Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Using a Flow Enhancer on Citadel Acrylic Paints

Part and parcel of trying improve one's painting skills involves a better understanding of the medium that miniature painters work with. Most painters I know work with acrylic paints and I am no different. So while I was trying to solve two issues that have been plaguing me - (a) dried-up paints and (b) getting acrylic paint to reach every small nook and cranny of a miniature - I came across a potential solution to both my problems (i.e. a flow enhancer) and decided to try it out.

Acrylic medium - flow enhancer

While at an art supply shop, I happened to come across the Daler-Rowney flow enhancer, which was described by its label as a colourless liquid that is added to acrylic paints to reduce its viscosity and improve its flow. To someone fairly new to the hobby, that didn't really tell me much. But a little online research shows that a flow enhancer can also function as a clear painting medium in which to thin paints as well as break up the surface tension of the paint - two characteristics which I felt would help solve my problems. While meant to be used with System 3 & Cryla acrylic colours, the Daler-Rowney flow enhancer seems to work fine with both the new and old Citadel paints.

Problem 1: New Citadel metallic paints drying up to a thick and gooey texture

Bad luck with the new Citadel paints which became unusable in less than a month after being opened for the first time

So far, three out of four new Citadel metallic paints that I bought have become unusable in less than a month after being opened for the first time. The paint's texture became a semi-dry, thick and gooey paste after a while. I am baffled as to why this is happening (could be just plain bad luck) as I have used the old paints for about a year-and-a-half without any of them going dry on me. So apart from buying a new pot of paint every time one dried, I had to find another solution, cue the flow enhancer.

Trimmings on the left shows basecoat of Scorched Brown:Runelord Brass mix; Trimmings on the right shows the Runelord Brass paint that was "fixed" by the flow enhancer and then applied on top of the basecoat 

In desperation, I added the flow enhancer into the pot of semi-dried up paint and shook it vigorously. While the flow enhancer did not completely restore to paint to its original consistency and texture, it did, however, change the viscosity of the paint to the extent that made it usable again. There were still some gooey lumps here and there but the paint could now be taken up by a brush and applied smoothly to a miniature (see pic above). Previously, in its semi-dried up state, the paint wouldn't even stick to the brush. So that was one problem solved.

Problem 2: Surface tension causing paints to not reach certain areas of a miniature 

To break up the monotony of having to paint my Chaos Space Marine Black Legion/Word Bearers alliance army, I have decided to resume work on my diorama involving a Kingdom Death miniature (the Pinup Saviour) and a Lord of the Rings Dragon. One problem I encountered while applying the basecoat for the dragon was that the paints were not reaching into certain parts of the miniature, as can be seen from the immediate picture below.

Note the white undercoat showing through a thin layer of a red basecoat

To enable the paint to get into the nook and cranny of the dragon, I had to break up the surface tension of the paint, so cue again the flow enhancer. Mixing just a little bit of the acrylic medium into the paint (on the palette) allowed it to flow more smoothly and cover entire areas of the body without any white undercoat showing through (see picture below). 

After many thin coats of Scab Red - the final few coats contained paint mixed with the flow enhancer

I have only just started using the flow enhancer and to date there have been no adverse effects on the Citadel acrylic paints. I loved it because it has saved me money from having to buy new pots of paint as well as help me in my painting.

There are many other things which a flow enhancer can help in terms of painting techniques. Among the uses of the flow enhancers that has been touted online include being a medium that keeps paint workable for longer periods (for wet blending purposes); for creating ink washes and for help in fine detail work, just to name a few. I hope to try these techniques that use the flow enhancer and share my experience with you in later posts.

If you know of any acrylic medium or additives that can do a better job of fixing dried-up paints please do share.

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