A is for Acrylic – Exploration – Self-leveling gel

Well, here we are, the first post of 26. I will admit to having second thoughts all week. I tried to get some of this blogging done ahead of time, but failed miserably, which only led me to wonder how on Earth I would manage it everyday. But here I am, there will be one blog post at least.

So…how could I do A for anything other than Acrylics? I’ve been exploring them like crazy for some time now, and although I’ve only just scratched the surface of their capability, I’ve certainly been having fun.

The topic is a large one, however, so I’ve chosen my latest experiments to play with and what better way to do that than video the technique. Yes, I have my second ever published video right here. Again, no more Cecil B. DeMille than the last one, but I think it gets the technique across, even though the only soundtrack is the birds flying past. One day I’ll get the nerve up to actually say something on one of these.

Exploration – Acrylic Media – Self-leveling gel

Crimson swirls close up

This is a technique for creating marbled/semi-blended backgrounds (mostly) on canvas that takes advantage of the slight three-dimensionality of self-leveling gel and its ability to semiblend colour and catch it in mid-motion.

What you might need

  • Fluid acrylic paint (I used Golden)
  • Self-leveling gel (I used Golden, but you might find a similar substance under a different name in other brands)
  • stretched canvas, canvas board or board
  • painting knife
  • medicine syringe or eye dropper (or some other way to get the gel onto the canvas)
  • painting rag
  • daggy clothes and furniture protection

What you might do

Lay the canvas (or board) flat, art side up on a clean surface. Using the syringe/eyedropper suck up some self-leveling gel out of its container and pour it onto the canvas. You can also simply tip up the jar and pour it on, but be aware this stuff moves pretty fast and you’d probably only want to do this with a large canvas.

Coloured swirlWith the painting knife, gently swish the gel across the surface leaving a thick layer (at least a couple of millimetres). Distribute it evenly and make sure you take it up to all the corners and cover the canvas completely. If you need to add more gel, do so, but make sure that there are no dry spots or very shallow areas. Dry spots will catch the paint and create a different effect to that of the gel and leave a spot on your painting that will stand out like a sore thumb.

Once the surface is covered, work quickly before the gel dries and add your colours. Drip the fluid acrylics one by one onto the gel. You can do this randomly or locate certain colours in specific areas. Be aware that the colours will blend so use hues that work well together and avoid mud making.

When you are happy with the amount of paint, take your painting knife and with quick, gentle movements, blend the colours across the canvas. Use as little movement as possbile and try not to swipe an area more than once. The more the colours are moved, the more they will blend and the marbling effect will be lost as they all become one colour. There may be small areas that have no colour, but this does not matter, it can be worked into your composition.

When finished, the paint/medium will have to be left to dry for at least 24 hours. It doesn’t hurt to give it more if you want to be sure, particularly if you are in a moist climate. The resulting surface will be gloss, but it can be easily manipulated with other acrylic media.

And now, the video, which basically shows all the above in action. I use white, a blue, a turquoise and a teal in this example. It was a vain attempt to answer the March Color Challenge, but I still haven’t completed the piece, so I failed. But! I have this video to share, in any case.


Liz’s Notes

I think this technique breaks a couple chemical rules so you may find that sometimes the pigment/paint in the mix might separate out from the medium and you’ll get a crackle-like effect randomly through the piece. I find it tends to depend on how thick the medium is and the paint colour you are using. My Allizarin Crimson loves to crackle much to my annoyance (it is one of my favourite colours), but since this is very much a random technique even at its most controlled, I feel that I just go with what I end up with and work with that. One piece that I created while doing the videos for this (there was another video I haven’t had time to polish and present, it shows this technique almost exactly the same, but with brighter colours) that crackled alot (the surface dips at the crackles, but is still glossy and relatively smooth) and I was a touch disappointed as the colours were lovely, but I’ve since looked at it while writing this exploration and seen a painting in it which I avidly started pursuing this afternoon.
There are lots of things you can do with the wet media and paint other than just swiping it with a painting knife. I’ve stuck kebab sticks in and swirled them around, for example. In fact I am still at the very beginning of this exploration and its possibilities.



The result created by the video. I have ideas what to do with this now, different ideas from what I had initially intended.


Autumn Wind WIP first layer
My first real attempt to use this in a painting. This painting has since been completed. The self-leveling gel background was only the first layer. The final piece was Autumn Wind.
Crimson swirlsCrimson swirls was one of my very early experiments, but I love the colour so I’ve kept it.

I hope to do some more of these paintings. I think I’ve only scratched the surface of the possibilities for texture and technique. I hope you’ve found this as interesting as I have found it fun to explore.

For my other Explorations click here !

(happy to have her first A to Z challenge post up)

For all my A to Z Challenge posts, click here!


16 responses to “A is for Acrylic – Exploration – Self-leveling gel”

  1. I’ve always wanted to explore the wide world of painting — thanks for this glimpse into acrylics! 🙂

    1. Thanks for visiting 😀


  2. I’m not artistic, but I DO like the designs you’ve created!
    (Just popping in from the A-Z Linky List!)

    1. Thanks for popping in 😀


  3. Stopping in from A to Z. I am not artistic but can appreciate the beauty of this! I love the first piece! Looking forward to sharing with my friends who paint! Thx!!

    I am American but lived in Australia for a brief time an ancient twenty years ago. It’s a beautiful country.

    1. Thanks for stopping in and offering to share this with arty friends. A kind thought, thank you 😀

      Unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to visit the US yet, but from the documentaries I’ve seen, you have some beautiful stuff over there as well. I would love to see a deciduous forest in autumn. It must be a spectacular sight. We have some exotic trees here, but no forests and eucalypts are evergreen for the most part.

      Best wishes,

  4. Hi Liz – I’m from Team Tina too.

    Great post!

    I’m not very artistic (paintingwise) even though I like to think I am but I found your post really interesting and I may give acrylics a go!

    Good luck with the rest of the challenge!

    1. Thanks, Denise! I’m glad you found it interesting and if you want to give painting a try, acrylics are kind and versatile. If you don’t like what you’ve painted, simply paint over the top of it 😀

      Thanks for the good luck wishes, I think I’ll need it 😀


  5. How interesting! I love the crimson curls but they’re all very pretty.

    Anna @ Herding Cats & Burning Soup

    1. Thanks, Anna!


  6. I’m an artist as well. I like working with acrylic and I want to try some of your techniques. I like watercolor, too, but it’s very challenging for me.
    I’m from Team Tina and happy blogging!

    1. Great to meet you, Luana. I acgree with you, watercolours can be scary. Have you tried starting with watercolour pencil? I’ve been using them for a while and they make an easier introduction to watercolour as they have much more control. I’ve only recently attempted watercolour paint itself and it is a learning curve…but an exciting one.

      And I’m off to bounce around on your blog. Thanks so much for dropping by…and the Facebook Like!

      Best wishes,

  7. Liz: Yes, I have used watercolor pencils and I love them. So much easier to control. I’d like to experiment more with them.

    1. Hey, Luana.

      I tried to find you blog, but I haven’t had any success. Do you have a link?

      Best wishes,