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MANAGING WET AND DRY COLOUR SHIFT

One of the issues with acrylic paints is the change in tonal values when they dry. With most modern artists quality acrylics wet to dry colour shift is less noticeable than it used to be, but it still exists and has to be dealt with. Some acrylic brands claim to have very minimal or even no colour shift at all but unfortunately it is still there.

Traditional Acrylics

With old style acrylics the strategy is to paint lighter than your eye is telling you, and then darken the area slightly with a glaze after drying. Lighter colours darken as they dry but a dark glaze does not change much as it dries.
If you are not familiar with the drop in tone and don’t adopt this strategy your paintings could become dull and you won’t understand why. With traditional acrylics it is impossible to accurately judge the dry to wet value if you are trying to continue work when the painting has dried after a break of an hour or even a day.

Colour Shift Test

 

  • Take some Titanium white and mix in a small amount of Pthalo Blue to make up a pale tint.
  • Paint out a dab of this mixture and let it dry, keeping the rest of the mix wet on your palette.
  • When it is properly dry paint out a dab of the wet paint next to it and slightly overlapping.
  • You can see for yourself that the drop in tone is about one half to one tone on a scale of 1–10 known to many artists as the Grey Scale.

 

Atelier Interactive

The ability to re-wet Atelier Interactive with fresh paint or water as it dries takes a lot of the guess work out of adjusting for colour shift. With this acrylic you have a window of opportunity before the paint is fully dry where you can see the drop in tone and easily correct it. If your water spray is not misting properly and larger droplets have landed on the painting, don’t be alarmed at the spattering of light colour. They will dry back to the same values as the dry areas.
Atelier Interactive paintings which are fully cured will not oblige you by returning to wet values so you have to match the dry values. The same applies to paintings done with traditional acrylics or oils.

Restoring Old Works

If for example you are restoring an old oil painting you have to mix the wet paint to match the painting then as the paint dries and the tone drops you add more white so it matches correctly when it dries.
Here are some examples of an old oil painting I restored using the technique described above.

There are (1) Comments, Comments are now closed for this discussion?
  1. comment_1_8181

    sddonlon commented on December 5, 2009, at 4:18 pm.

    Wow, I just started using Atelier Interactive paints, and was getting very frustrated by how dark my work was. I'm glad I decided to check your site.
    I have a dark underpainting of regular acrylics, and no matter how much light I add, my painting remains dark. Do I just keep adding lighter layers??
    Thanks!