How To Paint With Acrylics?


Oil paints were widely known by everyone, and they are commonly used for hundreds of years, but then in the mid-20th century, acrylic paints were introduced to the public. They have become one of the most popular paint in the world alongside oil paint and watercolor. If you enjoy painting, then you will love working with acrylic paints.

Like any new task, learning how to paint with acrylics can take a bit of time to get used to, it involves a lot of trial and error. But with guidance, you will be able to use acrylic paint in no time properly.

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What Is An Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paints are water-based paint; they are pigments suspended in water-soluble acrylic polymer medium that is water-resistant when dry. Acrylic paints are fast drying, easy to clean, don’t have a strong odour, and have heavy pigmentation, which means their colours are very vibrant and bold.

Unlike oil paints that can take a whole day or more to completely dry, the acrylic paint dries in minutes, and unlike the oil paints you can keep painting over the dried areas without any mistakes, and this makes it an excellent paint for first-timers.

It is also important to know that when acrylic paint dries, the colour becomes darker than the pigment shown when wet, they do not spread like watercolour, they dry quickly which can be good, but it also makes blending tricky, they are water-soluble when wet but water-resistant when dry, and this means that once it is dry, they cannot be changed or tweaked.

Acrylic paints can be used on different surfaces such as a canvas, wood, leather and a lot of other materials. You can change the consistency of acrylic paint with different types of gels, mediums and pastes. Sue to its polymer base, you can use acrylic paints in thick applications that are similar to oil paints. When acrylic paint is mixed with medium, gels and pastes, you can create effects that you won’t be able to do with watercolours or oil paints.

Tools And Supplies Used For Applying Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints can be applied using a number of tools, these tools include;


The best paintbrush for acrylics is one that is made from a synthetic material such as nylon. The best paintbrush for the application of thick acrylic paint is a stiff brush while soft and supple brushes are best suited for thinned paint. Acrylic paints are harsh on brushes made from animal hair; they tend to swell and lose their spring when put in water. The two most reputable acrylic brush brands are Winsor Newton and Grumbacher.

Acrylic Paint

The best brands for acrylic paints include Golden, Winsor Newton and Liquitex. It is best if you purchase a 24 or 36 piece set of paints, they are available in art stores and online. It is also a good idea to get some large tubes of paints you like or will use often and also a large tube of black paint and a large tube of white paint because you will use them a lot for blending and base work.


For acrylic paint, you will need a palette that is flat and resistant to water. There are plastic palettes that are made for acrylic paints; some come with lids or sealable compartments to prevent the paint from drying out. You could also use thick glass, enamelled butcher trays and plastic cutting boards. If you are in a pinch, you could use melamine plates or aluminium pans, but do not use wooden palettes as they absorb water.


The one advantage that acrylics have is that you can apply them on any stable and nongreasy surface. If you intend on painting on a water-absorbent surface such as wood, you will need to seal it before painting. The best painting surfaces include artist’s canvas, fiberboard, hardboard and heavy (400 lb) watercolour paper that has been prepped with a high-quality acrylic dispersion primer. You can save time by using a pre-stretched gessoed canvas, but they often do not have archival quality.

Water Container

It is important to have a large, unbreakable water container. Ensure you frequently change the water, so that you do not contaminate the colours on your palette or canvas.

Just like every other product, you will find variations in the quality of materials available. If you’re a beginner, it is best that you stick with the low cost or student grade materials. Both grades of materials are good, but the low-cost grade is less expensive than the professional-grade, and this makes them perfect for practising and exploring new colours as a beginner. Once you are more confident in your acrylic painting skill, you can then upgrade to the high-quality products.

Beginner’s Guide On How To Paint With Acrylics

You will find below, the step by step guide on how to paint with acrylics. There is room for adaptation, but they generally follow the same steps because acrylic paints are not as flexible as watercolours and oil paints.

Step One: Set Your Painting Station Up

Choose a spot in your home that is tranquil, or you could paint outdoors. After finding the right spot, set up your easel, keep a paper towel or rag close to your palette and place your brushes in a stable cup close to the palette. They should be placed according to which hand is dominant, whether right or left. If you are painting inside, then you need to cover the floor below you with a tarp, garbage bags or an old rug.

Step Two: Practice With Your Materials

It is important to master how to use acrylic paints. Get used to how the paint applies and blends with other colours. Learn about the different products that can help modify the consistency or sheen of the acrylic paint. Practice as much as you can with your equipment and colours before you start painting.

Step Three: Make A Preliminary Drawing

Before you start painting, you need to have an idea of what you want your painting to look like. You could take the time to sketch out what you intend on painting with charcoal or a light pencil. This aids the composition of your painting and allows you to achieve what you want.

Step Four: Start Painting

All you have left to do is paint. It is best to stick to a couple of colours. Here are some general rules to keep in mind when painting;

When painting, make sure you progress from light tones to the darker colours. Apply a light tone first and then add a darker colour for depth and add highlights at the end. Its an act of balance as you paint.

Start by making large shapes then slowly progress to small details. It is easier to go back and make corrections on larger shapes than on smaller details.

Acrylic dries quickly, so it is important to blend your colours on your palette before it gets to the canvas. You can use a spray bottle to keep your paints moist as you paint, this will give you a bit more time.

Step Five: Preserve

Acrylic paints dry really quickly, and this means they stay preserved pretty well on their own. But if you want to make sure that the painting really lasts, then you can apply an acrylic approved varnish on top. It will give the painting a shiny and glassy look and also protect it from scratches and flaking.


Acrylic paints are versatile and easy to use; they give you a nice texture when painting. If you didn’t get your painting right the first time, don’t worry no one is perfect at their first try, just enjoy the acrylic journey and with time you will become accustomed to the application of acrylic paints.