translucent. Mixed in some metallic flakes and driveway epoxy flakes. Cut large pieces, used soft gel as adhesive, and a hair dryer to soften and shape the piece to the contours of the hat.

    It worked extremely well and did add some weight to the hat, but looked awesome and the guy loved it.

    • Scott Bennett June 22, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

      Hi Alan,

      Thanks for letting us know about this very cool way of using acrylic skins ! There are so many possibilities, and the main limitations have to do with the same characteristics of acrylic paints and mediums in general; that they are relatively soft and flexible ( also a great positive attribute! ), and thermo plastic – a quality you used to advantage by warming to soften them up. This same quality can cause them to stick to other surfaces or become ferrotyped if pressed against another material for a length of time.

      For any functional use of fine art grade acrylics, some type of harder topcoat or varnish is typically recommended to add more physical surface protection.

  6. Bob Canada June 25, 2017 at 9:45 pm #

    Looks Like I’m late to the party but I’m starting to adapt small skins for jewelry. I start by making a strong flexible ground by brushing coats of mat Mod Podge onto typical plastic sheet protectors. I store the dried piece while it is still attached to the page protector plastic by rolling them into a cotton rag once dried. I find old bed sheets and tear them into bands wide enough to accommodate the sheets. The cloth makes for good protection and sticking protection for storing until future use. When I finish any particular art piece I find mat Mod Podge is particularly easy to peal off and yet an excellent ground for my work. Cheaper than GAC 800 and superior to my GAC 100 comparatively.

    • Scott Bennett June 27, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

      Hi Bob,….thank you for your comments and input. If certain products work for your particular application then we would say don’t fix what is not broken! We would generally not recommend using our painting mediums to make jewelry as they are made to be flexible for typical fine art use on canvas and paper. They are too soft and flexible for use in making jewelry, and the thermo plastic nature can create a softer and potentially tacky surface, which would not be a good property in a piece of jewelry.

      We do recommend our GAC 800 and our GAC 100 for blending with our Fluid Acrylics for fine art applications, with the GAC 800 performing very well in creating beautiful, smooth and low crazing pours. In this way, they can also be used to make acrylic “skins”, along with most of our other acrylic paints and mediums.

  7. mary December 23, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

    Hi. I have a acrylic paint skin on aluminum foil, rather than paper or a plastic. Is it possible to remove the skin to use on polymer clay? Thank you in advance.

    • Scott Bennett December 28, 2017 at 9:17 am #

      Hi Mary,

      It might be possible to remove the acrylic skin you have on some aluminum foil but much will depend on how thin and delicate the skin is, and whether the aluminum foil is heavy duty thickness or not, as both the skin and the foil could tear during removal. So give it a try. For the easiest method, we recommend using glass or HDPE plastic. You could glue the skin to properly cured polymer clay.

  8. Penny Henderson February 25, 2018 at 1:28 pm #

    I’m new to acrylic pouring. I’ve been making some skins but most if them are brittle and just snap in half. Can someone tell me what I’m doing wrong?

    • Scott Bennett February 27, 2018 at 11:28 am #

      Hi Penny,

      If you used a harder and more brittle acrylic medium such as our GAC 200 or perhaps our Pastel Ground or Hard Molding Paste, then this might happen, especially if the skin is very thin and fragile,… or if you were removing and flexing the skin at a cold temperature. Thinning too much with water could also create a less flexible film. Otherwise, skins made with our Mediums or Gel Mediums will tend to be quite flexible. Try using our Soft Gels or Regular Gels spread applied onto a piece of glass. You can blend them with our paints for added color. You can also make skins from just our paints without Mediums, but adding Mediums or Gel Mediums will save you some of the expense of using all paint. If you would like to continue this conversation via our technical services department, feel free to send us an email at: and we will be happy to offer suggestions.

  9. Phyllis May 4, 2018 at 12:36 pm #

    Hi, I just read the “Making Acrylic Skins..” article and am hoping for some advice. I’ve been experimenting with making skins using GAC 500 mixed with iridescent air brush paints (water based) as the end result I want is transparent (or a least translucenct) iridescent layers of different colors. I’m getting layers, but having trouble getting smooth layers and transparent layers. I’m using glass to work on as I want the peeled surface to be as glossy and smooth as possible. I’m currently using GAC 500 as it was recommended in Patti Brady’s book (Rethinking Acrylics). I’m open to using other paints and mediums.

    • Scott Bennett May 7, 2018 at 2:21 pm #

      Hello Phyllis,

      While we cannot comment on an unknown paint product such as the particular airbrush paints you are using, we can offer some general suggestions for you. A smooth surfaces acrylic “skin” can be created by making the skin on a sheet of glass. When you peel it up it will adopt the very smooth surface of the glass. We are not sure why you are not getting smooth skin surfaces. If you want the upper surface smooth then it is best to apply either a very leveling and low crazing medium such as our GAC 800, or squeegee on a thicker Gel Medium such as our Regular or Heavy Gel. To create more translucency you would just use more Medium and less paint. We recommend using our Fluid Acrylics added to a selected Medium or Gel Medium.

  10. Chuck June 15, 2018 at 11:49 am #

    So I have been experimenting with different types of acrylic painting and came across your article that seems very interesting. What I am trying to do is create a pointillism canvas that has circle dollops of acrylic paint on them that are heavy & thick (squeezed onto the canvas from a bottle into little blobs). I am having problems with the dollops cracking while drying. It looks like acrylic paint blended with GAC 800 could solve this issue for me. Do you think that would work?

    • Scott Bennett June 19, 2018 at 8:37 am #

      Hello Chuck,

      Much depends on the specific formulation of acrylic paint you are using. If you use our Heavy Body Acrylics by themselves, you should be able to apply “dollops” that will dry with no crazing or cracking. If you are thinning thicker acrylic paints with water, then that will tend to foster more surface defects. Our Fluid Acrylics could work for you also depending on the size of the marks you want to make. And of course you can blend the two paints to create an in between consistency. So you may not need to use our GAC 800, and if you did use it and added water, this would, again, tend to allow for some crazing. If you are using some other type or brand of acrylic paint, then adding in our GAC 800 might help, but you would have to test to know for sure.

  11. Ann July 19, 2018 at 5:45 pm #

    Hi Chuck,
    Do you know if it is possible to apply any medium to an acrylic skin after it has been formed so that it will harden and stand on its own as a 3D sculpture?

  12. Mary February 14, 2019 at 7:53 am #

    Thanks so much for all the valuable info! I’ve mad some cabochons with skins and some are perfectly wonderful but some get a sort of bluish tint to the whole thing and are ruined. Any suggestions?

    • Scott Bennett February 14, 2019 at 11:15 am #

      Hi Mary,

      You are most welcome! From what we understand, a “cabachon” is a tumbled stone, so we are imagining that you might be dripping and placing some of our Mediums and blends of Mediums and Paints onto a piece of glass or polyethylene plastic, allowing to dry and then peeling off to create collage elements that might have some resemblance to a polished or tumbled stone. While this is possible, please keep in mind that fine art grade acrylics dry to relatively soft films, as compared to a stone, and so if you plan to use these in jewelry, they may not wear very well. They will also get softer at warmer temperatures, and can become tacky. If using in painting as collage elements then that is fine. Otherwise, a casting resin might be more appropriate.

      As for the bluish tint, this sounds like it could be due to incomplete drying, or it could be the particular sheen you are using. Can you tell us specifically what Mediums or Gel Mediums of ours you are using, and how thickly are you applying them? Thicker applications can take much longer to dry and can show a cloudiness inside that might appear bluish. For ease of communication, it might be easier to take the conversation to email. Please feel free to contact us at if you have further questions.


  1. CAA News | College Art Association » Blog Archive » News from the Art and Academic Worlds | CAA - June 22, 2016

    […] An acrylic “skin” is a dry acrylic film that can be made of paint, medium, or a combination of paint and medium, that is not attached to any substrate. While acrylic skins can be made with just about any acrylic medium, gel, paste, or paint, fluid acrylics work particularly well since the consistency allows for easy pouring and spreading onto a casting surface. (Read more from Just Paint.) […]

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