Making Acrylic Skins

Acrylic skins are made with acrylic paint and gel medium. Why not just mix the paint and gel medium on your journal page? Because creating a skin is more versatile. The skin can be cut, stamped, printed, or stenciled. It can be placed where you want it to be, not where it accidentally wound up. It adds an interesting texture and color to your art journal pages.

Here’s how to make your own acrylic/gel skin:

gel1Cut a piece of plastic wrap about 12 inches x 12 inches. Smooth it out on your work space. Put the plastic wrap on a light piece of paper so you can see and control the color mix. Drip several colors of acrylic paint on the plastic wrap. Don’t use tube watercolors, as they aren’t plastic, and right now, you want plastic.

gel-2Once you have all the acrylic down the way you want it, pour about the same amount of gel medium over the paints, spreading it around as you pour. This is semi-gloss, so it will be clear, but not have a high shine. If you want a high shine, use gloss. You can also use matte medium, but it has a tendency to be a bit translucent rather than transparent. Don’t dismiss it, it’s quite an interesting effect, particularly when mixed with gloss gels.

gel3Using a palette knife, blend the paint and the gel until you get an interesting mix. Do not over-stir, otherwise you’ll get a muddy color instead of different color blends.

gel-4Once you are finished blending, the hard part starts–patience. Before you peel the skin off it has to have cured overnight–and that’s in Phoenix. You may have to wait longer if it’s humid where you live.  Peel it off too early, and you won’t get a single piece, but rather rubbery bits. It does need time, so I like doing skins before I go to bed at night. That way, they are ready the next day. I deliberately made this uneven–thinner and thicker places. I think it’s more interesting to play with.

Quinn McDonald never got over playing with paints.

22 thoughts on “Making Acrylic Skins

  1. I have a high gloss background prepared on a canvas. This would be a wonderful addition to achieve my finished piece! Once I have my design, how would I attach the skin? Also wondering if objects can be added to the mix during the skin-making stage or best done afterwards?

    • The skin is acrylic paint–plastic. You can use more acrylic paint or gel medium. Use the medium that matches the paint–gloss, satin, or matte. You want to know if you can add “objects” to your mix. Cars? Tires? Glitter? Feathers? Define “objects” and I’ll take a guess. Your best bet is to try your “objects” using a silpat to see what happens. Almost everything that is heavier than the paint will sink.

  2. My acrylic skin is creeping all over the place and there’s no stopping it even after 24 hrs. Its now an untidy, weird shape, can I use a heat go on it?

  3. Brilliant! Hm, wondering now what else, besides my journal, I could add skin to. The potential! 😉 Acrylic and gesso or acrylic and decoupage… which look/dry/flatten/seal better together?

    • You can use skins on greeting cards and boxes, postcards, self-made bookcovers, placecards and placemats, instead of bows on wrapping paper. Because gesso is meant to cover over paint or print, it may give you very different results than medium.

  4. All right then, instead of saying I had to peel the acrylic paint off 30 jar lids because they were aweful I will say I was making skins. Shame I already threw the skins to the garbage.
    I hadn´t used my acrylic base in so long I had to go buy a new one today. Trying again this afternoon.
    I have already decided that if it doesn´t work I will mix the colours and say they were meant to be marble style.

  5. I too, have done this with just paint but not mixing in the gel medium. I will definitely give this a go! Thanks for sharing this and I appreciate your thorough instructions and tips! Love your blog! It’s one of only a few that I make certain to read. Thank you!

    • Well, I am using gloss medium, and the purpose of medium is to extend the open time of acrylics. And for me, in Arizona, I don’t need it to dry faster. I could use a hair dryer or put it outside, but I’m fine with waiting overnight. You could use glue, but it puckers when it dries.

  6. I have always peeled the skin off the jar lids I use for mixing paints, but have not thought of mixing in gel medium. I’ll have to try that. Thanks for the suggestion.

    • You can plan colors, but the rest is up to the paint. For example, gold paint often drifts to the bottom of the skin, so while the top looks lightly flecked in gold, the bottom is almost solid with swirls. You’ll love the surprises!

  7. I love making skins! I have found that I like making a smooth gloss base first and then after that dries, I add the colors on top. Of course that takes twice as much patience!

    • Like you I prefer to make and store clear skins then create on them when I’m ready. I find that mat mod podge spreads on typical page protector sheets work best. It wants to bead up when it is applied but repeated stroking with a one inch flat brush eventually overcomes the beading. Once dry they may be stored best rolled with the sheet protector still attached into some rags torn form old bed sheets. mat Mod Podge is great for making the base ground and peals readily went your art work is finished.

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