How to Make Your Own Gel Medium

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Artists mix certain media with paint to achieve various artistic effects. Gel medium alters the consistency of paint, adding sheen and volume, and making texture from brush and knife marks more visible. It also increases the drying time, giving the artist more time to create the desired effects. The ingredients of gel medium vary, but it always consists of a thinner and a drying oil. Gel medium is available for purchase at art supply stores and online, but some artists prefer to make it themselves. Homemade gel medium gives you control over the ingredients so they can change the characteristics of the paint in a specific way.

Simple Recipe for Thinning Paint

One type of gel medium thins paint, which allows the artist to build layers of paint over each other. Many paint manufacturers sell it premixed, but mixing it yourself lets you control the ratio of thinner to oil in the layers of paint you add to the project.

Things You'll Need

  • Linseed oil, poppy oil or stand oil
  • Turpentine

To begin, create a mixture of 60 percent oil and 40 percent turpentine. As layers of paint are built up over one another, gradually reduce the percentage of turpentine. This will increase the drying time of the paint, but it will give the gel medium more body as you build the layers of paint.

Warning

  • This mixture not only increases the drying time of the paint, but it can also thin the paint so much that it runs down the canvas.

Simple Recipe for Thickening Paint

Artists want to thicken their paint when using an impasto technique -- the process of laying paint on thickly so that it stands out from the surface.

Things You'll Need

  • Beeswax
  • Rectified turpentine

Step 1: Mix It

Mix 1 part beeswax with 3 parts rectified turpentine.

Step 2: Heat It

Heat the mixture in a double boiler until the wax is completely dissolved.

Step 3: Store It

Pour the mixture into a wide-mouth container.

Tip

  • This gel medium can be worked for more than 30 minutes after application.

Recipe for Layering Colors

Artists who want to apply colors over one another without the colors mixing can create a gel medium using copal varnish. This recipe produces a hard and durable finish, but it can also be somewhat brittle.

Things You'll Need

  • Copal varnish
  • Turpentine
  • Linseed oil

Mix 1 part copal varnish with 1 part turpentine and 1 part linseed oil.

Tip

  • If the copal varnish you use contains driers, the drying time will be about two hours. If it doesn't contain dryers, expect the paint to take one to two days to dry.

Recipe for an Enamel-Like Finish

If you want a thick, enamel-like medium that makes the paint clear and brilliant, make a gel medium from Venice turpentine, which has a honey-like consistency.

Things You'll Need

  • Stand oil
  • Venice turpentine
  • Concentrated dammar varnish
  • Gum turpentine
  • Cobalt-zirconium dryer

Step 1: Mix It

Mix 2 parts stand oil with 1 part Venice turpentine and 4 parts concentrated dammar varnish in a clean glass container at room temperature. Shake vigorously for five to 10 minutes.

Step 2: Thicken It

Adjust the viscosity of the mixture by adding gum turpentine.

Step 3: Add a Drying Agent

This medium is very thick and sticky, so it can take several days to dry completely. Add a few drops of cobalt-zirconium dryer to reduce the drying time.

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