If you are an artist, then you probably know how important it is to have paint thinners around. As a versatile solvent, there are so many ways to use paint thinners in your work.
Of course, the first purpose of paint thinner is to “thin” out paint for airbrushing, pouring, or for a lighter application. However, paint thinner can also be used to remove paint, so it is often used to clean up messes after painting. It works great for acrylic paint, as it is denser than watercolor and oil paint.
Using an acrylic thinner is a great way to help you achieve thinner consistency, so you will have an easier time working with acrylic paint. But what if you don’t have any?
What can you use instead of acrylic thinner? The easiest way to thin acrylic paint is to add water, as it is water-soluble. Other great alternatives to using paint thinner for acrylic paint include rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover, hydrogen peroxide, acrylic mediums, and nail polish remover.
If you didn’t know, there are so many household items that you can use as a substitute for acrylic paint thinners. In this article, we will help you understand how to use some of the most common acrylic paint thinner substitutes that you can find around your house.
Household Substitutes for Acrylic Thinner
Acrylic paint has many distinct characteristics that make it a preferred choice for many artists – it dries fast and is easy to use, non-toxic, odorless, and non-flammable.
The first thing you need to know about acrylic paint is that it is a water-based paint made from acrylic polymer emulsion. This means acrylic paint can be dissolved in water when it’s liquid and will be waterproof when it is dry.
This characteristic means there are so many water-based household products that you can use to thin acrylic paint. Some of these products work for cleaning dried paint from paintbrushes as well! Below are some of the most popular choices.
As mentioned, acrylic paint (in its liquid state) can dissolve in water, which means that water is the cheapest and most readily available acrylic thinner that you can find for free in your house.
Water is not effective as paint thinner if you need to clean up dry paint, but if you need to dilute the paint for a thinner application or to airbrush, then it’s a perfect choice.
Read on to the next section to find out how you can use water as an acrylic thinner to make the perfect mixture that will help you create great artwork.
Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) is a popular paint thinner choice among artists who regularly work with acrylic paint. However, not every type of rubbing alcohol will work with acrylic paint.
Rubbing alcohol that you normally use to sanitize wounds often has a 90% concentration, and you definitely shouldn’t use this type to thin your paint because it will create a gum-like mixture. It is recommended that you use an option with a lower alcohol concentration (30 to 70%) to achieve the best result.
Hydrogen peroxide is also something that you can find in your household that will totally work as an acrylic paint thinner, with an effect that is similar to rubbing alcohol.
Since hydrogen peroxide is a less tested substitute, you should try different ratios between the paint and hydrogen peroxide to find the best solution.
Acrylic mediums are thinning mediums that you can add to your acrylic paint to give them different effects – glossy, matte, or thin enough for airbrushing. Although acrylic mediums aren’t common household items, they are still great ways to thin out your acrylic paint while giving the paint a specific look.
Many artists love using acrylic mediums to thin out paint because, unlike other substitutes, the mediums don’t weaken the bond strength in the polymer that makes up the paint, which means that it won’t become flaky and inconsistent when dry.
For example, you can use Gesso as a thinning medium. Gesso is normally used to prime canvases and get them ready for painting. You can actually mix clear Gesso with your actual acrylic paint to achieve a thinner consistency, and you will get a thinner paint mixture with a strong bond, ready for painting.
Depending on your artwork, you may also be able to find acrylic mediums that improve the flow, glossiness, and consistency of your acrylic paint. If you already have a project in mind, using an acrylic medium would be a great way to hit two birds with one stone!
Nail Polish Remover/Acetone
Nail polish remover (or acetone) has many similar qualities as rubbing alcohol, and many artists also find it to be a great acrylic paint thinner.
However, acetone is extremely harsh and stripping by design, so if you want to use it as a paint thinner, you should dilute the acetone by making a 1:1 acetone and water mixture to use as your paint thinner. Acetone and rubbing alcohol are both great household solutions that can help you thin acrylic paint.
You can slowly increase the amount of the acetone and water mixture until you have achieved the right consistency.
Acetone is also great as a brush cleanser, thanks to its harsh peeling capability; if you have a dry, flaky brush, you can use acetone to clean the brush and remove the dry acrylic paint without having to dilute the acetone.
How Do You Make Acrylic Paint Thinner?
The easiest way to make acrylic paint thinner at home is to use the one free ingredient that everyone already has in their homes – water.
Since acrylic is a water-based paint, mixing it with water is the simplest way to thin out the paint. This is a great way if you want a smooth consistency for airbrushing or spray painting.
Keep in mind that acrylic paint dries to be waterproof, so if you use water to clean your brushes with dry paint on them, it won’t work.
Another thing you need to know is that acrylic paint is made from acrylic polymer emulsion, which has a strong bond between the molecules. H20 molecules are much weaker, so you need to be careful when mixing water with acrylic paint.
If you oversaturate the paint in water, it will become much weaker and become flaky when dry. If your canvas is primed, an oversaturated paint won’t be able to stay on the canvas.
Of course, you don’t want your masterpiece to peel right off the canvas after you paint, so achieving the right water-to-paint ratio is key.
We recommend starting with one part water and two parts paint, and slowly increasing the amount of water if the consistency still isn’t right. You can also test different samples and let them dry overnight to see which ratio is the best for your work.
Mixing with a spare brush will also help the mixture become more even. Some artists don’t recommend using a palette knife to thin out paint because the mixture can become too thin for your purpose.
Can You Use Vinegar As Paint Thinner?
Yes and no.
As mentioned above, vinegar is a great, cost-effective way to remove dry acrylic paint. It is non-toxic and very easy to use, and it’s readily available in every household. If you’re worried about the vinegar smell, it won’t last for very long and is quite effective at removing dry paint.
You can use vinegar to clean out your brushes, similar to how you normally use other paint thinners. Even if your paint is already dry, vinegar can remove the acrylic paint quite effectively. Drying your brush in a well-ventilated area will help you remove the strong vinegar odor.
As a paint thinner, vinegar will only work with oil-based paint. Since acrylic is a water-based paint, vinegar won’t mix well with acrylic and won’t help you achieve the look that you need for a quality painting.
Up Next: How To Fix Dried Acrylic Paint