learn to paint with acrylics

Learn To Paint With Acrylics

As an artist, you are given the freedom to choose the medium you wish to paint with. Some of the popular choices are oil paints, watercolors, and acrylics– with the latter being the most favorable for beginners. This water-based medium is easy-to-use and quick to clean up, plus it’s also free from harsh chemicals unlike oil painting. 

The beautiful thing about acrylic as a medium is its versatility. As you learn to paint and uncover new techniques and styles, you will discover that you can actually mimic the qualities of oil paint and watercolor. With acrylics, you can experiment and develop a good understanding of the art of painting while staying within a budget. 

If you’re looking to venture into painting with acrylics, this guide will help you get started.

Materials Needed For Acrylic Painting

To get started, you’ll need to pick up a few materials at the art store. Remember, you’ll want the best quality your budget will allow you to buy, so do prior research on the most notable brands and choose wisely.

Here are the essentials for acrylic painting:

Acrylic paint, of course

There are two types of acrylic paint: students’ quality and artists’ quality. While the former may be cheaper, it’s well worth your money to purchase the kind of paint professionals would opt for. If you were to put these two side by side, you’ll be able to tell the difference right off the bat. Artists’ quality paints are more pigmented and vibrant compared to students’ quality. You’ll also notice that there are more colors in artists’ quality. However, as a beginner in acrylic painting, you can just start with the basics: the primary colors (yellow, red, blue), black, and white. Although this a very limited range of colors, you can experiment and mix these together to create new shades. Pre-made sets are also available if you don’t want to purchase single tubes.

Another thing to consider is the consistency of your paint. The fluid type of acrylic is a great choice for dream-like art. For “heavier” and more textured creations, the heavy-body type is recommended. 

Take note that acrylic paint dries very quickly so proper use and storage is important. Always seal the containers tightly and do not overexpose the paint if you don’t plan on using it.

Different kinds of brushes

No need to purchase a huge set of brushes when you’re just starting out. A good selection would be a large and small round brush, as well as a large and small flat brush. It’s entirely up to you if you prefer more sizes, but the following are already sufficient for a beginner in acrylic painting. As for the material, nylon is your best bet.

A palette

You’ll need a palette you can mix your paint on. While you can use any waterproof, flat surface like a plastic cutting board or even an aluminum pan, there are plastic palettes available in the market that are specially designed for acrylic paint. Some types also have ‘covers’ or lids to avoid the paint from drying. 

A good, but optional material you can also purchase is a palette knife. This will help you mix paint colors properly without having to use your brushes and potentially damaging them. You can also use the knife for special painting techniques.

A surface to paint on

There are a variety of surfaces you can paint acrylics on. In fact, you can paint on anything so long as the surface is stable and not water-absorbent nor greasy/oily. These include canvas, canvas paper, hardboard, wood, and even heavy watercolor paper. If you’re on a budget, the canvas paper is your best choice. 

Should you decide to use a canvas or board, you might also want to consider buying an easel. A simple tabletop kind would do. This will help support and incline your surface at a comfortable angle, making the painting process a lot easier.


Obviously, you don’t have to buy this at the store, but you’ll need water in plastic containers or cups. You can prepare two– one for cleaning brushes and the other for diluting paint. Make it a habit to change the water often to prevent your palettes from getting dirty.

Paper towels

Have some paper towels ready when you “wash” your brushes in between colors and need to pat or wipe off any excess water from your paintbrush. These will also come in handy in the event that you make a mistake or your hands get messy.

Once you’ve gathered your materials, you can start creating your first masterpiece!

learn to paint

Time To Paint

First, set up your personal painting space in a well-lit area such as a room with tall windows. Natural light from the sun is your best friend, but you can also work with neutral, electric lighting to avoid altering your paint’s colors. Position your surface in a way that your shadow or any reflection cannot be seen on it.

Once your area is ready and you’re comfortable, it’s time for you to get your creative juices flowing. Think about what you want to paint and how you want to paint it. A beginner would usually start with the most common choices, like a vase of flowers or a bowl of fruit. You can even use a photo for reference, but make sure to explore your creativity and make the design your own. 

Before getting your hands on a brush, it’s good practice to sketch out your painting first. This is to avoid the possibility of poor placement or structure– in simple words, you won’t have to paint for hours only to realize that you could’ve done this or that. Sketching beforehand will help your layout so it’s great to make it a habit every time you create a new piece of art.

In the event that you are too excited to paint and you decide to skip the sketching, that’s fine too! Experiment and let your brush run free on the surface because the more you paint, the more you’ll discover. There are many techniques you can try– here are some:

  • Washing – Mimic watercolor qualities with acrylics by diluting the paint with water, creating a translucent effect similar to watercolor painting.
  • Drybrush – Create strong, textured strokes of color with a brush that hasn’t been dipped in water, hence the term drybrush.
  • Stippling – Create tiny dots of different colors using your brush.
  • Splattering – Use a flicking motion on a wet brush dipped in acrylic paint to add texture or create abstract art.
  • Dabbing – Lightly dab on your surface using a brush or paper towel to create texture and movement. Another variation of this is sponging, wherein you use a sponge to dab.

These are just a few of the many techniques you will learn as you go. You will have the opportunity to dive into different textures, layers, movements, and styles– the sky’s the limit. The trick is to enjoy and just follow what you feel like doing. Whether beginner or experienced, you have the ability to paint with impact using your own style. Remember, there are no rules!

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