Try something different!
The easiest way is to use pastes or impasto gels for acrylic paints. Liquitex, for example, supply a fantastic range of textured gels and modeling pastes readymade for this purpose, they incorporate textures such as glass beads, resin sand and white flakes. You can also purchase modeling pastes with fine to coarse texture from companies such as Lascaux and Gerstaecker. Use them as a background or mix with your acrylics for tinted applications.
To make textured gels yourself, you only need an acrylic medium or gel to which you can add sand, pigments or even small objects, and then mix and apply to the whole background surface. You can also use acrylic pastes and gels to glue paper and other ordinary materials to your support to build structure. You can very easily work with kitchen paper for example, and it gives a pleasing result.
Varying the structure of the canvas, paper or board, offers new opportunities for expression. The added texture or the modeling of shapes allows you to create different material effects, and the structuring pastes or medium guarantee a lasting adherence of the paints onto the support.
You will need to work with applying paper that is thin and absorbent. The simplest solution is to choose kitchen paper, because it has a good absorption of acrylic binder and an optimal adherence to the surface. You can also use other papers such as silk paper, Japanese or Chinese papers (up to 50gsm). Some papers will give a simple and beautiful result, coloured papers for example, whose shade can be incorporated into the composition.
For an example we will take the kitchen paper as this can be easily found at home! Modern kitchen papers tend to have printed and textured patterns so if you can find a plain white, evenly textured one this would be best. Make a quick sketch of your pattern of your chosen support. Then glue a sheet of damp kitchen paper onto your work surface with the acrylic binder. You can create added structures and reliefs with smaller strips of paper on other parts of the composition and make sure to leave a few blanks. Make sure to let the paper dry completely before painting it. Now, with the diluted paints, apply the basic paints on your drawing. The structure of your background surface will be more or less emphasized depending on the dilution of the paint. Shadows and highlights can then be built up around the reliefs and these will be futher enhanced by the already present shapes. The weight of the kitchen paper enhances the touches of colour and gives the objects a rough texture thanks to its coarse and powdery characteristics.
You can also incorporate further textures into the surface, such as the sand, if you wish. First coat the support with a thin layer of acrylic binder. Dampen the kitchen paper (with a spray for example) and apply it on the support. With a large brush apply the binder or medium onto the paper until it is well saturated. Binders and gels must be slightly diluted with water. After that you can add any objects (preferable non perishables!) you want onto the paper, such as sand or gravel. Be sure to let it dry for minimum 24 hours before painting it.
Your chosen background support must be stable and resistant to the added moisture. We advise that you use canvas boards or very heavy weight paper or card which can be worked with easily. This technique opens many doors to different experiences. Give it a try!