Interested in learning how to paint? You may want to try working with acrylics. These paints are a lot easier to control than watercolors, and when dry, are closer to the original color. They also dry fast (unlike oil paints) so you can layer colors without having to wait for the coats to ‘set.’ There are also plenty of acrylic mediums that let you achieve different effects, so you have a lot of creative freedom. Experts also believe that acrylic paints are more permanent than other mediums. Even without special ‘finishes’ they retain their color and resist cracks 50 years after application.
Here are some tips on how to use acrylic paints. But the most important thing to remember is to have fun and experiment—that’s what painting is all about!
1. Use only a small amount at a time.
Acrylic paints dry very fast. So, squeeze out a small amount from a
tube at a time, especially if you plan to mix colors. Some artists will keep a small spray bottle and ‘mist’ the paint in order to keep it moist and workable. Others recommend placing a sheet of wax paper on top of damp watercolor paper, and using this as a mixing palette. The moisture prevents acrylic paint from drying out as it ‘sits’ on the non-absorbent wax paper. Get other tips on how to work faster on Youtube tutorials
2. Rinse your brushes right away.
Acrylic paint dries so fast that it can cling to the hairs of your brush after just a few minutes. If you’re working with several brushes—and many artists recommend that, since different shapes of brushes give different strokes and effects—make it a habit to clean your brush as you work.
3. Prevent brush blob.
Many beginners make the mistake of leaving brushes in a jar of water. Unfortunately, this habit ruins the brush—and the painting! The moisture weakens the glue that holds the bristles together, and the position can deform the shape of the brush. Plus, the water can seep into the brush, and then run down while you paint, leaving ugly blotches. The best thing to do is rinse your brushes really quickly then rest them on a paper towel or cloth next to your jar.
4. Control water to get different effects.
Acrylic can look opaque or transparent depending on the paint-to-water ratio. If you apply it straight out of the tube or with very little water, or if mixed with gesso or white, the effect is opaque. If it is diluted with a lot of water, it actually resembles watercolor.
5. Layer different coats.
Acrylic washes dry quickly, and once it does, it can be painted over without disturbing that layer. That’s different from watercolor, which can be ‘lifted out’ with a rag, or mixed with succeeding washes.
This means two things: acrylic paint is a little bit more difficult to correct (because it’s permanent) but mistakes are also easier to hide (just paint over it). You can also get interesting effects by using different layers of acrylic paints, applying the second or third coat with a sponge to allow the previous coats to ‘peek through.’
6. Apply glazes with a light hand.
You can find a lot of acrylic glazes that will add luster to your painting. To control the effect, apply thin layers first, allowing it to dry before adding a second or third. In general, a thin layer will create a transparent glaze. Several layers will create a glossy effect.
7. Add flow medium.
Acrylic paint has a lot of ‘body’—application tends to be thick, especially if you apply straight out of the cube. You can thin it out with water, but this will dilute the color. If you’d like to keep colors intense but get a thinner and more flowing application, get a flow improver acrylic medium.
8. Apply water on the canvas.
You may want to blend colors to achieve certain effects. However, acrylic’s tendency to dry very fast can make it difficult to do that–especially if you’re still figuring out what effect you want! You can buy time by applying water on the canvas with a wet brush.
9. Use masking tape as a
If you want to paint a straight line, or protect an area from paint, stick masking tape on the canvas. This will block off the section, shielding it from the new layer of paint. Just press down the tape with a finger, sealing it down so no paint gets into the loose sections. And, apply paint with a light hand—any excess paint will smudge when you remove the masking tape.
10. Play with texture.
Apply a thick layer of acrylic paint and then create interesting effects by scratching it with an old credit card, toothpicks, or other sharp surfaces. This will dry three-dimensionally, especially if you get special acrylic mediums that add body to the paint.