Acrylic paints are a great medium for beginners looking to get into painting. They are simple to use (once you get familiar with the quick-drying times) and are much easier to clean up than oil paints.
My painting days started with acrylics. They allowed me to learn all the general painting principles without having to worry about the somewhat tedious rules that come with oil painting, such as having to paint fat over lean.
The general painting principles are the same across all mediums. The main difference is the techniques used. Once you learn one medium at a competent level, you will find it easier and faster to pick up another medium.
I also note it seems acrylic painting has a bit of a bad stigma in that people believe it is less prestigious than oil painting. This is due to the fact all the masters painted mostly in oils. But do not be fooled by this. Acrylic painting has come a long way and is a fantastic medium. There are many amazing artists who focus solely on acrylic painting.
Here are my top 7 acrylic painting tips for beginners.
- Be Decisive With Your Strokes
- Mixing Your Colors Is More Important Than You Think
- Acrylic Paint Tends to Darken as It Dries
- Use Artist Quality Materials
- Look After Your Painting Materials
- Stain Your Canvas
- Upsize Your Brush
- Want to Learn More?
- Thanks for Reading!
(Before diving into this post, make sure to download a free copy of my Beginner's Guide to Painting.)
Be Decisive With Your Strokes
Unlike oil painting, you only have a limited amount of time that the paint will be wet and responsive on your canvas. Acrylic paint dries extremely fast, so you do not have much time to work with it.
This has an upside though in that you can quickly paint layer on layer.
The key here is to make sure each of your strokes is made with purpose and is decisive. You do not have as much flexibility as you do with oil painting, so each stroke must count.
If you are still struggling with the fast drying time of acrylic paint, then you may want to look into adding a medium with your paint to slow the drying process.
Watch professional artist Colley Whisson in his seascape demonstration below. Notice how his strokes are very calculated.
Mixing Your Colors Is More Important Than You Think
Have you ever watched videos of professional artists painting? You will notice they appear to spend more time mixing colors on their palettes than actually painting. This is because color mixing is one of the most defining aspects of painting.
Before you place the brush on canvas, be as certain as you can about the color. Use your palette for mixing and experimenting with colors, not your canvas. Unlike oil paints, you do not have the time to play around with the paint on the canvas as it will dry extremely fast.
Acrylic Paint Tends to Darken as It Dries
This is a common issue you will find with most acrylic paints—some colors will tend to darken as they dry.
When mixing your colors, you should allow for a slight darkening. This effect seems to be more apparent in the lighter colors than in the colors which are already dark.
Use Artist Quality Materials
Whilst you may be limited by a budget, if you invest in high-quality materials you will end up saving money over the long run. They will not deteriorate and your finished artworks will be of a much higher quality. If you are looking at selling your art, then this is a must.
The label to look for is ‘Artist Quality’, not ‘Student Quality’.
Now if you are restricted by a budget, then I would invest first in top-quality paint brushes. Then anything left over I would use for artist-quality paints and canvas. To save money on paint, I would suggest you learn how to paint with a very limited palette—red, blue, yellow, white, and burnt umber.
Look After Your Painting Materials
Your paint brushes will deteriorate very fast if you do not clean them properly between sessions.
Now I understand it is impracticable to spend half an hour delicately cleaning each brush after painting, especially if you paint regularly. An alternative would be to place the tips of your brushes in a bowl of water, lying as flat as possible without submerging the whole brush. You do not want the bristles to fold.
When you are ready to paint again in the next few days, you can simply take them out of the water, dry them with a rag and you are good to go.
Stain Your Canvas
I find it much easier to paint on a stained canvas than on a glaring white canvas. The stain should be a very toned color—you do not want a stain that is too strong and vibrant.
In general, I will take some yellow ochre, dull it down by mixing it with some blue and then wash this over the canvas using lots of water.
The stained canvas will help you judge the values and tones in your painting. It will also make it easier for you to paint your dark values on the canvas (it can be very difficult to paint the dark areas in your painting directly on a white canvas).
If you want to save time, you can stain a bunch of canvases at the same time.
Upsize Your Brush
Many beginner artists are of the opinion smaller brushes will lead to a more realistic and delicate painting. However, even the great master realism painters generally painted with brushes much larger than you would expect.
Below is one of the few videos I have found of landscape painter Ken Knight. You will see he uses very large brushes for most of the painting.
Want to Learn More?
You might be interested in my Painting Academy course. I’ll walk you through the time-tested fundamentals of painting. It’s perfect for absolute beginner to intermediate painters.
Thanks for Reading!
I appreciate you taking the time to read this post and I hope you found it helpful. Feel free to share it with friends.
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