Alcohol and Acrylic Layering

This peek at Pinterest looks at an interesting technique involving acrylic paints and rubbing alcohol.  The original post is from Andy Skinner with DecoArt Media. He used fluid acrylics in his demonstration, and another pinner questioned whether regular acrylic paints could be used.  I didn’t have any fluid acrylics in stock, so I decided to solve the mystery by using regular acrylic paints.  I would also strongly suggest executing the technique on a sturdy substrate.  For testing purposes, I just used a semi-thick piece of cardboard.  You’ll need:  substrate, gesso, fluid or regular acrylic paints in several colors + Titanium White, rubbing alcohol of at least 75% (mine was 91%) and absorbent cloth or paper towel.


After priming your substrate with two coats of gesso, you’re ready to lay down your first color.  Dilute your acrylic paint colors to a 50/50 consistency with water.  Brush on the paint to coat the entire surface.  Then flick or use an eye dropper to apply the rubbing alcohol randomly over the paint color. You can lay a paper towel  across the surface to absorb any excess color and to make any layer lighter.  In the example above, the use of a paper towel resulted in a lighter color and added texture.  Let each color layer dry completely.


Repeat the same process again using your second color and immediately dropping alcohol onto the surface. I didn’t use a paper towel to lighten the color on this layer.  Let dry.


I let this third color dry in the same manner as the previous layer.  You could stop here and have a very colorful abstract background…however, I wanted to try the exact same technique from the post.  This is where everything changed…


I can’t be certain, but I highly suspect it was the use of the regular acrylics that caused the alcohol to react differently with the Titanium white in the final layer.  After dropping the alcohol onto the painted white surface, it did not form clear circular shapes.  The entire surface remained opaque, whereas the original technique revealed multi-colored circular shapes beneath the white paint.  I quickly dabbed the surface allover with a paper towel and was able to salvage the piece.  The final result was muted colors with additional patterning from the paper towel…I like it, maybe not as much as the third layer, but I still like it!  Even though this technique resulted in two entirely different backgrounds, I got my answer to that pinner’s question; so it was worth the peek!  

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