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Basics of Acrylic Painting: The Goof-Proof Guide

basics of acrylic painting

For those who are new to acrylic painting, this is a goof-proof guide on the basics of acrylic painting. Here we will discuss what materials to use, the steps involved in the process, and some basic techniques that will help you create beautiful pieces of art with ease.

So whether you’re an experienced painter or a complete novice, read on for everything you need to get started with acrylics!

oil painting

What Are Acrylic Paints?

Acrylic paint is a fast-drying paint made of pigment suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion. Acrylic paints are water-soluble but become water-resistant when dry.

It is made up of pigment particles that are mixed with an acrylic polymer emulsion. It has three compositions: pigment, binder, and vehicle.

In paint, pigments, which are made of granular solids like grains, give it its color. They are ground to very small particle size, and they don’t dissolve but stay in the paint as flecks of color. The types of pigments can be organic, inorganic, natural, and synthetic. They don’t seem to like the surface they are put on.

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After the paint dries, an acrylic binder is what holds the pigment in place. It has acrylic polymer as its binder, and this makes a film when the water in the paint has dried.

This is the part of the paint that holds the pigment and the binder. Water is the medium for water-based acrylic. When it is mixed with the binder, it forms a polymer emulsion. Water evaporates or is absorbed into the paint

Acrylic Painting Supplies

oil paints

Professional Grade Paints

Many acrylic paint sets have a wide range of colors that you can use for any project. Ranges of paints are often talked about in terms of how good they are. Professional-grade paints are the best because they have the right amount of pigment to binder. Acrylic painters use this because these paints offer a lot of colors and pigments.

Artist-Grade Paints

Artist-grade paints may be a little less pigmented than professional paints, but they still have a lot of colors. They don’t show up as much in how the paints behave because of the way the pigments work.

Student Grade Paints

These paints will have a uniform sheen when dry, and each color will behave the same way. The best paints are better for some people because they’re easier to work with and can help them get started with the medium. For others, oil paint is better because they can help them get more interesting results in their work. Both of these ideas are correct.

Gouache is a type of paint that can be made with acrylics instead of water. The paint, which is also called acrylic gouache, is opaque to cover more. But adding an acrylic binder makes it waterproof.



You’ll find that each brush has different qualities, which will affect the kinds of marks they can make. There are usually a lot of different shapes in each type of brush. When you use a flat brush, it will leave a clean, square, or rectangular-shaped brush mark. Long flats will hold more paint for longer lines. Dots and lines can also be made with rounds. Filberts are flat brushes with their corners rounded off to make a curved end. In general, filbert brush marks look softer than flat brush marks.

Soft Brushes

The softest brushes are usually made from squirrel hair. Sable brushes are also quite soft, but they’re not as expensive as squirrel hair brushes.

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Rigger Brushes

Riggers are long, thin brushes with a point at one end and a flag (a split in the hairs) at the other. They’re used for making fine lines, usually in a consistent thickness.

Spotter Brushes

These are small, round brushes that are used for adding details or working in small areas.

Palette Knives

palette knife

Palette knives can be used for mixing paint on your palette, but they’re also good for making textured marks in your acrylic painting.

They can be used instead of brushes to apply thick, impasto-style layers of color that can be smooth or very rough. They can also be used to scrape wet paint off of your acrylic painting or palette, and to mix colors on your palette. It is much easier to get paint off of them than with a brush. You can just wipe it off with a rag and your knife is ready for the next color mix.

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Silicone Catalyst Painting Tools is great for moving paint around on a canvas or making interesting marks in thick paint. People who paint with comb-shaped tools can scrape away lines in their work to make interesting textures. If you want to get better at making marks, you should look around.


acrylic gouache

A palette is a flat surface that you mix your paint on.

You can buy them ready-made, or you can make your own out of any kind of material that’s easy to clean and big enough to hold all the paint you’ll need for your project.

Tear Off Palettes.

When you finish your acrylic painting, you don’t have to clean up your palette. Tear-off palettes are made of acrylic painting papers or plastic that has been coated with a layer of wax. You can tear off the top layer and throw it away when you run out of space to mix colors or when you’re done working. However, they do add to the amount of waste you will have in your studio.

They’re great for mixing paint because the paint doesn’t soak in, but they can be hard to clean and you have to be careful not to rip them.

Stay Wet

Pre-mixed colors that you’ve already mixed can stay on your palette until you’re ready to start with your acrylic paintings again. They have a tray in which you put water, and then you put a membrane sheet over the top.

When the acrylic paints are wet, they don’t dry as quickly, which means you can work with your paint for a longer time. The palette also comes with a lid that stops the paint from getting too much air, which makes it dry faster.

Traditional Flat Palette

For mixing heavy body paints, you should use a traditional flat palette. This is because the colors won’t mix as quickly as with fluid paints, which would. A traditional palette, it can be made of glass, wood, or plastic. It is a non-absorbing, smooth surface that can be used to mix colors, and it doesn’t get dirty.

A Water Pot Or A Brush Cleaner

A water pot or brush washer is very important when you need to wash brushes. The bottom of a brush washer will have a ledge that separates paint from the cleanest water in your pot. This keeps your brushes clean for longer and allows you to use more water.


acrylic gesso


The most popular surface for acrylic painting is a canvas. It’s durable and easy to find, and it comes in a variety of sizes.

Lighter than board when it comes to sizes around 40 cm square and larger. Canvases are usually made of linen or cotton duck and stretched across a wooden frame.

Stretched canvas is a good surface to paint on because it responds well to pressure. It is likely to bounce a little when you apply pressure to it, which can add to the dynamic of a painting session.


Linen or cotton canvas can be used to cover either the whole surface or just a part of it. The texture of the canvas will help hold the paint in place, and the weave will show through the paint when it is very thin.

You can move the color around on the surface freely with panels. You can also make clean, crisp brush marks by painting on the panels. They can be cradled or uncradled. The panel is fixed to a frame on the back (without a frame).


thin paint

Having an easel isn’t very important. In this case, you could tape the paper to a wall, or hang your canvas from panel pins or screws on the wall. It’s also possible to do work on the floor or to prop your canvas up on a table.

If you have the right kind of easel, you might be able to move your work to better light or work in a healthy way, which could help you avoid aches and pains after a long painting session.

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Acrylic Mediums

When you first start with your painting process, it’s important to use the right medium. A medium is a substance that you add to your paint to change the way it behaves.

For example, you might use a gel medium to thicken your paint, or an acrylic glazing liquid to make it transparent.

There are many different types of mediums, and they can all be used to create different effects. Some mediums are more flexible than others, so it’s important to choose one that suits your painting style.

Thickening Mediums

For acrylic paints, they can be pastes or gels. They are white and will change the look of the colors that are on the surface of the paper. Gels are clear and won’t change. There are two types of pastes: one that looks like pumice or sand, and one that lets you make three-dimensional shapes with your color. Both types are made to let you do this.

Thinner Mediums

Fluid mediums, thinners, glazing mediums, and pouring mediums are all thinner mediums. These are made to improve transparency, flow, and the sheen of your paint when it’s dry.


An apron is not necessary, but it can help keep your clothes clean. Choosing something that has eyelets and straps that are easy to wear. Better if it has enough protection to go around your body and three big pockets that can hold rags and paint tools. A chest pocket is good for things like your keys or cell phone.

Spray Paints

When you use spray paints made of acrylic, you can put on very thin layers of paint that are very even. Some acrylic sprays have solvent in them, so it’s best to wear a fume mask or spray in well-ventilated areas, or do your spray work outside. Some sprays are water-based and don’t have strong smells, so they can be used inside.

Acrylic Markers

Despite the fact that not all marker pens are made of acrylic, they are often linked to acrylic painting because they can be used to sign finished paintings and add a drawing element to acrylic-based work.

Steps To Follow In Painting With Acrylics

paint consistency

Step 1: Set Up Your Painting Station

The first step is to set up your painting station. You’ll need a few supplies, including a canvas, paint, brushes, and a cup of water.

Make sure you have all the supplies you need before you start painting. It’s helpful to have a rag or paper towel handy to wipe your brushes on, and an apron to protect your clothes.

To start painting on canvas, you’ll need to make sure the surface is ready to go first. Putting a layer of gesso on your painting will dry quickly and make it last for a long time. Some surfaces don’t need to be cleaned.

Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the work surface you’ve chosen, if you haven’t already.

Step 2: Practice and Experiment with Your Materials

Once you have all your supplies, it’s time to practice and experiment with your materials.

Start by mixing some colors on your palette. Then, try different brushstrokes and techniques on a scrap piece of paper.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! This is the time to get a feel for how the paint behaves and how the brushes work.

Step 3: Step Three: Conceptualize Your Painting and/or Create a Rough Sketch

Now that you’ve played around with your materials, it’s time to start thinking about your painting.

If you’re planning on painting a specific subject, take some time to look at reference photos or sketches.

Otherwise, just start brainstorming ideas for what you’d like to paint.

You might want to create a rough sketch of your idea before you start painting. This can help you plan out the composition of your painting and figure out what colors you’ll need.

Tip: If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, try looking for inspiration in nature, books, or magazines. You can also try doing some quick sketches from life.

Step 4: Step Four: Start Painting!

paper towel

Begin by working on the background of your painting. Once you’re happy with the background, start adding in the details of your composition.

Work slowly and carefully, and don’t be afraid to make changes as you go.

If you make a mistake, just let it dry and start again.

Step 5: Preserve & Move Forward

Now that you’ve finished your painting, it’s time to sign your name!

This is the date you’ll remember forever, so make sure you’re happy with your painting before you add your signature.

And that’s it! You’ve completed your first acrylic painting.

Acrylic Tips 

Work Fast

Acrylics dry more quickly than other types of paint. This is great if you want to paint in layers, but for new artists, the shorter work time can be a little scary. In order to work faster, always think about what you want to paint and get it on the canvas quickly.

It will become less responsive to your acrylics if you keep painting the same parts over and over again. Using an acrylic retarder like Matisse’s Drying Retarder can give you more time to work. If you’re working on paper, a light dab of water can also help you finish your work faster.

Don’t Put Too Much Paint On Your Palette

When you first start painting, it can be tempting to load your palette with a lot of paint. However, they can dry and become hard while you’re waiting for another chance to use that color, so be careful.

You can also get more out of the tube when you need more. It won’t go back into the tube, so don’t waste it. During the night, if you need to keep your palette safe, mist it with water and cover it with an air-tight bag or container.

Your paints should stay safe for a short time. Instead, put a small amount of each color on your palette and add more as needed.

Use A Variety Of Brushes

Acrylics can be used with a variety of brushes, from natural hair to synthetic. Each type of brush will give you a different effect.

If you’re just starting, it’s a good idea to use synthetic brushes. They’re less expensive than natural hair brushes, and they’re easier to clean. Once you get more experienced, you can experiment with different types of brushes to see what you like best.

Be Careful Blending

Acrylics can be blended to create a smooth transition between colors, but it’s easy to overdo it. When you’re blending, start with a small amount of paint and add more as needed.

It’s also important to use a brush that’s appropriate for the area you’re trying to blend. For large areas, use a bigger brush. For smaller areas, use a smaller brush.

If you’re having trouble getting the right consistency, try using an acrylic medium. Mediums can thin out the paint, make it easier to blend, and change the finish of your painting.

Acrylics offer a wide range of colors, but you can also mix your own. When you’re mixing colors, it’s important to start with a limited palette. This will help you get an idea of how the colors interact and what proportions work best.

As you get more experienced, you can start experimenting with a wider range of colors.

Cover Colors If You Need To Take A Break

If you need to take a break, make sure you cover your colors with plastic wrap or an airtight container.

This will keep them from drying out while you’re gone.

When you’re ready to start painting again, just remove the covering and continue where you left off.

Clean Your Brushes Regularly

It’s important to clean your brushes regularly, especially if you’re using them for different colors. Acrylics can be tough on brushes, so it’s a good idea to invest in some high-quality ones.

When you’re cleaning your brushes, use warm water and mild soap. Swirl the brush around and then rinse it off.

If the brush is still dirty, you can repeat the process. Once the brush is clean, set it out to dry on a towel or rack. You can also use a brush cleaner to extend the life of your brushes.

Store Your Paint Properly

Acrylics are sensitive to light and temperature, so it’s important to store them in a cool, dark place.

You can keep them in their original packaging or transfer them to airtight containers.

Label the containers with the name of the color and the date you stored it.

This will help you keep track of how long the paint has been sitting around.

Create Opaque Colors Without Mediums

If you mix a lot of titanium white with any color, you can make that color opaque. Here, you’ll get the color you want.

You can make it look more like a watercolor by adding water to it to make it less thick. These tips can help you keep the quality of your paints, your painting time, and your skills as an artist.

Let Your Painting Dry Completely

Acrylics dry quickly, but that doesn’t mean you should rush the process. Let your painting dry completely before adding another layer or before varnishing it. If you’re not sure how long it will take, consult the paint’s label or ask a professional.

Once your painting is dry, you can varnish it to protect it from dust, dirt, and other damage. Varnishing also helps to bring out the colors and make them pop. There are different types of varnishes, so be sure to choose one that’s compatible with your paint.

Acrylic Painting Techniques

There are different types of acrylic painting techniques, but we’re going to focus on two of the most popular ones:



This technique involves applying wet paint to a wet surface. Make sure the canvas is wet with clean water before you do anything else. When you mix the paint with water, apply it with a wet brush to a wet surface.


This technique involves using a brush that’s mostly dry to apply paint to a dry surface. Just use a dry brush to scoop up enough paint and spread it on the canvas.

Paint That Isn’t Very Thick

The paint and water should be mixed on the palette. Apply the paint with the thinned out. To clean the brush, put it in water and move the clean wet brush around the edges of a paint job. Do this a few times. Work quickly because thin coats of acrylics soak in and dry quickly.

When The Paint Is Tacky

You can use a variety of techniques to create interesting effects with acrylics. One is to apply the paint when it’s still tacky. This allows you to manipulate the paint and create different textures.

If you want to try this technique, make sure you work quickly because the paint will start to dry fast.

Gradient Relief

For this example, I used three colors to create a gradient, but you can use as many colors as you like; even one color will work. I squeezed them out onto my palette, then used a flat brush (a filbert brush works well for this, too) and repeatedly applied the paint on the canvas in tiny strokes, which should be positioned close to each other. This technique requires a lot of paint to build up the texture for true relief.

Get Creative With Toothbrushes

Use a sheet of plastic on your work surface when you use this method because it can get messy. In the next step, I put the acrylics on a palette (you can use one or several colors). Make a mess of your painting by taking an old toothbrush and splattering some paint on it, then splattering it with your fingernail.

Use more or less paint, apply more or less force with your fingernail across the bristles, or change how far the toothbrush is from the canvas to make different-sized splashes and splatters.

Create A Unique Design With A Palette Knife

basics of acrylic painting

Try painting with different tools than a brush. To get some paint from the palette, I used my palette knife to scoop some up. Then, I used different angles to move it to the canvas. Make sure that you don’t put too much pressure on the knife when you’re cutting.

Mix On A Piece Of Paper

Squeeze three colors out of their tubes and put them right on the canvas. Stir them with a dry brush, but don’t mix them all. Keep the paints’ textures and different streaks of color the same.


Sgraffito method has been used for a long time and is mostly used to make sculptures and pottery. If you paint, I think it looks great. For this method, start by painting the surface in a dark color very thickly.

Afterward, wait for it to fully dry. It’s the time to add gold paint or paint of a lighter color on top. Scratch through this layer of paint before it dries. You can use the other side of a brush, a stick, or a toothpick to do this.


Before you start painting, lay down an even layer of paint as a background for your project. When I make a gradient, I like to make it go from white to blue to make a sky. Wait until it is completely dry before you do anything with it.

Then, use a dry bristle brush that has been dipped in paint and rub it on the canvas to make it look like a painting. You can use a lot of different colors to get a lot of different looks.

Conclusion: Basics of Acrylic Painting

So, there you have it – an introduction to acrylic painting and all the materials you’ll need. The steps to follow are simple enough, but we’ve also included some techniques and tips that should help make your paintings look as good as possible.

If you’re looking for a quality paint by numbers activity kit, visit They have an extensive easy-to-follow guide on how to choose the best one for your needs. Thanks for reading, and happy painting!

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