How To Make Acrylic Paint More Opaque

How To Make Acrylic Paint More Opaque

Acrylic paint is a popular choice for artists due to its versatility, affordability, and ability to dry quickly.

However, one of its drawbacks is its transparency, which can make it challenging to achieve the desired level of opacity in some instances.

This article will explore the factors affecting the opacity of acrylic paint and provide various techniques on how to make acrylic paint more opaque.

Additionally, we will provide tips for achieving maximum opacity, troubleshooting common problems, and comparing acrylic paints to other colors in terms of opacity.

How to Make Acrylic Paint More Opaque

To make acrylic paint more opaque, apply two or three layers of gesso as a base before painting. Gesso can also be mixed with paint to create a tinted base, enhancing color vividness and opaqueness due to its ingredients.

Understanding Opacity in Acrylic Paint – What is Opaque Paint?

How To Make Acrylic Paint More Opaque

Opacity is a fundamental characteristic of paint that refers to the degree of light passing through it.

In painting, opacity can be described as the quality of a paint color to hide or cover the underlying surface.

Opaque paint covers what is underneath completely, while transparent acrylic paint allows the underlying surface to show through.

In acrylic painting, transparency plays a crucial role in the final result of the artwork.

Transparent acrylic paints, for example, can be used for glazes or to create luminous effects, while opaque colors are more suited for blocking and covering surfaces.

When painting with acrylics, it is important to understand the difference between transparent, translucent, and opaque colors to achieve the desired outcome.

As the name suggests, transparent colors are almost see-through, allowing light to pass through them.

These colors create luminous and subtle effects, such as layering or glazing.

Translucent colors are more opaque but still allow some underlying surface to show through.

These colors are useful for creating depth and dimension in a painting. On the other hand, opaque colors completely cover the underlying surface and are ideal for blocking or covering surfaces.

Factors Affecting Acrylic Paint Opacity

When I first started using acrylic paint, I struggled to make it opaque. After some research and experimentation, I discovered several factors that affect acrylic paint’s opacity.

Here are some of the key factors to consider:

Pigment type and concentration

The pigment type and concentration can greatly affect the opacity of acrylic paint. Some pigments are naturally more opaque than others.

For example, titanium white is highly opaque, while cadmium red is more transparent.

I’ve found that using paints with a higher pigment concentration can also increase their opacity.

Surface texture and absorbency

The surface texture and absorbency of the painting can also impact acrylic paint’s opacity.

Rough or porous surfaces absorb more paint, making it appear more transparent.

To combat this, I’ve started using smoother surfaces, such as canvas with a gesso primer, to achieve a more opaque result.

Painting techniques

How you apply the paint can also affect its opacity. Thicker layers of paint will generally be more opaque than thinner layers.

I’ve found that using a palette knife or a bristle brush to apply paint in a cross-hatching or stippling technique can help achieve a more opaque result.

Color mixing

The colors you mix together can also impact the opacity of the final result.

Mixing opaque colors together will create a more opaque color while mixing transparent colors will result in a more transparent color.

I’ve learned to use a color chart to see how different colors interact and adjust my color mixing accordingly.

Dilution level

Lastly, the amount of water or medium you add to your paint can affect its opacity.

Adding too much water or medium can dilute the paint and make it more transparent.

I’ve found that using a thicker paint consistency and adding only a small amount of water or medium helps maintain its opacity.

How to Make Acrylic Paint More Opaque

If you’re looking to make your acrylic paint more opaque, there are several things you can do. Here are some of the most effective methods:

1. Mixing paint colors

When I want to make my acrylic paints more opaque, one of the techniques I use is mixing paint colors.

I can create a less transparent paint mixture by combining more opaque colors.

This can be particularly useful when painting with transparent colors like yellows and reds. Here is a step-by-step process.

Step 1: Choose my opaque colors

I select thick acrylic paints like titanium white, cadmium yellow, or cadmium red. These colors have a higher pigment concentration and are naturally more opaque.

Step 2: Combine with transparent colors

I mix the chosen opaque color with the transparent color I want to use in my painting.

Step 3: Start with the opaque base

I always begin with the opaque color and then add small amounts of the transparent color until I reach my desired hue. This way, the resulting mixture will be more opaque than the transparent color alone.

Step 4: Mix thoroughly

I ensure to mix the colors well to achieve consistent opacity throughout the entire mixture.

Step 5: Consider complementary colors

I use colors with complementary hues to create a more opaque acrylic paint mixture, rather than mixing two colors with similar hues.

Step 6: Avoid muddy colors

I’m cautious when mixing colors that may create a muddy or less opaque result, like transparent yellow and transparent purple.

Step 7: Experiment with different combinations

I try mixing various transparent colors with different opaque colors to achieve a wide range of opaque paint mixtures suitable for my painting project.

2. Adding white paint or gesso

Adding white paint or gesso is another technique that can be used to make acrylic paint more opaque.

This technique involves mixing white paint or gesso with the color paint to make it more opaque. Here is a step-by-step process:

  • Step 1: Prepare white paint or gesso. I gather white paint or gesso to mix with my color paint to make it more opaque.
  • Step 2: Start mixing. I add a small amount of white paint or gesso to my color paint and mix it thoroughly.
  • Step 3: Gradually increase opacity. I continue adding white paint or gesso in small increments until I achieve the desired opacity. It’s important not to add too much, as it can alter the hue of the color.
  • Step 4: Mix carefully. I mix in small amounts, ensuring the desired opacity is achieved without changing the color.
  • Step 5: Prepare the gesso (optional). If using gesso, I mix it with water until it has a consistency similar to paint.
  • Step 6: Apply gesso to the surface (optional). I apply a thin layer of the gesso mixture to my canvas or painting surface and let it dry.
  • Step 7: Paint over the gesso (optional). Once the gesso is dry, I apply my color paint on top. The gesso provides a white base that helps make the color paint more opaque.

3. Using a colored ground

One way to make acrylic paint more opaque is to use colored ground. This technique involves painting the surface with a layer of color before starting the painting.

The ground’s color will influence how the paint colors appear on the surface. Using darker ground can create a more dramatic effect, while lighter ground can make the colors appear brighter.

  • Step 1: Choose the ground color. I select a ground color that complements the final painting.
  • Step 2: Apply the ground layer. I apply a layer of paint to the surface, making sure it’s evenly covered.
  • Step 3: Let the ground layer dry. I allow the ground layer to dry completely before applying any paint on top.
  • Step 4: Paint over the ground layer. Once the ground layer is dry, I start painting on top. The colors appear more opaque because they sit on the colored ground.
  • Step 5: Work with transparent or translucent colors. This technique is particularly effective when using naturally transparent acrylic paint or translucent colors.
  • Step 6: Consider color balance. I keep in mind that the colored ground will affect the color balance of the painting. Warm colors like red or orange will make the painting appear warmer overall, while cool colors like blue or green will make it appear cooler.

4. Layering paint

Layering acrylic paint is another technique that can help increase acrylic paint’s opacity.

The idea behind layering is to build the paint in thin layers, gradually obscuring the surface below.

By using thin, even layers of paint, you can create a smooth, solid surface that hides any underlying layers of paint or primer.

  • Step 1: Start with an opaque base layer. I begin with a base layer of paint that is as opaque as possible.
  • Step 2: Apply thin, even layers. I gradually build up additional layers of paint, making sure each layer is thin and even.
  • Step 3: Allow each layer to dry. I let each layer dry completely before applying the next one.
  • Step 4: Repeat for desired opacity. Depending on the color and transparency of my paint, I may need to apply several layers to achieve the desired level of opacity.
  • Step 5: Experiment with color variations. Using different colors for each layer allows me to create subtle variations in color and tone, adding depth and complexity to my painting.
  • Step 6: Try different painting techniques. I can create interesting textures and patterns by using different painting techniques (e.g., dry brushing or stippling) for each layer.

5. Selecting the right color brand

When selecting the right color brand for making thick acrylic paint more opaque, there are a few things to consider.

Step 1: Research quality brands. I look for brands known for producing high-quality and opaque acrylic paints.

Tip: Read reviews and ask fellow artists for their recommendations.

Step 2: Compare opacity ranges. I compare brands to find one that offers a wide range of opaque colors that suit my needs.

Step 3: Choose artist-grade paints (if possible). I prefer artist-grade acrylic paints, which have higher pigment concentrations and result in greater opacity.

Tip: Experiment with both artist-grade and student-grade paints to find the perfect balance between quality and affordability.

Step 4: Consider your budget. I balance my budget with the need for quality, keeping in mind that artist-grade paints are more expensive but offer superior opacity.

Tip: Look out for sales or discounts on artist-grade paints to save on costs.

Step 5: Invest in specific opaque colors. I consider investing in higher-quality, opaque versions of colors that naturally have higher opacity, such as titanium white.

Tip: Keep a list of your most frequently used colors to know which ones are worth investing in.

Step 6: Experiment with different brands. I try different brands and colors to find the best match for my style and technique, taking into account factors like opacity, consistency, and color intensity.

Tip: Purchase small tubes of different brands and colors for testing before committing to larger sizes.

Step 7: Consider the paint’s lightfastness. I pay attention to the lightfastness rating of the paint, which indicates its resistance to fading over time. This ensures that my artwork maintains its vibrancy and opacity for years to come.

Tip: Opt for paints with high lightfastness ratings for lasting opacity and color quality.

Step 8: Check the paint’s label. I always read the paint’s label to understand its transparency and opacity levels. Many brands use a scale or rating system to indicate the opacity of their paints.

Tip: Familiarize yourself with the opacity rating system used by your preferred brand to make informed choices about paint opacity.

6. Using artist or high-pigment paints

Another way to achieve opacity is to use artist or high-pigment paints. These paints contain a higher concentration of pigments, which makes them more opaque than student-grade paints.

Although artist-grade paints are more expensive, they are worth investing in to achieve greater opacity in your paintings.

When choosing artist-grade paints, it’s essential to consider the pigments’ quality. Cheaper artist-grade paints may still contain lower-quality pigments, making them less opaque.

Therefore, it’s important to research and choose paints with high-quality pigments to ensure maximum opacity.

In my experience, using high-pigment paints has made a significant difference in the opacity and vibrancy of my paintings.

Not only do they offer more opacity, but they also offer a richer, more intense color that is difficult to achieve with lower-quality paints.

So if you want to achieve greater opacity and color intensity, using artist or high-pigment paints is worth considering.

7. Swapping your paint color brand

Swapping your paint color brand can also affect the opacity of your acrylic paint. Different brands have different levels of opacity, and some brands may have more opaque colors in their range compared to others.

So, if you’re having trouble getting the opacity you need with your current paint brand, it might be worth trying a different one.

Personally, I’ve found that some artist-grade paints tend to have better opacity than student-grade paints.

So, if you’re currently using student-grade paints and having trouble getting the opacity you need, it might be worth investing in some higher-grade paints.

It’s also worth noting that some brands may have more consistent opacity levels across their colors.

So, if you find that one color from a particular brand is opaque, it’s likely that other colors from the same brand will have similar levels of opacity.

This can be helpful when selecting paints for a new painting, as you can be more confident in the opacity of your colors.

8. Avoiding excessive paint dilution

When making acrylic paint more opaque, it’s important to pay attention to the amount of water or medium you’re adding to the paint.

Diluting your paint too much can make it more transparent, which is the opposite of what we want.

  • To avoid excessive paint dilution, I recommend adding small amounts of water or medium at a time and mixing well between each addition.
    • Adding too little than too much is better, as you can always add more later if needed.
  • Another helpful tip is to use a palette with wells or separate compartments for each color.
    • This will help prevent accidentally mixing too much water or medium into your paint as you work.
  • Additionally, consider using a thicker or more concentrated paint, which will require less dilution to achieve the desired consistency.
    • Look for artist-grade or professional-quality paints, which tend to have higher pigment concentrations and are designed for maximum opacity.
  • Finally, pay attention to the drying time of your paint. Acrylic paint dries quickly, and if you’re working with a slow-drying brand, you may be tempted to add more water or medium to keep it wet longer.
    • However, this will also dilute the paint and make it more transparent. Instead, try using a slower-drying medium or working in smaller sections to avoid over-dilution.

Related Read: How to Thin Acrylic Paint to Pour

9. Using opaque acrylic mediums or additives

Using opaque acrylic mediums or additives

Using opaque mediums or additives is another effective way to make acrylic paint more opaque.

These products are specially formulated to increase the opacity of acrylic paint, making it easier to achieve the desired level of coverage.

Various types of opaque mediums and additives are available on the market, each with unique properties and benefits.

Some popular options include titanium white pigment, opaque polymer medium, and opaque paint additives.

Titanium white pigment is a highly opaque white pigment that can be mixed directly into acrylic paint to increase its opacity.

It is an excellent option for artists who want maximum coverage and vibrancy in their paintings.

Opaque polymer medium is a milky white liquid that can be mixed with acrylic paint to increase its opacity and enhance its texture.

It is ideal for creating thick impasto effects and can be used on its own as a base layer for subsequent layers of paint.

Opaque paint additives are pre-made solutions that can be added directly to acrylic paint to increase its opacity.

They come in various colors and can be mixed together to achieve different effects.

When using opaque mediums or additives, following the manufacturer’s instructions carefully is important.

Adding too much can cause the paint to become too thick and difficult to work with, while adding too little may not provide enough opacity.

10. Adjusting the drying time

Adjusting the drying time of your acrylic paint can also help increase its opacity. When acrylic paint dries too quickly, it can create a thin, transparent layer that makes it difficult to achieve the desired level of coverage.

However, slowing the drying time can allow the pigments to settle more evenly on the surface and create a thicker layer.

There are several ways to adjust the drying time of your acrylic paint.

  • One option is to use a slow-drying medium or additive, which can extend the working time of the paint and allow it to dry more slowly.
    • These mediums are often made with glycerin or other ingredients that help slow down the evaporation of water from the paint.
  • Another option is to use a palette knife or other tool to spread the paint thinly and evenly over the surface.
    • This can help prevent the paint from drying too quickly and creating a thin, transparent layer.
  • Working in thin layers and allowing each layer to dry completely before adding another can also help build up opacity.

It’s worth noting that adjusting the drying time can also affect the overall look and feel of your painting, so it’s important to experiment and find a technique that works for you.

Some artists prefer a quick-drying approach for certain types of work, while others prefer a slower approach for more detailed or layered paintings.

11. Preparing the painting surface properly

Preparing the painting surface properly is essential to ensure that your acrylic paint is more opaque and adheres to the surface evenly.

Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to prepare the painting surface:

  1. Choose the surface: Decide on the surface you will be painting on, whether it’s canvas, paper, board, or any other surface. Related more on black canvas acrylic painting if you are working on a black canvas.
  2. Clean the surface: Use a soft cloth or brush to remove any dust or debris from the surface.
  3. Sand the surface: If the surface is smooth or non-absorbent, lightly sand it with fine-grit sandpaper to create a rough surface for the paint to adhere to.
  4. Apply a ground: Apply a coat of gesso or acrylic primer to the surface. A ground helps to create a barrier between the surface and the paint, preventing it from soaking in and becoming transparent.
  5. Let it dry: Allow the ground to dry completely before painting. The drying time varies based on the brand of the ground and the surface.
  6. Apply multiple layers: Apply multiple layers of gesso or primer to create a thicker and more opaque surface. Let each layer dry completely before applying the next.
  7. Sand the surface again: Once completely dry, lightly sand it to remove any rough patches and create an even surface.

Tips for Achieving Maximum Opacity

As someone who has worked with acrylic paint for a while, I have learned a few extra tips and tricks for achieving the most opaque results possible.

Here are five suggestions that have worked well for me:

  1. Use a heavier application of paint: One of the simplest ways to achieve maximum opacity is to use a heavier application of paint. This means loading your brush or palette knife with plenty of paint and applying it generously to the canvas.
  2. Use a palette knife or other tool to apply paint: Another way to increase opacity is by using a palette knife or other tool to apply the paint. This method allows you to apply thicker layers of paint more easily, which can help achieve greater opacity.
  3. Allow layers to dry before adding more paint: It’s important to allow each layer to dry completely. Applying fresh paint on a partially dried layer can mix with the underlying paint and reduce the opacity.
  4. Experiment with different techniques: Every artist has preferred techniques for achieving opacity, so it’s worth experimenting to find what works best for you. Try different brush strokes, layering methods, and paint thicknesses to find the combination that works for you.
  5. Use opaque colors: Using opaque colors can also help increase opacity. Look for colors labeled as “opaque” or “covering,” and try to avoid colors that are labeled as “transparent” or “semi-transparent.” This will help you achieve the maximum opacity possible with your paint.

Tips for Achieving Maximum Opacity

how to make acrylic paint more opaque

As an artist, I have encountered several common problems when making acrylic paint more opaque. Below are some solutions to these problems:

Over-mixing or under-mixing acrylic paint

Over-mixing or under-mixing colors can result in a less opaque paint mixture. To avoid this, I mix colors in small batches, starting with a small amount of paint and gradually adding more until I achieve the desired color. I also make sure to mix the paint thoroughly but not excessively.

  1. Using too much or too little white paint: Using too much white paint can result in a chalky appearance, while using too little can lead to a transparent or semi-transparent finish. I gradually add white paint to get the right amount until I achieve the desired opacity level. If the paint becomes too chalky, I add a little water or medium to thin it out.
  2. Creating unwanted textures or streaks: Applying paint with a brush can sometimes lead to unwanted textures or streaks, especially when using a lower-quality brush. To avoid this, I experiment with different tools like palette knives or sponges, which can give me a more even application. I also apply the paint in thin layers and let each layer dry before adding more.
  3. Paint not drying fast enough: Sometimes, paint can take a long time to dry, leading to smudging or unintentional mixing of colors. To speed up the drying process, I use a hairdryer or a fan to circulate air around the painting surface. I also try to paint in a well-ventilated area to promote air circulation.
  4. Paint cracking or flaking: If the paint cracks or flakes after drying, it could be due to too much paint applied too quickly or the painting surface not being properly prepared. To avoid this, I properly prime the surface before painting and apply paint in thin layers. I also avoid overworking the paint or applying too much pressure while painting.

How Do Acrylic Paints Compare to Other Colors in Terms of Opacity?

Compared to other types of paint, acrylics are known for their opacity. They have a high pigment concentration, making them ideal for achieving strong, vibrant colors and opaque coverage.

Acrylics are often used by artists who want to create bold, solid areas of color without worrying about the underlying surface showing through.

In contrast, watercolors are known for their transparency. They are designed to be layered and blended to create subtle gradations of color and tone.

Oils, on the other hand, can be either opaque or transparent, depending on the pigment concentration level and the medium used.

What Brand of Acrylic Paint is Most Opaque?

As a professional artist, I have worked with various acrylic paint brands and found that the most opaque brand is Golden Heavy Body Acrylic Paint.

Golden Heavy Body Acrylics have a high pigment load, which allows for greater opacity and color intensity with less paint needed.

In addition to their opacity, Golden Heavy Body Acrylics have a smooth buttery consistency that allows easy blending and layering.

They also have excellent lightfastness, meaning the colors will resist fading over time.

Another benefit of Golden Heavy Body Acrylics is their range of colors. With over 100 colors, including traditional and contemporary hues, there is a color for every painting need.

While Golden Heavy Body Acrylics may be more expensive than some other brands, their high quality and superior opacity make them a worthwhile investment for serious artists looking to achieve the best results in their paintings.

Of course, every artist has their own preferences and techniques, so it’s always a good idea to experiment with different brands and find the one that works best for your individual style and needs.

How Can You Tell If The Paint Is Opaque?

You can tell if acrylic paint is opaque by checking its opacity rating on the label. Most paint manufacturers provide this information on their tubes or bottles of paint.

The opacity rating is usually indicated by a scale ranging from transparent to opaque.

A paint labeled as opaque will usually have a high rating on this scale, indicating that it is highly opaque and will cover the underlying surface well.

Another way to tell if the paint is opaque is to perform a simple test. Apply a thin layer of paint to a surface and allow it to dry completely.

Then, hold the surface to a light source and observe how much light passes through the paint.

If the paint appears mostly opaque and little light passes through it, it is considered opaque.

It’s important to remember that even opaque paint may become more semi-opaque if it is heavily diluted with water or other mediums such as Schmincke opaque medium.

In this case, the transparency will be affected by the amount of water or medium used, as well as the quality and pigmentation of the paint.

In general, if you are looking for highly opaque acrylic paint, it’s best to choose a brand known for its high-quality pigments and opacity and to test the paint on a small scale before using it on a larger project.

See Also: Can You Paint Shrinky Dinks


What can I add to make acrylic paints opaque?

You can add white paint, gesso, or opaque mediums to acrylic paint to make it more opaque. These additives help to increase the density and opacity of the paint.

Why is my acrylic paint not opaque?

There are several reasons why acrylic paint may not be opaque, including using a transparent or translucent paint color, using too much water to dilute the paint, or not using enough pigment or binder in the paint.

How do you make acrylic paint opaque with cornstarch?

Cornstarch can be added to acrylic paint to increase its opacity, but it is not recommended. Cornstarch can cause the paint to become clumpy and can affect its consistency and adhesion. It’s best to use white paint or an opaque medium instead to achieve the desired opacity level.

What are some ways to make acrylic paint transparent?

Adding water or a clear medium like glazing liquid, using a translucent color, layering thin coats, or mixing with a transparent color are all methods to make acrylic paint more transparent.


Making acrylic paint more opaque is a simple process that can be achieved through various techniques, including adding white paint or gesso, using high-pigment paints, layering paint, and more.

It’s important to remember that the opacity of acrylic paint can vary depending on the brand and color, so it’s essential to experiment with different techniques and brands to achieve the desired results.

Following the tips and techniques outlined in this guide, artists can create more vibrant and visually striking paintings with maximum opacity.


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