Learning how to paint with acrylics, like any other hobby, requires a little practice and a lot of trial and error as you get started. We’ve put up a complete 101 on the issue with the help of painters who have been working with acrylic paints for a long time.
Stick with us and your next painting will be waiting at the conclusion of this post, from a basic explanation of what acrylic paints are and how they vary from other paints to a thorough step-by-step instruction that will bring you through the process from beginning to end.
What Are Acrylic Paints
Before we go into how to paint with acrylics, let’s define what acrylic paint is and how it varies from other mediums.
“Basically, acrylic paints are pigments suspended in a water-soluble acrylic polymer medium that becomes water-resistant when dry,” explains Gary Griffin, a Houston-based artist. “The benefits of working with acrylics over other media types are that they dry quickly, are simple to clean up, have a minimal odor, and are highly pigmented, allowing for very vivid and vibrant colors.”
Acrylic paints dry far faster than oil paints, which can take up to a day or more to dry fully.
There are a few more things to keep in mind concerning acrylic paints: They dry to a darker hue than the pigment they show when wet, they don’t spread (like watercolors or gouache), they dry rapidly (which has its advantages but can make blending difficult), they’re water-soluble when wet and water-resistant when dry, which means they can’t be altered once dry.
The Supplies You’ll Need and the Best Acrylic Paint Brands
A palette, a palette knife for blending, brushes labelled as authorized for acrylic paint, a canvas (Griffin recommends a gesso-primed canvas or wood panel), a rag or paper towels, and finally soap and water for cleaning are the basic minimum for acrylic painting. An easel will also be useful.
You’ll notice that the quality of the resources accessible to you varies, just like everything else. As a beginning, Webster advises sticking with lower-cost or “student grade” materials rather than “professional grade,” noting that you may even ask an art store worker for help.
“Both grades are fine,” she explains, “but as a novice, the student grade will be less expensive and ideal for practice or exploring new themes and colors.” You may upgrade to better quality acrylic painting items as your confidence in your acrylic painting skill set grows.
Webster suggests Golden and Liquitex as the finest acrylic paint brands. Winsor Newton is another well-known, well-stocked, and dependable brand. You’ll probably save money by purchasing a 24- or 36-piece paint kit, which you may purchase online or at art stores. It’s also a good idea to get a couple of larger tubes of paints you really enjoy or believe you’ll use a lot, as well as a large tube of black and a large bottle of white paint for blending and base work.
Acrylic Paint Brushes
When it comes to brushes, Webster advises against going overboard. “Many painting students and artists place an excessive amount of emphasis on having a broad range of brushes. “If you buy a pair of nice brushes, you will appreciate the experience far more than if you buy a huge, intimidating set or an inexpensive set from Michaels or the art shop,” she says. Winsor Newton and Grumbacher are two well-known brush brands.
“Go to a nice local art store and search for the acrylic brushes sign in the brush aisle,” Webster advises. “Run your fingers through them as you lift them up and out of their casing. This is your wand of wizardry. Feel it, hold it, and softly brush your fingertips over the bristles. It should be brushed across your free hand. This is your brush, and you will use it to great effect.”
You’ll also need something to maintain your brushes in excellent shape. The Masters Paint Brush Cleaner and Preserver comes highly recommended.
Although an easel isn’t strictly essential, you might discover that it enhances your painting experience. A $20 to $40 H-frame tabletop easel may be kept at home without taking up a lot of room, according to Webster. If you want to upgrade to a more durable easel, she suggests looking for lightly used easels on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or CraigsList, or asking at your local art store. High-quality, huge standing easels can easily cost several hundred dollars, so take your time and look around.