How to Paint with Acrylics

Painting With Acrylics Guide

Young artists often learn how to paint with acrylics, because acrylic painting is easy to learn. Acrylic paints dry quickly and are resistant to the effects of water once dry, though acrylics can be diluted with water before they dry. Acrylic paint is easier to work with than the time-honored yet slow-drying oil paints, and acrylic paintings do not tend to crack or alter, at least in the fifty years since acrylics were invented. Learning to paint with acrylics is, like water coloring, a good way to learn the art of painting, but can be used by advanced painters and artists.

So how does one paint with acrylics? Learning how to paint with acrylic paints isn’t hard at all, though young painters will need to keep in mind a few things when doing so. I’ve included a step-by-step guide to painting with acrylics, which I hope will help you enjoy many hours of acrylic painting fun.

  1. Choose Your Medium – Select the kind of surface you’ll be painting on. One advantage of acrylic paint is it will apply to most any of the standard painting surfaces. You can paint using acrylics on paper, canvas and cardboard. Painters can even apply acrylics to pottery and wood surfaces. So when you decide to paint using acrylics, pick your medium and give it a go. I would suggest starting with paper or cardboard, if you’re a brand new acrylic painter.
  2. Select the Opacity of the Paint – Acrylics can be either transparent paint or opaque paint. When you opaque acrylics, the surface of your painting will be completely covered and you won’t be able to see the surface. When you choose the transparent option, light will shine through the paints on the surface and you can see through to the surface. Either technique has its advantages and disadvantages, so you might play around with each to decide which technique you prefer. You’ll probably find that each technique will work best for particular paintings. The next two suggestions give hints about using opacity or achieving transparency.
  3. Using Thick Acrylics – If you use acrylic paint in an undiluted form straight out of the tube, you’ll find that acrylic paints can be used much like oil paints. Acrylics are cheaper than oil paints, which is another reason acrylics are good for beginning painters. This allows you to practice a lot, which is what a new painter needs to do most of all. Remember that acrylics dry faster than oil paints, which (once again) has its advantages and disadvantages. You just need to note this when painting with acrylics, because you’ll have less time to change what you deem a mistake. Once dry, the acrylics will harden and water will not dilute the dry acrylic paint.
  4. Mix With Water – Mixing the acrylics with water increases their solubility and makes them easier to move around the canvas. If you add enough water to acrylics, they become transparent and behave in many ways like water coloring. If you want to layer colors on the canvas, lay down opaque figures first, then add the watered-down acrylics over the surface colors to allow for highlighting and layers. You can dilute acrylics to the point they become a glaze.
  5. Work Quickly When Blending – Remember that acrylics dry quickly, so you’ll need to work relatively fast when blending your acrylic colors. Painters who experience problems with acrylics drying too fast can buy slow-dry medium, which is generally on the same aisle as the acrylics paints (and usually situated next to them). The advantage of the slow-dry medium is that it doesn’t thin your acrylic paints the water would. When painting with acrylics on paper, you can slow down the drying time by wetting your paper.
  6. Layer Over Mistakes – Acrylic paints won’t move off the surface, once they are applied. So if you make a mistake when painting with acrylics, layer over the top of the mistake to correct it. Don’t try to remove the mistake once it is dried or drying.
  7. Practice Often – Like any other form of art, the best way to get better is practice and repetition. Even the masters had to practice their art. You’ll learn to master painting with acrylics by making mistakes and then making adjustments. So play around with acrylic paints, learn what you can do and what you shouldn’t do, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t master painting immediately.

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