Acrylic Painting Techniques

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If you’ve decided to learn to paint with acrylics, you’ve chosen a medium that can do just about anything.

As it’s so good at mimicking other types of paints, you have more choices for style and technique than any other single medium.

This chameleon of the art world can be fast and fun or meticulous and fussy. It’s a great medium for a beginning artist, as you can try out many styles until you find one that meshes with your personal muse.

A key to learning Acrylic Painting is finding a class or a book that teaches the kind of painting techniques you want to learn.

If you dream of slapping thick dollops of paint on a canvas, don’t take a class that teaches acrylic painting in watercolor technique. Conversely, if you want to learn realism, don’t take a class from an artist whose great love is abstract expressionism.

Think about the kind of paintings you love and the type of paintings that you’d like to create before settling down with a specific class or book.

Learning The Basics

A good basic class will start out familiarizing you with your tools and how best to use them. Your instructor will probably give you a suggested list of supplies that will be used in your class. Stick to the list, as these are the items and colors the instructor will focus on a good portion of the time.

Acrylic Paint Instructors

The instructor will give you his or her preference on the way a palette is laid out, how to blend colors and how to manipulate your brush. These instructions may seem a little basic, but new students can pick up a lot of useful tips.

Learning to use your brushes may sound very fundamental, but they are your primary tool and handling them properly takes some practice. Of course, you’ll develop your own style over time, but that will come after a few zillion brush strokes.

The more you paint, the more confident you’ll become with using your brushes, mixing paint and composing your designs. Don’t be too anxious to learn it all at once. Artists spend years evolving and developing their skills. If there are two things you should remember, it’s that practice is the only way to grow in skill, and learning to observe what you see is the only way to become an artist. How you interpret your observations on your canvas is your personal style and vision, which will grow as you embrace your new, artistic world.

Acrylic Painting Techniques

Painting Techniques

We’ve covered various painting techniques in the chapters on watercolor and oil paint. These methods can all be applied to acrylic paint, and with few exceptions, the brushwork and application techniques work just the same way. For information on specific watercolor or oil painting techniques, check out Chapter 7 and Chapter 16.

Two major characteristics of acrylics are the paint’s permanence and drying time. These traits can be wonderful allies, but you must be aware of them and understand how to make those qualities work for you. If you’ve used oil or watercolor in the past, you may be doing a few things differently or approaching things with a different twist.


Watercolorists love the ability to wash out paint after it has dried. They can lighten areas or, if the pigment is not a staining color, they often can completely wipe out a passage. Unfortunately, when acrylic dries on paper, it is permanent. Once it’s there, the only thing you can do is cover it up with another layer of paint. Therefore, it’s important to plan your watercolor passages a little more thoughtfully than when you are using watercolor paint.

If you’re using acrylic paint in the manner of an oil painter, you may be applying the paint alla prima without the addition of any medium. Depending on how thickly you apply it, the paint dries quite rapidly. It builds up a film, and then the underlying paint dries. If you’ve erred, you can scrape it off before it sets up. If the layer beneath it is dry, you can use water to finish washing away the offending color that hasn’t dried.

Once the paint is dry, but before it is cured, it can usually be successfully scraped away with a palette knife. This is true if the layer has sufficient thickness. If the paint has been applied in a thin layer, all bets are off. Just add another coating of paint, and you’re ready to continue.

If there’s a situation that requires you to remove dry, textured paint, sanding is an option. However, approach this with a gentle hand. It’s easy to sand through the paint and damage your support.

Drying Time And Additives

If you’ve chosen to use an additive, many products can alter the characteristics of your paint. These products are not necessary for painting with acrylics, and many artists spend their whole career using nothing but paint and, perhaps, a bit of water. However, you can expand the versatility of acrylics, and it’s fun to try out some of the products that you’ll find on art store shelves. When you’re in the mood for a little experimentation, treat yourself to a new additive and let the paint fly.

Additives are not mediums. Additives can be used only up to a certain ratio of paint to additive. Follow the manufacturer’s instruction when using these products.


When it comes to creating great texture, you can’t beat acrylic paints to build up your surface easily and quickly. Whether you want a very slight bit of brush strokes to break up an expanse of flat color, or you want to create a three-dimensional moonscape, using acrylics alone or with a heavy bodied medium allows you to craft ridges and valleys that dry rapidly and hold their shape.

Acrylic Painting Texture

You can use acrylics to build your texture as you paint, or you can pre-texture a support and add the final composition after the fact. Texturizing a support is a great way to give your canvas or panel a second chance at life. If you’ve had an utter failure, you can add a layer of texture to the surface, slap on a veneer of undercoating to give yourself a relatively solid-colored work surface, and start over with a new painting.

If you’re not satisfied with the paint’s natural texture, you can amend the paint to produce an additional level of texture. One can purchase several additives for creating texture. Several manufacturers have sand gel, glass bead gel and clear tar gel in their lines of acrylic mediums and additives. These convenience items are formulated specifically for use with acrylic paints and are ready to use straight from the tube or pot.

However, an enterprising and frugal painter can certainly add common, clean sand or other texture to his paints. A word of caution for the do-it-yourself artist: There is a maximum ratio of extraneous product that can be added to your acrylic paint. If you over-extend the ratio, your paint will not have the stability and holding power it needs to remain firmly on your support.

Mixed Media And Collage

Acrylic Paints are perfect to incorporate other mediums and to create collage pieces. Its versatility, the ability to build up into substantial layers and the plastic nature of the polymer makes acrylic paint ideal for embedding ephemera, layering and incorporating diverse substances in one creation.

Paper products, small beads or objects and textiles are naturals to add to an acrylic painting. The plastic-like acrylic paint acts as an adhesive, and clear acrylic medium can become the protective sealant for paper, photos or textiles that you wish to inlay in the composition. Organic detritus, such as feathers, leaves, bones, stones, shells and a whole backyard full of other goodies, are prime pickings for interesting additions to a collage.

Large, weightier items may need additional adhesive or other stabilizing like wiring or nails, but the paint and medium can be used over all to protect and preserve delicate objects.

You can do so many things with acrylic paints. It’s perfect for beginning painters who have yet to stumble upon the medium that’s a good fit with their muse. The adaptability and capacity to emulate other types of paint make it an all-around medium that complements almost every artist. With its lack of toxic elements, acrylic paint is a sensible choice for those with young children or who may have sensitivities to chemicals or odors.

With acrylic paints, you can experiment with every technique. Since the paints are relatively inexpensive, you can expand your repertoire of technical skills without the use of other costly mediums. Add a section of acrylic paints to your tabouret and get creative with this interesting and fun painting medium.

FREE Online Art Paint Course

Free Online Beginners Guide To Painting!

There are 27 Chapters in this Free Online Painting Course:

Let Us Begin…

The Beginners Guide to Painting

Watercolor Paints

Watercolor – Where to Start
Watercolor Paints
Watercolor Paint Brands
Watercolor Supports
Watercolor Paint Brushes
Watercolor Basic Painting Techniques
Advanced Watercolor Painting Techniques
Watercolor Painting Accessories
Watercolor Painting Tips and Tricks

Oil Paints

Oils – Where to Start
Oil Paints
Oil Paint Brands
Oil Paint Supports
Oil Paint Brushes
Oil Painting Techniques
Oil Painting Accessories
Oil Painting Tips and Tricks

Acrylic Paints

Acrylics – Where to Start
Acrylic Paints
Acrylic Paint Brands
Acrylic Painting Support
Acrylic Paint Brushes
Acrylic Painting Techniques (This Article)
Acrylic Painting Accessories
Acrylic Painting Tips and Tricks

In Closing…

Getting Creative!

Enjoy the Free Art Course!

Paint on! :)

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