Flashe Paints: Intense, Flat, Opaque Colour

For a few years now I have been noticing the word Flashe listed as a material on painting labels. It is almost always listed in conjunction with oil paint in contemporary painting on canvas or panel. I occasionally see it when I am looking at work on an artist’s website and each year when I’m going around the Frieze Art Fair it pops up a few times. It turns out that the famous Op Artist Victor Vasarely used Flashe for his work in the 1960s and the painter David Salle started using Flashe a few years ago. Painters Mary Weatherford and Gordon Cheung also use Flashe paints.

Flashe paint was developed in 1954 for stage scenery painters but both fine artists and illustrators soon discovered it. Flashe is similar to acrylic gouache but is a vinyl paint. It is made by the French company Lefranc Bourgeois who explain that it uses a vinyl emulsion binder that has a longer molecular structure than acrylic, so it is more supple and flexible. The finer, softer resin is a fatter emulsion that allows a perfectly flat and smooth surface with no brushmarks. It is a creamy, soft-body paint that dries with a very fine “peach skin” surface texture, that doesn’t look at all plasticky. They say it adheres well to all surfaces, even without a primer: glass, metal, polystyrene, wood, plastic, leather, stone, cardboard, paper and canvas. They also say it is excellent for both indoor and outdoor mural painting as it resists the elements since it is elastic, permanent and very lightfast.

Flashe vinyl emulsion paints

The Characteristics of Flashe Paint

The matt finish also means it provides a good tooth for painting oil paint on, so it can be successfully used for underpainting. It has great covering power even in a thin layer, so the paint goes a long way. It dilutes with water and has a high pigment load so the colors stay strong even when very diluted in watercolour-like washes. The great tinting strength means it takes very little color to tint white paint. It is fast-drying, with no odour and it is waterproof when dry. Of a particular interest to illustrators and designers, the deeply matt finish is non-reflective so it can be scanned or photographed successfully. Flashe paint is available from Jackson’s in 76 colors in two sizes – an 80ml plastic tube and a 125ml glass jar. Black and white are also available in large glass jars of 400ml and 750ml.

Flashe vinyl emulsion paints

What Artists are Saying

  • In addition to fine art painting, Flashe is also popular for illustration, graphics, comics, model making, fresco and interior mural decoration.
  • Some artists report that it handles differently to acrylic gouache.
  • There are many reports that it mixes well with acrylics and acrylic mediums, with the exception of a few colors that may “curdle”.
  • Most artists love the opacity but a few artists have said they are not as opaque as acrylic gouache or at least not in all colours.
  • When transitioning from traditional acrylics, many artists found they liked that there is no color shift from wet to dry as you get in many traditional acrylic ranges.
  • If you are sensitive or have allergies to acrylic paints you may find these vinyl paints do not bother you.

Examples of Work

You can see Flashe in use in the photos is this earlier blog article – Paula Nahmod’s Paintings Capture the Energy of The City. Look for it listed under some of the paintings and you can see jars of Flashe on her painting table in the studio.

Lefranc Bourgeois Flashe Paint at Jackson’s

Click on the underlined link to go to the current offers on Lefranc Bourgeois Flashe Paint on the Jackson’s Art Supplies website.
Postage on orders shipped standard to mainland UK addresses is free for orders of £39.

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