If you’re a Bob Ross fan but you’ve never tried ‘wet on wet’ painting because you only have acrylics, then today is a good day. In this article I’ll tell you how to make ‘liquid white’ for acrylic painting so that you can give the technique a try for yourself to see what you think.
The trick to ‘wet on wet’ painting with acrylic is basically a mix of titanium white with a slow-drying acrylic gel and a clear blending gel that you can apply to your canvas in advance. It’ll give you about an hour of playing with ‘wet on wet’ style so be sure to mix the acrylics that you want to use in advance and prepare yourself for a good time.
We’ll talk a little more about wet on wet painting and the viability of this technique and after that, I’ll tell you the amounts that you need so that you can give the Bob Ross technique a whirl. Let’s talk about liquid white and wet on wet painting!
What is ‘wet on wet’ painting?
From 1983 to 1994 there was a show airing on PBS that most of us have seen and couldn’t pull our eyes away from. It was called ‘The Joy of Painting’ and in it, a rather bushy-haired, soft-spoken artist named Bob Ross would apply oil paints to canvas and render landscapes and other scenes in record time, mixing the paint right on the canvas.
He made it look so easy, too. So much so, that there are a lot of people who got their start practicing his technique, which he called ‘wet on wet’ painting. It involved treating the canvas first with his signature ‘Liquid White’, which was basically a creamy white mix of linseed oil and white pigment. Applying this pre-coat and painting on it while it was still wet allowed Bob and those whom he inspired to mix paint right on the canvas.
There are videos of it floating around on YouTube and they are well worth checking out. In 11 years, Bob inspired a lot of people and for good reason. The technique works and it’s just plain fun. Check it out when you’ve got a moment and you’ll get ‘the bug’ too, it really is some cool stuff!
Can you do wet-on-wet painting with acrylics?
While you can purchase Bob Ross’s liquid white, if you are hoping to paint on top of that with acrylics then I’ve got some bad news. You see, Bob always used oil paints in his work, and you can’t paint with acrylics on top of oil (though you can do it the other way around) and you certainly can’t mix them together.
Mixing oil paints and acrylics fails mostly because of the vastly different drying times and that whole ‘oil doesn’t mix with water’ factor. You’ll end up making a mess if you try and as a final kick in the pants, when that mess dries, it’s gonna crack.
Where there is a will, there’s a way, though. If you want to paint with the wet-on-wet technique with acrylics, you CAN still do it, there are just a few things that you are going to need in order to pull it off. Follow me into the next section and I’ll tell you how to make your own acrylic white.
Making liquid white for Acrylic: The recipe
Making Liquid White Ala Acrylic is actually pretty easy. You’re going to need titanium white for the ‘white’ part of our Liquid White and you’ll want to mix it in equal parts with slow-drying acrylic gel and with regular clear acrylic gel.
You can play around with the amounts, but usually an equal amount of each part is going to be the perfect mix and you’ve gotta take that mix and use it to prepare your canvas. Coat the canvas with it and you are ready to start painting.
You’ll have approximately one hour to do so, but during this time your acrylics may be mixed right on the canvas. It’s a lot of fun and after the first time that you do it, you’ll probably go back and make up a big batch so that you can give it another whirl.
Be sure to load up a Bob Ross video and have yourself an awesome time. Wet on wet painting is a treat!
In this article I’ve shared with you the secret on how to make Liquid White for acrylic painting. It’s all about slowing down the dry time by mixing your Titanium White with a slow-drying acrylic gel and a standard clear acrylic gel, and then priming the canvas with it and painting as fast as you can. You’ll have about an hour, so be sure to make the most of it.
If you want to know how to produce wet on wet effects with watercolors, then there is a 3rd party article that you might be interesting in and you can find it here. Inside there are some tips and tricks on how it’s done, so pay close attention and you might just learn something wonderful.
Have fun with your new techniques!