How to Paint With Acrylics for Beginners
Acrylic paints are a popular choice among professionals and beginners because they are highly versatile and easy to work with. Acrylics are used in many different ways to create paintings in all sorts of different styles. Better yet, they are easy to clean by just adding water, making them the perfect choice for young artists interested in learning something new.
You might be wondering: how do I get started? I Create Art’s beginner’s guide on how to paint with acrylics has all you need to begin on your next big artistic adventure. Read on to learn more about all the interesting things you can do with these paints and you’ll be painting your masterpiece in no time!
What is Acrylic Paint?
Before you get started, it might be helpful to understand what acrylic paints are made of and how they work.
These paints are essentially pigments suspended in a water-soluble acrylic polymer that becomes water-resistant once it dries. This means when compared to other paints, like latex paints, acrylic paints are easy to wash and don’t have a strong odor. Where other paints, such as oil-based formulas, can take days to dry, acrylic dries in minutes. You can also paint over dry areas without noticing any mistakes using acrylics, making them a perfect low-stress option for beginners. They’re easy to work with, quick to dry, and easy to clean up.
What Materials Will You Need to Get Started?
Once you have decided to dive into the world of acrylic painting, you’ll have to choose the materials you want to use. Now that you know a little more about what acrylics are and what to expect when painting with them, we can go over the different varieties that exist and other tools that you’ll need to get started. It can be a little overwhelming to choose from all the different brushes, canvases, and paints. Thankfully, we’re here to help.
What Characteristics Does Acrylic Paint Have?
One thing you’ll notice when shopping for acrylic paint is that there are many varieties to choose from – they come in all sorts of different colors, shades, and viscosities. Paints with high viscosities are bold and vibrant in color but can be less forgiving when it comes to correcting mistakes.
If you are looking to widen your margin of error, consider purchasing acrylics with a low viscosity formula. Low viscosity paints are more fluid and allow the artist to easily manipulate their work. Here are a few other characteristics to take into consideration when shopping for acrylics:
Heavy Body Acrylics
Heavy body acrylics are thicker paints with high viscosity and rich color depth. This type of paint is perfect for accentuating textures and other features on a painting. Many artists pair it with a stiffer brush or a knife to give their work an added layer of depth and a statuesque feel. Heavy body acrylic paints dry quickly and are more difficult to paint over once set, so be sure to get plenty of practice beforehand!
Soft Body Acrylics
Soft body acrylics are not as thick as heavy body but they are still just as vibrant. Many artists incorrectly assume that soft body acrylics are equivalent to watered-down heavy body paints, though that couldn’t be further from the truth. Soft body paints typically use a lower viscosity formulation and are easier to mix and thin with water.
Slow-Drying Acrylic Paints
As the name suggests, slow-drying acrylic paints dry slowly and are great for artists who like to experiment and tinker with their artwork. They can be usable for weeks if left in a wet palette. This type of acrylic paint is perfect for any artist who wants to experiment with different color mixes and go over existing layers of paint again.
Brushing Up on Brushes
When it comes to painting with acrylics, choosing the right brush is just as important as picking the perfect paint. You’ll want a tool that’s compatible with acrylic paints, of course, but there are a few general characteristics to keep in mind when choosing the right brush for you. Don't forget to clean these brushes regularly to ensure you’re not running right back to the store for replacements.
Types of Acrylic Brushes
There are a variety of different kinds of brushes suitable for acrylic painting. Learn which one will best suit your style below.
Long-handled brushes are perfect for painters who have a loose and free painting style. These brushes are great for young artists finding their way around the canvas because they are perfect for quick compositions. Pair this with a big canvas to paint bold landscapes and sprawling scenery with your acrylics.
Short-handled brushes are the perfect choice for artists who want to get up close and personal with their acrylic paints and add picture-perfect details to their artwork. If you’ve graduated past quick sketches and are learning about adding more detailed features, consider going with a short-handled brush. With these tools, it’s hard not to be up close and personal with your canvas - perfect for making a masterful portrait of a pet or relative!
Other Common Brushes
The most popular and readily available brush is the standard brush. Standard round brushes come with a tapered point perfect for detailed work. Other types of paintbrushes include short flat, long flat, filbert, and rigger brushes. Generally, paintbrushes with wide tips are great for painting "big picture" items like skies and landscapes, while narrow tips are preferred for capturing fine lines and other details.
How to Clean Your Paintbrushes
Dried acrylic paints can get stuck in your brushes and ruin them very quickly. Be sure to wash your tools thoroughly after painting with acrylics. Use soap and warm water and make sure to gently scrub any residue out of the paintbrush. Be careful not to let the paint dry, as this can make it more difficult to clean. It might be tedious if you practice a lot, but the perfect painting requires the perfect tools!
If you’re having trouble deciding what supplies to buy, check out I Create Art’s material packs to get you started quicker!
Acrylic Painting on Canvas - Tips
Once you have picked out your palette of vibrant acrylic paints and chosen your preferred brushes, it’s time to start thinking about where you’ll want to house these beautiful artistic creations. There are many different types of canvases available for you to put your masterpieces on, such as:
Stretched canvas is a popular choice among amateurs and professionals alike. As the name suggests, they are made by stretching canvas over a frame and are ready to paint on and hang up after drying. The canvas is usually stapled and tightened behind the frame to give it a better fit. While these are a solid choice for most painters, there are options available for beginners that take up a little less space and are easier to store.
Canvas boards are made from much thinner material and may be ideal for those who don’t have all the extra space required to store bulky stretched canvases. Unlike traditional stretched canvases, a canvas board consists of only canvas material laminated onto a thin board. Canvas boards offer a similar feel to stretched canvas, but come in a much smaller and easy-to-store package.
Canvas Textured Paper
Canvas textured papers are another great alternative to stretched canvas for beginner artists. These are low-cost and perfect for those who want to try painting with acrylics first before jumping right into it.
What are Some Techniques for Painting With Acrylics?
Now that you have gathered all your materials, it’s time to begin your first painting. If you are unsure where to begin, we have a few steps to jump-start your first original masterpiece.
Set Up Your Work Space
The first step is to find a good place in your home with adequate space and lighting to set up your easel and supplies. Finding a quiet space in your house is a good idea because the silence will help you focus. Make sure you have your brushes in a sturdy cup and plenty of rags nearby, just in case. If you are painting with acrylics indoors be sure to put something beneath your work space to avoid ruining carpet or flooring.
Experiment With Your Acrylics
Next, you should get a feel for your acrylics and brushes before you attempt to paint your masterpiece. An easy way to do this is to brush all of your paints on a blank canvas to get a feel for how they behave. This way, you’ll learn how quickly they dry and how vibrant they appear when applied to your canvas or medium of choice.
Paint over colors and apply other products to get a feel for how they interact with another. Once you’ve learned how your acrylic supplies get along with one another, it’s time to start visualizing your painting.
Plan Your Painting
Before you get started, it’s always a good idea to create a rough draft. Many painters may sketch their ideas elsewhere or lightly onto the canvas before they wet their brushes. Others prefer to use digital art kits first to play with a variety of colors and textures. Some simply think about what they want to create and spend time perfecting their vision mentally. Everyone’s process is different, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find what’s right for you.
After you have set up your station and planned out what you want to paint, the only thing left to do is get started. Beginners may want to stick with simple designs and a limited array of colors at first and then work their way up to more diverse palettes.
One important rule to remember is to keep things simple at first. It is easier to paint large shapes and then work your way down to the fine details. Start with brighter shades first and then move into darker shades to add clarity and richness to your painting. Mid-tone shades create the overarching "big picture," while darker shades flesh out the fine details. Light shades can also highlight those fine details toward the end.
I Create Art’s color theory kit can help you start out small and work up to painting more advanced shapes and designs in no time.
Practice Makes Perfect
Finally, and most importantly, remember that practice makes perfect. No one produces their finest work on the first try, so don't get discouraged if it doesn't come out the way you imagined it. If you keep working at it, you will eventually find what works for you and forge your very own style.
Acrylics are a great medium for a new artist to explore. Thanks to their versatility, there’s so much you can do with them and better yet, they’re easy to clean. So rinse off your brushes and keep practicing and you’ll be creating masterpieces in no time!
Watch I Create Art tutorials here on how to use various mediums like acrylic paints.