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How to Paint Using Acrylics

Acrylic paints

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Are you starting an art project that needs acrylics and don’t know where to begin? Let’s get right into it!

This article will detail the professional steps on How to Paint Using Acrylics.

The tricks and tips mentioned in this article are both for beginners, amateurs, and professionals.

What are acrylic paints?

Acrylic paint is a fast-drying, water-resistant paint created from pigments dispersed in polymers and other compounds. Finished acrylic paintings can resemble watercolors, gouaches, or oil paintings or have their unique features not obtainable with different mediums.

In 1939, the first viable acrylic resin dispersion was developed, and the resin itself was initially created in 1934. Since then, synthetic paint has been employed in various mediums, including oil and watercolor. 

Leonard Bocour and Sam Golden developed a solution acrylic paint known as Magna between 1946 and 1949. Since latex is a water-based suspension of polymer particles, water-based acrylic paints were renamed latex house paints.

Acrylic painting techniques

There are numerous techniques a painter can adapt when using acrylics. In contrast to oil paintings, acrylics dry far more quickly and are water-soluble.

?Key Fact: Acrylic paints can dry in around 20-30 minutes, compared to oil paints that take approximately 24 hours to dry.

These paints do away with the requirement for turpentine and gesso and can be put directly on the canvas without the need for additional preparation. Watered-down acrylics can also be poured or used as glazes or paints with full color.

Dry Brush

Acrylic paint is applied to a canvas using an almost dry brush that still holds some paint. Dry support, such as paper or primed canvas, is used to apply the load. 

Moreover, if you’re painting with water-based media such as ink or water-based paints, be sure the brush is dry or squeezed dry.

Wash Painting

When creating an acrylic wash, a significant amount of water is required to dilute the paint. Therefore, the quantity of acrylic pigment you use can be reduced by thinning the paint with water. 

Once dried, the pigment particles settle into and on the painting surface, with only a minimal amount of acrylic binder remaining in between.

Palette Knife

Use palette knives to develop your style in a new direction, produce texture in a brush-painted piece, or put down an underpainting, among other things. Vincent van Gogh, a 19th-century master painter, used the technique.


a technique used to apply acrylic paint

Dabbing or stippling is a standard painting method for acrylic paint and can be achieved by dabbing or pressing your painting tool into the canvas to create circular shapes.

?Hot Tip: It’s possible to apply different colored acrylics to one another with little pressure using a stiff bristle brush or a paper towel.


Acrylic paint can be used to create artwork by pouring it onto a canvas, and, thus, painters can add color to their work in puddles, pools, and marble-like patterns. Pouring is used to get an even and blemish-free layer of paint.


The splatter painting technique evoked a chaotic, irreverent style full of life and was well known by Jackson Pollock. A loaded brush can be used to drizzle paint onto a canvas or can be used to flick paint into the air to create more splatters and splashes. 

Tools needed to paint.

To begin painting, all you need is some paint, some brushes, and something to paint on (canvas, paper, wood, or something else). Acrylic painting has many tools and techniques available to us as we explore them and learn how to apply them.

Let’s look further at what tools you’ll need to gather when learning How to Paint Using Acrylics.

Acrylic Paints

One of the primary differences between acrylic and latex paint is that acrylic uses chemicals while latex uses water as a base. Acrylic paint is more elastic than latex paint since it is chemically based, and latex paints contract and expand more quickly than acrylic paint.

However, acrylic painting does not have to be pricey if you make wise choices. People tend to choose Acrylic painting supplies because they are the cheapest or suggested by artists who sell their line.

Many surfaces can be painted with acrylics because they are water-based, quick-drying, and free of harmful solvents. Acrylics dry with a robust and flexible surface and are light-fast and permanent. 

?Extra Fact: Acrylic paints are suitable if you are considering painting your bathroom. They are recommended for their fast drying times as well as waterproof nature!

Acrylic Paint Brushes

Consider using a synthetic brush instead of a natural one for all your acrylic painting needs. It is common for acrylic brushes to be more durable and springier than natural bristles.

Use a synthetic brush if you want a long-lasting and dependable brush for your acrylic painting projects. Acrylic brushes are more durable, robust, and springy than natural-bristle brushes.

Canvas & Easel

A canvas and easel for article how to paint using acrylics

The difference between canvas and an easel is that a canvas is a coarse cloth woven from hemp that can be used to build sails and tents and serve as a medium for paintings.

In contrast, an easel is an upright structure with three legs used to exhibit or support art canvases and other works of art.

Easels are not essential for artists to paint, but they can be pretty helpful in some situations.

?Did You Know: Painting on an easel has numerous advantages over other painting methods; it allows you to paint against a flat table or a wall.

Personal preferences do come into play. If you don’t plan on framing the canvas, a wider edge can make the painting appear larger and more impressive. How a canvas is primed affects its absorbency, not its fabric type.

How to Paint Using Acrylic

Acrylics, unlike oil paints, don’t soak into the canvas the way they do with oil. Professional artists like stretched cotton canvas because of its fabric weave and spring. It’s easy to work with and dries rapidly on canvas, making acrylic an all-time favorite. 

When painting with acrylics, a wide range of materials can be used, allowing for a wide range of textures and surfaces. Only a few examples include gloss medium, pumice gel, matte acrylic, crackle, varnish, and glazing liquid.

What Surfaces Can I Paint On?

First and foremost, when considering how to paint using acrylics, it’s essential to grasp what surfaces you can and cannot paint over. Here’s a quick snapshot overview to review before you get started:

Surface Types Can I Paint Using Acrylic Paint?
Paper ✔️
Cardboard ✔️
Canvas ✔️
Wood ✔️
Glass ✔️
Metal ✔️
Plastic ✔️
Plaster ✔️
Stone ✔️
Polymer clay ✔️
Air-dry clay ✔️
Before you begin, refer to this table to see what surfaces can be painted with acrylics.

Gather all your tools.

These include water, a paper towel, paintbrushes, and a palette. Palettes can be made out of both foam and plastic throwaway dinner plates.

?️‍♂️Professionals Tip: It’s a good idea to use disposable plates as a palette. Disposable plates can be turned upside down and used as a lid over your paint, stopping your paint from drying out!

You can use acrylic paints and media as collage elements once they have dried entirely by simply peeling them off of most plastic or glass palettes. Useful palettes that don’t need to be covered: Color palettes made of glass, ceramic, enameled metal, or plastic can be used for color mixing.

Start your art journey.

Once you gathered all the tools needed, it’s time to begin your journey towards learning how to paint using acrylics.

As a beginner’s trial, you can start painting on canvas to get more accustomed to acrylic. You can spray water directly on your canvas. 

Use a retarder to slow down the drying time, or take a hair blow dryer to speed up the drying time.

?Key Insight: You can use a range of gels and pastes to alter the consistency of acrylic paint.

Pick up your brush. I would recommend a large flat brush (24), a small flat brush (12), a filbert brush (14), a small round brush (10), and a liner brush (2). You can start with ten primary colors and mix the shades from there.

A beginner’s paint set is an excellent place to start. Learn how to mix colors to create more colors, as this is essential to making the most of your color palette. Cleric paint does dry out very fast on a pallet.

Acrylic markers can be used for fine lines and to highlight details. Once done with painting, clean the brushes right away and lay them horizontally to dry. Store your dry brushes with the bristles facing up.

After drying, acrylic wash paintings cannot be rehydrated, unlike watercolor washes, which can be diluted with water or acrylic media.

Acrylic paints are not suitable for the color-lifting processes of watercolors based on gum Arabic. When acrylic paint dries and sticks to a solid surface, it is often impossible to remove.

Do’s and Don’ts with Acrylics

Strive to Complete Your Tasks Immediately.

Acrylics dry more quickly than other types of paint. The longer you paint the same areas, the less responsive your acrylics will be, so it’s best to use an acrylic retarder, such as Matisse’s Drying Retarder, or a light dab of water if you’re working on paper.

Don’t overfill your pallet with paint.

A paint pallet and artist paint brushes

When working with acrylics, you must be careful not to overfill your acrylic paint palette.

While you’re waiting for another opportunity to use that color, it has the potential to dry and harden, so be mindful of this possibility at all times.

Mist your palette with water and store it in a jar with a tight-fitting lid overnight to keep it secure from damage. 

Blending must be done with care.

To create a more vibrant environment, you can use the colors you already have in your palette to mix them but blend with caution. If you mix it too quickly, your paint will have bubbles, which you do not want to achieve while producing art, so be careful.

Rinse tools off with soap and water.

If you use acrylic paint, you don’t need to clean your brushes with turpentine or mineral spirits. Other forms of paint, like oils and oil media, may be necessary to clean other paint forms. 

We Hope You’ve Learnt: How to Paint Using Acrylics

When discovering how to paint using acrylics, you will be presented with a wide range of techniques and materials you can paint over.

However, it’s important to consider the material and understand what preparation methods need to be completed before you begin painting.

For instance, although metal and glass can be painted using acrylics, the surfaces must be carefully prepared. The color needs to be correctly sealed afterward.

Acrylics have a wide range of uses such as painting vinyl siding and garage doors particularly if your door is made from aluminum.

?Extra Information: If you wish to learn more about painting furniture, you can have a look at how to paint furniture such as stained wood or cabinets on our website.


Do you need to add water to acrylic paint?

Yes. If you plan to create a matte effect, water breaks down the binder in acrylic paint, diluting the paint and sinking into the surface like watercolor. 

Since acrylic medium doesn’t require as much water as other mediums, the paint can rest on top while creating a rich, glossy finish.

When dry, is acrylic paint waterproof?

Dry acrylic paint is water-resistant but not waterproof. Once dry, the paint is slightly water-resistant, but the acrylic will eventually peel or flake off when exposed to heavy amounts of water.

Can I use acrylic to paint clothes?

To paint your fabric using acrylic paints, the colors of the paint must first be blended using an acrylic medium or a textile medium before being applied to the cloth.

Ordinary acrylic paint on fabric will not be effective unless the paint is coupled with an appropriate medium, which is not always the case. Because of its acrylic chemistry, acrylic fabric paint dries at various rates. 

Can you use acrylic on wood?

Acrylic paint is safe to use on wood. The acrylic you choose to paint on wood is entirely up to you. Apply the paint using a wide, flat paintbrush to paint the wood. 

If desired, the back can be painted after the first coat has dried. The drying time for most acrylic paints is about 20 minutes.

Is acrylic paint safe to apply on concrete?

Painting masonry using acrylic latex paint is simple because it’s water-based and easy to mix and spread. This paint can be used on any concrete or masonry surface, including floors, walls, and steps.

Non-slip surfaces can be created by mixing small particles into acrylic paints, making them ideal for outside walkways and stairwells. 

Is acrylic paint safe to use on a house’s paint?

Acrylic paints can be used in the same way as commercial tints to alter the shade of your house paint. A simple method for mixing acrylic paint into house paint is to utilize liquid acrylics.

Can acrylic paint be used outdoors?

The versatility of acrylic paint allows it to be utilized for various projects, including painting outdoor items such as birdhouses.

Paint may attach to your canvas, but if it is still wet when you begin painting, you will have to clean it off before it dries.

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