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