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acrylic wash that says intro to acrylic

If you're looking to learn a new art medium that's versatile, forgiving, and easy to get started with, you're in the right place! We are introducing acrylic paint here at Let's Make Art, and you're getting the inside scoop on how it's used. Get ready to create paintings that you're proud to show off! 

Getting started: What you need
drawn images showing two cups of water, two paint brushes, paint bottles, papers, and a canvas
acrylic wash that says

Acrylic paint is a thicker medium and a plastic-based paint that typically dries opaque. Depending on the brand you use (whether you use a cheaper paint or an artist-grade paint), some are naturally more opaque while others take some layers to get the same look. 

acrylic wash that says

Unlike oil paint, acrylic doesn't offer much for texture. Even if it's painted on in globs, it will dry mostly flat. However, when it does dry, it doesn't take long! Its fast-drying properties are what draws a lot of people towards acrylic painting. This makes it better for layering and makes it one of the most forgiving art mediums! If you don't like the way something looks, it's easy to paint right over it and try again. Color mixing is one of the most important tools when using this medium because of all the highly pigmented colors it offers.

acrylic wash that says

Set Up

Set yourself up for success by starting off with a great setup!

glass cup that says
  • Use two brushes to get the most out of your acrylic painting experience. We recommend using a larger flat brush for looser, bigger strokes, and a smaller round or liner brush for details.
  • Have two cups of water handy. Use one for a dirty wash and one for a clean wash. This keeps you from having to get up for clean water and keeps your colors from getting tinted. 
  • Paint on a canvas or paper. You don't have to use paper specifically for acrylic paint. Part of what makes acrylic so affordable and versatile is its ability to paint on pretty much anything! If you have our Canson XL Watercolor paper, this is a great place to start. It's heavy enough to handle many, many layers!


Texture

If you want to paint with acrylic but still want texture, there's ways you can achieve that! 

acrylic bottles of paint with messy swatches painted on paper
  • Cover your surface in a base layer of gesso. If you're using cheaper paint, do about 2-3 layers of gesso. To finish off the prep-work, add a tiny bit of paint with some gesso to cover the entire surface. This keeps the background from being pure white, eliminating the need to fill every tiny piece of the under layer!
  • Using a palette knife to scrape textures into the paint is an easy way to create more interest in your painting. Get creative with it and use other miscellaneous items to create fun textures!
  • A mixture of acrylic gel and acrylic modeling paste can be used to outline your subject. Once it fully dries, you can paint as normal. At the end you'll have a neat texture that draws attention! 
  • Using your brush intentionally and, sometimes carelessly, is an easy way to create unique marks with acrylic paint. Whether it's stabbing the surface, flicking the surface, or whatever form your stress releases itself in, the bristles of your brush are like magic at your fingertips! Pro Tip: Don't throw away your old brushes. Save those old, damaged brushes for making textures with acrylic!

Techniques

Adding elements to your paint creates variety and character within your artwork!

close up of paint brush painting with pink acrylic paint
  • Mix water in with your acrylic to get a different look. Adding water can create a slightly more opaque watercolor effect in your paintings. Be careful of adding water to a cheaper brand of paint, though—cracking and fading is more likely to occur. Adding water has a much better outcome when done with better quality acrylics!
  • Don't be afraid to be loose and have fun with your initial layers of paint. When it comes to painting with acrylics, the very last step is really what brings the painting to life. It's all about the details!
  • Use a variety of acrylic based products to add more character to your paintings. Acrylic is so versatile and has a large variety of products that work well together. Maybe you use a mixture of acrylic ink and acrylic paint, or maybe you top off your painting with an acrylic paint pen. There are so many options to explore!

Finishing Up

Here's how you can finish up your artwork to preserve the longevity!

paint water, paint brushes, painted on paper, and paint bottles sitting on a window sill
  • Cover your painting with a varnish once the paint is completely dry. Liquid varnish goes on clear and comes in either a liquid or spray and comes in either matte, satin, or gloss. Simply follow the instructions on the bottle of your varnish of choice to get the best results! If your painting is on paper, varnishing is not necessary (but it does make it look nicer!). If you used a canvas, you should always finish it off with varnish.
  • Clean your brushes with just water, or with a gentle hand soap and water. Reshape the brush after washing and allow to air dry.
  • Save the planet! It is not recommended that you dump your dirty paint water down the drain or toilet. Since acrylic paint is made of plastic, it makes it a harmful substance to our ecosystem. Instead, get a bucket of sand (or cat litter) and dump your paint water in there. It will eventually evaporate and you can throw the leftover pieces of paint in the trash.

Come paint with us!

artist Aaron Scarbrough painting a cardinal with acrylic

Join alongside our first guest artist Aaron Scarbrough in painting with acrylic! You can choose between 3 different themed boxes (or choose all 3—it's hard to pick just one!) including still life, animals, and landscapes. Each project has a video tutorial to guide you through each step.

Want to explore more?

We have an acrylic collection in our Let's Make Art store with some of our favorite supplies. Try it out! 

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