Gel mediums are wonderfully versatile. A jar of this viscous goodness can be mixed with acrylic paint to build up texture and increase translucency, layered to create a protective gloss over an entire artwork, daubed as an adhesive for collage or decoupage projects, and even slathered over printed images as a transfer medium. Ranking these gels is a little tricky because different types have different finishes and consistencies. Before surveying our picks, ask yourself: Are you looking for a matte or glossy overlay? For a thick, glommy gel or something more subtle? And what are you going to be using it for? We’re here to guide you through some of our favorite types and brands.
Golden Gloss Medium
Don’t take the name of our top pick literally—like any gel medium worth its salt, Golden’s gloss dries clear as glass. Figuratively speaking, however, this shiny acrylic gel does take the gold medal: It’s the highest-quality product of its type that we could find for a reasonable per-unit price. Oil-like and resinous, this superb gel medium is sold in quantities as small as 8 ounces all the way up to a whopping 1 gallon.
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U.S. Art Supply Impasto Clear Gel Acrylic Medium
For a heavyweight hitter, try this gel medium from a U.S.-based brand. The acrylic gel goes on thick and strong, making it great for adhesive work and texturing. Don’t panic when you open the bottle: Like other acrylic mediums, it’s translucent and cloudy when wet, but totally transparent once it dries. Water based, nontoxic—need we say more? It’s sold in a 500-milliliter (17-ounce) jar.
Purchase: U.S. Art Supply Impasto Clear Gel Acrylic Medium, $12.96 on Amazon
ANOTHER GOOD CHOICE
Utrecht Opaque Gel Medium
We absolutely love the texture of this gel medium: It’s thick enough to use as adhesive, but thin enough to be workable for various other applications. Because of Utrecht’s sheer quality, we’re tempted to make this our top pick; unfortunately, it just misses out because, unlike other standard acrylic gels, it doesn’t work as a transfer medium. It’s available in variety of sizes, from a 5-ounce tube to a 32-ounce jar.
A GREAT ALTERNATIVE
Golden Fluid Matte Medium
We love Golden gel mediums so much that the brand is claiming a second spot on our list. This line is the matte version of our number one pick, with all the attributes of its glossier sibling: It’s non-yellowing, moderately viscous, and works just dandily for image transfers. It’s sold in the same sizes as the glossy version and at a comparable price point.
Grumbacher 531 Acrylic Transparentizer Gel
Leave it to Grumbacher to produce a killer gel medium—oops, sorry, “acrylic transparentizer,” as the company calls it. Their product is especially great for painters looking to augment their acrylics: The high-quality formula retains the color integrity of the original paints while lending them a jewel-like glassiness. This gel is on the full-bodied side, so we recommend it for serious texturing work. Ounce for ounce, the petite 5-ounce tube will set you back more than our other picks, but we think it’s worth it.