Fiberglass Sculptures



At the request of certain cities, artists are creating unusual works of art for outdoor public display. Artists around the country are painting and otherwise decorating cast fiberglass animal sculptures, including Cows, Fish, Bison, etc. Given the current popularity of these works of art, we felt it was important to offer some specific assistance to artists who wish to use acrylics for these projects.

This information sheet discusses GOLDEN products that can be used and gives our suggestions on how to apply them in the soundest manner. It is important to understand that these products have limitations when used for any exterior application. However, when the products are applied correctly, the resulting painted sculpture should last for quite some time.

It is equally important to realize the future owner's role in preserving this sculpture. As with an outdoor mural (or any artwork for that matter), there should be periodical inspections for early warning signs of failure, such as film degradation and discoloration. We suggest that the future owner be made aware of the products used in these sculptures and that they should keep this information in their records to assist any possible conservation or restoration processes.


Pre-primed Fiberglass

Some fiberglass sculptures may arrive pre-primed. These most likely have some sort of automotive primer intended for metal and fiberglass. If this surface is acceptable for the intended artwork, then skip down to the Painting Application section.

Testing for Adequate Preparation

If you have any concerns about the pre-primed surface, you should contact the people in charge of the committee and ask them what product has been applied.

You can also test the paints you plan on using in an inconspicuous location on the fiberglass body. After applying the color and allowing it to dry for several days, we suggest the "Cross-hatch Adhesion Test" in which the paint films are scored with a razor knife. In a space of approximately 2 square inches, score a series of parallel lines about 1/8" apart. Then score another series (perpendicular) across the first ones, creating a cross-hatch pattern of little squares. Finally, take a piece of ordinary masking tape, burnish it on the section, and lift off straight up from the surface. If there are no squares that lift off, then you have excellent adhesion between all layers. If a few squares come off but the majority remains, you may have sufficient enough adhesion, especially after the sculpture is clear coated. If most or all of the squares come off, this suggests poor adhesion. Note where the failure occurred. Did the primer come off of the fiberglass? Did the paint come off of the primer coat? This will indicate whether or not the primer is suitable or if it needs to be sanded to accept the acrylic paints.


If the priming was done poorly and is unacceptable, or the (bare or pre-primed) surface is too rough or too slick, then sanding the surface may be required. Because of the unusual textures and other animal features, hand sanding is probably the most practical method.

CAUTION: inhaling fiberglass dust is extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Wear a properly fitting dust mask or have someone with appropriate equipment do your sanding. In general, any airborne dust or particulate is bad to inhale, but fiberglass is quite harmful to the lungs.

Sand the surface in a circular motion with sandpaper grits between 220 and 440. The surface should be wiped down with a damp rag frequently and inspected for glossy spots. Once there are no noticeable areas of gloss, give a final wipe-down and then degrease (below).


Inspect the surface, looking for any greasy, oily substances. The fiberglass body was created in a mold process. Mold release agents (such as silicone sprays) may have been used to ensure the sculpture will pop out cleanly from the mold. It is imperative that these contaminants are removed by wiping the surface with either "degreaser" solvents made especially for this purpose, or isopropyl alcohol. This process will also remove fingerprint oils and other materials that may have accidentally been applied to the surface. Allow the degreaser to fully evaporate before priming.

Applying the Priming Coat(s)

It is critical to use a high quality product for priming any artwork. No matter how durable the subsequent layers of paints and varnish may be, they will only last as long as the priming coats. Because artist gessoes contain calcium carbonate, which is vulnerable to chalking in exterior applications, we do not recommend them for outdoor use. Instead, we would recommend using one of these two options when priming fiberglass surfaces:

  • Automotive primers for fiberglass.
  • Professional grade, exterior primers specifically intended for non-porous surfaces.

Apply either one or two coats of the primer and allow 24 hours to dry after the final coat is applied. The surface is now ready to be painted or decorated.


Product Selection

In general, most GOLDEN Acrylic products can be used for this application. GOLDEN Heavy Body, Fluid, Matte, Matte Fluid and High Load Acrylics, High Flow Acrylics, and Iridescent/Interference Colors should all have adequate adhesion. However, to increase adhesion and physical hardness of the acrylics, blend between 10% to 75% GAC 200. This is the hardest acrylic medium we produce; it extends paints while increasing durability.

Other brands of acrylics can be used; however, we cannot offer assistance for their use, as we do not know what their adhesion, permanence and durability may be. We suggest contacting the manufacturer of these products before embarking on the project.

Other kinds of paints, such as house paints, oil paints, automotive, acrylic enamels, etc. , may also be used for this application. Because of the infinite factors involved with using these products, we suggest contacting the manufacturer before use on the project.

Pigment Selection

Certain pigments are more fugitive than others, meaning that they are more prone to color fades and changes from exposure to sunlight and exterior environments. GOLDEN only uses Lightfast rated I & II pigments, with the exception of the Fluorescent products. Using anything less than Lightfastness I pigment may result in rapid color shifts when exposed to sunlight. Lightfastness information is available for GOLDEN products upon request. Even the use of an exterior varnish or topcoat with UV stabilizers cannot insure fugitive materials (this includes papers, dyed fabric, plastics, etc. ) from some degree of fading.

Some pigments react to the combination of sunlight, temperature, moisture and acidity present in outdoor areas. Cadmiums and Ultramarine Blue are pigments to avoid outdoors, especially when used in glazes.

GOLDEN Suggested Color List for Exterior Sculpture

Although GOLDEN uses only the most permanent pigments available within each chemical classification, we have compiled this list of the best pigment choices for use on an exterior sculpture. Application of an isolation coat and a durable, exterior topcoat with UV satbilizers is recommended.


The most stable GOLDEN colors for exterior use.

Anthraquinone Blue
Bismuth Vanadate Yellow
Bone Black
Burnt Sienna
Burnt Umber Light
Burnt Umber
Carbon Black
Chromium Oxide Green
Chromium Oxide Green Dark
Cobalt Green
Cobalt Teal(color discontinued in 2012)
Cobalt Titanate Green(color discontinued in 2012)
Cobalt Turquois
Graphite Gray
Iridescent and Interference Colors (except Iridescent Bright Gold)
Mars Black
Mars Yellow
Neutral Grays
Phthalo Blue GS
Phthalo Blue RS
Phthalo Green BS
Phthalo Green YS
Primary Cyan
Pyrrole Orange
Pyrrole Red
Pyrrole Red Dark
Pyrrole Red Light
Raw Sienna
Raw Umber
Red Oxide
Terre Verte Hue
Titan Buff
Titanate Yellow
Transparent Brown Iron Oxide
Transparent Red Iron Oxide
Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide
Titanium White
Turquois (Phthalo)
Van Dyke Brown Hue
Violet Oxide
Yellow Oxide


Stable colors, but avoid thin layers or glazes for minimal color shift.

Cerulean Blue
Cerulean Blue Deep
Naples Yellow Hue
Diarylide Yellow
Hansa Yellow Opaque
Quinacridone Red

Special Application Requirements

Some artists have had questions about using materials other than artist products for applications ranging from imbedding objects in acrylic gels, riveting metal platelets, creating unusual textures, and unique paper and fabric collage applications. Most of these applications can be done with GOLDEN Gels and Mediums (most commonly using Soft Gel Gloss as a glue); however, certain objects should be attached with more commercially acceptable methods. 2-part epoxy glues are best for joining non-porous materials together. Acrylics dry from evaporation, and thus would not be acceptable for materials that did not allow some airflow or have some porosity to them. Contact the GOLDEN Materials and Application Department if you require some specific recommendations.

Thick layers of gel mediums and paints require a minimum of 48 hours to dry. Humidity, temperature and airflow are important factors for the drying of acrylics. Be sure to allow for this curing process before final varnishes are applied, as trapped moisture and other additives can be the cause for early delamination.

Possible Topcoating Products

The best clear coats in regard to durability are the 2-part automotive grade urethanes. These products will have the best weather and marring resistance. Unless the artist has the proper spray equipment, respirators, and adequate spraying space, we suggest consulting a local automotive body repair shop and contracting them to apply this kind of product. Creating a test panel made from the exact materials that will be used on the fiberglass sculpture is important so the shop can understand what they are asked to do. They can clear-coat the sample prior to the artwork and both you and the sprayer will have a better understanding of the application requirements.

Outdoor grade, 1-part polyurethanes may also be considered for this application; however, they have been known to yellow after aging. They may also chip or peel off earlier than the automotive urethane. Other kinds of varnishes such as lacquers, acrylic enamels and epoxies may also be used; however, we cannot offer any suggestions, as we have not completed enough compatibility testing or research for this application.


We hope this information helps artists to achieve long lasting, durable, outdoor fiberglass sculptures, and will encourage, rather than stifle, their creativity. If you have read about any products you are unfamiliar with, please contact GOLDEN to obtain more information.

You can access this information at our website: in the Product and Application Information section, or by emailing our Materials and Application Department at or by calling 607-847-6154 / 800-959-6543.


The above information is based on research and testing done by Golden Artist Colors, Inc., and is provided as a basis for understanding the potential uses of the products mentioned. Due to the numerous variables in methods, materials and conditions of producing art, Golden Artist Colors, Inc. cannot be sure the product will be right for you. Therefore, we urge product users to test each application to ensure all individual project requirements are met. While we believe the above information is accurate, WE MAKE NO EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, and we shall in no event be liable for any damages (indirect, consequential, or otherwise) that may occur as a result of a product application.