How to Thin Acrylic Paint for Airbrush?

How to Thin Acrylic Paint

One of the things you will notice when you squeeze out some acrylic paint directly from its tube is how thick the liquid paint is. This can be a problem for newbies trying out acrylic for the first time. Even if you want some depth in color for your art piece, very thick acrylic paint will mess up your paint job. Experienced painters already expect this and know they will have to thin the acrylic paint before applying it.

I did some research and came up with the answer:

How to Thin Acrylic Paint?

There are 7 ways to thin acrylic paint: by adding water, gesso, anti-congealing agents, acrylic glazing liquids, flow improvers, alcohol, cleaning spray. Among them, the most convenient and cheap way is to thin with 30-50% water, and the best method for an artist is to add an acrylic medium to thin it out.

But that’s just a quick preview, in this article, we’ll discuss:

  • Why do acrylic paints need thinning?
  • What do you use to thin acrylic paint
  • How to thin acrylic paint for airbrush with water or acrylic medium?
  • How to thin acrylic paint for pouring

Before you use acrylic paint pouring, there are some things you will have to do to prepare this paint type. The thinning is the hardest part of using acrylic. If you don’t follow the process accurately, you can end up with the wrong shade or worse have to get a paint replacement.

Luckily, you are reading this guide, and we will be happy to show you everything you need to know to get things done right.

We will cover the basics and give you a very detailed guide on how to thin your acrylic. There are many ways to do this, but it will cover most artists’ standard methods used today.

Why Do Acrylic Paints Need Thinning?

One of the things you need to know about acrylic craft paint is its construction and all of its unique characteristics. This way, you can understand why it needs to be thinned. Although acrylic might be a difficult nut to crack, it will be easier to work with this substance when you get familiar with its characteristics. So why is thinning acrylic paint important?

Acrylic is a water-soluble paint solution, When you add water to it, the acrylic slowly dissolves and becomes thinner. if you don’t get the thinning right, you might reduce the depth or consistency of the paint. It could end up becoming really light like watercolor, or you may end up losing the paint color completely.

This is what makes it different from oil-based paints. When you add water to oil-based paint, it won’t dissolve the paint, and you will probably need a much stronger solvent to dissolve it, like an acrylic paint medium.

The reason why acrylic paint is soluble in water is because of the binding agent in the paint. Acrylic uses the acrylic polymer emulsion as its binding against which readily dissolves in water.

This is the essential ingredient that makes up this paint type. Also, the polymer is produced alongside a coloring pigment responsible for the color you get from the paint, which is also a water-soluble agent.

You can see why it isn’t surprising that acrylic dissolves in water. It is easy to break down this substance with water or through any other medium.

how to thin acrylic paint

What Do You Use to Thin Acrylic Paint?

  • Water
  • Gesso
  • Anti-congealing Agents
  • Acrylic glazing liquids
  • Flow improvers
  • Alcohol
  • Cleaning spray

How to Thin Acrylic Paint for Airbrush?


As we mentioned earlier, there are several ways you can get your acrylic craft paint thinned, but the most common method is with water. We will be starting with how to thin acrylic paint with water.

Can you use water to thin acrylic paint for airbrushing?

Water is the most effective and available method to use. You can get water anywhere when you need it, and it is cheap. You won’t be spending extra bucks on an expensive medium.

However, you can’t just go ahead to pour water into your acrylic craft paint. You may end up making a mistake common with newbies.

Like we said earlier, knowing the composition of the paint will help you with the thinning process. You will need to work accurately with measurements, and by this we mean, you should be very careful when applying water.

How much water to thin acrylic paint?

The safest method is to avoid mixing more than 50% of water and paint. If you add more water to a 1:2 ratio of water to your paint, you will damage your acrylic.

Too much water will over-saturate the paint and even make it peel from the canvas after it dries up. The paint will chip off from the surface you are painting. Thinning acrylic paint with water should be done moderately.

How to thin acrylic paint with water?

To be on the safe side, you can mix the acrylic with the water on a different palette or get a small cup to mix it. By doing this, you can mix until you get the correct viscosity you need.

We recommend you also get a palette knife when mixing water with your acrylic or using a simple brush to mix and rinse it off.

Is it bad to use water to thin acrylic paint?

Using water will be a good idea if you are doing a domestic painting job.

For professionals, it is not always a reliable method because it could end up over-saturating the paint. You may not get the right color consistency with the water thinning method.

Thinning Acrylic Paint With Water

Can I use painting medium to thin out acrylic paint?

There are other mediums used to thin acrylic craft paint. However, compared to water, you will be spending money on them.

They are usually quite expensive but are also recommended for professional use.

You get better results using these mediums compared to water. They are many perks to using these thinning agents, and most artists prefer them over water.

Mediums are better, especially for professional painting jobs, and they give the right consistency. You also won’t need to worry about applying excess agents compared to water.


Can you thin acrylic paint with gesso?

Gesso usually comes in a white or clear substance comprising of gypsum, chalk, or pigment. You can use gesso to thin your acrylic paint, you can do this in two ways.

Many canvases already come pre-coated with gesso to make it easier to apply your paint. If your canvas doesn’t come with gesso, you can prime it yourself so that the paint added does not get absorbed.

You can also mix the gesso with acrylic craft paint to thin it out until you get your desired consistency.

Thinning Acrylic Paint with Gesso

Anti-congealing Agents

Adding these thinning agents can help get you the right consistency. Anti-congealing agents are of two types the acrylic thinners and airbrush thinners.

Thinning acrylic paint for airbrushes is one of the effective ways to go about it, primarily if you already work with airbrushes.

If you have been looking for an effective solution to thin acrylic paint for airbrushes, you should try the US Art Supply Airbrush Thinner.

Acrylic Glazing Liquids

You can also use acrylic glazing liquids to thin your paint. They usually come in a milky white substance and slow drying, which is good because it won’t allow your acrylic to dry up quickly.

You can mix it with your paint until you get the right consistency. It is also won’t cause your paint to flak or wash off the color.

You can mix the grazing liquids to get the color depth, whether light or slightly dark shade.

Flow Improvers

What can i use to thin acrylic paint for pouring?

Flow improvers break down paint viscosity to make the paint flow better. It does not compromise the paint’s texture or strength. It is the best way to thin acrylic paint for pouring.

How to use flow improver for acrylic paint?

Flow improvers are easier to apply, and you won’t need to worry about your paint flaking.

Flow improvers are usually made with acrylic polymer emulsions, which, as you already know, is the same binding agent in acrylic paints.

You can keep adding the flow improver until you get the desired texture. The best part about this substance is that you won’t need to worry about a mixing ratio like water.

Acrylic flow improver drying time

If your acrylic pour is thin, it usually takes 12 hours with the flow improver, and if it is thicker, it usually takes 24 hours or more.

Winsor and newton acrylic flow improver

It would help if you got the Winsor & Newton Flow Improver which is one of the most effective acrylic thinners and won’t reduce the consistency of your paint.

Alcohol and Cleaning Spray

Can you thin acrylic paint with alcohol?

You can thin acrylic using household items from your kitchen, including hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, and cleaning spray.

Thinning acrylic paint with alcohol is also a very effective method. You can rub acrylic against isopropyl alcohol.

However, this should be done right. Using high alcohol concentrations can cause the paint to gather or gum up.

How much alcohol can you use to thin acrylic paint?

Your safe bet will be to apply concentrations around 30 to 70%, or you can dilute the alcohol by mixing with water before applying it to your acrylic paint.

Some of the things you should avoid mixing your acrylic with are ammonium, vinegar, and high alcohol concentrations.

FAQs about How to Thin Acrylic Paint for Airbrush

How to thin acrylic latex paint with water for airbrushing models?

  • Pour acrylic latex paint into a bucket
  • Add 100ml of water per gallon of latex paint
  • mix them thoroughly
  • Check the paint thickness so that it can flow freely through the funnel

How to thin folk art heavy body acrylic paint?

Thinning folk art Heavy Body Acrylics with water is a very effective method. The more water you add to the heavy body acrylic paint, the greater the subsequent shrinkage of the paint layer. Because the fluid starts with lower viscosity, less water is required.

How to thin apple barrel acrylic paint for airbrush?

You can mix water and acrylic paint in a 1:2 ratio for thinning or follow the paint thinner specified on the apple barrel acrylic paint label. Then make them unbreakable by shaking them evenly until you are satisfied.

How to thin acrylic enamel interior house paint for spraying?

Mix a small amount of the specified paint thinner, mineral spirits, or water into the paint. Then refill the gun and test the paint concentration. If the paint does not flow evenly, continue adding thinner until the paint is flowing evenly from the gun or the maximum thinner specified on the acrylic enamel label is reached.

Do i need to thin tamiya acrylic paint?

Tamiya acrylic paint is thinner than other acrylic paints, whether or not you need to thin the acrylic paint depends on the size of the nozzle on your airbrush and the thickness you need. You can thin it with water, alcohol, or the paint thinner specified by Tamiya acrylic paint.

Can you thin acrylic paint with acetone?

Acetone is a common solvent for paints. You can use acetone to thin acrylic paints mixed in a 1:4 ratio, but using acetone to thin acrylic paints is not a very good method and is not recommended.

Can you thin acrylic paint with mineral spirits? 

You cannot thin water-based acrylic paints with mineral spirits as the oil-based mineral spirits will significantly reduce the adhesion of water-based acrylic craft paints. Therefore, weakening acrylic paints with mineral spirits is not commonly used by artists.

Airbrush flow improver vs. thinner

The flow improver prevents the gun tip from drying out quickly because it has a drying retarder, especially with smaller needle guns and very thin paints. Whereas paint thinners simply thin the paint.

Did I Cover All You Wanted to Know About: How to Thin Acrylic Paint for Airbrush?

We have covered the standard methods for thinning acrylic paint, and we hope this guide helps you. The best thinner for acrylic paint will depend on your budget and the method you choose. You can feel free to try any of the methods suggested in this guide.

However, remember that when applying simple solutions like water and alcohol, you should consider the ratio. Using water is the easiest way to thin paint. Acrylic mediums are reliable and give better results besides compared to water. Also, thinning agents won’t flak your paint or cause it to chip off. However, it all depends on your choice and where you intend to apply your acrylic paint.

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