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Why I Don’t Use Silicone in My Acrylic Pour Paintings – Part 3

acrylic pour 3

But first…

Before I get to today’s topic I have an exciting announcement. I have created a YouTube channel for instructional, time-lapse and exhibition videos of my artwork. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments here or on YouTube. Subscribers welcome!

Archival vs. Non-archival

So how are my acrylic pour artworks different? How am I improving upon what I’ve already learned? What am I adding to the conversation? The answer is in the quality of the materials, the archival quality of the end result. When artists say “archival,” usually they mean “durable to the standards of permanent art.” I could not, in good conscience, sell my artwork without being completely sure that it would not yellow, crack, or peel over time. Some of the products being used for acrylic pour painting might cause these artworks to do just that.

The problem with silicone…

I have to give credit to Rick Cheadle and Danny Clarke for exposing this issue — especially Danny Clarke because he had the solution. I’ll get to the solution. I promise!

Silicone is a greasy, non-drying oil-like substance. Artists add a drop or so to each ounce of color as they are mixing and preparing their paints. Once the paints are combined and poured onto the substrate, the silicone rises to the surface creating circular holes and revealing the layers underneath. The results are dramatic and beautiful. However, The silicone never dries, and it leaves a greasy film.

According to Michael Townsend, a representative of Golden Acrylics:

“At this point in time we do not endorse the use of silicone oil in painting mixtures that are expected to last. There are many reasons for this stance. Most silicone oils do not evaporate out of the paint, therefore they stay within the matrix of the paint and could potentially cause film formation issues. At the very least, the silicone oil will impede the intercoat adhesion between the surface of the pour and subsequent product layers, such as mediums and varnish. As an artist, you are free to do what you want to to make your artwork, but until we gather enough evidence that there isn’t any long term issues, we won’t suggest artists add silicone into paint.”

You can read his full article here.

So, what is an artist to do? How do you achieve those lovely, hypnotizing cellular formations without the silicone? Density! Silicone rises to the surface not because it is oily and greasy and will never dry, but because it is less dense than the paint. SO, if you know the density of the different pigments, then you can plan your application so that they switch places based on their density. In other words, you put the least dense paint on bottom and the most dense paint on top. Then denser paint pushes down and the lesser dense paint rises to the top. This causes the same cellular holes to form, though admittedly, they are not as dramatic. Golden Acrylics is the only company I know of that provides the specific gravity of each of its pigments. This is one of several reasons why I have switched to using Golden Acrylics exclusively. They are a longstanding, reputable company that provides generous resources on their website, as well as cornering the market on gels, mediums, and varnishes. Therefore, you don’t need to compromise the integrity of your paintings by adding silicone when you can achieve the same effect by applying your paint in a more knowledgeable way.

The problem with water as pouring medium

Why not just thin acrylic paint with water? It is water soluble after all. The answer is simple. Acrylic paint is a perfect mixture of pigments and binders. When you dilute the paint with water, you not only thin the pigment — thus the color — but you also thin the binder. In other words, you are decreasing the paint’s ability to stick to the substrate. This is not a problem if you want to use it like watercolor, painting onto a porous-surface-like paper. But if you want it to hold onto a canvas or wooden panel, it needs to have some adhesive abilities.

The problem with PVA glue as pouring medium

PolyVinyl Acetate or PVA is the general name for products like Elmer’s Glue and Mod Podge. Some find this to be an affordable pouring medium as it does extend the paint while retaining its binder. It is glue after all! It dries clear so it won’t alter your end result. The problem is, Elmer’s will yellow your artwork over time. Mod Podge claims to be more archival, but it is as pricey as most legit pouring mediums like Liquitex Pouring Medium, so you might as well use the appropriate product for the purpose.

The problem with Liquitex pouring medium

Deliberately Creative did a video where she made a great side-by-side comparison of three products. In this video, she compares Liquitex Pouring Medium, Floetrol, and GAC 800. She divides her canvas into three parts. She mixes equal amounts of paint with each of the three mediums and applies them each in the same way. She allows the three sections to dry and shares her observations on sheen, cell formation, color, flow, texture and cost. Based on her video, I ruled out Liquitex pouring medium. It just didn’t allow for enough cell formation in my opinion. I decided to invest in Flood Floetrol and GAC 800. I did my own experiments and concluded that the best results come from using a specific combination of the two products.

What is Floetrol? What is GAC 800? I’ll tell you more about these products and what ratio I’ve settled on in my next post.

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8 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Use Silicone in My Acrylic Pour Paintings – Part 3

  1. Great article, thanks! Am just starting out with this with my kids. I have also seen the deliberately creative video about Liquitex however have read about the dangers of floetrol (hydrocarbons and VOCs) and was also warned about this at my local art shop? But it isn’t really clear. Do yo, or anyone else, have any concerns about this or take any particular precautions (other than gloves)? Thank you for sharing

    1. I do smell a bit of a fume when using the floetrol but am unaware of any major dangers. I might not use it with the kids indoors, and of course gloves.

  2. Hi there! Such a great article, thanks!

    1. Thanks!

  3. Have you ever tried a mixture of floetrol and minwax clear polycrylic as a medium? I’ve successfully used this formula as a base for glaze before I finish a cabinet. I’m just starting out with acrylic pouring and this seems to work just fine for my initial projects.

    1. I have not tried that recipe. I am not very familiar with the product you speak of. I would love to know how it turns out for you. Please come back and share!

  4. Thank you for your input. Water interferes concerning ‘binders’ when in its liquid state. After evaporation, it is not an issue. Its not much chemistry, more like weaving long chain polymers. Once acrylic is truly dry, the surface can be cleaned of remaining silicone with mild solution of Dawn and water. Silicone within the paint is encapsulated by plastic–acrylic chambers.
    Thanks again!
    Art, Beauty, Faith!
    P.S. Your art is beautiful, TYVM
    @briankingart

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and comment here. I am so glad you like my art. I will go check yours out as well. I agree with you partially, but have a problem with the details of your statement. Regarding, “after evaporation, it is not an issue.” Because, like you say, “water interferes with binders”. It dilutes the binders, so whether or not it eventually evaporates, it is a problem. Also, silicone encapsulated within the paint IS a BIG problem. It compromises the strength of the dried paint body and could possibly yellow the paint over time.

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