Have you ever thought about trying your hand at painting, or wondered if acrylics might be the right medium for you? Well, let me encourage you to pick up a paint brush and give them a try!
Here are a few reasons why:
- Acrylics are probably THE most versatile of paints.
- If you add water to them, you can achieve watercolor effects on paper, but with the permanence of acrylics or oils. (They do not lift off after they dry.)
- You can paint on many surfaces with acrylics – paper, canvas, metal, and wood, just to name a few.
- Acrylic paint dries very quickly, so unlike oils and watercolor, you do not have to wait before you can proceed further on your painting.
- If you want to slow down the drying time, you can add a medium called a ‘retarder’ and voila’! You have more time to work on getting the painting done just as you want before it dries.
- If you want to make your painting more like an oil painting, you can add different mediums to acrylic paint to make it thicker.
- There are also many different grounds and mediums to add to acrylics which give different textures.
- There is no limit to what you can do with acrylics!
Now that you have decided to try these paints, here are a few tips that will help you to fully enjoy this experience. Because this is not intended to be an e-book on painting with acrylics, but an article, I will only cover some of the tips I wish I had known when I began with acrylics.
USING THE PAINTS
- You can use a paper plate or an old dinner plate on which to squeeze out your paint.
- It helps to keep the paints pliable longer if you have a piece of dampened paper towel on the plate, and squeeze the paint onto it.
- Acrylic paint is somewhat thick and creamy as it comes out of the tube, so you must add a bit of water to it to make it a paintable consistency.
- Acrylics dry really fast once exposed to air. So, while you are painting, you need to spritz over the paints with water from an ordinary spray bottle to keep them moist without getting them too runny.
- You can keep your paints from one painting session to the next by covering the plate tightly with plastic wrap.
- The paint will stay moist until at least the next day.
- Once you are able to invest more in your artistic endeavors, I highly recommend that you purchase an acrylic palette, and “STA-WET” PALETTE PAPER SHEETS.
- These sheets will take your artistic life to a whole new level. One of my friends told me she just about wept when she discovered these sheets after painting for years without them! These sheets stay wet in your palette for weeks, and keep your paints fresh and moist for days and days. They really end up saving you money in the long-run.
PREPPING THE CANVAS
- Before you start painting, you will need to think about prepping your canvas. I suggest that you start by buying small, pre-primed canvasses. (As you become familiar with acrylics, you can buy unprimed canvas and gesso it yourself, if you wish.)
- It is always a good idea to lightly sand the canvas before you start, making sure to wipe it with a clean soft cloth after you have sanded it. Use a fine tooth piece of sanding paper rather than a coarse grade
- The next decision you will need to make is whether to paint directly onto the white gessoed hardboard/Masonite or canvas, or to prep the canvas with a neutral grey color. Some artists prep their canvases and boards with color – but I suggest you stick with either grey or white for now. I paint on both white canvas and a grayed canvas, depending on what I want my end result to be. The white canvas will give you a more bright and pure looking color tone, but it will take more paint to cover the canvas.
Can you tell which of these two flowers was painted on the greyed background?
The red Gerbera Daisy painting was done on a canvas which had been prepped with grey paint, while I painted the orange Poppy interior directly onto white canvas!
To prep your canvas with grey, take some Mars Black (or any other black) and Titanium White, and mix the two until you achieve a medium grey color – about the color of the search engine bar at the top of this blog page. Once you have the paint mixed (mix up enough to cover the entire canvas at once), lightly spritz your canvas with water, and with your brush, smooth the water over the canvas so that the entire surface is lightly dampened. Then, cover your entire canvas (and sides) with the grey paint so that it is evenly covered. Allow the canvas to dry before the next step.
ADDING YOUR SKETCH
- You can add you sketch directly onto your canvas – either by tracing or freehand with a pencil.
- If you are tracing your sketch, first draw the sketch onto tracing paper which you have measured to be the same size as your canvas.
- Next, tape your tracing paper securely in place over the canvas, and slip a piece of WAX FREE transfer paper between the canvas and your sketch. I use Saral Transfer Paper.
- Go over the sketch lines lightly with a colored pencil so you will know where you have already traced.
- Check the canvas to make sure your lines are indeed transferring, but not too darkly.
- When painting with acrylics, you usually paint the mid tones first (local color), then add the darks (shadows), and finish with the lightest parts (highlights).
- One thing to be aware of and try to avoid when using acrylic paint is getting ‘hard edges’. This happens when you paint up to the edge of a line, and stop. When you come back to that same spot and want to blend the color, it is impossible because of the hard line which is formed when the paint dries so quickly. “Feather” your edges so that when you come back to that spot, you can easily blend or cover what is not desired in the painting. Feathering otherwise known as Sfumato is done by going over the drawn line with a very small amount of very thin paint – so that you can still see the drawn line underneath, but you do not have a definite hard line of paint built up at the edge of the drawn line.
- If you make a ‘mistake’ when painting, either try to wipe it off with a clean dampened rag, or wait until the paint has dried and paint over the mistake.
- If it is too difficult to paint over, you can always use Gesso (the white ground which is used to prime canvasses) to ‘white out’ the error, and start again – either on that patch or the entire painting!
BUYING ACRYLIC PAINTS
- You will find that acrylic paint is fairly inexpensive as far as paints go.
- Your local art store will have several brands of paint available, but if you would like to compare prices with online art stores, here are a few links where you can see most of the brands available.
- If you are on Twitteror Facebook, you can follow these stores, and take advantage of specials they offer regularly!
- If you can check out the manufacturer’s sites such as:
And there you have it! The mystery of painting successfully with acrylic paints explained! Visit your local library to find books on painting with acrylics to experiment and explore. As well, you can order books about painting with acrylics online or visit blogs such as the site you are now on FineArtTips.com!
Guest Artist/Author: Joanne Giesbrecht studied at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Canada, collected books, listened to the encouragement of other artists, and experimented. Now she creates professional color-saturated watercolors and acrylic paintings, focusing on simple subjects which fire her imagination. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org