Beginner Acrylic Painting

In beginner acrylic painting, one of the first issues is: getting the right colors. On this page you'll find also tips on other materials you'll need, and on how to start on your favorite subjects. Check here for a page on basic color theory.

Now that acrylic paint is available in all the colors and pigments that are used for oil paint as well, acrylic painting is good for every painting genre. And, as beginner acrylic painting usually starts somewhere in your own house, the advantage of acrylic paints are clear: they're watersoluble and you don't need solvents.

Painting grounds for beginner acrylic painting

The easiest way to start painting is getting a set of painting boards. You can work on paper as well, but regular paper needs stretching. But there are also acrylic paper pads on the market, that allow you to start painting right away. And for the real thing, take a canvas. You can stretch it yourself, or buy it ready made (in that case: take a universally primed canvas). Ready primed canvases are not that expensive anymore. But painting boards are cheaper and better storable - a good option for beginner acrylic painting.

Materials for beginner acrylic painting

In hobby stores or even in the local warehouse, beginner sets are offered, usually consisting of black and white and three "primary colors" (dark blue, red and yellow). But these are not really good for mixing. Click here for a basic list of colors. With these colors, you can explore all the corners of the color wheel.

The brushes with these sets are usually Chinese bristle brushes. They're good for working roughly, but for acrylic painting techniques, synthetic brushes are better. Check Blick Art Materials for economy sets of synthetic brushes. Here's a section on paint brushes, where I'll go into options and ways to work with a brush.

The fun of painting

Beginner acrylic painting will be the most fun, if you can enjoy the activity itself, and don't put stress on getting results. Beginner acrylic painting is a learning process, you'll need to practice. But If you enjoy practicing, you will automatically get results too - in a free and spontaneous way. Remember: you don't need to make perfection, we have machines for that. What we like to see is: subtle, free brushstrokes, of someone who saw and enjoyed what he or she was doing. Try to paint with the honesty and the attention of a child - and your skills will mature by themselves.

What's your favorite subject?

How to begin acrylic painting is a matter of: what would you like to learn first? If you favor realistic work, it's a good idea to do a bit of drawing, to study proportions. You don't do this for making great drawings: you do it figure out what the real proportions of your subject are. You forget about the drawing technique once you start painting. When you paint, you don't make lines: you put on shapes and shaped fields of color.
Of course you can use photographs too. Copy them in black and white, and draw a raster on it, to take over proportions. Apart from proportions, the most important issue in realism is: color. Painting really is all about color - a little basic color theory can do a lot for your paintings.
For a long list of tips on the artistic process, check this page on beginner oil painting.

Landscape and portraiture

In the beginning, it's a good idea to first paint your subject in black and white, or brown and white, to get a feel for the light-and-darkness. Colors can be added later, by glazing or painting things over. Click here for landscape painting techniques, and here for some tips on portrait painting.

Abstract painting and free expression

When you start painting abstract, finding your freedom and creativity is what matters most. Funny enough, you can do that by putting yourself in certain limits. When you start painting in black and white, you have a whole world of forms and gestures to explore. Light and darkness, and brushing techniques are interesting enough to make lots and lots of pictures. You can paint them over later with colors, if you want to. Click here to read more on abstract painting techniques.

When you favor to start with the colors, make sure you have a good basic set of colors. Start with painting unsharp shapes, then they can still change. Colors interact, and abstract painting is the best way to learn how. Experiment with different layering methods - eventually, take pictures in between, just to have some record on how you made things. Once you are ready for more variation, first add black and white to your palette, and after that some earth colors.

Quick drying times

Acrylic paint has quick drying times. For layering, that is great - you can go on the next day on a dry painting. For working wet in wet, it's not so handy. Wet in wet working allows you to change one and the same layer of paint. You can add colors, change shades, work on proportions. If you want to do that in acrylics, you could add a retarder medium. But if this is your favorite technique, it's probably better to swap to oil painting techniques.

There are lots of painting mediums for acrylic painting - they're great, but it's better to start to exploring them later, after you've met with the brushing, the colors and your light-and-darkness.

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