I often run into the issue of colors looking too transparent or translucent when I want richer, more opaque effects. After testing many techniques, I’ve found that using opaque pigments is one of the most effective ways to get vibrant opacity in acrylic painting
What I’ve learned is that acrylic paint comes in three categories – transparent, semi-opaque, and opaque.
Transparent colors let a lot of light pass through them, while opaque colors block light and stand out on the canvas.
Most acrylic painters prefer opaque colors because they allow colors to really pop and look vibrant. So I set out to discover the most opaque pigments to use in my acrylic painting.
Acrylic paints come in three versions, transparent, translucent, and opaque. Transparent paint allows more light to pass through, translucent paint allows only a little amount of light to pass through, and opaque paint completely blocks the light, allowing the audience to focus on the paint rather than the light.
How to Make Acrylic Paint More Opaque?
Most artists are only aware of at least three ways to make the paint opaque. This article exposes you to 10 various methods to ensure you obtain a perfect, unique, and attractive opaque painting.
Let’s list some of the easiest ways to create opaque acrylic paint.
1. Titanium White – My Go-To for Opaque Painting
Mixing acrylic paint with white is the most common method of making it Opaque. It is also the preferred method since it is easy.
However, many do not get an attractive opaqueness since they use the wrong white paint. The most opaque white and my go-to for opaque painting is Titanium White
It produces the best outcome, however, you need to be patient enough and practice before using it to understand how to apply it appropriately.
It should be applied in a small bit until you obtain the desired outcome. If you use too much, it will tint the color you’re painting and turn the end product into a pastel.
NOTE: Once you add a white color to your paint, the effects can never be reversed no matter how many colors are applied after that.
When I want translucent effects, I switch to zinc white rather than titanium. Zinc white is also opaque but more transparent than titanium, so it’s perfect when you want a glow or ethereal effect.
This is the simplest method yet very consequential, especially to amateur painters with little knowledge of achieving the desired opacity using the appropriate white.
2. Use white paint under your colors
Using white under your painting will also help you achieve acrylic paint look opaque. Many double how effective this method is but I believe in most cases they just used wrong type of white.
Make sure you use an opaque white or any other color underneath the transparent or translucent color you plan to layer. This method gives an illusion of opacity by stopping the color underneath from influencing the overall paint.
You can paint blue underneath, followed by a yellow on your paint wheel to see the outcomes. If you do not desire it, try an opaque white followed by a yellow. You will realize that the opaque white gives an opaquer paint than the blue so.
To use this approach, you should follow the following rules:
- You should ensure the paint underneath is dry before you begin painting over it.
- Apply a second layer of titanium white to the area where you want to paint. You can use opaque blue as a base for your painting, but you’ll need to add opaque titanium white over the area you want to paint on. Allow them to dry after.
- Proceed to paint over the opaque white.
NOTE: This method is unique since it does not give the results instantly, and most people who are too observant consider it less effective.
3. Use color to make the painting opaque
Another way to make transparent Acrylic Paint Opaque is, to mix them with opaque or semi-opaque colors. You can have a blend of two or more colors depending on the opacity desired. You will have to create the opaque color for this method before you begin painting.
When you mix lemon yellow with cobalt blue, you get an opaque color. If you paint with this mixture over the black painting, you’ll get a perfect opaque result.
PRO TIP: Quinacridone Magenta and Cobalt blue are two opaque colors that can be combined with lemon yellow to create complete opacity.
4. Using mediums to make acrylics opaque
There are a few acrylic mediums that you can add to your paint to increase its opacity. The challenge with the mediums is that they do not work well for all acrylic paintings. They are designed for use on a few ranges of acrylic paintings.
Liquitex manufactures some of the best mediums to make Acrylic Paint Opaque. The mediums can be used on paintings, underpaintings, and for large area coverages.
The mediums are effective because they economically extend the opacity of the acrylic paint without interfering with the color or the acrylic painting’s stability. You can also apply them when you are running out of the original paint, and they will still give you the desired outcome.
The mediums also slow down the drying process of acrylic paint, resulting in a more nuanced color blend that is both adherent and long-lasting. You should first read and understand the following instructions before using the product:
- Using acrylic paint with Liquitex products will get you best results. You can thin the opacity by adding a little water if the outcome is too opaque.
- You should only use a small amount of it because too much will make the acrylic paint transparent.
- To avoid bubbles, swirl it constantly and wait until all of the bubbles have dissipated before using it. Use When wet.
5. Using layers to increase opacity
Another method is by using layers to increase opacity. You need to make sure that each layer builds on the previous one and creates a varied degree of opaqueness to make this strategy work.
Ensure the layers blend perfectly and complement each other without creating any visible disparity.
You can try out layering phthalo green, lemon yellow, and Quinacridone magenta to see the outcome. This combination will help you make yellow more opaque.
TIP: This method is perfect for beginners; however, you must consider the range of colors you intend to use. Certain combinations will end up destroying the desired painting.
You should also focus on using gessos such as gesso white or black, which are considered opaque. Adding the different gesso layers before the final color creates an opaque layer enabling you to achieve the opaque painting.
This method is time-consuming but very effective. It requires patience since you have to wait for the layers to dry before adding another on top. You must also select the paints carefully before deciding on the best pick.
6. Use Schmincke Aero opaque medium
This medium is designed for use with only Schmincke Aero colors. The medium is effective for use on heavy fluids and inks but works best on inks. The Schmincke Aero inks are more sensitive; adding the medium makes them opaque, producing the desired outcomes.
Use medium in small quantities. It works perfectly without interfering with the final color. Add about 5% of it to the fluid to get the most desirable outcome since excess will cause too much lightness.
TIP: Shake it well before combining it with other fluids since it is a water-based dispersion of the particles, and the particles tend to settle at the bottom of the bottle.
It works with a perfect range of Aero colors enabling you to make any paint opaque without worrying about the outcomes.
7. Swapping the paint color brand
Distinct brands have different versions of the same hue with varying degrees of opacity. You can replace one color with a similar color from a different brand that is more opaque. This method is considered a risk or a trial and error method, but it is a viable option for individuals who have a strong grasp of color.
TIP: You can visit different manufacturers and check on the containers to understand the opacity levels of different colors. Some manufactures make more opaque paints, as indicated by the letters and symbols in the bottles.
8. Paint dilution
Most paint manufactures advise painters to dilute with water before usage. The dilution helps create a usable viscosity and makes the outcome less thick and attractive. Even though paints have a given scale of transparency, translucency and opacity, adding water makes them more transparent or translucent.
Water may not create much difference, but it lowers the opacity levels as it lowers the thickness. Using the paint before dilution can make the painting opaque that it could be when diluted with water.
TIP: To make it stronger, you can combine it with a touch of semi-opaque or opaque white, and the final paint will be more opaque. This method works and eliminates the need for layering.
9. Use artist paints or high pigment paints
There are paints with high pigment levels suitable for achieving high-level opacity called Artist paints.
Different companies use different methodologies to manufacture the colors.
- Most colors are manufactured from carbon-based pigments manufactured in laboratories or factories. These colors are more transparent but chromatically powerful.
- Some Colors can also be manufactured from mineral pigments derived from rocks and metals. Such colors are opaque and have little tinting strength and capabilities.
You can obtain a perfect opaqueness by mixing the two different type of acrylic artist colors together. The mineral will opacify the carbon-based colors, and the carbon-based color will make the paint appear more powerful.
10. Use heavy body paints
Heavy body paints are viscous and opaque due to their pigmentation. They will help you obtain opaque paint; however, they do not resolve the problem completely. They help a lot by minimizing the excess transparency.
The challenge with heavy body paints is that they do not easily mix nor blend with other colors. You should use them as under paints or carefully select a range of colors that can blend with them.
NOTE: Heavy Body paints do not easily blend with mediums; instead, they become more transparent when exposed to them.
- Mixing colors is a bit challenging, and you can easily make a mistake. The perfect and simplest solution to your worries is to have a base color before you begin painting. A base color creates the opaqueness before you begin painting. Adding more layers to it will improve the opaqueness.
- A few companies manufacture high quality mediums. The market is currently flooded with different brands, but most do not perform as promised. One of my favorites is Liquitex.
- There are no defined ratios to mix the colors to get the perfect opaqueness. It is more of a trial method. As you mix, start with smaller quantities and try on a painting until you achieve the desired results.
Acrylic paint pigments come in a variety of transparency levels. This explains why certain paints are opaque while others are not. If you are unable to obtain the desired opaque acrylic paint, you can use these techniques to improve the final result to acceptable levels.
To make acrylic paint more opaque, try mixing in an opaque white like titanium or zinc white. Start with a little white and add slowly until you achieve the opacity you want. You can also layer opaque colors like cadmiums over more transparent paints. Using acrylic mediums designed to increase opacity, like those from Liquitex, is another option for making colors more opaque.
Thicker paint tends to be more opaque. To thicken paint for more opacity, try mixing in a heavy body acrylic paint, soft gel medium or acrylic retarder. These will increase the body and opacity. You can also apply paint in thicker layers and avoid over-thinning with water, allowing natural thickness to boost opacity.
You can also check this helpful vide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqduhZ7Xuqw&t=35s
Some common reasons acrylic paint may not be opaque enough include using colors with transparent pigments, paint that is too thinly applied, over-diluting with water, or insufficient layering. Ensure you are using opaque colors like cadmium or titanium white. Build up paint in thicker layers and avoid thinning too much with water.
Opaque acrylic paint contains pigments that block light from shining through the paint layer. This creates vivid colors with strong covering power. Opaque acrylics will completely hide what is underneath them. Examples of opaque acrylic pigments include titanium white, cadmium red and yellow, and Mars black