What is Acrylic Plaster and How Can You Use It?

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acrylic plaster

Those who approach the world of painting on canvas for the first time have many questions that run through their heads and increase the proportion to their innate curiosity. Some decide to proceed slowly, and therefore begin most simply, for example, by starting to paint on paper with watercolors, or perhaps with acrylic colors, reserving most of the issues for the future. And there are those who, as soon as they enter the world of painting, there are those who must know everything and immediately start painting and cool drawing ideas with oil colors on cotton canvases in no time.

And in these cases, the questions are many: what are mediums, and how are they used? What is turpentine used for? How should the canvas be prepared for painting? And, as this post title, what is acrylic plaster? It is precisely this last question that we will try to answer today and then explain its uses and how it is used.

Gypsum: A Preliminary Explanation

When you enter the world of painting on canvas. Whether with oil or acrylic colors, you come across different products whose nature you do not know well. In the case of acrylic plaster, the difficulties multiply, also because we feel we are faced with something that, deep down, we seem to know. Yes, because there are many things in our life that we indicate with the term chalk: there are those pieces of white or colored chalk that we use on the blackboard, there are chalks to put on arms or legs in case of fractures, there are it is the gypsum that is used in construction, there is the gypsum that is used in dental technology and so on.

But what is gypsum? It is a relatively soft mineral composed of calcium sulfate dehydrate. This mineral is extracted from quarries and mines, as there are in Piedmont, Tuscany, Sicily, Emilia Romagna, and so on. But how does plaster enter our lives? For use in the artistic field, in construction, in stationery, in dental technology, and so on, the gypsum is dehydrated through a cooking process of over 100 degrees that allows eliminating most of the water that is inside. Here, dry plaster is the critical component of acrylic plaster. There is, however, something else too.

What is acrylic plaster?

We have seen what gypsum is as a mineral and as a material. What must further processing be done to obtain the highly used acrylic plaster? Well, what is missing is a binder, something that makes the plaster workable and compact. For this purpose, it is mixed with an acrylic resin to have a material that is workable and resistant to water once spread and dried.

Almost everyone calls this product acrylic gypsum, even if a small minority indicates it with the term “gypsum background,” to underline its specific use to prepare canvases (which we will see very soon). On our e-commerce of products and accessories for art, you can find acrylic plaster in a tube or a jar, depending on the quantity needed.

What is acrylic plaster used for?

But what is acrylic plaster used for? This product has many different uses: we can certainly say that what we are talking about today is a very versatile product for art. Its primary use, or rather, the most popular one, is the background for paintings on canvas. As we will see in the next paragraph, acrylic plaster is at the center of the standard and “fast” process of priming a new canvas to have a perfect base for your work. 

But that’s not all, as gypsum can also be used as a base on other substrates, such as wood, cardboard, cement, and plaster, with one or more coats: in all cases, it will be possible to have a surface particularly suitable for adhering the colors we are going to use. It is also possible to use acrylic plaster to create “reliefs” on the canvas, adding a third dimension to the painting: for example, you can give a further movement to a wavy sea. Finally, the sculptors use plaster paste to create casts, as well as sometimes authentic sculptures.

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The acrylic platter for priming the canvas

We have already dedicated an entire post to the priming of the canvas to be painted or to that skillful process that allows us to prepare this support to receive our colors.

As we have anticipated, acrylic plaster is widely used in the priming process. However, it must be said that there are many different techniques for priming a canvas, which mixes different materials from time to time. We speak of gypsum, but also lime, lead white, oil, adhesives, and so on. The goal, in any case, is always to create a background capable of retaining the color and keeping it bright and elastic over time. 

The primer is done on a pre-primed canvas – such as are typically found on the market. Some do not do the primer at all. Those do it by covering the canvas with a neutral acrylic color, and those who instead follow ancient and complicated techniques. You can choose the compromise with acrylic plaster: it will be sufficient to spread it on the canvas using a bristle brush or a spatula. It will let it dry, then gently sand it with fine sandpaper to repeat the operation if necessary.

DIY acrylic plaster

In our online fine art shop, you can find ready-to-use acrylic plaster. But maybe you also want to experience the thrill of preparing it at home with your own hands. It is not difficult, but it does take a bit of an eye, as the proportions vary according to the type of source material. You will need dry and ground plaster mixed with water – without forming lumps, pouring a little water at a time – and vinyl glue. In principle, we can start with a proportion like one part of plaster for every two parts of water. It must be said to try it at home, and it is possible to experiment even using simple talcum powder to make a “glass” of modeling paste for your works.

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