What Are Acrylic Paint Retarders? | Design Tools

van-gogh-painting-starry-night
Van Gogh's Starry Night Painting


What is an Acrylic Paint Retarder?

A Retarder is a substance containing glycerin which is used to slowdown the drying time of acrylic paints.

Depending on the retarder-to-paint ratio the retardant can last anywhere from half an hour to a full day.
These are used with acrylic paints as acrylics are water-based and when water evaporates from them, they dry up.

A retarder slows down this process of drying and allows you to take your time with your painting.

There are mainly two types of retarders:
  • Gel form – these slow down your drying time by liquefying your painting and give it a texture similar to watercolor. This will also help in removing visible brush strokes.
  • Liquid form – these slow down your drying time and allow you to blend shades easily.

What Is An Acrylic Paint Retarder Used For?

Many artists seem to prefer acrylic paints because of their quick drying property as it allows them to paint over it

However it sometimes dries “too quickly” which leave artists unable to create certain textures and effects in their paintings or adding details.

To counter this, a retarder is used so you can work in detail without your paints drying up during your painting which can cause undesired effects.

In acrylic pouring, a retarder is used to prevent cracking, which happens when the paint dries up too quickly.

acrylic-pouring-cracking
Acrylic pouring cracking


By adding retardant into your pouring mix you can keep the paints wet for some time.

How To Properly Use A Retarder

A retarder does not contain binding agents, which means it won’t just “stick” to a surface but rather it relies on the proportion of paint to carry out its main function.

There is a retardant-to-paint ratio which you have to abide by to get the desired effect.

This is different for every brand and they usually include instructions on how much to use.

This amount is most commonly presented in proportions (1:10, 2:5…) or in percentages (4%, 9%, 15%...)

To know how much retardant you should mix with your paints you can refer to the instructions provided on these retardants.

Another way of measuring how much retardant you should use is by starting with a little and gradually add more if you feel you need to slow down the drying process.

You should be careful when applying retardant as too much can prevent your painting from drying for days which means it will be sticky and wet and if something was to fall on it or if it attracts dust it might stick to it and cause damage.

The painting is exposed to such damage until the effected layer of paint is removed.

Homemade Acrylic Paint Retarder

It is totally possible to make your own Acrylic Paint Retarder at home by yourself

The things you will need are:
Pour in 1 ounce of vegetable glycerin into 9 ounces of water, mix it together and you have yourself a bottle of homemade acrylic paint retarder.

This retardant is suitable for most acrylic paintings and acrylic pouring however if you wish to paint using impasto painting techniques you might change up the ratio to 1:5 (glycerin:water) so it gives off a desired effect.

Another thing you can do is mix glycerin directly in your paints.

Artists have been doing this for many years and glycerin is still used to keep paintings looking fresh and vibrant.

Best Acrylic Paint Retarders

If you are not into D.I.Y. stuff or just prefer to have the appropriate tools for your painting, below is a list I compiled of the best Acrylic Paint Retarders:

1. Liquitex Professional Slow-Dri Fluid Retartder


Liquitex-Professional-Slow-dri-fluid-retarder
Liquitex Professional Slow-dri fluid retarder


Ideal for humid climates, Liquitex’s retarder is water-resistant and non-yellowing. It slows drying time by 40% without affecting color opacity.

Liquitex has high-quality professional grade acrylic paints which I think will go along great with this if you are planning to buy acrylic paints.

You can check the Liquitex Slow-Dri Acrylic Retarder on Amazon.

2. Winsor & Newton Galeria Acrylic Retarder


Winsor-Newton-Galeria-acrylic-paint-retarder
Winsor & Newton Galeria acrylic paint retarder


Winsor & Newton is a well-known brand for painting supplies and recommended by professionals
The Galeria Acrylic Retarder comes in a light-weight 250ml is great for slowing down drying time and affordable.

You can check the Galeria Acrylic Retarder on Amazon.

3. Grumbacher Acrylic Retarder


Grumbacher-acrylic-paint-retarder
Grumbacher acrylic paint retarder


This 5oz pocket-sized tube is perfect to be used to slow up drying for blending and detailed working. They are also great for impasto paintings. However, it is best to not use the Grumbacher retarder with fluid acrylics and better for more heavy-body work involving thick layers of paints.

You can check the Grumbacher Acrylic Retarder on Amazon.

4. Golden Acrylic Retarder

Golden-acrylic-paint-retarder
Golden acrylic paint retarder


The Golden Retarder is great for wet-in-wet painting techniques and for reducing skinning on the palette. This 9.6oz bottle is great for blending your acrylics. It is also possible to add a bit water and reuse the retardant.

You can check the Golden Acrylic Retarder on Amazon.

5. Sax True Flow Paint Retarder

Sax-true-flow-paint-retarder
Sax true flow paint retarder


The bottle contains 16oz of fluid which lengthens the drying process up to 3 times for detailed working sessions. This retarder provides you with smooth flowing acrylics which is bets for blending.

You can check the Sax True Flow Paint Retarder on Amazon.

Conclusion

A paint retarder is used to slow down the drying process of acrylic paints by preventing the water-based paints to evaporate for longer painting sessions.

A paint retarder is used when you want to do detailed work or have smooth consistent blending.

It is possible to make your own paint retarder at home but if you don’t want to then for your convenience you can get yourself great professional-grade paint retarders on Amazon from the above links.

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