Add Texture to Paintings With Modeling Paste

How to Get Good Results From Modeling Paste

Painted Wood Texture
petercat.harris/Flickr

Modeling paste is a fantastic way to add texture to your paintings. How you apply it will depend on a variety of factors. For instance, what type of paste it is, how thick you wish it to be, and what support you're painting on. Before you buy or start working with a modeling paste, there are a few tips you'll want to know.

What Is Modeling Paste?

Modeling paste is sometimes called molding paste. It is a thick, white paste that is primarily used to add texture and relief to paintings.

Due to its thickness, it is best applied with a painting knife or a tool of similar rigidity.

Many acrylic painters choose to use a modeling paste to get the thick textures you can get from oil paints. It can be mixed with acrylic paint or painted over after it dries. Most modeling pastes are not meant to be mixed with oils, but some pastes are suitable for an oil overpainting.

When shopping for modeling paste, read the label and description carefully. You want to know what types of paints and techniques it works best for. Also, these pastes vary from heavy to light and smooth to rough textures. Each option will give your paintings a different look.

An alternative to modeling paste is a texture gel. These are also great for adding texture to paintings and are available in a variety of textures and even colors. The main advantage is that they tend to not be as heavy as pastes, which might work out better on canvas or paper.

Work in Layers and Let it Dry

As with any new painting medium, start by reading the label. You will find that it typically recommends a maximum thickness of one layer. It will also tell you a recommended drying time.

If your modeling paste is too thick, the top will dry before the bottom. This traps moisture inside and it will never cure or set properly.

For very thick texture, work in layers and be patient enough to let it dry thoroughly before applying the next layer.

It's important to note that the drying time may take days, not hours. Many artists choose to wait anywhere from three to five days before applying a second layer of paste or any paint.

Use a Rigid Support

Depending on the thickness and type of modeling paste you're using, you might not be able to use certain types of supports.

For most modeling paste, it's best to use a rigid support such as wood or board. This reduces the risk that the paste will crack after it has dried. There are lightweight pastes available that are designed to work on flexible supports like canvas and paper.

If you're only using a thin layer of texture paste, any flexing in the support is unlikely to be a problem. The concern is really when you apply a very thick layer because the thicker the paste, the less flexible it is. If, for some reason, the canvas or paper got knocked or jolted, it may crack.

Mix It With Paint or Paint Later

Artists use different techniques for applying paint and modeling paste in the same painting. It really is a matter of personal preference and style, so it's a good idea to experiment to see what you like.

Also, one technique may work better than another for a particular painting.

Many modeling pastes can be mixed with acrylic paint. Since the paste is an opaque white, it will change the paint color, but this can be a nice background effect.

In most cases, artists choose to paint over top of modeling paste. This may be done over the entire area or selectively if you mixed paint with the paste. Do be sure that your paste is absolutely dry or you will not get the true paint color and may end up picking up some paste with your brush.