It’s always great to have a creative outlet, a way to express your personality through different mediums. Acrylic painting is a perfect way to express yourself visually, and a great hobby to keep you entertained when you need a break from the constant stimulation of technology.

What is Acrylic Paint?

A painting showing off the properties of acrylic paint.
Acrylic paint has some unique properties which add to its appearance on the canvas.

Before we dive into the pros and cons, the techniques and tools, and everything else you need to know about acrylic painting, let’s take a moment to see how the painting medium first came about.

Acrylic paint was essentially first conceived sometime during the early part of the 20th century by German chemist and entrepreneur Otto Röhm, when he first stumbled across acrylic resin. It wasn’t until the 1950s that it first became available to the general public though.

This resin has a wide variety of properties, such as fantastic water resistance, and it is incredible durability when solid, which makes it the perfect ingredient for paint.

Acrylic paint first came to artists’ attention due to its great versatility when compared with oil or watercolour paints, and as such it went on to become a staple of many a painter’s repertoire.

With acrylic paint one can achieve a variety of effects simply by adding water, or mixing up the mediums used with the paint. This made the process of painting and mixing up styles much more accessible and easier than was the case before the invention of acrylic paint, when painters had to go through the hassle of mixing their own paints.

For this reason and others, acrylic paint is often the preferred option for model enthusiasts. So if you’re looking to get into the world of model painting, you’ll probably need to become familiar with acrylic paint.

Check out famous artistic acrylics here.

Types of Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint can be purchased in two grades, professional and student. The professional grade paint, as the name suggests, is designed to be used by artists well-versed in the medium, and those who desire the most potential for creativity in terms of how they can manipulate the paint.

While the student grade acrylic paint is meant for anyone new to the paint, or those working on a budget since its more affordable than its professional counterpart.

Grade aside, there are also a wide variety of acrylic paints which can all achieve different styles and end products.

  •  Craft acrylics - The preferred paint for model painting. This is because craft acrylic paint is versatile and can be used on a variety of surfaces such as wood and ceramics.
  •  Interactive acrylics - Best for artists seeking to modify their work as they go along. Interactive acrylic paint grants the artist more scope to alter their painting by delaying the drying process when necessary.
  •  Open acrylics – Designed to extend the time it takes acrylic paint to dry, open acrylics are for those projects which require longer drying time, giving it a characteristic of oil painting.
  •  Iridescent acrylics - An extravagant option to give art an extra splash of colour, iridescent acrylics will create a glowing effect to really catch the eye.
  • Exterior acrylics – The last noteworthy type of acrylic paint that may interest you, is exterior acrylics. Much like craft acrylics, these paints will serve you well on a variety of surfaces, plus they are highly water resistant making them ideal for outdoor use.

Acrylic vs Oil Painting

Acrylic painting, for those that don’t know, is the main alternative to oil painting. Acrylic paint tends to come in tubes, similar to oil paint, but unlike oil paint, it dries very quickly. As a result, it is a great paint to start out with, as you won’t need to wait a long time for it to dry.

Another reason why you might consider painting with acrylic over oil paints is how easy it can be cleaned up after use. The last thing you want as a beginner painter is to have to spend half the afternoon cleaning up after yourself, and literally waiting for paint to dry.

Painting with acrylics is also much more appealing in the sense that you can clean up after yourself using plain old tap water, rather than having to rely on foul-smelling chemicals to wipe off your brush as you would with oil paints.

Not to discredit oil painting too much, but acrylic painting can also be made to look like oil painting, or even watercolour, with a bit of practice. Since you can dilute it with water, you are able to achieve a variety of techniques and visuals, which make it highly versatile.

Of course, there are some drawbacks too, but these shouldn’t dissuade you from starting out with acrylic paint. The main downside is that there are fewer colours to choose from compared to oil paints, and the quick drying time might affect how you paint.

Beginner Acrylic Painting Supplies

A painter’s messy work space.
Your work space doesn’t have to look like this. Keep it simple.

Now that you have a better idea of the nature of acrylic paint, and the characteristics to bear in mind when starting out with it, let’s take a look at the essential beginner supplies which will get you started on the right foot.

While you may already know some of the basics required to kickstart a new painting hobby, like a brush or canvas to paint on, there are some other supplies you may be less familiar with. Painting for beginners requires some of the more obvious painting supplies, but also some less well-known ones.

Brush

First things first, a brush should be your number one priority if you’re looking to get into acrylic painting. With a whole host of options available, it can be pretty intimidating to attempt to make the right choice first time.

However, with just a couple of brushes on hand, you can express your creative side in many ways. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want a hog hair brush with stiff bristles for heavier painting, and a lighter brush like a small round one to add finer details or effects like watercolour.

One thing to keep in mind when using acrylic paints is to maintain your brushes well, that is to say, wash them thoroughly after each use as this type of paint can be tough on bristles.

Canvas

Of course, once you have your paint and brushes, you’re going to want a medium to paint onto. A canvas is a great place to start, and the best option for a beginner starting out is a pre-prepared canvas, which’ll be ready to use from the start.

Cotton duck is one of the best materials for a canvas, due to its affordability and availability. While you could opt for the higher quality of linen, you’ll probably want to start out with something a little more reasonably priced, especially if you’re just trying the hobby out.

Palette

The last obvious item on your acrylic painting shopping list should be a good palette. You’ve seen those photos of famous painters with a brush in one hand and a palette in the other, so its obviously worth the investment.

However, before you run out and buy the first one you find, it’s worth bearing in mind the quick-dry nature of acrylic paint. This characteristic means that both plastic and wooden palettes won’t serve you as well as stay-wet palettes which have been developed specifically for working with acrylic paint.

You could even get your hands on a few disposable palettes, which are the best option for dabbling with acrylic painting.

Jar of Water

Something you may or may not have considered when taking up acrylic painting, is the need for a jar or cup of water at your work station at all times. This is necessary because you’ll need to keep the brush and paint wet, due to the quick-dry nature of acrylic paint.

Cleaning Soap

Another supply that’s easy to overlook is soap to clean your brushes. Special soaps are available for use specifically with paintbrushes. These will keep the bristles at their best and help to maintain the brushes no matter how often you use them.

Best Acrylic Painting Courses

A desk with a laptop and a cup of coffee.
Get comfortable and study from home.

Finally, to give you some direction with your first foray into the world of acrylic painting, we’re going to recommend some great tutorials, courses, and classes out there. You can learn to paint while also specifically developing your skills in the medium of acrylic painting. Learning to paint doesn’t have to be a chore either, check out these engaging painting courses and feed your artistic flair.

Video Tutorials

The Arttutor YouTube channel is a fantastic resource for beginner video tutorials on acrylic painting. Their acrylic painting playlist contains a variety of video classes which will help you up your game from the get-go.

Katie Jobling also has some great tutorials and video lessons on the popular video streaming platform which should help get you off to a strong start in acrylic painting.

Great Online Courses

In terms of painting lessons you can follow along with online, there are several solid options to choose from as a beginner.

Your best bet is likely to search Udemy’s great number of courses led by experts. Many acrylic painting courses can be found through the website, with some focussing on the basics, and others focussing on more complex elements of acrylic painting.

Online Tuition

Last, but certainly not least, is the option of seeking online tuition to help brush up on all the basics.

Depending on where you are in the UK, chances are you’ll be able to find a acrylic painting tutor near you by using the art lessons near me search function on the SuperProf website.

Even if there isn’t a tutor near you, or you prefer online tuition, we have you covered on that end too. Our qualified tutors offer art lessons for adults and children alike, and will be more than happy to help you start out in the field of acrylic painting, and get you up to speed with everything from supplies to techniques.

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Jess