Acrylic Painting Basics


Today I am going to talk primarily about working with acrylics. Now, I would guess that oils are much like acrylics – at least in the way I like to apply them and in the end result I like to achieve. I know that they can be applied more like watercolors, too, but that’s not how I prefer to use them. I will say right off that what I like most about the acrylics is also what I like least. They do dry very quickly and since patience isn’t one of my virtues, that’s what I like about them. However, on warm days, or if I want to paint outside, they really dry too quickly. But, I keep a spray bottle of water handy to wet them on the palette and I have found that some of the mediums you can buy really slow down the drying time, too. Plus, I like the look of the gloss medium added to the paints in many situations. Over the last couple of years I have started to use one of the “stay wet” palettes that can be purchased in most art supply stores or from catalogs, and they really do work wonderfully in the studio for extending the life of the acrylics you already have on your palette.

I don’t buy any one brand of acrylic paint over the other, but do prefer some colors in one brand over another. For example, Sap Green in Liquitex is a lot different than Sap Green in the Dick Blick brand. I’m not sure why. I don’t usually get the student grade paints in ANY brand, however. I like working with a limited palette, mixing my own colors, starting with an underpainting and using the color wheel when deciding on colors for my paintings. I think all of these will make wonderful starting places for topics in the future.

As far as painting surfaces go, I like to experiment there, too. I’ve tried a lot of different canvas types, and sometimes I gesso them myself, even if it says its already been done. I do like the portrait grade canvas better, especially when I am doing people, as it is much smoother. I also like painting on gessoed hardboard and even Pastelbord, which has recently become a personal favorite of mine! This is a rather unusual surface, but one you acrylic painters really should try if you haven’t yet!


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