What is Gel Medium and What is it Used For?

If you are just starting your adventure with mixed media techniques, you may be wondering what gel medium is, and what do you need to know about it? In the following post, I will try to write about its features and application.

What is gel medium?

It is a gel medium, i.e. a white, paste-like gel that dries up transparently. It aims to change the consistency and transparency of the paint.

Gel Medium is essentially a binder without pigment. Initially, this substance was used to build texture in painted images. This was achieved by mixing the gel medium with acrylic paint. 

In addition, it increases the transparency of the paint and dries without loss of consistency or bonding properties. Thus, the gel medium extends the technical capabilities of acrylic paint by adding or reducing, for example, gloss (glaze). It can be mixed with all types of acrylic paints. It is lightfast, flexible and durable. 

Besides, it is a water-based preparation, so it can also be diluted, but in order not to lose its properties, only 25% of water can be added. The total drying time is 24 hours – this means that even if it dries enough to work with it, it will only dry completely after 24 hours.

One of the most important features of gel medium is that it is archival, which means it will not change color or lose its adhesive properties over time.

What types of Gel Medium are out there?

There are three basic types of gel media consistency:

  • soft – very delicate in consistency and thin, milky white gel. Perfect for creating glaze, as well as due to the consistency for collage. It is not as wet as other adhesives, it does not get absorbed into the paper and does not shrink or curl it. It is also used as a varnish (securing the collage layer).
  • regular or medium – delicate in consistency, milky white gel. Perfect for the Impasto technique, as it extends the drying time of the paint without changing its consistency.
  • heavy – a very thick and dense milk-white gel. It thickens the paint and is also ideal for the Impasto technique. Additionally, it is great for creating assemblies. It makes it easier to stick heavy elements to your work, so that they stay in a given place while working on arranging the composition.

To make it easier to see the consistency of gel media, it can be compared to, for example, cream – the density may vary from cream to thick cream.

There are also three variants of finishes provided by this medium:

  • matte (matte)
  • semi-gloss (semi-matte / semi-gloss)
  • gloss (glossy)

The names of the preparations differ slightly depending on the companies in which they were produced, but the differences are not huge. If the name does not specify what type of gel it is, 90% of it will be a glossy gel.

Application of gel medium

I have already mentioned some of the methods when characterizing the product, but I would like to group them together in this block. 

Application methods:

  • additive to acrylic paints – to change their density and transparency and as a drying retarder
  • glue – as an adhesive in mixed media works and in decoupage techniques, assemblage and collage (the rarer, the more delicate objects are glued, the thicker the heavier objects can be glued)
  • transfer medium – techniques of transferring an image from a printout onto any type of substrate
  • securing medium – securing the surface of the collage or paper against excessive soaking with paint (alternative to transparent gesso)
  • to create a 3D effect (structure) – with or without additives (sand, mica, microspheres, pigment, etc.) using templates and masks
  • creating your own paints – by adding liquid or loose pigment

What tools should I use to work with gel medium?

  • spatula / spatula
  • silicone brush
  • finger (preferably with gloves, unless you like to peel your fingers from the “rubber skin”)
  • brush 
  • stick

Additionally, they can be useful:

  • wet cloth
  • heater
  • tweezers

To sum up: Gel medium is a very universal and useful product for artists as well as for hobbyists – e.g. scrapper crafters or people running art journals. Depending on the type of medium used, it can change the consistency of the paint, add or reduce its gloss, stick elements in mixed media works, create textures, protect works or the substrate, transfer images and use in creative techniques such as decoupage or collage. 

And of course it is lightfast, flexible and durable.

I hope that you have gained a huge dose of knowledge from my post and that you will share this post so that others will find out about it. I also encourage you to experiment with various types of gel medium, because its possibilities are really endless. 

Of course, let me know if you know any other ways to use the gel medium. 

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