Building Texture With Acrylics and Mediums While Painting

I love having a variety of textures in my paintings.  I have been using Golden and Liquitex water-based, texture-building mediums for a while now and I thought I would share a bit of my painting process.  I used to paint in oils, but switched to acrylics about ten years ago for environmental and clean up reasons.

Painting Forest by Janell Mithani

I always add a few more coats of gesso to my canvas, or if I am painting on a cradled board, raw canvas or masonite, I do 3-4 coats of thick gesso.

Large gesso container

I like to use the thicker heavy bodied gesso better than the really runny type.  I also like to buy it in large bulk containers because I use a lot of it.  I use a funnel to pour in to smaller containers if I am painting on location or if I am traveling.

Thick gesso on my brush See how nice and thick it is on my palette?  I use a large flat brush to put coats on my canvas or board.   I usually have a section of my painting, the face or sky, that I want to have a really smooth surface, so I sand a little bit in between coats.  Be sure you let the gesso completely dry before sanding or you will have a big wet mess. 😦  (A note about my palette:  About a year ago I started using the 13″ x 16″ stay wet palette by Masterson.  I absolutely love it!  It keeps my paints wet between sessions and saves me money on paints. I bought it from my local art store.  If you buy online, just be sure you are not getting the smaller size palette.)

I paint a smooth base coat over the canvas and then sketch in the face or any specific details of my painting.  I don’t usually sketch in everything, just the main part that is coming from my sketch book.  I also use the old fashioned transfer method I learned in art school.  (Years ago!) I take a photo copy of my sketch and then I cover the back side of it with soft charcoal, lay it down over the primed canvas and then trace over the copied sketch.  The soft charcoal transfers to the canvas and saves me having to draw it again.


Once I have a sketch, I start to block in some of the colors and I go over my features with pencils, pastels (spraying fixative or painting a clear gel to set the pastels) and thin coats of paint.


Then I begin to add thick texture and paint to sections of the canvas.



Once I have the design established I start to lay in some texture and color.  I mix in some Golden gel medium (semi-gloss) with my acrylic paints to start building texture.  I  use the semi gloss gel mixed with paint early on in my paintings to build body and texture.  It is semi-transparent, so I switch to the regular gel (glossy) when I am getting to the top layers so I get clear color and texture.  I also use heavy molding paste, coarse molding paste and fiber molding paste (all by Golden) for building texture in my paintings.  To get nice thick strokes and peaks of paint, I use a large brush and palette knife, trading off between the two as I paint.  When I choose my paint brush, I always choose a brush one size larger than I think I want and it seems to work for me.  I know, I try to trick myself!  LOL  But it works…


This shows the paint with the medium mixed into it.  You can see a couple of streaks of the medium as I haven’t completely finished mixing it into the paint.

Forestwingsin progressI wanted the wings to be smooth texture and to fade to the back so I used a large brush and smooth paint for this section of the painting.

forestprocessTreesI am starting to build the texture of the trees and forest.  You can see the difference of texture between the wings and sky vs. the trees and forest.  I think the difference in texture adds interest to the painting.

ForestTreesFinalTextureThe section of the forest in the finished painting.  You can see the shine from the final glaze I put over the paint (3 coats) and the nice peaks and valley of the strokes.

forestprocess5 About 3/4 of the way finished, I will add more highlights, details in the hair and face of the fairy and I haven’t put the main trees in yet.  I worked from dark to light on her hair.

forestcloseupoffaceDetail of her finished face. Can you see all the layers of colors in her hair.  I pulled color from all over the canvas to tie her into her environment.  I have loved clowns since I was a kid, so I seem to add a few clown like features to my fae faces.

Painting Forest by Janell Mithani

Forest, acrylic on canvas, 16″ x 20″, $500

Here is the finished painting again. I hope you enjoyed seeing my creative process.

Have a wonderful, creative day, Janell


Mixing and Building Texture with Acrylics and Molding Paste on Canvas

This painting was a really fun experimental piece.  I thought I would share my creative process since it was a little different from my acrylic painting on canvas.

mixed media painting by Janell mithani

I had picked up some Golden acrylic mediums a while back and I have used the Coarse Molding Paste for a couple of image transfers, but I have been wanting to experiment with adding it to an acrylic painting to build up some textures and shapes.  For the first layer,  I mixed my acrylic paints with some Golden Acrylic fiber paste and coarse molding paste which created a thick textured paint that I applied to the canvas and then let dry.  Then I painted the background over it.  I painted the flowers adding in some medium in some areas to thicken the paint and add even more texture.

Tools and Supplies

Tools and supplies… and my very messy art desk.

These are the supplies and tools I used as well as acrylic paints and brushes.  I went tool shopping in my kitchen drawer and found some useful items.  I finally got to use that Pampered Chef scraper!  They are now designated studio tools.  They were just using up space in my kitchen anyhow. 🙂


About 1/2 way through the painting I decided to add some more texture by applying the Golden Coarse Molding Paste to a stencil.  I applied the molding paste without any paint to the stencil.  I used  my palette knife and a plastic knife to apply the paste to the canvas.

Applying medium to stencil

Applying medium (generously) over stencil.


The plastic knife created an interesting lined texture.

Once I had a lot of medium over the stencil I used my Pampered Chef squeegee (not sure what it is actually called) from my kitchen to get a smooth surface.

Smoothing out the medium.

Smoothing out the medium.

Then I lifted the stencil off. I cleaned the stencil with the squeegee and put the excess paint back into the jar.  (Don’t waste any of it!)  I finished cleaning the stencil with a wet paper towel and then hung it on my window with painters tape to dry so I can re-use the stencil for other projects.

Don't waste any!

I also used a portion of a stencil to write the word forever.  The triple picture below shows the stencil, the dried paste and then a detail of the finished painting with paint over the top.


I also applied some of the Acrylic Coarse Medium over the paint in some areas as well as mixed it with the paint to add more texture to the flowers as I painted in more details.

Golden Medium over painted canvas

Golden molding paste over painted canvas.

More texture added to the flowers with Golden Coarse Molding Paste added to my acrylics

More texture added to the flowers with Golden Coarse Molding Paste added to the acrylic paint.

Another stencil application in the lower left corner of the canvas. Once I lifted off the stencil, I went in and added more lines with my palette knife while the paste was still wet.


Here is the final painting again.  I hope you enjoyed seeing my creative process.

mixed media painting by Janell mithani

Have a wonderful creative day, Janell