Preparing Paint For Great Results

Preparing paint is one of the fundamental skills you need to get great painting results.  It's true that much of the time you can use paint without any preparation.  But, there are times when that paint just won't do.

How you prepare paint is relatively simple.  But... when to prepare paint can be a little trickier.  

So, let's talk about paint consistency.  And to get off on the right foot, let me say that by "consistency", I mean the viscosity or the thickness of the paint.  

Ready to learn how to prepare paint?  Let's go.

Having the right acrylic paint consistency is such an important part of painting.  Whether you’re doing strokework or you’re trying to get a perfect float, having the right consistency is everything!

There are a lot of factors that influence the flow consistency of paint.   Here are a few things to consider:

  • The age of the paint.  Is it a new tube/bottle or has it been opened and sitting around for a while?
  • There are some colors that are much thicker than others.  It’s the pigment that influences the consistency of the paint.
  • Be aware of the ambient temperature and humidity in a room.  If it’s dry and hot where you’re painting, this will influence the paint's consistency.

Preparing Paint by Adjusting Its Consistency To Meet Your Needs

It’s perfectly normal to continually having to adjust the thickness or thinness of your paints.  Seldom can you pour the paint on your palette and have it ready to go.  

With acrylics, you can adjust the consistency with water or mediums.  For this quick article we’ll just be using water.

Strokework / Brushstrokes

If you’re doing strokework you want the paint consistency to be thick but flowing.  One of my teachers used to say it should feel like “bird doo-doo”.  Now there’s an image that will stay with you for all time!! 

"Bird doo-doo" thickness for strokework. :o)

Add only a tiny touch of water and get the feel of the paint before you start.  In time you’ll be able to gauge how much water you need simply by using your intuition.


If you’re doing liner details and linework, you want the paint to have an ink-like consistency.  The paint should flow freely from the tip of the liner but not be so thin that the paint color is washed out.

Add a little water at a time until you get the right flow.

Paint has been thinned to an inky consistency to flow freely from the liner brush.
Notice how the paints beads up in the middle section where the palette knife has swept through the paint puddle. The paint is thinner but not washed out. Down on the lower right, if I were to add that bead of water, the paint would become too thin.

I have provided a link at the end of this page for you to follow if you want more in depth information on strokework and linework. 

Mixing / Blending

When you mix paints together the consistency will be altered – usually it gets thicker - so you’ll need to adjust with water.


As you work, your paint puddles will begin to evaporate which will affect the consistency of the paint.  Remember that the temperature and humidity in the room will affect the paint.  Simply adjust as you work.

Paint stays moist when kept on a damp (not wet) paper towel.

I like to place my paint puddles on a damp paper towel so that moisture can wick up into the paint, keeping it fresh longer.

Preparing Paint Wrap Up

There you have it.  I do hope you have enjoyed this information on preparing paint.  It's the little things like this that can make such a big difference in the results you get when you paint.

As I promised earlier, if you want more information on strokework and linework, Click or Tap HERE.

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