Acrylic paint

acrylic paint

How to use acrylic paint

Acrylic paint is a very comfortable medium if you really understand how it works.

Acrylic paint is a paint made of pigment suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion. They dry fast easily dissolve in water easily and also can be water resistance especially when dry. Acrylic paints can be used for cloth printing, wall design, canvas painting, fabric painting etc.

One of the interesting thing about acrylic paint is that it can be used straight right from the tube. Acrylic paint is a nice medium for your work. It is versatile and vibrant. Unlike water colour, acrylic colour doesn’t change much when dry. This is how an acrylic paint looks like:

Acrylic paint
Acrylic paint set

If you have been using pastel, pencil or pen before and this is your first time using acrylic paint, fear not. Actually acrylic paints are easy to use. I have used pencil, pastel, ballpoint pen and acrylic paint to make portrait, and I assure you it is much easier. It takes less effort to get what you want with acrylic than with pencil or pastel. Though everything still boils down to practice.

Advantage of acrylic paint

  • Like I mentioned earlier, acrylic paints dries very fast. If you want to add more  layers to your work you don’t need to worry about waiting too long. Since it dries fast it won’t smudge and stain.
  • Acrylic paint has durability. It lasts more than oil paint. Unlike other mediums, the good thing about acrylic paint is that It can stay for years and wont crack or even change colour.
  • Acrylic paint gives chance to add more layers on your work because it dries fast. What it means is that after painting a particular layer and there is a mistake you want to cover up, you can do it without mixing the colours of under-layer and the new layer.
  • Acrylic paints are water soluble, it can be dissolved in liquid or thinned to make wash, just like water colours.
  • They stick better to surfaces than most paints. Acrylic paints have nice grip on surface and they can also be combined with other medium when it is dry such as charcoal, pencil, pen etc


  • One major disadvantage of acrylic paint is that it cannot be easily manipulated when dry. If it dries up, it cannot be removed. It sticks to surface like glue.

Getting started

1.Choose an acrylic paint

For starters so you know, there are different types of acrylic paints based on quality. There are two grades of acrylic paints, student quality and professional. If it is your first time start with student grade, it’s cheaper. Then as time goes on you can graduate to professional.

Starters should go for the most basic colours such as titanium white, ivory black, phthalo blue, phthalo green, dioxazine purple, burnt sienna, alizarin crimson, cadmium orange, and cadmium yellow. This is how it looks like:

acrylic paint

All the colours you’ll need all emanates from the above stated colours. As  you get use to acrylic painting, you will know the best colours to add to your collection.

2.Brush collections

acrylic paint brush

There are different kind of paint brushes for different use. Brushes are divided in to two categories based on the shape of the brush tip and the material. Brush tips are divided into round, flat, and fliber (flat and round). Bristle brushes are either synthetic or natural. It’s important to have a good variety of brushes, from small to large in your collection. Learn and choose of them which you’re more comfortable with. As a beginner I recommend you go for synthetic bristle brushes. This is because synthetic brushes are softer and easier to use.

3. Mixing colours

acrylic paint palette
A palette
acrylic paint palette KNIFE
Palette knife

A palette is a surface used to mix colours. Before you go ahead to start painting it is good to make nice mix on a palette. If you don’t have a palette you can improvise with any flat plastic surface. Though Some professional artist does their mixing right on the canvas. but for beginners, it is good to have a form of palette.

Have a cover for your already mixed colours so it doesn’t dry-up especially if you are mixing in large quantity. Misting method can also be used to keep your palette paint moist when using. Misting involves the use of water to spray on your acrylic paint to keep it from drying during painting.

4. Painting Surface

acrylic painting surface

There are variety of surfaces you can start with. The good thing about acrylic paint as I said earlier is that, it has a very good grip on surfaces. In as much as acrylic paint goes well with varieties of surfaces, acrylic doesn’t work well with greasy, oil and porous surfaces. It is recommended to do paintings on canvas, fabrics, water-colour paper or treated wood.

5.Treat your surface

acrylic paint gesso

Picking the right surface is one step, treating it is another step. Though not all surfaces need treating. The common surface with acrylic paintings are stretched fabric and canvas. It is good to add gesso coat to your canvas of stretched fabric. This because gesso adds flexibility and helps acrylic to stick  better to surface. It also protects the surface from crack.

Painting techniques

Before you start you need to know how to use the brush and the best way to organize your brush strokes. You also need to adopt painting techniques that are suitable for the style of art you are interested in.

1. Blending

You can treat acrylic paint as you treat water colours. When adding enough water, you can use it to make nice wash on your surface. It can also be done by adding white or a lighter colour to get the desired gradient.

2. Stippling

acrylic paint stippling

This is a technique that goes with a lot of mediums such as pen and pencil. It involves the use of paint brush to make tiny dots in a cluster for the purpose of creating beautiful images.

3. Dabbing

acrylic paint blending technique

This technique is not much different from stippling. the only difference is that it involves sponge. It involves the use of sponge or cloth to create nice images by dabbing on canvas. This method  are often used to make textures on trees and flowers.

4. Splattering

acrylic paint splattering technique

This technique was made popular by a painter called Jackson pallock who happened to be an abstract expressionist painter. This technique involves using brush to scoop paint and splattering it onto a work surface for design. It’s an effective technique for abstract art.

5. Glazing

acrylic paint glaze

Acrylic glaze are  thin layered paint that is  translucent. Acrylic glazing is a nice technique that aids  realistic art. Glazing involves adding liquid to decrease the thickness of the acrylic paint. This is done by adding water to the acrylic paint or gel mediums. These can also be done by adding acrylic glazing liquids or retarder.

6. Layering/ Under-painting

acrylic paint under-painitng
Underpainting and Finished Worked, Evening Flight by Jan Blencowe

This is a very popular technique used with mediums such as water colour, oil paint and even pastel. Unlike other mediums, acrylic paint dries pretty quick so u don’t have to wait for long before you add the next layer.  You can start by sketching with paint and then build on continuously to get the value you actually want. It is often started with light values and gradually move to darker valuezs. Opaque acrylic can be used to cover the under-painting.

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