Why Do My Acrylic Paintings Look Dull?

Why Do My Acrylic Paintings Look DullSometimes your paintings don’t quite seem to have that shine that they used to, even though they aren’t very old yet.  Is this normal? If you are wondering ‘why do my acrylic paintings look dull?’ then you’ve come to the right place.

First off, acrylics can sometimes seem to dull when they dry. This is actually quite normal, but you can compensate a bit by techniques such as glazing or by simply purchasing acrylics with a binder present already. This gives them more of a satin finish that still looks great even after it’s dried.

Today we’ll explore this in a little more detail and I’ll also talk about what makes acrylic paint look chalky and how you can fix this. Let’s talk about dull, shiny, and chalky acrylics!

How do you brighten an acrylic painting?How do you brighten an acrylic painting

The first thing that you will need to do to get the most brightness out of your acrylic paints is to select the most vibrant colors that you can find to work with. If you have been painting for awhile and are comfortable with the investment, then you should upgrade some pigments and use some of the older student-grade sets for other projects or for play.

You can use this in conjunction with or separately from glazing to get a little bit of a brighter appearance. Liquitex Gloss medium is great for this and helps to give you a little brighter color and contrast.

Finally, check some of the paint manufacturers that you like and see if they offer acrylic colors with binders already added to them. These give you great color and you’ll get quite the satin finish in the process.

Why does my acrylic paint look chalky?

Why does my acrylic paint look chalkyI’ll address this question from two angles. First, we’ll talk about the ‘chalky’ appearance of acrylic paint literally, as in ‘a jar of my acrylic has hardened up’ and after that we’ll go into why your paintings can sometimes look a little chalky.

Okay, first, if you’ve got a pot of acrylic that is becoming lumpy, this is unfortunate but it’s probably still salvageable. It’s managed to dry a bit on you but since your acrylics are water based, you should be able to mix a small amount of water in and then stir it with your palette knife until it gets to a good consistency.

Just be careful not to add too much water or it may dry unproperly and flake or lift off. If the paint has gone almost completely dry, like a colorful rock, then you may be out of luck but you could try reworking bits of it into a clear acrylic base.

Now, if the paint itself is fine, it just looks chalky on your canvas then there are a few reasons why this might be happening. This can occur sometimes with poor quality paints or paints which have been too diluted with water.

Finally, consider the transition of your tones and colors. If too abrupt a color change is made, rather than one achieved with tones in mind, then the effect can come across as a bit chalky.

How do you fix chalky acrylic paint?How do you fix chalky acrylic paint

The best fix for chalky paint is always going to be prevention. You’ll want to make sure that any potted paints you have always have a tightened lid so that your paint doesn’t begin to dry. Store your paints in a cool and dry place as well, as they are going to have a longer life if they aren’t often exposed to heat and light.

As far as for chalkiness on the canvas with your colors, you can find a great 3rd party tutorial here for a technique where you color tone your canvas in advance. This helps to keep a solid mid-tone so that you’ll get smoother transitioning and you’ll be less likely to create a chalky look with a color shift.

Give it a peek and see what you think. It’s a fun and interesting method which I think that you will like.

In closing

Today I’ve answered the question  ‘why do my acrylic paintings look dull’ and let’s have a quick recap. You can brighten up your acrylics by techniques such as glazing, adding a gloss medium, or even purchasing acrylics with binders already in the paint. If your acrylic painting is looking a little, be sure to check the color gradation to make sure that the tones are gradual.

Finally, while it can’t always be done, if some of your acrylics seem to be dried beyond the point of use, play with attempting to incorporate what you can into a clear, acrylic medium. It doesn’t always work, but it’s really nice when it does.

Until next time, happy painting!