Making “Skins” with Fluid Acrylics

Here is a great article by Scott Bennett of Golden Artist Acrylics on making and using acrylic skins

An acrylic “skin” is a dry acrylic film that can be made of paint, medium or a combination of paint and medium, that is not attached to any substrate.

While acrylic skins can be made with just about any GOLDEN Acrylic Medium, Gel, Paste or Paint, our Fluid Acrylics work particularly well since the consistency allows for easy pouring and spreading onto a casting surface. Fluids can be easily blended with any number of mediums or gels to thin, thicken, increase translucency, or alter surface sheen. Usable skins can be cast in one application, but building up your skins in thinner layers will actually speed up the drying process.  In this series we are using GAC 800 with the Fluids as it also has the advantage of reducing crazing in pours.


Materials for making skins

What You’ll Need:

  • Polyethylene plastic or “plastic sheeting”, commonly found in hardware stores (at least 4 mil thick) can be used as a surface for casting skins. Large polyethylene sheets can also be ordered from stores handling plastic supplies.  Acrylics have poor adhesion to this kind of plastic so acrylic skins can be peeled off easily. Glass can also be used. Do not use Plexiglas or any other acrylic sheeting as acrylic paints and mediums will adhere well to these surfaces. Very large skins are best made with Gels and cast thicker so they can be handled more easily. Thin skins tend to tear and fold in on themselves, making it difficult to pull them apart.
  • Fluid Acrylic colors of your choice
  • GAC 800
  • Spreading tool (palette knife, trowel, plastic joint compound spreader)
  • Tape or staple gun
  • Board or table of some kind that can accept staples or tape



Casting an acrylic skin by spreading Fluid Acrylics on a plastic sheet

The Process:

Staple or tape a piece of poly plastic sheeting to a board, such as a piece of smooth plywood. If there are wrinkles or creases, these will be cast into the dried skin, so if you need a completely smooth surface, use only plastic that is not creased or a piece of glass. Stretching and stapling the poly sheeting can help in this regard. You can simply pour and drizzle Fluid Acrylic paint onto the plastic or surface which will allow release of the dry skin. Let it dry overnight or for several days, depending upon the thickness and weather conditions. Very thin areas may tear or be too delicate after peeling up, so be aware of the thickness of the paint film during your application process and if you find it is too thin, add another coat.


Fluid Acrylics dripped into GAC 800

For variable translucent and wet into wet effects, pouring Fluid Acrylics onto a fresh puddle of GAC 800, or any clear or translucent painting medium, offers  some wonderful possibilities. This method also helps insure a thick enough film for easier handling. You can pre-blend GAC 800 and a small amount of Fluid Acrylic to create very translucent films that can be added to a collage to create optical color mixing effects. To avoid bubbles in the film it is best to allow those mixtures to sit overnight. And of course, you can use all these techniques to create a mixture of opaque and translucent areas. The wet acrylic can be allowed to flow naturally or manipulated with various tools. Another option is tilting the board so that the acrylic flows. Each method will allow for its own range of effects and experimentation is the best teacher here.


Fluid Acrylics blended with GAC 800 and poured

Depending upon the weather and environmental conditions, the drying time will vary. When completely dry, carefully peel up the skin, taking care not to let it fold on itself, as it can easily stick together.

The side of the skin next to the plastic or surface it has been cast upon will be very smooth with a distinctive look, while the top surface will be somewhat textured depending on how it was applied. These two very different surfaces give you a range of options for use. A good way to store skins, is to place them back down on a sheet of plastic and store flat with another piece of plastic on top or a sheet of silicone release paper. You can also roll the plastic as long as no skin is touching another skin.


Peeling translucent skin


Peeling up a dry acrylic skin

     Uses for Acrylic Skins:

The most common use for acrylic skins is for collage. They can be easily glued down using one of our Gel Mediums or even just pressed into wet acrylic paint. Some artists have used skins as support-less paintings, but these will be very delicate and prone to damage. Possibilities exist with “free acrylic skins” attached to rigid structures, or with non-reactive plastic mesh or cheesecloth inside the skins to combat stretching from their own weight. Skins can be glued down flat with a medium or gel or they can be wrinkled or bunched or folded.

When cold, acrylics skins may be broken into pieces. When warm you can bend, twist, roll or fold them and collage them in a variety of ways. They can also be cut with scissors to make any shape you want. Very glossy skins can be stuck to glass and will stay put for a long time. Take some time to experiment making and using acrylic skins. We think you’ll find it can add a very effective tool to your studio practice.

selection of acrylic skins.image7

Selection of acrylic skins

Merle Duffus
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