Since you’ve chosen the chameleon of all paints, you have at least a zillion tips and tricks at your disposal.
The real trick here is how to learn, remember and use them all.
As you get familiar with what your Paint can do and what style you prefer, you’ll zero in on some techniques that best suit your method of painting. Art is a never-ending learning experience, and playing with your medium to see how far you can take it is one of the joys of painting.
For more ideas, review the chapters on both watercolor and oil painting tips and tricks. Those chapters will provide a number of useful pointers that apply to acrylic painting. That’s one of the best things about acrylic paints. You have almost unlimited choices in bringing your vision to life.
Mixing Quality Paints
If you’re going to be using a quantity of Acrylic Paints and need to mix up batches of color, use a muffin tin to hold the mixtures. Save the paint for future use by placing a wet piece of sponge in an empty hole, seal the tray in a plastic bag and place it in the refrigerator. The paint will stay fresh and ready to use for a couple of weeks. You can pick up muffin tins at a thrift store or a garage sale. Just make sure that the tin isn’t rusty.
Wash Your Brushes
When you wash your brushes, hang them from the handle or lay them on a dry cloth or paper towels. Do not stand them with the bristles up when they are wet. This causes the water to collect in the ferrule and will eventually rust it or loosen the adhesive that may be used. After washing your brush, gently shape the point so that it will dry in its natural shape. You can use a touch of hair styling gel to hold the bristles in shape and secure any wandering hairs. The stiffness helps protect the bristles if you plan to throw your brushes in a drawer or pack them to hit the road, and it rinses out when you begin painting.
Another Paintbrush tip is using a piece of florist’s foam to store your brushes after they’re dry. Just poke the wooden ends in the foam, and they stand as neatly as a platoon of soldiers at parade rest. Unlike dumping them helter-skelter in a jar or can, you can see what you have in an instant. No wasted time hunting for that special brush you know will be perfect to complete a section of your piece.
Take Photos of your Work
Now that almost everyone has a digital camera or phone with a camera, it’s simple to take photos of your work. Before putting the final touches on your piece, take a couple of pictures. Either use the black and white setting your camera may have, or edit them on your computer to appear in black and white. With the black and white image, you have a good opportunity to look at the values of your painting without the distraction of local color. You can see at a glance if your masterpiece could use a wider range of lights and darks for contrast and make adjustments accordingly.
Making Straight Lines
Use a pizza cutter to make a long, straight line. Roll the blade of a dull pizza cutter through your paint, and you can create a nice, straight line. Just make sure you’re not pressing too hard, or you’ll have a diptych! For shorter straight lines, use the edge of a credit card or ruler. Simply dip the edge in paint and press the edge onto your support. Voilà – you’ve just painted a crisp, straight edge.
Blank Canvas Phobia
If you’re one of those artists who have been plagued with blank-canvas phobia, try toning your support before you commence painting. If your painting will be a sunny landscape, consider using a golden underpainting. It will give a subtle glow to the entire work. You may want to use a neutral mid-range tone to begin your work. Now you can work to develop the highlights and shadows more easily as you have a point of reference from which to work. Toned supports are great for almost all mediums. Use a green underpainting for painting a portrait, or try using a dramatic orange or red to create a painting that is full of life and vibrancy.
Clean your Caps
If you are the messy sort and end up with permanently stuck caps on your paint tubes, here’s a tip to save your strength and sanity. Once you’ve unstuck a cap, clean it and the threads of the tube very well to remove all traces of dried and wet paint. Rub a dab of Vaseline around the threads. Now, your cap will not stick, and you won’t end up using every curse word your mother told you never to use.
Here’s a couple other paint tube tips that may come in handy for those of you who abuse your paint supplies. Save the caps from empty paint tubes. They’ll come in handy if you destroy a paint cap when using pliers to unscrew a stuck lid. The lid of your toothpaste tube may fit your paint tube. Save the cap for a lid emergency.
Stop at your local drug store and purchase a toothpaste tube squeezer. This little piece of plastic squishes the last remaining bits of paint from your tube. As a starving artist, you’ll appreciate that last dollop of paint that winds up on your painting and not in the garbage can.
Baby Your Tabouret
Keep a container of baby wipes handy on your tabouret. They are great for cleaning paint from your hands, your tools and your face. Pack a travel case of baby wipes in your plein aire paint box. You’ll be very pleased with what a smart person you’ve become.
If your completed painting has dull areas, use a finish varnish to give the piece a uniform sheen. You can use matte, satin or high gloss finish to even out blotchy areas that inevitably show up on your painting. Using a finish varnish really takes your painting up a notch. It gives the piece a more professional look and the blotchy areas won’t distract viewers. Just be sure your painting is completely dry.
If you’ve been very generous with your paint and have thick areas, it can take some time for the paint to fully dry and cure. However, your wait is nothing like an oil painter. Oil paintings can take up to six months to be ready for a final varnish. You, on the other hand, only need to wait a few days or a week.
Keep a spray bottle of water on your tabouret. Occasionally give your palette a quick squirt to keep the paint from drying out. Turn it on yourself if you’ve built up a head of steam from all your paint flinging exertions.
Disposing of Paint
Speaking of water, if you’re a prolific painter you should think about alternative disposal for your paint-saturated cleaning water. Don’t forget that acrylic paint is basically a plastic that dries to a waterproof, hard substance. Over time, the paint can build up in your drain and cause a colorful clog.
To minimize the amount of paint you are disposing down your drain, wipe your brush with a paper towel before plunging it in the cleaning bucket. If it’s convenient and acceptable to your delicate sensibilities, pour the paint outside in an inconspicuous patch of soil or gravel. If you plan to pour it down the drain, be sure to run plenty of hot water to get the offending plastic residue past your sink’s plumbing.
Since acrylic paint is a polymer, it dries like a plastic and is good as an adhesive for use in multi-media painting. You can use this quality to add all sorts of embellishments and additions to your painting. Paper, fabric and all sorts of small ephemera will stick nicely to your support with an application of acrylic paint.
Sprinkle sand or glitter in the wet paint. Use sea shells, buttons or lace and embed in a thick layer of paint. Use the medium to paint over paper or fabric to adhere it to your support.
Thin your Paint
If you’re using water to thin your Paint, be cautious of just how much you thin it. When painting in a watercolor fashion on paper, there’s no problem, as the paint absorbs into the porous material. However, if you’re painting on canvas, wood or other non-porous materials, don’t dilute your paint too much with water. Acrylic paint that is too dilute will not adhere properly to your support and may pop or peel off. If you want a dilute solution of paint, use an acrylic medium that’s made specifically for that purpose.
This chapter could go on indefinitely. There’s a never-ending list of tips you can use for acrylic painting, and as new products and information come along you’ll find even more. The best way to learn is by doing, so put on your painting clothes, turn on your favorite music-to-paint-by and get started with a new painting project.
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Watercolor – Where to Start
Watercolor Paint Brands
Watercolor Paint Brushes
Watercolor Basic Painting Techniques
Advanced Watercolor Painting Techniques
Watercolor Painting Accessories
Watercolor Painting Tips and Tricks
Acrylics – Where to Start
Acrylic Paint Brands
Acrylic Painting Support
Acrylic Paint Brushes
Acrylic Painting Techniques
Acrylic Painting Accessories
Acrylic Painting Tips and Tricks (This Article)
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