I recently had the pleasure of visiting artist friends at their studio, and as often happens on such occasions, I was exposed to a new way of working.

My friend, fine artist Caitlyn Rooke  (who painted the piece above: “Clouds Over Croagh Patrick”) introduced me to Lefranc Bourgeois Flashe vinyl paint, which she has been using for underpaintings she then finishes with oil paint. Vinyl is an alternative to acrylic paint that dries matte and toothy. The texture makes this paint wonderful to work on top of compared to acrylic. 

With acrylics the surface texture of the dry paint can be pretty variable and even resist subsequent layering when it becomes too smooth and plastic-y. Vinyl, though, takes oil paint very well. I found in my own first try with it, that it also accepts colored pencil much better than some acrylic does, the vinyl feeling very similar to a gessoed surface.

Here’s a crop of my experimental piece where you can see the Prismacolor colored pencil lines over vinyl on the face (a fun portrait for a holiday gift so I don’t want to show the whole piece yet):

All the colors are opaque, which takes some getting used to if you normally like to glaze, but you could take an underpainting pretty far and use transparent acrylic or oil colors on top. I used the difference in surface quality as a sort of spot varnish in my experimental piece as well, by masking part of the vinyl underpainting off and painting around it in acrylic. The acrylic dried thicker and more glossy, giving it a nice texture contrast next to the vinyl.

The vinyl paint feels a bit like a heavy body acrylic to mix, and does get lighter to the eye as it dries like gouache does. You can dilute it with water just like acrylic or gouache.

And here’s a two-color study of a Liza Minelli still from the film Cabaret, painted in vinyl by my partner Anthony Palumbo:

A good place to start exploring vinyl is the Discovery Set, which I got from Dick Blick here:


If you’ve been wishing for a paint that feels like acrylic but dries with tooth, give vinyl a try!