When you’ve invested a lot of time in a composition, there is very little more frustrating than finding it all flaky after a small amount of time has passed. So, why does acrylic paint peel like that? Most often it boils down to the following reasons. It may too thin a coat of gesso, causing the acrylic to bond poorly. You might have added too much water to your acrylic. Uneven drying of layers is possible and finally, it might be the surface you’re painting.
Today I’ll talk about this in a little more detail and I’ll also touch on sealing and how to keep your paints from drying on the palette, so stick around.
We’ve got some interesting things to discuss!
How do you keep acrylic paint from peeling?
The easiest way to keep that acrylic from peeling is going to be to varnish it, of course, but I’m assuming in this section that it’s doing this before it’s dried enough to varnish in the first place so we’ll proceed as if that’s the case.
First off, if you are doing a base coat of gesso, then your gesso might be a bit unstable and I’m guessing that you added some water to it. Try adding a little less next time and see what happens. If you still have the problem, try with some new gesso and if it works, then you’ve got your solution.
Next, consider how much water you are mixing with your acrylics. Acrylics straight out of the tube or jar are already about 45% – 55%, so when you add water to them you want to keep this in mind. Try not to do more than a 50/50 mix of water and less is really better, as too much water affects the polymer binders in your acrylic paint to the point that they can’t properly do their job – simply put, ‘your paint won’t stick right’.
If we’ve still haven’t found the culprit, consider the drying times of your layers. That layer that you are painting over needs to be dried first and if it was applied on thick, then the standard 20 – 30 minute drying time won’t apply. You’ll want to give it at least an hour before you plop another layer over it. If you don’t, then the top layer dries faster and that bottom layer starts ‘pulling’ through it to dry itself and you end up with cracky, peelin’ paint.
Finally, consider the surface that you are painting. If it’s a bit oily or slippery to begin with, then you’ll want to prime or sand it a little before you paint on it to ensure that your acrylics can stick like they are supposed to.
How do you keep acrylic paints from drying on your palette?
If you want to keep your acrylics wet for longer, there are a few things which you can try. The easiest solution, of course, is simply to purchase slow-drying acrylics or a retarder additive for them and this will get you a lot of mileage.
If you’d like a little hack, you can use wet pieces of sponge with wax paper over them and put your different mixes on top of this in a makeshift-palette. This will keep them nice and wet quite effectively, though you should keep a spray bottle of water with you for the occasional spritz if you are going to be putting in some long hours with your paints.
What is the best way to seal acrylic paint?
Once you’ve worked out the issue with your acrylic peeling, then you want to make sure that you ‘seal the deal’ by, well, sealing the deal. You need to varnish your acrylic painting or apply some spray enamel on it. While you might have heard that hairspray does the trick, don’t fall for that ‘old wives’ tale’. Hairspray is only a temporary seal at best and it’s not waterproof, so go with the tried-and-true method and just get a varnish that you like.
I prefer the glossy finishes but if you like the matte or satin finishes better, then more power to you. Whatever you decide on, just be sure to seal up that acrylic paint with it and once the varnish dries and cures then your work will last practically forever if take good care of it.
A quick recap before I go
Today I’ve talked a little about acrylic paint and what causes it to peel. If your acrylic is peeling and you have a base coat of gesso or another substance on it, consider that first. Next, make sure that you aren’t adding too much water to your acrylics and that you are letting your acrylic dry enough before you paint extra layers on it. Finally, prime or sand the surface that you are going to paint beforehand if you suspect the acrylic might have trouble sticking.
One of the items on the checklist should hopefully fix the issue for you but I should point out that peeling doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Check out this 3rd party link on ‘how to make paint peel art’ and you can see exactly what I mean!