Water media paint is applied to a surface usually with a brush. The resulting paintings can incorporate other materials and objects, but they are primarily created in wet or fluid techniques, and usually feature a set of chromatic pigments.
My water media consists of
- aquarelle (watercolor and gouache), including soluble pigment sticks and pencils,
- pigmented acrylic polymers: from heavy-body and fluid paints to inks and sprays.
Water Soluble Paints
Western aquarelle mediums are re-soluble after they dried. In childhood, I used a lot of opaque gouache, and disliked traditional watercolor. I have developed my own way to use transparent watercolor much later.
Traditional Eastern aquarelle paints tend to be non-resoluble after they are applied to paper - I used them only for a short period.
Professional watercolor paints I use are made with artist grade permanent pigments and gum arabic. I avoid additives like organic dispersants, fillers, or honey, and therefore I am limited only to a few expensive brands.
In the transparent watercolor technique pigments are applied in a manner allowing light to penetrate the layers of glazes and reflect back from the white surface below, and the texture of that rag or paper can be seen through the layers of paint.
Opaque watercolor, gouache, is a type of non-transparent water media, which I mix by just adding white pigments (titanium dioxide or zinc) to transparent watercolor paints, or just by applying them in opaque manner.
I do not use commercial gouache paints because the manufacturers use lots of additives, premix pigments, or do not provide the level of lightfastness required for fine art.
Gouache I use primarily in the top layers of watercolor paintings. In the past, I used it for studies for oils and as a stand-alone medium. I absolutely loved gouache as a child.
Professional acrylic paints I use are made of the same artist quality pigments, but suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion. Fresh acrylic paints are water-soluble, but become water-resistant after fast drying.
I use acrylics in form of:
- single pigment acrylic paints from the leading manufacturers like Golden or Liquitex, in heavy body for impasto, or in fluid form, often as transparent inks.
- as gesso, which I often make from an industrial grade polymer, marble dust, and pigments - to prime canvases and to introduce textures.
- and with 100% acrylic polymer mediums of various viscosity, opacity, and drying properties.
Results of the acrylic techniques can look just like watercolor, gouache or oils (the all share almost the same range of pigments), or have its own unique characteristics, unattainable in other media.
I use only artist-rade acrylics, which are designed to resist chemical reactions from exposure to water, ultraviolet light, and oxygen. Professional-grade acrylics have the highest concentration of pigment, highest lightfastness and permanence, and can be selected in defined single pigments, which allows to maintain the color clarity in layers and subsequent mixes.
I switched from oils to acrylics in early 2000s.
Unlike most oils, acrylics
- are used without toxic hydrocarbon solvents,
- do not yellow,
- elastic, do not crack, do not become brittle over time,
- are more flexible and maintain flexibility,
- can hold other materials,
- do not require months of curing before varnishing,
- do not damage canvases.
The major difficulties in working with acrylics in my experience are:
- the mediums are not fully transparent while wet,
- the glazes and even impasto dry quickly,
- not rewettable, unlike watercolor,
- the pigments rarely granulate.
Acrylic resin was invented by Otto Röhm. In 1934, the first usable acrylic resin dispersion was developed by German chemical company BASF and patented by Rohm and Haas. Artists' acrylics were first used in the 1940s and made commercially available by Liquitex in the early 1950s.
BTW, the best exterior water-based paints are 100% acrylic, unlike internal latex paints, which also contain vinyl, pva, and fillers. The main difference to artist acrlics, however, is in pigments.