Acrylic paints have become so very popular since its introduction into the public market in the 1950’s. For hundreds of years, the artist had to contend with the peculiarities of their chosen medium.
The watercolorist had to contend with paintings very easily damaged by moisture, and the oil painter had to wait an interminable amount of time for his painting to dry.
Acrylic paint has made huge advancements in the versatility that the artist can achieve and has broadened the range of both oil and watercolor painters.
Acrylic, when thinned with water, becomes a watercolor paint that is permanent when dry. It offers a durability that traditional watercolor pigment could not provide.
For the traditional oil painter, this technology affords an odorless medium that dries quickly and can be easily applied in an impasto manner. Cleanup is an effortless soap and water rinse, with no need for mineral spirits or alcohol.
For those pensive artists who chew on their brush ends, the flavor of the oil paint and thinner will be missed.
Color Choices And Packaging
Modern technology has made the phrase “every color in the rainbow” old-fashioned. Chemists are making colors available that would stagger the old masters. From impossible pinks and greens to metallic and iridescent, the color choices are incredible.
It would take a very generous budget to purchase all the hues available.
There are several sizes and viscosities available. Paints can be purchased in tubes similar in size to oil or watercolor tubes. It is also offered in several sizes of jars and bottles.
Quality And Grade
Different grades of acrylic paint are available at a number of price points. Just as in other art mediums, there is a marked difference in quality between the high and low end.
Paint is all about the color and the intensity.
Both the professional grade and the craft quality paints are made with basically the same chemicals.
Part of the difference between the high quality and student or craft grades is the concentration level of the pigments used in formulation. Higher quality mediums are also used in the professional or artist grade paints.
Craft paint can be used for metal, fabrics, ceramics and wood. It has a wide range of pre-mixed colors and is often used for decorating household items.
Specialty paints such as iridescent, pearlescent and metallic acrylics combine aluminum silicate in standard pigments to achieve lustrous effects. These colors are used in both decorative crafts and in fine art.
Scholastic acrylics are comprised of less costly pigments and dyes and have special formulations safe for children. This economical series has limited color range and may not be very lightfast.
Student grade acrylics behave in the same manner as professional grade, but the pigment concentration is less, giving lower color strength. There is typically a smaller variety of colors available. Since less costly ingredients are used, the longevity of this type of paint may vary considerably.
Professional or Artist grade paints are just that. Using premium ingredients, these formulations give the highest performance. They can be used as oil paint and can take the addition of mediums like high bulk paste for use in impasto painting or other additives that extend drying time or alter the finish. They have the widest array of colors available, and have formulations that are ideal for all techniques.
A number of excellent companies produce acrylic paints. Each has their own colorations, and range of products and prices.
Most of these companies also manufacture oils and watercolors and some have been in business for over a hundred years. Each company will have various grades of paint for both beginners and professionals. Some companies have specialty lines that may include craft paints, metallic or pearlized and other mediums to modify texture.
The world’s oldest paint manufacturer is Old Holland, established in 1664. Their acrylic colors are true to their oil counterparts, and have maximum pigment with little filler. The heritage of their line continues with the creation of the New Masters Classic Acrylics.
Sennelier has been supplying artists with painting supplies since 1887 makes over 120 colors, including iridescent paints. Their line includes all the colors they have available as oil paints, and their experience in the field provides the artist with quality based on their years of expertise.
Maimeri is a French company in business since the early 20th century. They have developed wonderful specialty paints with exciting colors. They also carry a wide range of metallic and translucent paints. If an artist wants something out of the ordinary, this manufacturer can probably fill the need.
Holbein, a Japanese company, is named for Holbein the Younger and has supplied artists since the 1930s. It is one of the largest manufacturers of professional art supplies and has an exceptional range of unique colors.
An artist should take from each manufacturer the colors and properties that suits him best for a particular project. It is common for an artist to use a number of brands of paint, and acrylic is no exception. The acrylic artist is often a chameleon, switching technique on a whim. Impasto one day and soft watercolor washes the next. Then perhaps use several techniques all on one painting.
There are occasions when the student or craft grade acrylic is suitable. However, a beginning artist should start with a basic set of professional colors, learn to mix those for a wider range of hues, and add additional colors as the budget and need allows. He should buy the best quality he can afford.