GOLDEN Clear Tar Gel is a 100!

A new guest blog series by Jacqueline Sullivan

This is the first in a series of articles about acrylic mediums, pastes, and additives. I believe that if we understand the media that we work with, we can push our creativity to the next level and invent new processes. By using the various acrylic mediums, pastes and additives that are available to us, we can make one set of paints do a multitude of processes and work on innumerable surfaces. I hope that these articles will inspire you to explore and expand your painting repertoire!

Clear Tar Gel by Golden Paint Company

I am starting the series with Clear Tar Gel, made by Golden Paint Company ( .  This is one of the most unusual mediums and one that you can have a lot of creative fun with!

As presented in the jar, Clear Tar Gel medium is white and syrupy. It has a tar-like consistency, thus it’s name.  It was developed for the Pollock Movie (2000) to imitate the string like quality that Jackson Pollock achieved with enamel house paint. This unique product dries clear and glossy but can be mixed with color. According to the information on Golden’s web site, it is so stringy that you could pour it from a three story building as one long strand!

Dripping Clear Tar Gel from the end of a popsicle stick is one of my favorite things to do! For this technique I use it in its clear form. I like to drip in on black paper. You can change the width of the “dripped” lines by adjusting the amount of Tar Gel on your stick. You can also adjust the width of the “string” on your paper by how high you are holding it up from the paper and the speed that you move the dripping stick from side to side as it is dripping. The Tar Gel then needs to dry. It will become clear as it dries. This process will take anywhere from one to four hours, depending on the thickness of the strings that you have dripped and the humidity conditions in the area that you are working.  Once dry, I like to iron some metallic foil over the top of it. The heat from the iron softens the tar gel and causes the foil to stick. You can use Jones Tones Foil or other similar foils.  I like to use a mix of metallic colors, usually copper, gold and silver. Once the foil has been applied, I fill in some of the spaces between my drips with pan pastels or colored pencils. Sometimes these pieces are finished works of art and other times I cut them up and use them for metallic collage elements.

Tar gel pastels

Tar Gel and Pan Pastels

Sometimes when I have finished an art piece and I want to add a little extra texture and metallic “punch.” I will use the technique described above, but use it on top of the finished work. I like to do this on paintings where I have made marks that are similar to the “drips and strings” that I have made with the tar gel. Again, I iron the foil over the tar gel in a mixture of metallic colors.

Gesso Tar Gel

Gesso and Tar Gel

Another way I like to use Tar Gel is to pour a “blob” (about a 1½” circle) of the tar gel onto some black card stock. I then add drops of color to the tar gel. I use fluid acrylics for the color. It is easy to use just one drop at a time, straight from the bottle. My favorite color combination, made with Golden Fluid Acrylics, is Green Gold, Cobalt Teal and Bronze. In general I like to use two colors plus one metallic. The drops of color will hold their shape within the tar gel. I then use a plastic fork and comb through the tar gel, pulling the colors together and forming a feather like pattern. I wipe the plastic fork with a paper towel and keep pulling it through the tar gel. Wiping between “pulls” is important. This is a subtractive process. The tar gel is self leveling and it will keep trying to “pull back” into the original blob shape. I like to pull it until I get some strings coming out from the “blob” and get a windswept look. Sometimes I iron foil on top of this treatment, but mostly, I like the way they turn out with just the three paint colors on black, I use these pieces on collages where I want a special focal point.

Tar Gel

Tar Gel

You can add color to the tar gel and then make drips with the colors. It is fun to mix several bright colors and drip and overlap them on black or other dark colored card stock! They also make interesting lines in an abstract painting or collage. When adding paint to the tar gel, you should sort of “fold it” in gently and use minimal stirring to blend the color with the tar gel. Still, you will probably get some bubbles. Blends of paint and tar gel should be allowed to sit long enough for the bubbles to rise to the surface. The length of time that this takes will vary with the amount of paint that you have added to the tar gel as well as the amount of stirring and mixing that has been done. It is best practice to allow the tar gel paint mixture to sit for 24 hours before using it.

Clear tar gel also acts as a paint resist. Try dripping it onto a white canvas or paper and let it dry. Then when you paint over it, the paint will not stick to the tar gel. It creates a slick surface and additional paints won’t stick to it. The paint just runs off onto the surrounding area. This can make for a very interesting abstract piece with lots of white drips showing through the other colors. And even though the drips are white, they appear raised, because the drips hold their original shape.

Another way to apply tar gel that makes for an interesting mark is to use a stiff, dried up paint brush. This is another favorite tool of Jackson Pollock. I tried it within an abstract painting. I kept the tar gel pretty thin so that I would get an uneven mark. I drug the brush, loaded with tar gel, over an area of an abstract painting. I then let it dry completely and ironed on the varied colors of foil. This resulted in a “symbol like” focal area in my abstract painting.

Clear Tar Gel

Clear Tar Gel

Some painters use Clear Tar Gel as a finished varnish on their paintings. It is important not to apply it too thickly. A thick layer of tar gel can take three or four days to dry and in some environmental conditions, it will develop spots of mold or mildew within the gel. For varnishing your work, pour the Clear Tar Gel onto you painting. Spread it with a squeegee. If this creates foam and bubbles, spray a fine mist of rubbing alcohol onto the tar gel to get rid of the bubbles.

You can create interesting collage embellishments by pouring a small amount of clear tar gel onto silicone baking parchment. You can then embed small washers, beads and other elements into the “blob” of tar gel. Let this dry and it should lift right off of the baking parchment. You will have created a unique “object” to use in your collages. This is easily glued to your collage with heavy gel medium.

Can you see why this is one of my favorite mediums? It is unusual and versatile. I’m sure with some experimentation you can come up with some new and unique techniques to improve and enhance your current mixed media work. Send me an e-mail or put a comment here and let us know what you come up with!


Jacqueline Sullivan is a mixed media, acrylic and calligraphic artist and is known for experimenting with texture, layers, paint and unusual materials. Jacqueline is also a teaching artist instructing in both the US and Canada. She has published technique articles and produced art instruction DVDs. Jacqueline can be reached via her website

Acrylics-Jacqueline SullivanCheck out the download of Jacqueline’s video, Acrylics: Textures, Layers and Metallics.






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