Does Watercolor Stick to Acrylic Paint?

Does Watercolor Stick to Acrylic Paint?

Using acrylic paint and watercolor can be a great choice. However, this combination is a bit tough to work with, and a lot of beginner artists stumble in their attempts. Unlike watercolor, acrylic is easy for painting. As beginners start with acrylics, they get confused once they start watercolor work. 

Does Watercolor Stick to Acrylic Paint?

This leads most beginners to question; Does Watercolor Stick to Acrylic Paint? No. But, why? Stick to the end of this article to find a detailed discussion on it. 

This article is written so you can read it outloud to that friend of yours who will not stop contradicting you (not really, but I’m sure someone has googled this to win an argument!). So, Does Watercolor Stick to Acrylic Paint?

Characteristics of Acrylic and Watercolor

Before understanding whether watercolor paint sticks on acrylic paint, it’s important to understand how each of these colors behave. 

Characteristics of Acrylic

Acrylic paints are the thicker of the two. These can be painted on most papers and other materials. The main reason why acrylic can stick onto most surfaces lies in its chemical composition. 

There’s a special type of compound present in acrylics. These are known as polymers. Polymers mainly bind the pigments of the color together. Once they’re completely dried, the acrylic color takes a form that feels and acts a lot like plastic. Also, acrylic is soluble only if it’s wet. 

Due to this, they can bind to almost any surface, whether that’s absorbent or non-absorbent. 

Characteristics of Watercolor

Unlike acrylic, watercolor painting is a bit more restrictive. Why? The chemical composition of watercolor paint is much different than that of acrylicsOpens in a new tab.. Acrylics come with a binding material that can help the paint stick to any surface.Opens in a new tab. On the other hand, watercolor doesn’t have any such binding material. 

In fact, watercolor tends to stick to the paper due to surface tension. If the surface material is absorbent, the color will stick to it because the water molecules will get sucked into the material, and the color will remain on the paper as residue. 

This is why it’s important to use watercolor paper, which is specially made to be absorbent. Click here to know how to choose the right watercolor paperOpens in a new tab.

Can you paint watercolor on any medium other than paper? Not really. There are different mediums that you can find on the market. These are essentially sticky paint-like compounds that can be applied on any paper to make them suitable for watercolor. 

These compounds are designed to provide an absorbent surface a regular canvas fails to offer. While it’s not completely impossible to paint watercolor non-absorbent surfaces, doing so may change the texture of the paint. You won’t get the vibrant colors that a white paper made for watercolor will provide. 

With these applied, watercolor can be painted on any canvas. 

Does Watercolor Stick to Acrylic Paint?

Now that you know how watercolors and acrylics function, it’s time to learn if you can paint layers of watercolor on acrylic or not. 

Well, you can’t. As we’ve already discussed, watercolor doesn’t work the same way as acrylics do. Watercolor requires a medium that can absorb water molecules. However, a layer of acrylic medium would fail to provide that. Once acrylics dry, they behave just like plastics. They aren’t soluble either. 

This is why even a thin wash of watercolor wouldn’t be able to stick to acrylic. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to combine acrylic and watercolor mediums. If done correctly, these two can turn into great mixed media. The trick is to learn how to use it wisely. Click here to learn about more mixed mediaOpens in a new tab.

How to Use Acrylic and Watercolor Medium as Mixed Media?

Using watercolor on acrylic can lead to several problems. However, there are various other ways of using these as mixed media (your friend will say they were right; pay no mind it is not the same thing). If you know exactly how much water should be used, you’ll be able to create a good effect with watercolor on acrylic. 

In this section, we’ll discuss some ways in which acrylic and watercolor can be used as mixed media. 

Mixing Watercolor with Acrylic

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you were to mix transparent watercolor with acrylic? Depending on how much water and quantity of each color you’re using in the mix, you could come up with different results. 

The first being, using a small quantity of acrylic with lots of watercolors. If you follow any watercolor bit washed up after the drying time. 

If a dab of acrylic is added with a palette knife with watercolor, it leads to more vibrant colors. Unlike watercolor, acrylic doesn’t look chalky upon drying. A lot of watercolor artists use this technique to make their paintings more vividOpens in a new tab.

So, if you’re looking forward to creating more vibrant-looking watercolor paintings, you can try adding a bit of acrylic to the mix. This is also great for balancing watercolor when you end up adding more water than necessary. 

You could also mix a bit of watercolor into acrylics. Unlike the previous instance, the result would be rather subtle in this case. Make sure to use a clean palette knife in the process. 

Doing so would change the “pop” texture of the acrylic and make it a bit subtler. It would also dissipate the pigment of the thick acrylic. This is a great way of thinning the acrylic without adding water. 

However, make sure to use a suitable brush, or you may not get the texture you’re looking for. Find the best brush types for acrylic painting hereOpens in a new tab.

Watercolor Background with Acrylic Subjects

This is one of the most common techniques. This technique requires you to paint washes of watercolor background. Once that’s done, paint the subjects with acrylic. As you know already, acrylic is much more vivid than watercolor. 

So, once a layer of acrylic is painted, it creates a sense of dimension in the painting. If you use the same medium to paint both the foreground and the background, you’ll find the picture looks a bit flat. 

There’s nothing wrong with a flat-looking painting. However, if you want to add a bit of depth to your painting, the best technique would be to paint an acrylic foreground with a watercolorOpens in a new tab. layer underneath. 

Acrylic on Wet Watercolor

While the watercolor is still wet, you can give it a completely new art by painting a bit of acrylic on top of it. In this instance, the acrylic will react with the water on the wet watercolor. 

Thus, the acrylic won’t dry into a plastic, rather it’ll blend well with the existing watercolors. It’ll make the watercolors look less fluid and transparent. Plus, it’ll also add more pigment to the painting. It’s one of those techniques that are fun to experiment with.

Watercolor on Acrylic

Yes, watercolor wouldn’t stick well on acrylics. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be used in any way. There are some decent effects that you can create by painting watercolor on a dry layer of acrylic. 

You could paint a shape with acrylic and apply a wash of watercolor on top of it once the acrylic has dried. This would make the acrylic paint look ghastly, as bits of acrylic would get covered by the watercolor. 

Another technique, which is widely used by architects, is called “Antiquing .”Let’s say you want to paint a building, and you want to give it a bit “worn off” texture. You could do so easily by painting washes of watercolor on the acrylic. 

Shutterstock PresentsOpens in a new tab.

Final Words

As you can see, painting watercolor on dried acrylic may not be suitable for all. Yet, if applied properly, these can create unique art styles. We highly recommend you experiment with these art styles and by using different paints. Good luck, and try painting unique art with what you learned from this article. 

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Caraca's self-taught artist based in the UK, Ines explores unconventional materials and sustainability.

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