Acrylic Painting Tips

acrylic painting

The best features of acrylic paint are: you thin and wash them with water and they dry really fast. It depends on how much paint you use for one layer, and on the absorbance of your canvas or paper. Thin, dry strokes of acrylic paint on an absorbent underground can dry within minutes. That's a good thing when you work with 'dots'. For blending wet colors you might need a retarder medium or just thick layers of paint. For more basic technical tips, click here. Further on this page you'll find acrylic painting tips on:

  • brushes
  • painting surfaces
  • stretching paper
  • layering techniques
  • using effects of matte and shiny finishes
  • using acrylic painting mediums for special effects
  • a natural-looking acrylic paint

Acrylic painting tips on brushes

In ters of their material, synthetic brushes are best for acrylic painting techniques. In the art store you'll find them in every budget(check them out here at Blick's. Synthetic brushes are often more fine-haired than bristles, so if you like 'ropey strokes' take bristle brushes. Both bristle and synthetic brushes are available at the DIY paintstore - get one or two big ones, for blending and backgrounds. What brushes you need also depends on the way you like to work: for long, supple strokes, you need fine art brushes, but if you want to push and do erratic things: buy cheap DIY-brushes. Click here for more on different ways to handle a brush.

Acrylic painting tips on painting surfaces

For practicing purposes, you can work on a paper pad or on normal (streched) paper, but a stretched canvas allows you to put your work up to the wall without having to frame it. An inbetween-solution is the painting board or a roll of primed canvas (blick's). Both are thin, cheap and well storable. Painting boards don't keep straight over the years; when your painting happily succeeded, you mount an extra piece of wood on the back to hang it on the wall. From a canvas roll you just cut the size you nee (with 5 inches extra on each side), so you can stretch your work later on stretcher strips, or just frame it.
If you work on paper, it's good to do a thin priming layer on it, with Gesso. Any paper is good, as long as you stretch it.

Acrylic paint can be used on glass, if you add caseine to it (Schmincke has ready-to-use-caseine paste, available in the art store). It makes the paint hold on glass. Great for creating faux stained windows, or translucent paintings. You'll find it here at Blicks

Acrylic painting tips on layering techniques

Acrylic painting is great for layering techniques, because it dries so fast. You can use the same techniques as in oil painting - you do an underpainting and work over that when it's dry. The only difference is: acrylics dry a lot faster.Click here for underpainting color recipes.

If you want to do oldfashioned layering techniques, invest in some paint with quality pigments (for example Winsor and Newton), take the historic pigment line of Golden for authentic colors, or make your own acrylic paint. You do that by grinding authentic pigments in water, and add acrylic binder to them (1 : 1). Test your paint by applying it on glass. If it comes off as a very thin film, it's good. Home-made acrylic paint looks almost just as simple and natural as egg-tempera, milk and caseine paints.

Acrylic painting tips on gels and modeling paste

If you like to play with extra-special effects, try the modeling paste or Gel medium Gloss (Liquitex). Modeling paste is for creating a heavy and shaped body of paint on the underground layers. It needs a solid background, like a canvas or painting board. Gel medium gloss is applied as a top coat, to create sparkling effects. Check here at Blick's for Acrylic Mediumsthey have a wide range of materials for different kinds of effects. One thing about acrylic mediums: also the ones the dry up really transparent look opaque milky-white when they're still wet. You'll have to calculate that in, when mixing your colors.

Gold, silver and mother-of-pearl (in all colors) are also available, there's virtually no limit in material possibilities. You can even use a gel medium to put small beads on your painting, or glitter, bits of paper, transparent waves of paint - use your imagination.

Still, if your a beginning painter, it's better to first work with light and darkness, and colors. After that, you can add the extra value materials. It's like dressing up a drag queen: when there's some 'woman-material' available as a basis, the special effects will look good too...

Matte and shiny varnish

A varnish is meant to protect your work. But you can also use it to influence the look-and-feel of your work, using matte and shiny varnishes. You can create color depth and material changes, just like in oil paints. A black is never just black: when it's matte, it's a dull grey, and when it's shiny, it's deep black with sparkles on it. In realism, a certain shine is often an added value to the realistic impression. But if color is important, a matte finish is moreoften desired. It gives the colors a velvety, softly radiating look.

Acrylic painting tips on different subjects

Painting tips for landscape painting, portraiture or abstract painting, are about the same as oil painting - only the drying times of acrylics are shorter, and you don't use turpentine. Click here for painting tips on:


Also check the page on beginner oil painting and creative oil painting, there you'll find lots of painting tips that also apply to acrylic art painting.

Acrylic painting tips on making creative choices

I guess you understand by now, that one page of acrylic painting tips is too short to outline all the possibilities of acrylic paint: there simply are too many of them. The important thing is: having some idea of what you want. Some people use acrylics just like oil paints, to practice their oil painting techniques. Acrylic paint is not too expensive, it dries quickly and it doesn't give your house a bad smell. But doint so, some people still feel that acrylic painting is not 'the real thing' - and some don't mind. Others do treat acrylics as 'the real thing', and make an extravagant use of the material possibilities of acrylic mediums, like gels, impasto-bodyshapers, and metal-look paints. There's not really a right or wrong here. But you need some real determination and sense of purpose, to master the luring effects of all that visual luxury. And if you can master them, and put them to work for your content, you can make really glorious paintings. Maybe everyone should go wild, every now and then.

Acrylic painting tips on colors

The artificialness of acrylic paint is somewhat in the binder (plasticlike), but most of it goes down to the pigments. A new trend in acrylics is, to use old-world pigments for making acrylic paint - the new color line of Golden (golden historic acrylics) has great colors. In any case, get the alizarine Crimson shade of this series. In other brands: look out when buying turquoise or carmine, there usually too dark (turquoise) or too light (carmine). And take not of the color names: if it just says "red", or "yellow", it's probably a very synthetic pigment. Click here for more on paint color names.

Acrylic painting tips in short:

  • Use synthetic brushes
  • Don't only depend on special effects (materials): also learn light and darkness, and your colors.
  • Use a canvas or painting board for bigger projects, and paper for studies.
  • Invest in good paint, or make your own.
  • In doing studies on color, light, and more classical subjects, just follow the tips on
    oil painting techniques.


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