How To Paint With Acrylic Paints
Guide to beginning painting with acrylic paints.
Acrylic paints are synthetic paints and differ considerably from oils in texture and function. But these paints are tough and versatile, allowing the artist to do many things those oils and other mediums cannot do.
What do you need?
Acrylic paints come in convenient sets or singly. Be sure to choose a set or single paints that have the basic colors. These are white, black, blue, magenta or red, yellow, raw sienna and raw and burnt umber. As acrylics are synthetic polymer or plastic paints, there are a host of different colors that you can choose from. But remember that you can make most colors from this basic set.
Acrylic is a water-based medium. This means that the only medium that you need to add to the acrylics is plain water. (Although some painters swear by distilled water.) There are also a number of acrylic mediums for adding to the paint. Acrylics can be used as watercolor by using a lot of water to straight out of the tube.
What else do you need?
You will need a painting surface, of course. This is where acrylics show their advantage over other mediums. Acrylics can be painted on almost any surface, including steel and glass., The best surface is a slightly textured background, like masonite or hardboard, although canvas and paper are also excellent surfaces. My favorite surface is a piece of masonite, coated with a layer of plain acrylic white paint to give a clear background. Many artists tone this background with different acrylic colors. Furthermore, you will need a few brushes, preferably a pointed brush, flat and large flat brush to begin with.
Painting with Acrylics
I have mentioned that acrylics are essentially plastic paints. This means that as you paint, you lay down layers of plastic that adhere to each other. This has advantages, as well as disadvantages over more traditional media. Firstly, the main advantage is that acrylics dry very quickly. This means that you can paint a layer and then paint over this layer within a few moments without disturbing the layer beneath.
This introduces the subject of glazing. Glazing means to paint one layer of paint over the other so that the top layer is transparent or semi-transparent and allows the bottom layer, or parts of the color beneath to shine through. This is a technique traditionally used in oil painting. If you have look at some classical masters, e.g. Rembrandt, you will see that the light in the painting is created through dozens of layer of glazes. This has also always been considered a difficult technique, but with acrylics it becomes easier due to the quick drying time of the layers of paint, With oils months would sometimes have to pass before the layers are dry enough to paint on.
The disadvantage of acrylics, ironically, is that the quick drying time does not allow time for manipulation of the paint. You have to be pretty quick to paint with acrylics. On the other hand you could use a number of techniques to retard this drying time. Firstly, by continually damping the paint slightly with a garden sprayer you can work with the paint over a longer period. There are also a number of mediums specially created to extend the drying time of these paints.
Acrylic and other media
Acrylic is often used in conjunction with oil paints, but with one very important proviso. You cannot mix the two, and the oil paint must be painted OVER the dry acrylic and never the other way around. Artist sometimes paint out their basic design with acrylic, using the advantages of the quick drying time, and then do the details in oil.
Acrylic is also very intensive glue. This makes it an excellent medium for collage. One can introduce various elements into the painting, such as cloth, paper, almost anything that it is not too heavy. This extends the range of the artist’s imagination and potential.
All in all, acrylics are a versatile and easy medium to work in, They are also relatively cheap in comparison to oil paints. My advice is to experiment with these paints and try as many possibilities as your imagination can think of.