Modeling Paste VS Gel Medium

Mixing mediums like modeling paste and gel medium add body and thickness to thinner paints to create more texture. If you have seen any of my painting tutorials, you know I am a sucker for texture. 

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Modeling Paste VS Gel Medium The Social Easel Online Paint Studio (1) (1)

Most of the time, I create texture with my color combinations and painting techniques like using a palette knife. But sometimes, I want more. I love the look of impasto painting. Impasto painting is when you apply thick layers of paint onto your canvas, making the brush strokes more visible and high off the surface. This texture is often done with oil paints, but you can also do impasto with acrylic paints by using a mixing medium. 

But what mixing medium do you use? This is a question I get all the time. For me, it’s not an either/or. I like to use both modeling paste and gel medium. It just depends on the project I am creating. 

Modeling Paste VS Gel Medium The Social Easel Online Paint Studio

In this blog, I will explain the differences between the two, share the techniques I use for both, and explain why you want to use each one for different applications. 

In the video below, you will see the techniques I will be using in our Funky Winter Flowers. You can sign up here.

Modeling Paste VS Gel Medium The Social Easel Online Paint Studio (2)

Gel Medium

Gel Medium is lightweight with a medium-thick viscosity. It comes in many finishes, but I lean towards matte because my acrylic paints are usually matte, and it keeps a consistent look.  

Because gel medium dries clear, it won’t change the color of paint, so you can mix them together before application, and it often makes your paint color more vibrant. This also means that you can make your color stretch because you have created more paint. You can take it even further and create a glaze by tinting the gel medium with a small amount of paint. 

Gel Medium Acrylic Painting Tips The Social Easel

Another feature of the gel medium is that it is a paint extender. So your paint will stay wet longer, giving you more time to play with your texture. 

I also like to use gel medium as an adhesive in my mixed media art!

Texture with Gel Medium The Social Easel

Gel Medium Breakdown

  • medium-thick viscosity
  • increases the vibrancy
  • dries clear and won’t change the paint color
  • increases the amount of paint
  • extends dry time
  • can be used to make glazes
  • great adhesive for mixed media artwork

Modeling Paste

Modeling paste is very high in viscosity. It is like the texture of a really thick frosting. It can give you peaks and that ability to literally stand up on your canvas and create that 3D effect. 

Modeling Paste Acrylic Painting Tips The Social Easel

Modeling paste dries opaque white, so it will change the color of your paint if you mix them. If you want your colors to stay true, apply the modeling paste first, then after it dries, paint it. 

Modeling Paste Acrylic Painting Tips The Social Easel (1)

This is what I did when designing my Funky Winter Flowers for my upcoming workshop. I used modeling paste to create tons of texture, forming all the flowers and berries. First, I applied the modeling paste to my canvas with a palette knife, creating my desired shapes, letting it dry completely, and then painted the color on top.

Don't Miss the Fun Workshop Funky Flowers Paint Party Social Easel Online Paint Studio

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on dry time, but on average, it is suggested to allow a full 24hrs for the modeling paste to dry completely. You might be tempted to pull out your hair drying to speed up this process, but proceed with caution because modeling paste can crack if dried too fast. 

Texture with Modeling Paste Acrylic Painting Tips The Social Easel

Modeling Paste Breakdown

  • high viscosity – creates more texture
  • buildable with proper dry time between layers
  • increases dry time
  • dries opaque white 
  • will change paint color if mixed
Modeling Paste VS Gel Medium The Social Easel Online Paint Studio (1)

There are lots of ways to add texture with mixing mediums to your artwork. In the video below, I walk you through all the techniques I use with modeling paste and gel medium and also show you a few different background textures created with palette knives and stippling techniques.

If you want to learn more about palette knife painting, you can learn all my favorite techniques HERE.

Watch Christie Breakdown Modeling Paste VS Gel Medium

Have you used modeling paste or gel medium in your art? Hopefully, this information helps you decide which mixing medium you want to use in your next project.

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Stay creative,