Beginners Guide to Acrylic Painting

The acrylic painting medium is fairly new and has only been around since the 1950′s. Since then, it has continually been under development and refinement. Acrylic paint is highly favored amongst artists because of its versatility. It can be applied in a thick fashion as an impasto having rich texture or in washes mimicking the characteristics of watercolor. Another likable characteristic of acrylic paint is its permanence. Unlike oil paints, acrylic paint is not susceptible to yellowing or hardening with age. With acrylic paint, the artist does not need to be concerned with the order the paint is applied or other special techniques that ensure the paint film remains free from cracking.

So now that you know a bit more about the acrylic painting medium, I am sure you want to get started. This beginners guide to acrylic painting will provide you with all of the information and resources that you need to get started and improve your painting skills.

Acrylic Painting Supplies

The first thing you are going to need to get started is your painting supplies of course. With acrylics, there is no need to go overboard on supplies. All that is really needed is a good quality paint set, a few brushes and a canvas or other support. Since acrylic paint is a water based painting medium, there is no need for any special mediums. All you need to change the consistency of acrylic paints is plain old water. Clean up is a cinch as well. Your brushes can be cleaned with plain old soap and water.

Paints

I recommend the following paint set for beginners. The paints included in this set are of good quality and contain more than enough colors for beginners:

Liquitex Basics Value Series Acrylic Color Sets set of 36
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Liquitex Basics Value Series Acrylic Color Sets offer great value to students and artists looking for dependable quality. The sets acquaint the artist with the essential color palette of the Basics line without having to invest in a large amount of space or money. The sets contain a variety of 22 ml tubes of color that are small enough to fit into compact, space efficient boxes while still providing the artist enough of the great quality, pigment rich acrylic paint to learn color theory or to complete virtually any work of art. Three sets are available – one with 12 colors, one with 24 colors, and one with 36 colors. Click on the camera icons for specific set contents.


Brushes

When choosing your paint brushes, do not buy cheap brushes! It is not worth it just to save a few bucks. Nothing compares to the control and feel of a good brush. I like to work with Robert Simmons brushes. I have been using them for several years now and they never let me down. If you take care of them, they will last for a long time. Below is a link to where you can buy them. These brushes are called ROBERT SIMMONS Simply Simmons Value Brush Sets and just like the name implies, these brushes are a great value. There are a variety of different sets below that cater to different needs and painting styles. Choose one or a few and enjoy!

Robert Simmons Simply Simmons Value Brush Sets In Set
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A versatile range of short handled brushes. Artist quality dark tipped synthetic filament with excellent spring, fine point, and sharp chisel edge. The Robert Simmons brush delivers the performance required for the most demanding projects. Individually hand-crafted from start to finish by brush-makers with generations of experience. The seamless brass and aluminum ferrules are permanently bonded to lacquer dipped hardwood handles for dependability.

  • Special Effects Set–flat wash size 3/4, big foot stippler size 5/8, and filbert comb size 10.
  • Bold and Beautiful Set–bristle bright size 3/4, 1/2, 1.
  • Wash and Dry Set–scumbler size 8, filbert wash size 3/4, round wash size 26.
  • Devilish Detail Set–liner size 10/0, flat shader size 4, filbert size 4, spotter size 5/0, script size 1.
  • Work Horse Set–round size 5, flat shader size 12, filbert size 8, angle shader size 1/2.
  • Comb Combo Set–flat comb size 3/4, filbert comb size 6, angle comb size 3/8.Mop-Up Set–oval mop size 1/2 and 3/4, flat wash size 1/2.
  • Everything Set–flat shader size 2, round size 1, filbert size 6, liner size 1, flat shader size 10.
  • Go-To set–liner 10/0, angle shader 1/4, round size 3, filbert size 4, flat shader size 8.
  • Rake-It set–filbert comb size 8, round size 3, flat shader size 6, flat comb size 12.
  • Different Strokes Set–big foot stippler size 1/2, angle shader size 3/8, round size 5, scumbler size 4.
  • Creative Instinct Set–round size 0, big foot stippler size 3/8, angle comb size 1/4, flat shader size 8 and 4.

Caring For Brushes

Learning how to properly care for your brushes is one of the most important aspects of painting. You should clean your brushes thoroughly after each painting session and here is how.

Step 1 – Using a soft cloth, wipe off the excess paint. This is done by gently squeezing the brush from the top of the ferrule toward the end of the brush with your soft cloth. Do not pull too hard as you can remove hairs and damage your brush.

Step 2 – Once you have all of the excess paint removed, wash the brushes in a mild soap and water. You want to wash the brush until you remove as much paint as humanly possible. I recommend using MASTERS Brush Cleaner and Preserver. This is a wonderful product and is very popular amongst the art community. Not only does it thoroughly clean acrylic brushes, but it also helps preserve your brushes making them last longer. Below is a link to where you can purchase this cleaner online:

Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver
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Saves time and trouble, as well as your brushes. Works on oil, acrylic, or watercolor brushes. Will not harm red sable or any type bristle. Will keep brushes like new. Also easily restores old, hardened brushes.


Step 3 – Once you are sure that you have removed as much paint as possible and any excess water, dip the brush into a tiny bit of the preserver and shape it back to its original form.

Step 4 – Let your brushes dry at room temperature and do not let them dry resting on the head of the brush. This will cause the brush to dry out of shape. I leave my brushes standing up with the heads facing the ceiling in a large empty coffee can.

Supports

A support is the surface that you paint on. Stretched canvas, canvas board, canvas paper and even wood can be used as supports. Whatever surface you decide to use, make certain that the surface is prepared to accept the acrylic paint. This preparation process is known as “sizing”. Sizing is when you apply a product like gesso or primer (otherwise known as a “ground”) which seals the surface making it less absorbent. Most supports that you will purchase will already be prepared for painting, so chances are you won’t have to do any preparation on your own. In the beginning when you are just experimenting, it is best to use a less expensive support until you become more experienced. Below are some excellent choices:

Discovery Economy Stretched Canvas
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Good quality pure cotton canvas with medium texture, stretched on stretcher strips. The acrylic double primed surface can be used with oil, acrylic, and casein paints. All stretched canvases are 11/16 in. deep (except 5 in x 7 in. size which is 1/2 in. deep), and are individually shrink-packed.


Fredrix Archival Watercolor Canvas Board 8 in. x 10 in. ea.
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Fredrix Watercolor Canvas Board is a revolutionary new watercolor media made of 100% cotton artist canvas. The unique texture of an all natural woven material in combination with a proprietary patented, specially formulated gesso for all water based paints, delivers a unique new watercolor painting experience and distinctive look that can only be captured on canvas. Will not buckle. Frame with or without glass. Won’t tear like paper so you can scratch it, scrape it, or staple it. Wet and rewet it and it will not damage the canvas. Mounted on rigid, non-warping hardboard core. Acid free.


Fredrix Canvas Pads 9 in. x 12 in. sheets pad of 10
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Genuine artist canvas, acrylic primed for use with any medium. Pads contain 10 sheets.


Other Tools & Supplies

Palette

A Palette is a surface that you use to lay out your colors for mixing and application. There are a wide variety of palettes for acrylic paints. Everything from glass to plastic can be used. My favorite palette to use by far is the Masterson Sta-Wet Painters Pal Palette. This palette solves a major problem with acrylic paints and that is their very fast drying time. On a normal palette your paints can begin to dry within minutes and whatever extra paint you have on your palette at the end of a painting session is wasted. With the Masterson Sta-Wet Palette, your paints will stay moist on the open palette for hours. Once you cover the palette with the included lid, your paints will stay moist and workable for days , possibly weeks. I have included a link below to where you can learn more about and purchase the Masterson Sta-Wet Palette:

Masterson Sta-Wet Painters Pal Palette no. 912 Sta-Wet Painters Pal
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No more wasted paint… Masterson’s patented process keeps acrylics and other waterbased paints moist on the open palette for hours. Once the lid is closed, the paints will stay in workable condition for days, even weeks. A wet sponge and special permeable palette paper provide the paint with a constant source of moisture. Paints will not dry out. Simply soak the palette in water until it is fully saturated. Saturate the sponge and place it in the tray. Lay the palette paper on top of the sponge, wipe off excess water from the paper, and put your paints on the wet paper. The paints will slowly absorb moisture as needed without changing the consistency or color value. You can mix paints on the wet paper without tearing it. Sta-Wet Painters Pal contains five sheets of Sta-Wet acrylic palette paper, cellulose sponge, palette tray and lid, five paint cups and detachable lids, one solvent cup with attached lid, storage area beneath removable cup holder tray, complete instructions for preparation and use. Overall container size is 13 in. x 12 in. x 1 1/2 in. Palette size is 9 in. x 12 in. Storage cups fits inside Sta-Wet Painter’s Pal for temporary paint storage or use separately for holding various craft items. 1 3/4 in. diameter x 1 in. depth; 3/4 oz. capacity. Solvent cups fits inside Sta-Wet Painter’s or use separately as dripless storage containers for turpentine, brush cleaner, extensors, and other liquid media. 1 1/2 in. diameter x 3/4 in. depth; 1/2 oz. capacity.


Painting & Palette Knives

You may also wish to purchase other supplies to experiment with as you become more experienced with acrylic paint. Brushes are not the only tool that you can use to manipulate the paint around your support. Painting knives, while traditionally used with oil paints, can also be used with acrylics. Palette knives are made specifically for mixing paint on the palette where painting knives are used for moving paint around on your support. You may run into a problem using a painting knife with acrylic paint. Not all acrylic paints are ideal for working with a knife. Some have a thick, stiff and buttery consistency, while others are more runny. If you are using a runnier acrylic paint, and you are interested in working with painting knives, then you will need to use a special medium that will give your paint more body.

Atomizer

An atomizer is basically a spray bottle that you fill with water. You can use an atomizer to spray a very fine mist of water over your palette or canvas to keep your paints moist and workable.

Sponges

Sponges are handy little tools to have available during your painting sessions. You can use sponges to spread out your paint over a large area or to create interesting effects with paint.

Acrylic Painting Lessons & Techniques

So you now have a better understanding of the supplies you are going to need to get started. Let’s put those supplies to good use by learning how to paint with acrylics! As stated in the beginning of this guide, acrylic paints are quite versatile opening the door to many exciting and interesting techniques.

Instead of trying to recreate the wheel so to speak, and discuss acrylic painting lessons and techniques in this post, I thought it would be much easier to just direct you to the many great lessons that are posted here on this blog and my other website Creativespotlite.com:

Acrylic Painting Techniques

A Direct Approach to Acrylic Painting by Greg Biolchini

After Monet – Acrylic Painting Demonstration By Brian Rice

Painting a Mural For a Church By Julie Lamons

Acrylic Painting Demonstration & Tips By Lesly Finn

At The Dock – An Acrylic Painting Demonstration by Brian Rice

Learn Acrylic Painting – Painting Demo by Lorraine Vatcher

Acrylic painting tutorial By Harmony Steel

7-STEPS TO A SUCCESSFUL PAINTING

Acrylic Painting Tips & Techniques

Jim Pescott’s Dottalism Process

Acrylic Painting Demonstration – Mystic Past

Animal Portrait Demonstration – Stanley

 

Comments

6 Comments on "Beginners Guide to Acrylic Painting"

  1. Cindy Davis on Sun, 6th Dec 2009 3:48 pm 

    This is a great round-up of supplies to get started with acrylic painting and set up a little studio corner.

    The only suggestion I have is to consider purchasing the liquitex heavy body or fluid acrylics instead of the basics set.

    The BASICS are student grade paint. While you get a lot of paint volume for your money, many beginners are disappointed in their ability to mix vibrant colors. They complain and says “they mix mud”.

    Well, the problem is the paint, not the beginner. Student grade paint never mixes as cleanly as artist grade paint. So if you want to start out with vibrant mixes, I recommend going for a upgrade and getting the Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylic tubes instead.

    just my two cents. As always, I love your blog !! Great information and tutorials.

  2. mullerjeanfrancois on Mon, 7th Dec 2009 12:00 am 

    great site.

  3. canvas paintings on Mon, 7th Dec 2009 7:15 pm 

    Brilliant post, informative and helpful to those starting out with acrylics, though the Matersons Palet sounds interesting, I’ve not come across this in the UK.

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  5. Umzug Berlin on Tue, 2nd Aug 2011 6:19 am 

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  6. aditi on Mon, 3rd Dec 2012 6:57 am 

    brilliant!its gorgeous!i was surprised and i have learnt acrylic paintings also.YIPEE.

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