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Acrylic Painting Tips for Beginners

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

These Quick Tips Can Save Your Paint and Help You Get Better

Painting with Acrylics is a great way to get introduced to painting and has many benefits. These paints are easy to use, spread evenly, water-soluble, quick-drying, versatile, and forgiving. If you are not happy with an area you've painted, you can let it dry and paint right over it in a matter of minutes. There are several tricks to help you get better:

1. Keep Acrylics Wet

Acrylics dry faster than other types of paint. This is a great benefit if you’re looking to paint in layers, but the shortened work time can be a little daunting for newer artists. If you need more time to work, you can use mix the colors with the medium called extender, for example Liquitex Slo-Dri Blending Medium, or a light dabbing of water works. Have a plant mister on hand to spray the colors on your palette to keep them from drying out as you work. You can also spray water directly onto your canvas or paper to keep the paint workable and for different painting effects, such as drips and smears.

2.Use Quality Materials and Don’t Waste Your Paint

While 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 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’.

To save money on paint, I would suggest you learn how to paint with a very limited palette. You can start with 10 to 12 basic colors and mix shades from there. You could start with even fewer, as long as you have some primary colors: red, blue, yellow, white and burnt umber.

You have to be careful to not put too much paint on your palette when you’re working with acrylics. They can dry and harden while you’re waiting to find another chance to use that color so always be careful. You also can always squeeze more out of the tube when you need more. And remember, it won’t go back into the tube, so it’s best not to waste it.

3. Use a Bigger Size Brush

Using large brushes does a few things - it increases your brushwork economy, makes you actually think about your strokes and makes it easier to cover a canvas.

Many beginner artists are of the opinion smaller brushes will lead to more realistic and delicate painting. However, even the great master realism painters generally painted with brushes much larger than you would expect. Paint the largest shapes of your composition first, and work quickly, with the largest brush you can, for as long as possible. Save the details and smaller brushes for the end. Work from the general to the specific.

4. 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.

5. Acrylics dry darker

Acrylic paint colors tend to dry darker than they are when wet, particularly with inexpensive paints, which have a higher ratio of binder to pigment. When this occurs, apply several successively lighter layers of paint to achieve the desired color. This layering often enhances the painting, adding complexity and richness to the color.

6. Take care of your brushes

Don't overload your brushes as you paint—multiple thinner layers build better color than thick globs. Keep your brushes in the water while you're painting so that the paint doesn't dry in them.

Although other types of paint like oils and oil mediums may require you to wash your brushes with turpentine or mineral spirits, these are unnecessary for acrylics. All you need to clean your brushes is a little soap and water and the acrylic paint washes right off.

Have any tips you want to share? Please add them to the comment section below for other artists to benefit.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you want more painting tips, make sure you subscribe.

Happy painting!

Photos by Kristina Davini

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