How do I lighten a painting?
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    How do I lighten a painting?

    Hi!

    I made an acrylic painting, and as I am a new artist, it dried darker than I anticipated. Does anyone have any suggestions on something I could maybe spray on it (or something else) to make it lighter? I want the whole thing to be a shade lighter.

    Thanks in advance!
    Ricki

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    Elwell is offline Sticks Like Grim Death Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    Yes, acrylics will often dry darker than their wet appearance. There is nothing you can do that will uniformly lighten the entire painting. If it's really a problem, you'll need to repaint it.


    Tristan Elwell
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    *cough* Photoshop.

    Other than that, nope, you'll have to repaint it. Chalk it up as a learning experience. Acrylic and gouache do tend to dry darker, so now you know and can try to compensate. Or you can try oils, which don't shift color when they dry.

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    Speaking of gouache and lightening I've been having an issue getting opaque mids and lights. Since gouache is water soluble when dry if you drag some wet paint over the top of color already laid down it picks up some of the underlying paint and mixes on the fly, thus changing the color of the opaque stroke. So a stroke of pure white over umber becomes pale brown. I'm finding it impossible to finish a painting because I can't get any color to go above 6 or so on a ten value scale.

    Fixes? Save the whites for high value areas as in standard watercolor technique, but without the ability to put down opaque colors, what's the point of using guoache? Apply a surface medium to protect the underlayers from subsequent strokes? Applying a wet medium also wets and drags up the color, muddying it and destroying the block in.

    I'm going to try adding some acrylic matte medium to the paint mixes next, but that seems over fussy and not practical for outdoor work. How do you all handle gouache? Am I missing something here?

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    Hmm. I'm still new to gouache, but I find I can lay colors over other colors fairly okay if the underlying colors are thoroughly dry and I don't mix much water into the overlying colors... Though that approach works best if you're okay with a somewhat dry-brushed look. It doesn't work so good for fluid strokes or covering large areas with a solid color. Also I don't know if it varies with different brands of gouache? (I'm using Da Vinci.)

    Other than that, the best strategy for me seems to be less layering, more thinking in terms of interlocking color shapes. But if someone with more gouache expertise knows any alternatives, do tell!

    For what it's worth, I've experimented with mixing acrylic into tempera before to cut down the water-solubility, and it does kind of work - but it is pretty time consuming and complicated and not very portable at all. (Plus the mixtures I made tended to dry crazy fast so they were hard to paint with, but you could probably adjust that with the right mediums and paint...) Brushing matte medium over gouache could get tricky, because it's liable to smear the gouache. (I've had that happen with matte medium over tempera, it's no fun. It can be done with tempera, but very carefully. Haven't tried it with gouache yet.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    Brushing matte medium over gouache could get tricky, because it's liable to smear the gouache.
    You could lay the picture flat, dilute your matte medium with a bit of water and use one of those spray bottles, pretty sure that would seal the underlying paint with minimal smearing.

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    Your problem is classic "user error." The solution is to learn the correct combination of paint consistency and brush manipulation, not to go screwing around with attempts to seal the surface, which only introduce a whole new set of unnecessary problems.


    Tristan Elwell
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    Just keep working with it (the medium, that is, not your painting). As Gwen said if you want opacity you have to make sure the paint is dry and use less water on subsequent layers (less water = more opacity and less mixing; you can think of it as a kind of fat over lean principle). In general try to use fewer layers. It's a very direct medium. If you need to get back down to the paper, you can use a wet brush and blot the paint off. Or you can scrape it to get whites, but don't try to paint back over the scrapes. Gouache is a great medium, but it does behave rather uniquely.

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