Bubbles in my Paint!?

Hey guys! Happy Friday!

Today I wanted to share with you a common problem encountered with mixing thinner acrylic mediums with paint.  We want to mix the mediums into our paint so we can paint directly with our chosen colour in our chosen thickness.  The example I’m using is with Clear Tar Gel, a stringy medium used to let you drizzle paint onto a canvas in long narrow strings, but this can be true for any thin acrylic medium.

So I lay out some clear tar gel and I start gently mixing my white paint into it…and I notice this:

bubbles in my paint
Do you see them? Those pesky bubbles!

As I mix the paint with my medium, bubbles start to form.  Now I mixed them gently, as the general recommendation is to gently fold the paint into the medium, not stirring or mixing roughly (what are doing, baking a cake?).  I’ve noticed, however, that no matter how gentle you are, these bubble still form.  It’s just a natural process.

The manufacturers suggest letting the mixture sit for a period of 24 hours before using it to allow the bubbles time to rise and pop, but that’s a long time, and I want to use this paint now!  Not to mention that this stuff seems to get a tad thicker as it sits, and I want it to be thin as possible for the effect I’m going for.  Even after you wait 24 hours, you’re still going to give it a gentle stir before you start painting, which will more than likely create new bubbles!

So here we go…

clear tar gel bubbles
See those bubbles? Those are trouble.

Of course, the bubbles have shown themselves in the paint after I put it on the canvas. The problem with these bubbles is that they will pop during the drying process of the paint, and will leave little crater marks where they were.  Now this look can work well for some rustic-looking artworks, and sometimes I let them stay on purpose, but in this case I wanted the paint to look smooth, and not like the surface of the moon.

So what’s an artist to do!?

One recommendation (other than letting the mixture sit before you use it) I’ve come across is to use a mister and gently spritz a bit of rubbing alcohol over the bubbles, causing them to pop.  The gel has self-leveling properties to it, so if we can pop the bubbles now, the holes will fill themselves in, instead of later when they will leave craters.

I have one problem with this solution…rubbing alcohol breaks down acrylic paint.  This method runs the risk of loosening up previous paint layers, and could generally wreak an area on you, forcing you to repaint.

I have another solution for you…

getting bubbles out of paint

Using a BBQ/candle lighter, I hold it near the bubbles, and those suckers pop like there’s no tomorrow.  This is the method I use in my resin works, and I thought, “Hey, why wouldn’t it work here?”  And it works like a charm.

clear tar gel bubbles
See the little dent left by the popped bubble, this will smooth out as the paint dries, no craters for this painting!

The little dents left by the popped bubbles now have ample time to fill themselves in as the paint/medium mixture dries, and I didn’t have to sit around twiddling my thumbs all day giving the mixture time to “sit” before I could use it.  A win-win situation!

So there you have it guys, my little solution for those pesky bubbles in your medium and paint mixtures.  Now you can easily avoid moon craters if they’re not what you’re going for in your own works.  I hope this has helped you, leave me a comment with your thoughts!

Thanks for reading, and till next time, keep creating!

-Ashley <3

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  1. Thanks for this. I started out looking for ways to reduce bubbles when using watercolor pencils and came upon your website. I love it!

    Anyway, still need to find out about watercolor bubbles. Any suggestions or ideas would be greatly appreciated.

    Can’t wait to check out your website.


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