Acrylics, Painting

How to Paint With Acrylics

June 4, 2014

By Alina Bradford

Painting by Bolívar lino

Acrylic is a popular medium choice for many different reasons. It is convenient because it dries quickly, making it easy to paint in layers or to transport your art without fear of smudges. It also doesn’t have a lingering smell and harmful fumes. One of the best features of acrylics, though, is that you don’t have to use solvents. This paint mixes with water and cleans up easily.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Here’s what you need to know to get started painting with this wonderful medium. 

How to Mix Acrylic Paints

Acrylics can give a painter a fabulous range of colors without having to buy many different tubes of paint. This is because acrylic paint mixes easily, without the worry of muddiness, like with watercolors. 

To start with, you can generally have a basic pallet of white, lemon yellow, raw sienna, yellow ochre, Chinese red, cadmium red, violet, ultramarine, cobalt blue, cerulean blue, bright green, monestial green and Hooker’s green. 

Did you notice that black wasn’t listed? This is because fantastic, interesting blacks can be made with acrylics by toying with different color combinations. Try mixing violet with monestial green, for instance. This mix creates a complex black that you just can’t get out of a tube. 

Consistency and Mediums 

Traditionally, oils are used somewhat thick and watercolors are used thin. With acrylics you can do whatever you like. Use it straight out of the tube with a pallet knife for an impasto feel, or add lots of water to get the look of watercolors. It is all up to you and the look you are going for. 

If you find that your acrylics are drying just too fast you can add what is called acrylic mediums. There are also acrylic mediums that can make acrylics thicker or more transparent. They just mix right into the paint like a solvent. 

Canvas or Paper for Acrylic Paints? 

20100624_14Once again, it is up to you! Acrylic can be used on paper of all different types or on canvas. The only thing you really need to worry about is if the paper is archival. 

You can also use acrylic paints on painting boards. These are primed boards that are made especially for artwork, though some artists will cut their own Masonite boards to paint on. Many artists prefer painting boards to canvas because they are stiff and have no “give.” 

Acrylic Washes 

Washes are easy to achieve with acrylics because they dry so quickly and can be made by just mixing the paint with water. Squeeze your paint into a well pallet and add enough water so that the paint is very liquid when it is mixed. Use a wide brush to apply the wash to your surface. It will only take around five minutes for the wash to dry, and then you are free to apply the next wash. 

Acrylics really are a mix of the best qualities of oil and watercolors. Give it a try and you just may be hooked.

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