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How to use texture paste and texture gel in your paintings

August 8, 2010


by Nolan Clark

What materials are used in this exercise?

Texture Paste
Texture Gel
Oil Paints


Often artists think that texture gel and texture paste are one and the same, they are however completely different.

We will first look at their differences, then we will get down to their uses.

Texture Paste

Texture paste is a thick, cement like paste. You can compare it in look and consistency to Polyfilla (Used around the house to fill cracks in walls). It dries very quickly and can be built up to even centimeters above the canvas.

Most artists use a knife or brush to apply the texture paste, I often use my finger.

Try not to use texture paste on a canvas that has been stretched over a box frame as the movement of the canvas tends to crack the paste, especially while it is drying.

On the other hand, if you experiment a bit with a stretched canvas, you may even purposefully crack the paste to get an antiqued look.

Texture Gel

Texture gel is a lot thinner than texture paste and can be compared to hand cream in consistency. Texture gel cannot be built up as thick as texture paste as it tends to ‘shrink’ in height as it dries.

The gel can also be applied to the canvas the a brush, knife, finger or any other implement you can find.

The texture gel has a rubbery consistency when dry, so it can be used on any canvas surface.

Using Texture Paste

Ok, enough of the boring details, let’s put our paste and gel to use.

First we can play around to see the differences for ourselves.


I have scooped up some texture paste with my finger and put it down on the canvas to form a ball and two swirls around it. As you can see the surface is nice and rough giving us an interesting texture.


Next I have wet my finger in some water and smoothed the paste to show how it can be tooled the same as putty. You just have to work reasonably fast as the paste starts drying immediately.

Using Texture Gel


Here I have scooped up some texture gel, again with my finger, and added some squiggles onto the canvas so that you can see the difference.


After leaving the canvas to dry in the sun for an hour or two, you can see how transparent and flat the gel has become.


I have now painted a wash of Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber over the canvas. I could have used any colour with the same results, but I needed contrast for the photograph. You can now see that the texture paste has covered with paint perfectly. On the other hand an interesting effect has been created with the texture gel. Why?

The gel forms a smooth surface which means that the paint doesn’t grip as well to it. Thus a thinner layer of paint is over the gel and gives a lighter colour than the rest of the canvas. Interestingly, the thicker the gel, the lighter the colour. This can be used to created wonderful effects in your paintings. Some examples are to create clouds or fields using only one colour of paint. In the example shown below Amelia has applied the texture gel using a stencil to create this wonderful watermark effect.


If you don’t want this effect and only the texture, simply let the first layer of paint dry and repaint it again. This technique along with dry brushing to ‘highlight’ the texture was used in the painting below.


Texture gel can also be used to apply all sorts of mixed media to your canvas before painting. Some of these include serviettes, sand, buttons, etc.

Just remember that both texture paste and texture gel are water based so if you are using them with oil paints you need to do ALL your pasting and gelling BEFORE you start to paint. If you don’t do this the gel and paste will peel off eventually.

Completed Paintings

Below are two painting done with texture gel and texture paste along with some detail close ups.

Texture Paste
lady1 ladyhead ladydress
Texture Gel
lady2 watermark serviette

5 Responses to “How to use texture paste and texture gel in your paintings”

  1. Thank you for this. I’ve been trying to figure it out on my own but your explanation has saved a lot of time.

  2. Will gel for acrylics work for water based oils? I have never used it and I will take heed of the warnings of not putting it on a painted surface, which was the next thing I was going to do.
    Thanks for the information, It was very useful.
    Linda in Texas

  3. Hi Linda, yes you can paint your water based oils over the acrylic gel no problem 🙂

  4. I am wanting to work with acrylics. What does this come under? Can’t wait to come to the Torbay Studio later.

  5. Dorothy you can use the texture paste and gel with your acrylic paints