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This column appeared in Magazine, March 2014. If you enjoyed reading it, please use the link here to subscribe!
High Flow Acrylics
by Ursula Roma
A professional illustrator and fine artist tries Golden Artist Colors High Flow Acrylics on a brush, in a pen or a marker, or straight from the bottle.
When I was introduced to Golden Artist Colors (www.goldenpaints.com) acrylics about four years ago, I confess that I almost passed out from excitement. Golden High Flow acrylics replaced the Golden airbrush colors, improving the formula and increasing the line to 49 high-intensity colors, including iridescents and fluorescents. The Golden product description tells artists that we can use the High Flow acrylics in refillable markers, as well as in ruling or technical pens, but we can also just pour the paint right from the bottle. I found High Flow acrylics superior to most inks I’ve used. If I’m layering colors, the High Flow acrylics act like thin passages of color; when diluted, they act like glazes. The High Flow acrylics adhered to almost any surface, though a bit differently to each.
I first tried the High Flow paints on cold-pressed watercolor paper. (See High Flow Via a Brush, below). The paper absorbed the paint quickly, though the intensity of the color didn’t wash out. I noted that a brush loaded with paint retained the paint without dripping. The emulsifiers Golden uses seem to secure the paint to the bristles until just the right amount of pressure is applied to the paper—a nice, comforting effect when you consider the level of control that you can, as a result, maintain.
I then tried High Flow acrylics on vellum bristol board. Again, I found the results dependable. The color remained vivid and the paint showed a bit of relief on the surface, with very little absorbency, as the gesso prevented it from being soaked up by the board.
Then I switched to using other methods of application: sponge, pen, and brush. High Flow acrylics are very versatile! Each experiment proved equally satisfying in both the delivery of paint to the surface and in the quality and density of color.
Making Crisp Edges
Next I filled empty, standard-tip acrylic paint markers with a dark color to explore how crisp an edge I could achieve. I had a standard broad tip, which works best when the tip is depressed occasionally to keep a steady flow of paint coming out to wet the tip of the nib, thus effecting a nice crisp line for tight detail drawing. Empty marker bottles filled with custom colors are perfect tools to create varied sizes of circles or clean edges for controlled line work. I found that when I was drawing, the fuller the bottle remained, the more consistent the paint flow for longer strokes. (See drawing, below.)
As for pen-type applicators, I tried several that allowed for a variety of lines, for instance a fine-line, standard-tip applicator bottle with a pin-type nib. The applicator itself caused more problems than the paint. The paint flowed smoothly and in a relief line on nonabsorbent papers, though it left a bead when I stopped, with the result that it often spread to a larger spot. Practice is required to get an even line, as the degree of squeezing pressure necessary on the bottle is minute—but relevant. I didn’t have a chance to master this procedure, but even the mistakes proved visually interesting and had a relief quality that I quite liked, one that could be a nice juxtaposition from the flat inky look, if executed properly.
Finally, I filled an old Senator fountain pen with sepia and it worked surprisingly well. The flow stayed smooth and the color vivid, despite the thin line. No clogging occurred during the few days I experimented with the fountain pen. (See drawing, below.)
On the other hand, the 1.4 Rapidograph pen, a very large nib, filled with black ink was not a success story. (Perhaps the sepia paint is thinner and therefore flows better in a pen of this type.) I had to repeat my previous strokes to get a continuous line. I was least impressed with this particular application. (See drawing in the middle, below.)
Compared with Inks
Applying the High Flow acrylics on smoother surfaces produced results very similar to the ones I would get with inks I’ve used, especially the black, which functioned almost identically to my favorite inks, although the adherence and density of color in High Flow acrylics were superior. For a long, deep black line that remains consistent the entire length, I found that High Flow paints beat out others I’ve used in the past. Opacity can be achieved, which is often not possible in one-stroke painting.
In general, I found that, as with any inks, the Golden High Flow acrylics produced a smooth line on hot-pressed, smooth surfaces and tended to have a tad of fuzziness and inconsistent choppiness on more absorbent, cold-pressed surfaces. The paint dries fairly quickly, so this can be controlled once you familiarize yourself with the medium. I loved the amount of color bursting through, as I added layer upon layer of the High Flow acrylics in a glazing type of application (see Golden High Flow in Action, above). Golden products act like oil paints in so many ways that I found myself loving illustration again. The Golden Artist Colors High Flow acrylics have now become the missing link for me, because they allow me to create a thin layer of color without using a massive amount of glazing liquid or water—both of which lead to drag on the brush and less pigment load in each stroke.
I find I’m happy to discover yet another quality product line by Golden that reinvigorates my desire to show up at my easel. I’ve barely scratched the surface for the use of these materials, but I believe that these High Flow acrylics will keep an artist engaged in painting for more hours than you might think possible. I was surprised myself.
Ursula Roma is a fine artist, illustrator, sculptor, and graphic designer. Visit her website, www.ursularoma.blogspot.com.