Robie is an artist who loves sharing what she has learned about art and painting in the hope that it might help other creatives.
Painting With Acrylics on Foil
The techniques shown in this article focus on painting with acrylics on textured tin foil. One of the essential factors needed to achieve a nice shiny look is using transparent paints and inks.
Painted foil can become the primary element of an artwork or an accent in a mixed media piece. In this article, you’ll learn how to use transparent paints on foil to create beautiful and colorful effects that let all the little ridges catch the light in different ways.
This article will cover two different aspects of working on foil.
Part One: Creating a Texture
- How to texture foil with a simple crumpling technique
- How to emboss foil using a rubbing plate
Part Two: Painting on the Foil
How to paint on the textured aluminum surface with acrylics
2 Techniques for Adding Texture to Aluminum Foil
- Heavy-duty aluminum foil.
- Textured rubbing plates.
In my demo, I use a pretty strong aluminum foil that I got from Costco. Mine is the Reynold’s Wrap, but any brand would do.
Best of all would be to use a heavy-duty foil, like the one they wrap the leftovers in at the restaurant.
To emboss, I use a set of plastic rubbing plates that have six different designs.
Technique #1: Crumpling of the Foil
This way of creating texture is super simple and fast and it creates some nice organic-looking crinkles that look awesome once painted.
- Crumple up the foil between your hands.
- Open it up again.
- Smooth it out with your hands on a flat surface; a texture formed by the crumpling will form.
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Technique #2: Embossing Foil Using a Rubbing Plate
Foil quickly catches the shape and form of objects beneath it. We can rub it on any textured surface to emboss the foil with the most interesting patterns.
I use a set of artist's rubbing plates that have six different designs. Interestingly, if flipped upside down, the negative space becomes the positive space, so it's like having 12 different patterns to choose from.
- Lay the textured rubbing plate flat in front of you with the chosen design facing up.
- Place a piece of tin foil on top of the plate.
- Rub with your hands all over the foil, moving your hands and fingers in circles, press down to impress the pattern on the whole surface. This might require going over the same spots a couple of times.
- Avoid shifting or moving the foil on top of the textured surface, unless your pattern comes out jumbled.
- If the foil is bigger than the plate, once done, move the sheet so that the part that has no pattern is over the plate, and keep embossing until it’s pretty much all patterned.
How to Paint on the Embossed Foil
After creating several embossed sheets of foil, start painting them.
The painting phase goes a little smoother if you have several ready to go, that way, while one layer of paint dries, you can start painting on another sheet.
- Embossed aluminum foil
- Transparent acrylic paint or acrylic ink
- Flat brushes (1/2 inch and 1 inch)
- Gloss acrylic medium
- Paper towels
Painting on Foil
Use fluid or high flow acrylics. Acrylic inks also work well. The important part is that you use transparent paint, not an opaque one, or it will take away from the beautiful natural shine of the foil.
Some pigments are always more transparent than others, like nickel azo yellow, quinacridone magenta, and burnt umber.
High flow acrylics and acrylic inks have a very similar consistency and their transparent version provide comparable coverage. Both have great pigmentation, despite the very liquid appearance.
In the demo, I used:
- The Liquitex transparent acrylic ink set with raw sienna, burnt sienna, and burnt umber
- A few colors from the Golden High Flow transparent set.
- Put small amounts of paint out; since the foil does not absorb, a little goes a long way.
- Have water handy, mainly to rinse your brush between colors.
- Make sure that you have a very saturated paint suspension on your brush, do not dilute your paint with water.
- Using a wet flat brush, spread the paint thinly. You can blend and transition between colors while the paint is still wet.
- Let the paint dry, then apply a second layer. The second layer can be of a different or contrasting color. If the first layer is not dry, the new layer will pull off the first paint in spots.
To add more layers, repeat the steps above.
Apply a Protective Layer
Add a protective coat of gloss acrylic medium, like a gloss polymer medium or gloss soft gel. Avoid using a matte medium unless you want to lose the natural shine of the metallic surface.
The purpose of the gloss medium is to seal and protect the surface. It looks cloudy when applied, but it dries clear, creating a nice shiny look.
Final Step for an Antique Look
As the last step, you may want to add a glaze of a dark color to create depth and make it look antique. I used transparent burnt umber. Other great choices are sepia or black.
- Add a high flow dark color with a damp clean brush, without diluting the paint.
- Let the paint flow into the ridges. Move the foil around to facilitate that.
- Do this fast or on a small area at the time because you need to spritz it with water while still wet.
- Spritz the wet dark pigment with water. This helps the dark paint flow down into the crevices, creating very interesting patterns.
- Look at the overall effect. If you see raised areas that are too dark, softly wipe them off with a paper towel to absorb any extra paint before it dries.
Using the Painted Tin Foil as Collage Element
Once you have painted your sheets of foil, you can use them to create focal points and interesting textural elements in mixed media collage work.
Use the gloss gel medium to adhere pieces of the painted foil onto your acrylic mixed media piece.
The acrylic medium will look whitish when applied but dry clear.
Great for Experimentation
Once you have several of these precious-looking painted tin foil sheets, you may think of many ways to experiment with them.
Besides paintings, they can be used in the making or embellishment of ornaments, greeting cards, embossed vases, boxes, jewelry, etc.
They are pretty inexpensive and relatively fast to create, and that makes experimenting much easier. If you don't like the result, it's ok, you did not invest a lot into it.
Try new things, use them in creative ways, you might end up with some creations that you absolutely love.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Robie Benve