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I am diving in abstract painting but my acrylic colors are not alive. My reds are sleeping, my blue and green vivacity are even worse. The only one that do it are my black and white. Mmm.

I know I should learn to make my own colors and master their punchiness but I would rather prefer to have a consistent technique/material I could add, or better, a brand that creates live/punchy colors.

No matter what I do, my mixes are tern and really not interesting (just talking about colors themselves here, not the composition, which is another subject). How can I do? or which brand that I can buy in Europe (or better France) could help me?

Thanks for guiding me,

  • A friend of mine advised me to look at neon acrylic paints. Will do that. Any other technics are welcome! – Kroma Oct 7 '18 at 18:47
  • Punchy is a very subjective term, can you explain exactly what you mean by it? (off the top of my head you could be talking about saturation, something to do with the glossiness of the finish as guessed by Henry Taylor, or something a little more specialist such as additives to make them glow etc as your comment suggests). – walrus Oct 8 '18 at 8:18
  • @walrus You are right: by punchy, I mean very saturated and opaque/thick. Each color has to litterally pop out of the frame when you look at it. – Kroma Oct 8 '18 at 15:32
  • Also, throw away your black paint. Never mix it with any colors. – Nothingismagick Oct 10 '18 at 1:12
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From Science of Colour:

Take any colour and place it alongside another colour and it will be given certain characteristics. Red will appear more dazzling if placed alongside any colour within the opposing segment on the colour wheel – in this case, blue, green or violet. Similarly, place this colour against one with a contrasting tone and the appearance of red will appear brighter. As can be seen in the diagram, red against black appears bright as the black provide tonal contrast.

Place red against a similar colour, such as orange and this dazzling effect is subdued. This is because red and orange are harmonious colours. In other words, they are placed on neighbouring segments of the colour wheel. Red against grey appears dazzling, but not to the degree as red against black, as the two is similar in tone. Notice also that the red appears darker against the grey than against black.

Creating Vibrant Colours in Painting
This principle can be practiced with other colours. Green can be made more dazzling by placing it against red or any colour containing red, such as orange, maroon, pink or crimson. Green will not appear so dazzling against blue or turquoise.

When it comes to painting subject matter, placing contrasting colours against one another will create focal points if the rest of the painting contains subdued or harmonious hues. This can be seen in my painting of the leopard. As can be seen, the blue spots appear to shimmer against the red. Because the two colours are similar in tone, they appear to oscillate against one another.

Monet’s sunset works on the same principle, where subdued colours are used for the rest of the sky, but bright colours used for the sun itself. If this bright colour mixture was taken out of context and placed on a white background, the colour would not appear so bright. The same trick can be used for painting lightning, aurora borealis or a moonlit scene. The more extreme the contrast, the more brilliant or dazzling the colours will appear to be.

Bright Colors not Garish Colors
Monet’s sunset works on the same principle, where subdued colours are used for the rest of the sky, but bright colours used for the sun itself. If this bright colour mixture was taken out of context and placed on a white background, the colour would not appear so bright. The same trick can be used for painting lightning, aurora borealis or a moonlit scene. The more extreme the contrast, the more brilliant or dazzling the colors will appear to be.

Bright Colors not Garish Colors
It is good practice to work on a toned ground in order to obtain a more accurate portrayal of colour’s tone and hue. Working on a white art surface will make any colour appear darker than it actually is. For this reason, I will apply a thin layer of an earth colour onto the art surface first (this might be burnt sienna or burnt umber). This underpaint, also known as an imprimatura, can also be grey, brown or neutral.

However, you can experiment with different colored imprimaturas, which will provide contrast and shimmering effects to a painting. A painting featuring a multitude, of greens, for instance, a forest scene, will appear dazzling if placed upon a red imprimatura.

Manipulating Colors in Painting
Some knowledge of which colors are complementary (opposite) and which are harmonious (similar) in painting will help create dazzling effects in paint. As can be seen, placing red against blue or any similar cool color will make both colors appear more brighter than if the two colors are similar in hue

  • Similarly, I've added attribution to this one too. – walrus Oct 11 '18 at 13:39
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Henry is close, but the problem is that your acrylic is drying Matte. This is also, by the way, a problem with many different kinds of paint, whether they are spray paint, oil paint or acrylic.

You can add glossy mediums to the paint, but I have found that painting a varnish (or firnis) on top generally yields more even results. I prefer sennelier gloss UV-protecting acrylic finish, which you can buy at pretty much any art supply store.

It really works!

The best thing to use is not any kind of spray, you want a thick, viscous medium. NEVER thin it with water, work from the center outwards and use a very soft wide brush. Don’t rework the gloss after you have spread it out, and be careful that your brush doesn’t lose any hairs.

  • Then upvote my answer! @Kroma :) – Nothingismagick Oct 9 '18 at 23:39
  • @Kroma - I updated my answer with a couple tips. – Nothingismagick Oct 9 '18 at 23:42
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Add a couple of drops of floor finish, like Quick-Shine (available at Walmart, other stores and Amazon) to an ounce or two of your acrylic paint. It adds a glossy luster to the paint which might give you the effect you are looking for.

To go in the other direction, use a drop of rubbing alcohol which will flatten out the paint, making it look aged and faded.

  • 1
    Floor finishes contain a variety of chemicals, some of which are harmful to substances other than those they're specifically designed to finish. Is there a particular reason to go for floor finish with this risk to the longevity of the artwork, versus using a glossy medium or additive for acrylic paints? – user24 Oct 8 '18 at 16:41
  • @WebHead, I recommended floor finish because that is what I use to paint styrene plastic model cars. I have used glossy medium for acrylics to good effect, but I've found nothing that imitates a showroom shine better than floor finish. I've also airbrushed an acrylic-paint/floor finish mix on paper, cardboard, wood and vinyl. Never had any negative effects. I'm sure that you are right and that there are some medium which won't work with floor finish, but I've haven't encountered them yet. I agree with your recommendation of glossy medium if the OP's budget allows for it. – Henry Taylor Oct 8 '18 at 16:49

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