What Are Acrylic Paint Retarders?

van gogh painting starry night using impasto painting technique

Artists use an acrylic paint retarder to keep their paintings smooth and wet, but what exactly is a retarder?

What is an Acrylic Paint Retarder?

A Retarder is a substance containing glycerin that is used to slow down the drying time of acrylic paints.

Depending on the retarder-to-paint ratio the retardant can last anywhere from half an hour to a full day.
These are used with acrylic paints as acrylics are water-based and when water evaporates from them, they dry up.

A retarder slows down this process of drying and allows you to take your time with your painting.
There are mainly two types of retarders:

  • Gel form – these slow down your drying time by liquefying your painting and giving it a texture similar to watercolor. This will also help in removing visible brush strokes.
  • Liquid form – these slow down your drying time and allow you to blend shades easily.

What Is An Acrylic Paint Retarder Used For?

Many artists seem to prefer acrylic paints because of their quick drying property as it allows them to paint over them.

However, it sometimes dries “too quickly” which leaves artists unable to create certain textures and effects in their paintings or add details.

To counter this, a retarder is used so you can work in detail without your paints drying up during your painting which can cause undesired effects.

In acrylic pouring, a retarder is used to prevent cracking, which happens when the paint dries up too quickly.

acrylic pouring crack and crazing due to drying up
Acrylic pouring painting cracking (source)

By adding retardant into your pouring mix you can keep the paints wet for some time.

How To Properly Use A Retarder

A retarder does not contain binding agents, which means it won’t just “stick” to a surface but rather relies on the proportion of paint to carry out its main function.

There is a retardant-to-paint ratio that you have to abide by to get the desired effect.

This is different for every brand and they usually include instructions on how much to use. This amount is most commonly presented in proportions (1:10, 2:5…) or in percentages (4%, 9%, 15%…)

To know how much retardant you should mix with your paints you can refer to the instructions provided on these retardants.

Another way of measuring how much retardant you should use is by starting with a little and gradually adding more if you feel you need to slow down the drying process.

You should be careful when applying retardant as too much can prevent your painting from drying for days which means it will be sticky and wet. If something were to fall on it or if it attracts dust it might stick to it and cause damage.

The painting is exposed to such damage until the affected layer of paint is removed.

Homemade Acrylic Paint Retarder

It is totally possible to make your own Acrylic Paint Retarder at home by yourself.

The things you will need are:

  • An empty plastic bottle
  • 1 oz vegetable glycerin
  • 9 oz water

Pour in 1 ounce of vegetable glycerin into 9 ounces of water, mix it together, and voila!

You have yourself a bottle of homemade acrylic paint retarder.

If you don’t have vegetable glycerin you can buy a whole bottle for only $15 off Amazon.

This retardant is suitable for most acrylic paintings and acrylic pouring however if you wish to paint using impasto painting techniques you might change up the ratio to 1:5 (glycerin:water) so it gives off the desired effect.

Another thing you can do is mix glycerin directly in your paints.

Artists have been doing this for many years and glycerin is still used to keep paintings looking fresh and vibrant.

Best Acrylic Paint Retarders

If you are not into D.I.Y. stuff or just prefer to have the appropriate tools for your painting, below is a list I compiled of the best Acrylic Paint Retarders:

1. Liquitex Professional Slow-Dri Fluid Retarder

Liquitex Slow dry fluid paint retarder
Liquitex Professional Slow-dri fluid retarder

Ideal for humid climates, Liquitex’s retarder is water-resistant and non-yellowing. It slows drying time by 40% without affecting color opacity.

Liquitex has high-quality professional-grade acrylic paints which I think will go along great with this if you are planning to buy acrylic paints.

2. Winsor & Newton Galeria Acrylic Retarder

Winsor & Newton Galeria acrylic paint retarder
Winsor & Newton Galeria acrylic paint retarder

Winsor & Newton is a well-known brand for painting supplies and is recommended by professionals.

The Galeria Acrylic Retarder comes in a lightweight 250ml is great for slowing down drying time and is affordable.

3. Grumbacher Acrylic Retarder

Grumbacher acrylic paint retarder
Grumbacher acrylic paint retarder

This 5oz pocket-sized tube is perfect to be used to slow up drying for blending and detailed working. They are also great for impasto paintings.

However, it is best to not use the Grumbacher retarder with fluid acrylics and better for more heavy-body work involving thick layers of paints.

4. Golden Acrylic Retarder

Golden acrylic paint retarder
Golden acrylic paint retarder

The Golden Retarder is great for wet-in-wet painting techniques and for reducing skinning on the palette. This 9.6oz bottle is great for blending your acrylics. It is also possible to add a bit of water and reuse the retardant.

5. Sax True Flow Paint Retarder

Sax true flow paint retarder
Sax true flow paint retarder

The Sax True Flow Paint Retarder bottle contains 16oz of fluid which lengthens the drying process up to 3 times for detailed working sessions. This retarder provides you with smooth flowing acrylics which is best for blending.


A paint retarder is used to slow down the drying process of acrylic paints by preventing the water-based paints to evaporate for longer painting sessions.

A paint retarder is used when you want to do detailed work or have smooth consistent blending.

It is possible to make your own paint retarder at home but if you don’t want to then for your convenience you can get yourself great professional-grade paint retarders on Amazon from the above links.

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