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Heavy Body vs. Fluid Acrylics

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It’s easy to get lost and overwhelmed when picking out paint. There’s so many types of paints to choose from. Ever wondered what the difference was between heavy body and fluids? I’ve only figured this out within the last year or so.

Fluid paints seemed to be more money for less paint. I was totally wrong.

A few similarities of heavy body and fluid:

  1. They both have the same pigment ratio (that is, if they are of the same quality like artist vs student grade)

  2. Characteristics like tinting quality, lightfastness, and reactions to temperature are present in both.

The main difference between the two is their level of viscosity.

Fluids have a low viscosity which means the paint is easier to move with a consistency of cream. You’d be able to pour or drip these paints. Heavy bodies have a higher viscosity with a consistency like soft cream cheese. You’d be able to paint thicker textures and preserve painterly qualities like brush strokes.

NOTE: I’ve noticed that there tends to be more color variety of heavy body paints than fluids (as in available to purchase at a store).

I always mix other things with my paints. I don’t use just the paint out of the tube. Common things I mix with paint would be other mediums, like gesso, gel, even glue, or water.

If you like mixing water with your paint use a fluid. This way you won’t be adding as much water to get to a thinner consistency and you’ll preserve your pigment ratio than if you watered down heavy body paints to the same consistency.

Rule of thumb for adding water to paint is a 1:1 ratio.

NOTE: Adding too much water to your paint will weaken the pigments ability to adhere to your surface (paper or canvas). However, there are ways to get around this, like spraying or sealing over your finished artwork with an acrylic sealant to help strengthen the bond between pigment and surface.

I use a variety of both fluids and heavy body (and a everything in-between) because my work requires a variety of mixed media, layers, and textures. However, if I had to choose one or the other I’d say fluids are more versatile. If you need to make your paint thicker (to simulate heavy body) you can always add a gel medium.

NOTE: You’ll notice most gessos, mediums, or glues (I add glue to my paint a lot) are tinted white. If you’re adding these to any color other than white they will tint your color. The integrity of the original color will not be preserved, but will be lightened. If you don’t want this to happen try to find a clear medium.

I’d love to hear from you!

What do you think about heavy body or fluid acrylics? Did you know the difference?



Sources/Related Articles:

Golden Artist Colors, Inc. | Fluid Acrylic Colors. (n.d.). Retrieved April 22, 2017, from

Golden Artist Colors, Inc. | Heavy Body Acrylic Colors. (n.d.). Retrieved April 22, 2017, from

Good article on tinting strength:

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