As an artist, I have learned over time that acrylic paints need to be combined with a thinner. Not only does a medium thinner give your paints a better quality product, but it also allows you to not waste as much, saving you money.
With some only requiring a bit of water, many paints do best with a professional medium.
After testing on multiple surfaces, such as fabric to glassware, we found the following products to be the best options when creating your next masterpiece.
Whether you want an odorless acrylic, a paint thinner specifically designed for painting on fabrics, or a high quality binder, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive into the world of acrylic paint thinners!
Best Acrylic Paint Thinner For Fabrics
I am a big fan of acrylic painted t-shirts. The detail and beauty that can be captured on that type of surface is amazing.
After doing some research, I purchased a few different mediums, a couple 100% cotton shirts, and some brushes. I settled in with a picture in mind.
First and foremost, it is best to have a practice surface to paint on, as different fabrics can have mixed reactions. Also, as a good rule of thumb it is best to use gloves when handling chemicals.
Along with longevity and flexibility as factors for painting the t-shirts, I finally found the best paint thinner for this project: Liquitex Professional Fluid Medium.
This medium comes in a 4 oz bottle up to 16 oz. Liquitex dries to a non yellowing shine, which makes it a great option when mixing with bright colors.
What puts this product over the top is its flexibility. I found that the others dried to a flaky hue. With Liquitex, I was able to see the details and colors while remaining soft to the surface, making it more comfortable for wear.
Overall, this product can be used by any level of artist, including children as it is non toxic. It extended the life of my paints and produced an art worthy outcome.
- Dries clear
- Extends the dry time up to 40%
- Lightweight and flexible on fabric
What We Don’t Like
- It does not dry stiff
- Made the colors brighter when dry
- Great for any level of artist!
What We Don’t Like
- Longer dry times aren’t ideal for every project
- Must hand wash the shirts
- A bit costly for the novice painter
Best Acrylic Binder
While mediums are a great option for making the paint last longer, a binder takes it one step further. Not only do the colors appear brighter and more precise, but dries to a smooth varnish. A binder can also be combined with just water for a simple bright finish.
In this category, we have a clear winner: PEBEO Bindex Brilliant.
This product comes in small 100 ml bottles up to one liter. It also dries clear and bright, which is especially nice when painting on dark surfaces. The PEBEO binder also worked with other mediums such as added water or glue.
I used the binder on a space painting where I wanted the neon colors to stand out on a black canvas. Not only did it dry to a brighter hue, but when the lights were out, the colors showed right through creating a nighttime landscape.
Altogether, this binder was the best choice for this project. It did not require a lot of product and I was able to use it as a varnish to finish the painting. This binder is for experienced artists, as it is a chemical and requires certain ratios to work properly.
- Doubles as a varnish and medium
- Dries clear and bright
- Works with most paint brands
What We Like
- Bright colors really shine with this binder
- Can also be combined with acrylic powders
- Works as a great varnish
What We Don’t Like
- This one is made to be used outdoors or with a mask in a well-ventilated room
- A bit too spendy as a medium with acrylic fluid art
- Not family-friendly
Best Odorless Paint Thinner
Nothing ruins your artistic flow like a strong smell of chemicals. Luckily, in today’s market, there are now more companies going odorless.
I conducted a blind test with and without added acrylic paint to a few brands that claim to be odorless.
In the end, only one came up on top: Mona Lisa Odorless Paint Thinner.
This product comes in a 32 oz bottle. One bottle can last for many sessions as it requires only a small amount to work properly.
This thinner didn’t have a noticeable odor When the acrylic paint was added, it only changed the smell slightly. When dry, any odor was gone. After cleaning the brushes with this thinner, the paint easily came off.
Final thoughts, this product, like all thinners, should only be handled by an adult. In this case, the Mona Lisa is best suited for advanced painters and works well with most paints, including oil.
- Almost no odor
- Comparable to turpentine
- Less product needed per paint session
What We Like
- While still flammable, this can be used indoors safely
- Cost effective for the amount in each bottle
- No lingering smells!
What We Don’t Like
- If not shaken before use, it will not combine correctly
- Not child or pet friendly. Must be covered and placed on a high shelf.
- Only one size available
How To Thin Acrylic Paint
When trying to decide the ratios of paint and added thinner, the numbers can be all over the map. While some projects do better with thicker paint, most fare well with a thinned out version.
Two rules of thumb that I always use when thinning out my paint for a project:
- First, start with a small amount of added thinner, stir, and add more to get the right consistency.
- Next, let the paint mixture sit for about 20 minutes before using. This allows for the two bases to mix well.
In this section, we will discuss the best ratios for your painting, whether you’re using water, medium, or binder to thin the paint.
Thinning Acrylic Paint With Water
For many artists, water plays the biggest role when thinning paint to the right consistency. When pairing acrylic paint with water, it is best to use filtered water. Consistent products are the key to a great mixture.
Paints remain the same quality, but water quality varies from city to city.. While most urban communities have added chlorine and fluoride to the municipal water systems, there are still states that have not adopted this practice.
Acrylic paint can be stretched pretty thin and still work well. After many tests, 70:30 is the best water-to-paint ratio.
The thickness you’re looking for is a melted ice cream stability. When titling the paint, if it moves slowly like lava, add a bit more water.
Using the water method works best on acrylic pour paintings and large landscape portraits.
Thinning Acrylic Paint With Medium
For advanced artists,medium is an important tool. All mediums have a different consistency, so start with a small amount.
Using the Liquitex medium as my base, I started with a 1:1 ratio. This mixed the paint with the first portion of medium.
I then continued to add more medium while stirring in between.
The best medium-to-paint ratio is usually 3:1. The consistency looks like melted caramel, a bit thicker than the water base.
This combination works best on detailed portraits on canvas and most fabrics such as a t-shirt.
Thinning An Acrylic Paint With An Acrylic Binder
Using a binder to thin acrylic paint is slightly different than using a Medium
A binder in general has the same components as an acrylic paint but without color. This additive slows the drying time with a finished shine.
While some claim the best ratio is a 1:1, I found that using less was more.
Many standard acrylic paint bottles on the market are typically 2 oz. For the best consistency, I settled on a 2oz paint to ¼ teaspoon binder. And of course, I recommend PEBEO Bindex Acrylic Binder.
While still quite thick, this is the time to add the water. A small bit at a time.
If you’re looking to create a very detailed painting, keep the consistency like caramel. Thinking of an abstract look? Think ice cream.
Mineral Spirits vs. Paint Thinner
Most artists are quite familiar with paint thinner. We use it to clean paint brushes. The odor alone gives it away.
Thankfully, along came mineral spirits or “white spirits”.
So what is the difference if they both clean paint brushes?
Paint thinner is used as a general term for all cleaners, while mineral spirits is used for a specific structure of thinner.
However, in general conversation, both mineral spirits and paint thinners are interchangeable. They both contain the same base ingredients, but mineral spirits aren’t as pungent.
When trying to choose the best mineral spirit, stick to these facts:
- Turpentine substitutes: Many companies use this labeling on their products. Try to be careful when selecting as some have adverse effects on the paint, such as leaving an oily residue on your brush.
- Stoddard solvent: This is the winner by far. In fact, this solvent was discovered by two professional dry cleaners in 1924. After constantly feeling ill from the fumes when cleaning the clothing, they discovered the Stoddard solvent. It was vastly used in most dry cleaners until the 50’s due to its low odor qualities and cleaning ability.
Mineral spirits tend to be more expensive but can be used indoors. However, they’re still flammable, so it is best to keep it out of reach of little hands.
How To Dispose Of Acrylic Paint Thinner
When working with any kind of paint thinner, including mineral spirits, it is best to complete this task outdoors or a well-ventilated area with gloves.
- Gather up the rags: Any rags that had thinner on it and are no longer usable. Grab a tin can, push the rags to the bottom, and fill the rest with cool water. Seal it and take it to the nearest dump station. Want to keep them a bit longer? Lay them out flat in a ventilated area till dry.
- Give it time: Most paint thinners have more than one life. When finished cleaning the brushes, let the rest sit. Over the course of a few days, the solvent will separate from the grease.
- Re-bottle and label: Now pour the clean thinner into a new container and label it properly. Leave about an inch of thinner in the original can as this amount is still not separated.
- Let the rest dry out: Make sure to scrape any dried residue into the can of leftover paint. Seal well. As far as washing, use some dish soap and a clean rag. Let them air dry.
Acrylic Paint Thinner FAQs
The best acrylic paint thinner will depend on whether you need a textile medium for fabric, a binder, or simply need water to thin out the paint.
Depending on the paint thinner, you’ll get an assortment of distilled water, mediums, and binders.
Use a combination of paint plus water, medium, or binder. Mix until you get the consistency of ice cream or caramel.
It is always good practice to keep a wipe rag by your side when working with paints. If the paint is still wet, it is easier to clean. Once dried, use a soft brush with a bit of soapy water. Wipe clean.
Paint thinner is dangerous when handled inappropriately. They are flammable and often toxic. Keep them in cool spaces, sealed, and out of reach of children.
If in a pinch, rubbing alcohol is a good substitute. It works best on only acrylic paints, not additives.
Do not use Windex as a paint thinner – you will end up with a slimy mess!
While this is not a good practice, brush cleaner can be combined with acrylic paint as a thinner. Typically a 50/50 mixture.