What Is Acrylic Paint and How Do I Use It?
Are you a professional artist looking to dive into a new medium?
If you haven’t tried using acrylic paint in your work, you’re missing out. It’s loved by expert artists and beginners alike, and it can help you create your next masterpiece.
This article is here to teach you all about acrylic paints and the best ways to use them when you’re creating professional artwork.
What is Acrylic Paint?
Acrylic paint is accessible and versatile. It’s a water-based paint made of synthetic resins and acrylic polymer emulsion.
Acrylics can help you create art in any style. They are more affordable than oil paints and don’t require a ton of supplies for an artist to get to work. You can apply acrylic paint to a wide range of materials, from canvas to paper, to stone.
It dries incredibly fast compared to other paint mediums, and once it dries, acrylic paint is waterproof.
Fluid vs Heavy Body
There are two general categories that acrylic paint falls into in regards to its viscosity. You can choose between fluid acrylics and heavy body or high viscosity acrylics.
Each drying type has its own benefits. Fluid acrylics have more water in them, and they typically come in bottles or jars. These are great for creating details and dry brushwork and may resemble a watercolor painting.
Heavy body acrylics have a thicker consistency, like creamy peanut butter. They often come in squeeze tubes and are perfect for creating art with visible brush strokes. They also make it much easier to combine and mix colors.
When the paint is exposed to light over a long period of time, the colors will begin to fade away.
Some paint color fades faster than others, which is indicated by a paint’s color permanence or lightfastness. Compared to watercolors and oil paints, acrylics typically have a much higher permanence rating.
Luckily, you can tell which paints have a higher permanence than others by reading the label on the tube. ASTM International is an organization that tests the standards of art supplies. They created the ASTM Permanence Standard, which you can find on the paint’s label.
ASTM I is the highest permanence rating a paint can receive. ASTM II means the paint has very good permanence. Finally, there is ASTM III, which indicates these paint colors will fade quicker than others.
Artists’ Quality vs Students’ Quality
When purchasing your acrylic paint, you must choose between artists' quality and students’ quality acrylics.
Artists’ quality is the best of the best. It is for professional artists to create long-lasting works of art. Artists’ quality paint has a high ASTM Permanence Standard rating and the color is made with only the highest quality pigments.
There is a diverse range of color options pre-packaged for you in the store. However, artists’ quality acrylics are much more expensive than student’s quality paint.
Student’s quality paint, while affordable, often has a lower ASTM Permanence Standard rating, and is made with lower quality pigments and fillers.
Professional artists can save money by using students’ quality paint in some situations. It’s great for practicing your craft or for underpainting before applying a top coat of artists’ grade acrylic paint. You will find that professional quality paint is better suited for projects that you plan to sell or display for a long period of time.
How to Use Acrylic Paint
Now that you know the basics about acrylic paint and how to choose the right paint or art supplies, you need to learn how to use it!
Amateurs and experts alike both cherish this versatile medium. You don’t need many materials to get started, but you do need some basics.
Gather Your Materials
First, you need your canvas. You can apply acrylics to a traditional canvas after you first treat the surface. However, acrylic paint is so great because you can apply it to just about any surface as long as you treat it properly before and after you paint the surface.
You can use acrylic on paper, wood, stone, plaster, and polymer clay without first treating the surface, and without sealing it at the end. If you want to paint plastic, glass, or metal, you must first treat the surface and may have to seal the paint with a finish at the end.
You’ll need a color palette to apply your paint and mix colors. You can go for the classic plastic palette or you can opt for a stay-wet palette to keep your paint from drying too quickly. Also, buy a palette knife for mixing paints. Mixing with a brush can damage the bristles and waste paint.
Invest in high-quality brushes for your professional projects. You may want some durable brushes because painting with acrylics requires firm brushstrokes compared to watercolor painting.
Lastly, you need a cup of water and paper towels to rinse your brushes between colors. Be gentle with your brushes and carefully dab the brush on the paper towel until clean.
Keep the Paint Wet
The trickiest part about painting with acrylics is keeping the paint wet enough to keep working. The fast-drying quality of acrylic paints is beneficial in many ways, but it can also be a hindrance if you’re spending a long time on your piece.
There are many simple tricks that can help you keep your paint wet and workable during the creation process.
Try to work on the larger elements of your painting first so you can work quickly with larger amounts of paint. Once that dries, you can go back and add small details to the piece. If you’re using high viscosity acrylics, you should try to squeeze out only the smallest amounts of paint at a time so it doesn’t dry out before you use it.
You can keep the paint wet by using a gentle spray bottle to spritz your color palette or even your canvas. You can also invest in extender liquid to mix into your paint. It will make sure the paint stays wet for longer.
If you’re working on a large time-consuming project, you’ll need to take a break every once in a while. When you do, you must seal your paint in air-tight jars. You can place your canvas under a plastic sheet or even seal it in an airtight container to make sure the paint is workable after you rest.
Start Creating Art Now!
Now that you know the basics about acrylic paint and how to use it, you’re ready to get started on your next creative project.
You can find acrylic paints and more art supplies when you check out our high-quality crafting products today!