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Painting With Acrylics

If Acrylics on Canvas has always been a look that you have liked, why not try it for yourself? Sometimes people can back away from acrylics because of how messy it seems, but I assure you there are ways around the mess! Acrylics are a beautiful medium to create art with. Because they are so versatile there are a lot of different looks and styles you can create with acrylics. They are great for building texture and depending how you mix them can look smooth or chunky. The amazing world of Acrylics is never ending and there are so many things to be created with them but before we get ahead of ourselves, here are the basics that you need to know to help you dive into acrylics.

Types of Acrylics

There are two main categories of acrylics and those are student grade and artist grade. As you may guess the artist grade is the paints used by professionals, which are often a lot cheaper and offer and larger range of colours. The student grade acrylics are generally cheaper and while still having a good range of colours is a little more limited in shades.

If you are just starting out then it’s always a good idea to start with the student grade which will give you a chance to freely explore your style and the colours you like working with without having to break the bank.

Within these two main categories, acrylics can be broken down further into viscosity, which is the consistency of the paint itself. Fluid acrylics are generally thinner, and are used when trying to achieve more of a watercolour look or when doing fine details where as heavy body acrylics have a thicker consistency and are great for creating texture within your painting. Both have the same pigment concentration however and are generally chosen to suit the particular style of the painter.

Acrylics usually come either in small tubes or jars depending on the brand and the size. When you first start to experiment with acrylics you don’t need the whole set of colours to start off with. First choose your primary colours and the other colours that will help you blend and mix together your own wonderful colour creations.


If you are into painting with more realistic scenes then good starting colours can include:

– Titanium White

– Burnt Umber

– Cadmium Yellow Light

– Alizarin Crimson Permanent

– Ultramarine Blue

Once you are ready to expand and experiment more then you may like to throw in some of these colours.

– Phthalo Blue (Green Shade)

– Ivory Black

– Yellow Ochre

– Raw Umber

– Cadmium Red

Choosing colour is a very personal thing and you may find that what you are trying to create needs specifically mixed or more obscure colours. The great thing about acrylics is their ability to mix and blend so with some fun experimentation you should be able to achieve any colour and shade you want.


Once you have your paints sorted then the next important step is finding the right brush for you. This will be very much based on your own personal painting style. Brushes come in different styles as well as sizes, so here’s a quick break down for you.

Round – The round brush is often known as a jack-of-all-trades type brush. It’s got as the name suggests a nice long round tip and depending on what size you are wanting to use it in, can do details and fine work as well as fill in work by pressing the brush flatter as you paint.

Pointed Round – The pointed round is very similar to the round but the difference is in the tip which has more of a sharp point to it. This style of brush is used mostly for detailed work.

Detail Round – In the same families as the other round brushes but with usually a thinner brush with shorter bristles used for those tiny details

Flat – The flat brush has a squared end and is used more for covering larger spaces and known for it’s bigger bolder strokes. The bristles are usually medium to long in length and is a brush every artist has.

Angular Flat – This brush has an asymmetric tip with it’s bristles cut on an angle. There brushes work best for doing those hard corners and getting beautiful curves and angles.

Fan – A fan brush had it’s bristles spread out, you guessed it, in a fan shape! The uses for this brush are usually textural and to create different effects with the brush.

Filbert – This brush is dubbed the ‘blending brush’. It’s a mix between the round and flat brush and has an oval tip which can create nicer soft edges and helps blend colours together getting rid of any harsh lines.


So you’ve got your paints and your brushes all you need is a surface to paint on. Canvas has always traditionally been the go to for acrylic painting, it’s light weight and easy to transport and when primed correctly lets the brush glide over the surface but still adds some texture. There is a range of canvas you can paint on. The weave is traditionally done with either cotton or linen and you can buy it unprimed, but if you are just starting out priming canvas yourself can be a tricky business so it’s best to stick to a ready primed canvas. You can buy a canvas this is already stretched over a wooden frame and is pretty much ready to go. These range in prices according to the quality of the canvas its self, the wood and the size. You can buy very cheap canvases from craft stores that can be fun if you are just starting out to experiment on but there often have a rougher texture to them and the paint doesn’t sit on them quite as well. So if you are looking to get a little more serious with your art it’s best to start looking in proper art stores for a good quality canvas that will help to bring out the true colours of the paint and provide just the right amount of texture.

Creating texture

One of the amazing things about acrylics is their ability to create so much texture within a paining. There are a few ways to do this, by layering and also by adding different texture gels to your paint.


If you are going to stick solely with your acrylics paints and just layer them then there are a few different tool you can use to do this.

There is the fancy palette knife, that is mostly used for mixing your paints on your palette before spreading them, but if you don’t have one laying around and you want to give it a go, try a butter knife from your kitchen draw! Scoop the paint with it and spread it on thickly to see the kind of effects it can create.

You can also obviously use a paintbrush, experimenting with putting different amounts on, letting your canvas dry and then layering up this way.

If you are looking to get really abstract then why not even use your fingers! It may look like a five year olds painting at first but there is something so fun about really feeling the paint and being so in touch with your canvas that can help to free you and get you to really experiment and try new things that can turn out amazingly.

The Mess

One worry you may have with using acrylics is the mess! If you are playing around with a bigger canvas or painting onto hard wood then chances are things are going to get a little messy. Even if you are only using a small canvas, always use a ground sheet. Having a good groundsheet will free your mind from having to worry about paint getting everywhere and when your mind is free from those concerns you’ll be able to creatively let go a little more. Another good idea it to always have your water near by for cleaning your brushes and a few rags for cleaning your hands and any spots that may escape your ground sheet.

It’s always really important to clean your brushes property. If paint is left in them then the bristles will dry and crack a lot sooner. Wash them out with warm soapy water and use your fingertips to massage out any left over paint. Paintbrushes don’t like being kept wet for long periods of time, so after you’ve washed then, reshape the bristles with your fingertips and then leaving them to dry horizontally.

Have fun experimenting with acrylics, they are such a fun medium to use and you’re sure to find your personal style, whether it’s using them in a thinner consistency for details work or layer the paint on thick and getting abstract, acrylics can be molded to your style with ease.

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