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What Is Gel Medium?

Gel medium is often used with acrylic paints.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 26 March 2014
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Gel medium is an art supply with a number of uses. Originally designed to be used with acrylic paints to change their texture and appearance, gel medium can be used by crafters and artists of all sorts. Many craft and art supply stores carry gel medium, and can order specialty formulations by request. Artists can also order this product directly from companies which manufacture it; it is often possible to negotiate a discount rate when buying in bulk from manufacturers.

This product comes in several different consistencies, ranging from a thick true gel to a liquid. Gel medium is also available in matte, gloss, and semi-gloss finishes, and it is sometimes sold blended with products like glass beads or ground pumice to add texture and change the finished appearance of the medium. Liquids often come in squeeze bottles, while thicker gels usually come in tubs.

The classic use of gel medium is as an extender for acrylic paints. Artists mix the paint with the medium, and then paint as they normally would. The medium slows the drying time, allowing more flexibility during the painting process. Thick media will also add texture and loft to the paint, allowing artists to build up shapes and structures in the paint which will be retained as the paint dries because gel medium does not shrink with time. It will also retain flexibility over time, and should not yellow or discolor.

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Artists can use gel medium to stretch their paints, making small amounts of paint go a long way, and to change the finished texture of paints. A matte finish, for example, might be desirable for one sort of artwork, while on another, a glossy, wet-looking finish might be more suitable. The gel medium can be manipulated in a variety of ways to achieve various looks and textures.

It is also possible to use gel medium as an adhesive. On a mixed media work, the medium can be used for glue, and the product can also be used to prepare transfers. Gel mediums also act as sealers, and can be used to coat a finished piece to protect it while also adding a desired level of gloss to the finish. Experimenting with gel medium can yield an assortment of creative uses which the manufacturers may not have originally intended.

This product should be stored sealed in a cool, dry place when it is not in use. It can be manipulated with paint brushes and other tools, depending on how it is used. People may want to experiment with several finishes and consistencies on a sample to get familiar with how it feels, handles, and looks before using it on a real project.

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