Extender – Acrylic Paint Performs like an Oil Paint with Extender Medium

by Neadeen Masters on February 16, 2014

Embrace Extender Medium and see your Acrylic Paint change before your eyes!

Having used Extender Paint Medium for the last ten years, I consider myself a bit of an expert when it comes to its usefulness as well as its challenges. It still amazes me how many artists  shy away from using acrylic paints because they are challenged by their quick drying time. Here’s a medium that will change the way you look at painting with acrylics. With this medium your acrylic paint performs just like an oil paint.

What is Extender Medium?

Extender is basically made with a water soluble Propylene glycol. It is a colorless and innocuous liquid found in hand lotions, soap and hundreds of other products safely used by humans.  (Not to be confused with Ethylene glycol which is used in car antifreeze and is poisonous) In a nutshell, when it is used in a paint medium, it allows acrylic paint to stay open or workable for a longer period of time. Yes there are many brands of acrylic paint mediums on the market that claim to do the same thing, but in my experience, they’re often sticky, difficult to blend with… and they alter the paint viscosity in unwanted dramatic ways. I have found that Traditions Extender Medium manufactured by DecoArt, Inc. is the best on the market.

Blending with Extender Paint Medium and creating a mottled background - Art Apprentice Online

Blending with Extender Paint Medium and creating a mottled background – Art Apprentice Online

How to work with Extender Paint Medium? This isn’t an easy answer. We can use Extender in several ways.

  • It can be added and mixed into the paint directly, however we must be careful with the ratio between paint and Extender…I use caution and suggest no more than about 25% Extender (give or take) or you’ll change the acrylic paints ability to stick to the surface.
  • Thin your paint: You can dip your brush in it, to add a little extra moisture to your working paint on the canvas or the palette. Use Extender as needed. I never use water unless I am changing to another color and need to clean my brush.
  • You can keep a puddle of Extender Medium right on your mixing palette. Pick up a little each time you load up with fresh paint. I like to do this, and eventually all the paint on my palette will end up with Extender mixed in it…The result is very similar to working with oil paints…Smooth and bendable.
  • Apply directly to the Canvas Surface: For painting large areas like skies in a landscape, apply the Extender Medium directly to the canvas surface, then apply the acrylic paint and blend as needed… This will allow lots of open play time to adjust your values and brushwork. When you are satisfied with the results, move to a new area and allow the previous area to dry well.
  • Cleaning your brush – During a painting session, I like to clean my brush with DecoArt Extender Medium…That’s my preferred brand. Pinch-wipe the dirty brush between the folds of a clean paper towel and then swish the brush in a little container of extender. Wipe the brush again and continue painting.
  • Dry well. After the painting session, allow the acrylic painting to dry well. Use a warm hair dryer to speed dry if needed.
  • At the end of a painting session – clean your acrylic brushes well with soap and water…When clean, reload with a little clean Extender Medium and they’ll be ready for your next painting session.

Challenges you might face working with Extender Medium

  • Too much Extender can present a problem…If this happens, simply blot with a clean paper towel.
  • The surface should never be runny…just slightly shiny or damp if you passed your hand across the surface.
  • The amount of Extender you use and how it responds depends on the dryness or humidity of your studio room AND the region of the country you live in. Adjust accordingly and be aware of this factor. Yes there is a learning curve.
  • Don’t use Extender Medium with a circulating fan or heater nearby…this will speed up the drying time and make blending more difficult.
  • Try to avoid using water unless to clean your brushes, but always dress the brush with a little Extender before returning to the canvas surface.

Good luck…Extender Medium allows me to move seamlessly between oil and acrylic painting…my blending style and brushwork are hardly affected. Give it a try, you’ll love working with acrylics once you try DecoArt Traditions Extender and Blending Medium.

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