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Universal Medium and Varnish

 - Universal Medium - more versatile than you can imagine -

Atelier Universal Medium and Varnish by Chroma Australia.  I just love it.  I seem to find more and more uses for it - all the time.

We’ll start with a basic understanding of paint, which is fundamentally coloured grit bits suspended in glue.  Of course, the better quality paints have more coloured grit, and better quality glue.  In the painting process though, we often ask a lot of our paints.  And we thin them down with water and break down the glue.  While in some cases this isn’t important, it can sometimes lead to problems later when putting varnish over a painting, or over-working the area.  Because the glues have been broken down, the paint becomes unstable and can be moved by vigorous brushstrokes. 

Instead of breaking down the paint with water, adding Universal Medium instead is a great option.  The bonus is, you can add extra water to create thinner and thinner colour washes, without destroying the glue too much.  There is a limit to how much water you can put in however!

The added bonus of using Universal Medium, is that pigment is suspended in the clear, so the light can travel into the painting, giving greater luminosity in your finished piece.  

Universal Medium can also be added very gently over unstable washes, to “lock them in”, and prevent them being damaged.  Make sure though, that you don’t work over it too much - because the activity may also damage the paint beneath (if in any doubt, use Heavy Gel Gloss - impasto gel - this will keep some separation between the surface underneath, and where your brush is actually hitting).  

Sometimes it may be necessary to do a blend from an area that’s already painted, into an area that needs another coat.  I find using a coat of Universal Medium, and blending the colour back into that, works great.  Universal Medium doesn’t affect the area you’ve already painted, and gives a wet area for you to work the paint back into.

Another great trick is, for example, when painting a sunset (Glazing Liquid is ideal for this), a coat of Universal Medium around the area of intense light, and some thin washes strategically painted into it to increase the luminosity, is a really simple (and satisfying) way of making incremental shifts to paintings that are almost finished.  The added bonus is that it adds another layer of clear to the surface, and therefore another opportunity for light to travel through the picture and bounce luminous colour back to your eyes.  Be careful though, Universal Medium dries fairly quickly.  Work fast!

We all know that I love Atelier Interactive for their fantastic blending capabilities.  Sometimes however, having the paint re-open, can be problematic.  A few splashes of Universal Medium mixed into your colour will make the paint much more stable, and means that the paint is “locked in” and won’t re-open.  Adding Universal Medium makes Atelier Interactive behave more like “normal” acrylic paint.  Best of both worlds!

Sometimes I like to really bury my layers of paint in layers of clear, and really want to eliminate a lot of the brushstrokes.  A couple of coats of Heavy Gel Gloss brushed on softly, and lightly softened out, and then I’ll add highlights, then a layer of Universal Medium over the top, and often in between each layer of highlights.  Eventually the weave of the canvas is filled, and a really multi-dimensional, smooth, high gloss, almost lacquered effect is achieved.  It’s fantastic for painting images where you’re trying to create a powerful 3D effect. 

One of the other effects of using Universal Medium and Varnish is that because it’s a gloss finish, it makes the darks deeper, so increases the contrast and therefore the depth and dynamism.

Heavy Gel Gloss can often remain slightly tacky for a long period of time, and can occasionally stick to things.  Universal Medium dries to a quite hard finish, so eliminates the “tackiness” of the Heavy Gel Gloss.  I quite often paint a coat of Universal Medium over Heavy Gel Gloss before I send a painting, to make sure the painting doesn’t stick to the packaging.  That hardness also makes the surface quite durable and easy to clean. 

I usually finish my paintings with a couple of solid coats of Universal Medium & Varnish.

Hope you got something out of these tips, and have some fun with some Uni Medium today!

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