Review: Golden Open Acrylic Paints

Well gang, I’ve just gotten back from my mini vacation (in 2019) over in Corpus Christi, Texas. I basically goofed off for the most part. Also I took brought along my 6-pack of Golden Open acrylic paints.

I spent most of my time walking up and down North Beach, Corpus Christi, Texas taking beautiful shots like this.

The cool thing about my trip to Corpus was that there were dozens of opportunities for some really great photos. Lots of great sights along the water. Even the occasional wildlife shot.

What sucked was that I was kind of in-between events. Corpus was just wrapping up its Buck Days carnival, which occurred on the tail-end of their rodeo. On top of that, the city had all sorts of construction occurring around North Beach, making getting lost way too easy for me. (Especially with GPS.) So I had to make my own fun.

A Perfect Snap-Shot

A painting of a seagull using Golden Open Acrylic paints on sketchpad paper
“Seagull on a Pole” — Painted in a Canson Mix Media pad using Golden OPEN Acrylics. © (copyright) 2019 Chris Hilbig.

For the past couple of nights, the area received pretty good doses of rain. With that comes lots of small pools of standing water. While wandering around North Beach, I found the perfect seagull picture, and it posed for me for a good couple of minutes. I used my iPhone 8 for the photographs.

Later on in my room (after realizing that there was nothing to do), I downloaded the photo to my MacBook. Then I pulled out my sketchbook, pencil, Golden Open Acrylics, and a water brush. And I began my work.

Sidebar: About Golden Acrylics

GOLDEN a.k.a. Golden Artist Colors is an American company founded by Sam Golden and his family in 1980. This was Sam’s second run in the paint manufacturing business. Sam’s first run with with his uncle, Leonard Bocour. They founded Bocour Artist Color back in the 1930’s.

Golden currently specializes in acrylic paints. They produce every type of acrylic paint imaginable, pastes, mediums, and varnish imaginable. Golden products are available world-wide.

Source: Wikipedia ~

About Golden Open Acrylics

Package of a Traditional Set of Golden Open Acrylics.

Golden Open Acrylics are one of the innovations from Golden. Open Acrylic Paints are pitched as an alternative to oil colors. They are slow-drying acrylic paint that stays wet on the pallet for a really long time. Golden claims that Open paints are slightly softer than their heavy body cousins. They are safely intermixable with other acrylic paints.

My Personal Biases

I’ve never been a fan of Golden Acrylics. I’ve never met anyone who has actually used them. (This isn’t an inditement against Golden.) The price and the sample stroke on the label always caused me to blow it off. According to Golden’s website, they don’t use any additives within their heavy body acrylics.

This is great, just as long as you use a ton of pigment within your paint, much like Turner Designer Gouache. Otherwise, you’re just producing transparent paint. That’s inherently limiting because it’ll be almost impossible to paint light over dark. Plus I want the choice to paint transparently. That’s why I’ve tend to default to Liquitex for my acrylic paints (especially when first starting out as a teen who couldn’t paint worth a sh#t).

My First Impressions of Open Acrylics

Like I mentioned earlier, I only packed a water brush for my trip to Corpus. (I was originally planning to work in watercolors.) This was a mistake. But I started in my room anyway.

I originally purchased my Traditional six-pack from Amazon due to the ads in Artist’s Magazine. The idea of acrylic paints that could stay wet for long periods of time without having to spray them down with water was intriguing to me. Plus the price was pretty reasonable at the time of purchase.

I picked the Traditional Set due to the choice of colors. They weren’t your standard Crayola melody of bright colors. Plus it’s a purposely limited pallet that allows you to practically mix whatever other colors that you need. For example, you can create a nice flat black using Van Dyke Brown and Ultramarine Blue. The Sap Green Hue allowed me to mix a variety of warm and cool greens for my coastal painting.

Actual Painting

When it comes to covering large areas, Golden Open acrylics require a little more effort than what I consider normal. The paint is pretty tacky. As I demonstrate below, showing how many times it takes to create a solid stroke with a loaded angular sable brush.

A photo of my stroke test using Golden Open acrylics. It takes 2 to 3 strokes to create a solid layer.
A quick stroke test to find out how many strokes it takes to create a solid strip of color using a loaded flat brush. The concern was for the paint’s ability to cover a surface, not opacity. 1.) Single stroke. 2.) Two strokes. 3.) Three strokes for a more solid look.

Given its properties, Open acrylics make blending colors a lot easier. They stay wet long enough to achieve a good gradation. Normally this is pretty difficult with acrylic paints. I’d have to either whip out my spray bottle or use a bunch of retardant to keep my paint from drying out on me.

The Blend Test. This used A.) Van Dyke Brown and B.) Alizarin Crimson. No water, retardant, or medium was used to create this gradation.

Troubles With Opacity

Sharp detail is pretty difficult due to Open’s lack of flow and the transparency of the paints. The only two semi-opaque colors in my set were Van Dyke Brown and Titanium White. For example, the cracks in the wooden pole that the seagull is standing upon required a few tries with a loaded brush.

Like I opined earlier, Golden doesn’t use any fillers or opacifiers in any of their acrylic paints. That’s okay, as long as you have tons of pigment in your paint. But this isn’t the case with Golden OPEN acrylics. Plus there are some pigments that are just naturally transparent. This presents a problem for me.

Honestly, painting with Golden Open acrylics feels much like painting with acrylics packed with gel or blending medium. You’re basically glazing your way to a painting. Without any white, it’s very difficult to paint new opaque layers.

A color overlay test using all 6 colors from the Golden OPEN Acrylic paints
A Color Overlay test using all 6 colors from the Traditional Set: A.) Van Dyke Brown, B.) Alizarin Crimson, C.) Titanium White, D.) Sap Green Hue, E.) Indian Yellow Hue, F.) Ultramarine Blue.

On the bright side, if you happen to be transitioning from watercolors, Open or any other acrylic from Golden would be a logical step. You can apply them in a similar fashion to watercolor. The colors themselves come off as pretty luminous due to allowing the light to sink down and reflect off the surface.

Dry Times In The Studio

If there’s anything that Golden can guarantee with their Open acrylic paints is a long dry time. I’ve had paint that stayed wet on my pallet for over 24 hours! Very impressive. For normal acrylics, seemingly within minutes, the paint can dry as hard as a rock and become extremely difficult to remove.

The thinner the application, the faster it dries. Really thin layers dry as fast as standard acrylics. Thicker applications allow for removal and blending.

Digitizing When Dry

Once dry, the surface ranges from a satin finish to a glossy sheen. I recommend using a scanner to digitize rather than a camera. (I’m assuming that you don’t have any professional camera equipment.) Taking a quick snap-shot with my iPhone demonstrates how shiny the surface is.

A close-up of my seagull painting demonstrating how the light reflect right off the dried surface when taking a photograph.
The dried surface looks extremely glossy when taking a photo using my iPhone. A sheen coming off the surface is a problem when digitizing.

So far there haven’t been any noticeable shifts in color when either scanning or photographing. I don’t own all of the colors (like a troublesome turquoise for example), but this is a good sign.

My Bottom Line

It’s really difficult for me to recommend Golden’s Open Acrylic Paints. Opacity and flow are deal-breakers for me. But these are Golden brand paints. If you have had any experience with Golden acrylics, you know what you’re in for.

But Open acrylics do function as advertised. And you can work pretty comfortably for long periods of time without having to load your paints with either retardant medium or water.

If I were 15, in an art store, and my parents were buying me a set of acrylic paints, I would go with either Liquitex or Winsor & Newton. I’ve been playing with Atelier’s Interactive Artist’s Acrylics off and on, and I’d be more than happy to add them to my lineup.

Yes, I Wrote This For Money!

If this review has piqued your interest, please feel free to purchase a Traditional Set of Golden Open acrylic paints [Amazon] at your local Amazon website. I receive a small cut from the purchase, and Golden gets to keep the money that I spent on my set of Open paints.

Making a purchase from my Amazon links keeps me motivated and allows me to spend more time writing relevant content for you and all of my relatively good-looking readers. Thank you for your support!

Updated for dumb errors on Jan 23, 2022