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    How To Care For Acrylic Paintings

    Since its introduction in the 1950s, acrylic paint has become one of the most popular mediums for artists. It makes an excellent alternative to oil paint and has been adopted wholeheartedly by the art industry. As a result, many collections, whether private or in museums and galleries, are largely made up of acrylic paintings. 

    The unique nature of acrylic paint means that it has specific care needs. If you want to protect and preserve the works, it is crucial that you understand acrylic paintings care. 

    The Properties Of Acrylic Paint

    Understanding the properties of the paint is vital if you want to implement the right painting care system. These are some of the key characteristics you should be aware of. 

    • 2 types of acrylic paints; water-based and solvent-based - water-based acrylic is soluble in water while solvent-based is only soluble in mineral spirits. 
    • Dries in under 30 minutes; dry paint is not water-soluble. 
    • Acrylic films are not as hard as oil paint films.
    • Additives including thickener, hardener, stabilizers, surfactants, and preservatives are used. Some are water-soluble while some are solvent-soluble. 
    • Acrylic paint is more flexible than oil, therefore, acrylic paintings are less likely to crack. However, when exposed to low temperatures, they are likely to crack. 
    • Acrylic paintings may form a grey veil on the surface or display yellow discoloration over time.

    Cleaning Acrylic Paintings

    Cleaning is an important part of acrylic paintings care. Acrylic paint attracts dirt and gathers a lot of dust, so regular cleaning is essential. This happens because they have a glass-transition temperature close to zero. As a result, the film is always soft at room temperature, allowing dust to stick easily. Most resins used in acrylic paint have electrostatic charges on the surface, which attracts more dust. 

    Unfortunately, cleaning acrylic paintings is incredibly difficult. Any water can damage the paint and varnishing is not an option because the acrylic is soluble in the solvents used to make them. Cleaning can also cause thickeners in the paint to swell, distorting the surface and ruining the painting. As there is no effective solution for cleaning acrylic, painting care is focused more on prevention. Protective framing, for example, can minimize the amount of dust that settles on the film. 

    Other Potential Acrylic Paintings Care Issues

    • Aside from the cleaning issue, there are many other painting care problems to be aware of with acrylic paintings: Heat sensitivity - acrylic paint becomes soft at around 60 degrees. This makes it impossible to use a heat table for lining the painting. If too much heat is applied, the unique brushstrokes of the artist will be lost and the value of the painting will deteriorate. 
    • Pressure sensitivity - the pressure from a fingernail is enough to distort and damage an acrylic painting so they must be handled incredibly carefully. 
    • Mold growth - Mold growth on paintings cannot be cleaned without damaging the acrylic in some way. Mold usually grows when humidity and moisture are too high. Keeping the painting in a controlled environment will prevent this. 
    • Fading colors - The colors on an acrylic painting will fade over time, especially where low-quality paints are used. There is no way to prevent this. 

    Acrylic paint is an excellent material for artists, but it has very specific care needs. If you own acrylic paintings, it is important that you take preventative steps to avoid common painting care issues. 

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