Resin Painting Techniques

    by Darren White

    About the Author

    Darren White is a third-year student studying photography and art history at Haverford College. Raised in the Philadelphia area, he has followed its art scene for some time, which has influenced his column, The Fashion File, that he writes for the "Bi-Co News." He also writes, edits and photographs for Haverford's fashion magazine, "Feathers & Fur."


    A progressive artist is always looking for ways to make his art more distinctive. This usually happens through experimentation with the media used to create art. Painters must be especially creative to spice up their medium, because only so many things can be added to paint. One additive that has come into favor over the past few years is resin. Traditionally applied as a thin protective coat on finished dry paintings, resin is now being used by artists to create more three-dimensional, and often glassy, effects in their work.

    Getting Started

    Resin has become a go-to option for new artists for its relative ease of use and availability. One trip to a local home improvement store will provide the supplies needed to begin working with resin. You will need to pick up epoxy or polyurethane resin and resin hardener (the two usually come together), a small bucket and some stirring sticks for mixing the two, some two-by-fours and a tarp to keep your table surfaces and floors clean. If you want to heavily apply the resin, purchase cheap synthetic brushes that you can ruin (because the resin will harden on them). Also be sure to buy rubber gloves and a filter mask. Resin has a foul odor and is toxic is most cases, so you will want the extra protection.

    Preparing Your Painting Before Adding the Resin

    Painting with resin is much like painting with any other medium. Your board or canvas should be primed for best results. Resin works with oil-based paints as well as acrylics. Paint with whatever medium you normally prefer. The resin will have a more dramatic effect on surfaces that have thicker dabs of paint, because more paint leads to a deeper, more sculptural look. Flatter surfaces yield a look akin to more opaque stained glass when combined with resin. These effects should be taken into account as you create your painting with oil or acrylic paints. When the painting is complete (and still wet), place it on two-by-fours resting on a flat surface that is covered with a tarp to protect it from resin stains.

    Using the Resin

    Mix the resin and the hardener. The hardener provides a shorter drying period. Wear your mask while handling the resin, because the fumes are very strong. After mixing the resin and the hardener, pour it evenly over the painting. The resin will settle itself throughout the paint’s surface within a few minutes. Allow the resin to dry, or continue working on the painting, working the resin into the paint. Use a disposable brush when working with resin, as it will dry upon the brush. If you use hardener, the resin will be dry to the touch within 72 hours and will harden and cure completely within seven days.

    Resin and Ventilation

    Please remember that resin is highly toxic. It should not be handled near children or pets. Resin painting should only be done in well-ventilated areas, such as an open, unused garage or car port. If you have the space to use the resin outdoors, do so. As with any product, experimentation is key. Practice with the resin on a painting that holds no value to you to get a feel for how to use it and to test whether you are painting in a properly ventilated room. This new way of working with paint is fun and exciting. Because the medium is relatively new, you can experiment and discover new techniques with resin and paint. However, experiment with caution, because your safety is most important.