Acrylic painting is an exciting hobby to pick up for the first time. Not only because of the incredible feeling associated with having a creative outlet, but also because of how versatile acrylic paint can be, and how wide a range of techniques you can apply to make your art stand out.
If you’ve ever been curious about dipping your toes in the world of acrylic painting or simply finding a new way to express yourself, then this guide should help you find your feet and make the most of the fascinating substance.
Versatility of Acrylic
First and foremost, what makes acrylic paint such a great option for creating art is its versatility and quick-drying nature.
Despite the fact that oil painting continues to be the number one choice for many professional artists, the time it takes to dry can prove frustrating, and limit them somewhat in the scope of what they can pull off. Even as an amateur or beginner, choosing acrylic over oil can prove to be a great decision, since you will have a wide variety of techniques at your disposal to really unlock and unleash your creative side.
What’s more, if you choose acrylic paint as your medium, you will be able to recreate many different painting styles. You’ll be able to apply the paint thinly, like you would with watercolour painting, or thicker, as in oil painting. Plus, it has the additional benefits over its counterparts of being impervious to cracking and fading.
You can also use acrylic paint on a variety of surfaces. From the orthodox canvas or art paper, to rougher surfaces like wood or stone, you will be able to create some truly interesting art with a number of unique textures and aesthetics, defying the traditional image of painting on a canvas.
The main downside to acrylic paint is the fact that it can produce a shiny aesthetic which can alter the look of the end product, and perhaps make it look less polished than say an oil painting would. Aside from that, all the signs point to acrylic paint being a great place to start out as a beginner looking to brush up on their painting skills or take steps towards a career in the arts.
Essential Equipment for Experimentation
Now, before we get into the individual techniques associated with acrylic painting, it’s worth first taking a look at the essential equipment for such experimentation.
Depending on the technique, you will need different supplies, but there are also some essentials that you’ll need before thinking about specifics.
The top 3 supplies on your list should be a good brush, some paint of course, and a work surface.
First up, the brush. Of course, one option for getting your hands on a brush is to buy a beginner’s kit with everything included, which would be the most convenient way to go about it.
However, things can get a bit tricky depending on what you are looking to achieve, since brushes come in all shapes and sizes. Just to give you an idea of what you’re working with, there are 8 different types of brushes commonly used in painting.
Now that it’s sunk in, let’s see how we can make the process of buying your first brush a little easier.
Your best bet when it comes to picking out a brush suitable for a beginner is to go for one that’s middle of the range, which means one which is anything from a size 6 to a size 8. From there you can go either way depending on what you feel your limitations are.
The two main types of brushes are natural, and synthetic. Due to how hard acrylic paint can be on bristles, it’s typically better to go with a brush with synthetic bristles, to ensure you’ll get more use out of it. They are also easier to clean off with water, so you won’t spend half the time you want to be painting trying to get stubborn paint off the bristles.
Lastly, make sure to invest in a decent paint brush holder or organiser. Depending on how many brushes you buy, you’ll want a nice way to store them all, so they avoid unnecessary wear and tear. From toothbrush style holders, to display stands which will give you easy access to your whole repertoire, decide which best suits your needs and keep them on your workstation to make it easier to get started.
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Student grade vs Artist-grade
Next, once you’ve got your brush, it’s a good idea to consider the types of acrylic paint available to see which is best for you. The main difference in acrylic paints is whether they fall into the category of student grade or artist grade. As a general rule of thumb, student grade paints are more affordable but of a lower quality, while the artist grade paints, as the name suggests, are more suitable for professionals with a larger budget and a desire for the best quality paint.
So starting out, since you likely don’t know whether you will continue with the hobby, you’d probably be best served opting for the more cost-effective option in student grade acrylic paint.
Best Colours for Beginners
If you’re very new to acrylic painting, it can be helpful to start off with some basic colours first, since you’ll be able to paint almost anything with just a few different staple colours.
White and black are essential, since they can combine with any of the other colours to produce a lighter or darker end result. Then, it’s worth investing in a series of warmer and colder colours. So that would be everything from yellow, red, and orange, to green, blue, and purple. This will cover most bases, and give you plenty of flexibility in what you can do on the canvas.
I know it’s very tempting to want to buy obscure acrylic paint colours with fancy names, but if you’re just trying out the hobby for the first time, you’re better off experimenting with the basics to begin with.
The last important supply you’ll need as a beginner, is a work surface to paint.
While you may think a canvas is the best option, and it certainly is up there with the best, there are other options that will serve you just as well when starting out.
Hardwood panels for example can prove to be excellent surfaces to get creative with. The main benefits of hardwood panels - which can be made of oak, or walnut for example - are that they last an age, and look fantastic. As a result, they make a great choice if you’re looking to gift your art to a loved one, or proudly stick it on display somewhere in the house.
Paper is also a good option. Any type of paper will suffice, but you will probably experience better results with acrylic paper or watercolour paper. The heavy-duty acrylic paper will be a robust surface which will cater for many different techniques, while watercolour paper gives you a great variety of options for different effects and textures.
Choosing a work surface essentially boils down to personal preference, but if you’re coming into the world of acrylic painting on a budget, a canvas or paper will likely be your best bets.
Acrylic Paint Techniques for Beginners
When you have all your supplies together, you’re ready to begin experimenting with some of the many acrylic painting techniques out there. So as not to get too far ahead of ourselves we’re going to provide a brief overview of 10 of the most important, and most basic, techniques to get you started.
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The simplest technique you’ll find in acrylic painting is without a doubt the drybrush. This technique consists of applying the paint directly to the canvas, which will give you a solid block of colour to manipulate with your brush. This technique is great for framing a painting, or for adding larger elements to your work.
A fun sounding technique, splattering is concerned with flicking paint from your brush onto the canvas to create a splattering effect. This technique requires a wet brush, and some paper towels nearby as it can get messy. This one is great for getting creative and making abstract scenes.
Using a brush with fine bristles, detailing is the technique which will allow you to create finer details for your work. Especially useful for faces, and other small details you’re looking to add to your art.
A nice technique to add some shine and sparkle to your painting, glazing will help set your art out from the rest, while adding an interesting aesthetic element.
Layering is the process of adding additional layers to your painting, to create a sense of depth. After the paint has dried (which shouldn’t take long with acrylic paint), you’ll be able to add extra layers to create the desired effect.
This technique requires minimal effort, so it's great for beginners. Tracing a picture, you will then choose different colours or shades for each part of the image in order to create an interesting visual. This one is fun for surreal paintings and for making something that looks great without needing plenty of experience in acrylic painting.
There is plenty of scope for mixing when it comes to acrylic painting. As well as the more traditional means of mixing to create new colours, like yellow and red to make orange, you can also get creative with different shades of the same colour. If you mix lighter and darker blues for example you can get some interesting shades which fall between the two, without needing to splash out extra cash for that specific shade of paint.
Another fun sounding technique like splattering, dabbing involves delicately or not so delicately tapping the top of the brush while holding it over the canvas. This will give you some interesting results and dotted patterns.
Stippling is a technique of painting on a number of small dots to the canvas to create interesting visual effects.
Finally, washing is a technique in acrylic painting that will create a similar effect to watercolour painting. This one is fun to experiment with drybrushing, as it can produce some outstanding end products.
How to Find Acrylic Painting Tuition
There are a number of resources you can take advantage of to get ahead in acrylic painting.
One of the best places to find acrylic painting classes is through the online course website: Udemy. Udemy has courses in a wide variety of subjects, including acrylic painting. You can work through the online course at your own pace and end up feeling confident expressing yourself through your new hobby.
Here at Superprof, we have a team of qualified tutors on hand to help you get your acrylic painting up to speed in no time! Using the find a tutor near you search function on the website, you can see if there are some acrylic painting tutors in your area, but if not, you can always opt for online classes and reap the benefits.
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