Creative Techniques: Grounds and products you can use as grounds

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I often get asked about the difference between grounds, gels and polymer mediums in my classes. Technically speaking a ground is a surface on which color is applied but grounds can be so much more. Grounds can help with surface adhesion, protect and isolate painting surfaces from impurities and even enhance the colors of the paints we use. Mediums consists of 50% water and 50% acrylic polymer solids (and an assortment of additives and stabilizers) and gels are thickened polymer medium with or without inclusions (stuff in them).

A ground which specifies its use as a ground, such as Absorbent Ground, Acrylic Ground for Pastel or Digital grounds, for instance, optimizes the potential of the surface it will be used on. However, many other products can be used as grounds.

The first step is to identify what purpose and effect you are looking for? Are you looking for a more transparent or translucent look? Building layers? Opacity? Decorative? Textural? Drawing? Digital applications? What effect or type of surface are you looking to recreate? Are you looking to have good surface adhesion but be able to see the underlying coat? Are you wanting a coloured or pure white opaque painting surface? A more translucent ground perhaps? Perhaps you are looking for products that allow you to create decorative or textural effects? Perhaps a specialty ground for drawing or transferring digital imagery?

In this issue, I’ve decided to provide you with a list of products which can be used as grounds.

Transparent Grounds and/or products that can be used as ground

  • GAC 200 on rigid support and 70 percent only
  • Glossy Gels
  • Mediums

Opaques and/or products that can be used as ground

  • Absorbent Ground
  • White and Black Gesso
  • Custom High Loads

Translucent Grounds and/or products that can be used as grounds

  • Fluid Matte Medium (as a clear Gesso ground) and Matte Medium
  • Matte Gels
  • GAC 500 or other pouring mediums
  • Acrylic Ground for Pastel

Decorative and Textural Grounds and/or products that can be used as grounds

  • Glass Beads
  • Light Molding Paste
  • Molding Paste
  • Crackle Paste

Specialty Grounds

  • Digital grounds
  • Silverpoint

Textured Grounds that can be used for drawing

  • Fine Pumice
  • Molding Paste
  • Light Molding Paste
  • Coarse Molding Paste
  • Coarse Alumina
  • Clear Granular Gel
  • Fiber Paste
  • Crackle Paste
  • Micaceous Iron Oxide (you can also mix in some Fluid Interferences)
  • Silverpoint drawing ground
  • Acrylic Ground for Pastels