One question I get all the time when I’m doing sets is “Why do you add Elmers glue to paint?”.
I do it for a couple of reasons – the first is I can stretch the amount of paint I have, often doubling or tripling it, second, I can create really great glazes and washes which hold to the existing primer on the flats well.
People seem to think that by adding glue, I weaken the paint which, is actually not true, just the opposite actually. Elmer’s glue is probably the best thing for all kinds of very cool scenic art and set building tasks you can have. The reason why it works so well with paint is – that almost ALL paint is… basically a kind of glue.
Specifically it’s a Polyvinyl Acrylic, or PVA paint. In fact, don’t doubt me – it’s actually right on the label as either “PVA” or “Vinyl Acrylic”. Which is a nice fancy way of saying it’s a synthetic Caesin, and by Synthetic, it’s the method they produce it – the chemistry involved in the process hasn’t changed a whole lot in the last several hundred years. Just the production methods, degree of accuracy and chemical purity.
So… what’s a Caesin? Well the technical definition from Wikipedia sounds very complicated but essentially… it’s Milk. It’s a byproduct of dairy products that when you heat them, add a little vinegar, or lemon juice, or ammonia, the stuff that separates from it, is Caesin. And depending on what you mix that with, whether it’s oils – or any number of things you can create a Polymer and that Polymer+Casein = becomes PolyVinyl Acrylic. Add color and some other pigments and essentially dusts… and you get paint.
You can, actually make your own paint, or playdoh, or heck even plastic at home – using nothing more than some skim milk, and a few household ingredients like vinegar and cornstarch. Really – its easy.
So… when you see people adding Glue to the paint … don’t be surprised. What it does, and this is especially true of scenic painting is allow for colors to be placed over existing colors. Here’s a good example of how you’d use this technique.
When we painted these flats – to achieve the wood grain we used several colors which had to blend together. First we had a white primer coat, we then added a orange glaze – then a thin dry brush of Vandyke Brown SuperSat glaze to make the lines, then dabs of a pink/brown all brush stroked into each other. The over laying colors cause it to look more like a wood grain. Here’s what it looks like in an assembly line, where we just have one person go through and do each color pass. Because we’re letting one color bleed up from the previous one, we can actually take advantage of this to get very cool graining. And when we’re doing – we can then give it a bit to dry and then use a glaze over it to give it a nice redish coloration like you see on the board sample in the next picture. Its a board that was painted white – and we used this same technique to get a more defined texture of wood grain.
We could have made this more brown, or more yellow pine – or even an oak color. All we had to do, was add the color glaze afterwards. In fact, to keep all of our work on the flats above the same color levels and hues, we’ll go back over all of them side by side and match them with a final wash.
Even more fun, is when we start doing the marble. On the panels above we’ll be making the white sections in a faux marble. When we do the marbling – we’ll do something similar, only we’ll brush the brownish glaze directly onto the white which when it dries – will give it a marbleized texture as you can see in our test flat.
We do a test flat – which is a flat for us to practice on, and then we we get the color or the look we want – we apply it to the others. In this case we went a bit nuts with the marble texture – maybe a few too many lines.
But as you can see on the test – we also used our glue colored glaze – to create wood panel insert like effects. Which is another plus to this, we didn’t need to – really repaint, we literally just drew a nice clean brush line over the existing wood grain, and we let it dry to darken those tones. We can also, add highlights using this technique. And it works equally well on wood and canvas.
It’s also… really really cheap to do this. A tablespoon of SuperSat and 1 Gallon of Glue can equal 4 gallons of Glaze paint, which is … like… $120 savings. Even if it’s just used to extend a few gallons of paint – it’s a money saver. So… glue. Its your best friend for scenic painting glazes.