Ways & How

How To Paint With Acrylics

How To Paint With Acrylics

One of the basic tenets of learning how to paint with acrylics, or with any other medium, form, or method of expression for that matter is that there is no right or wrong. Many people believe that to be acceptable, a work of art has to be photo-realistic or done only by the masters or the truly talented or has to be profound. But nothing could be further from the truth. The only requirement for art is having the heart or passion to do it. Skill, technique, and execution can be developed. You may not be the next Picasso, but Picasso does not hold a monopoly on the right to paint. And even Picasso had to start somewhere. So what better way to paint with acrylics than just getting to it? Here’s how:

  1. Get your materials ready. The investment you put into acrylic painting should match your level of commitment to it. Are you doing this for a class requirement or school project? Do you want it for therapy or a hobby? Do you need it for a serious, expensive art lesson? If this is for a one-off kind of thing, then you can get by with inexpensive materials.

    Or if you only want to try it out, then you shouldn’t Gspend so much. But if you intend to pursue acrylic painting for some period of time or with higher aspirations, then invest in quality materials that will enhance your enjoyment, serve you well for a long time, and produce better results.

    Brushes, paints, a palette (a paper plate will do nicely), pencils, erasers and heavy paper stock are basically what you need to get started. The brushes should be made for acrylic painting and have varying widths and thickness. For the paint, you can start with the primary colors (blue, red, and yellow), black, and white. You can mix two or several together to come up with other colors and hues. Heavy paper or canvas may be used for acrylic painting, and the choice will depend on the work you want to do and of course your budget.

  2. Unleash your inner artist. Find a subject that arouses your interest and that you want to set down on your canvas. Start with something that is simple; otherwise, you may become frustrated and give up. On the other hand, do something that will provide enough of a challenge, or you may get too bored to continue with it. You can find inspiration around you—landscape, photos, flowers, animals, fruits, objects, or even blocks, blobs or bursts of color—all are acceptable and paint-worthy.

  3. Set up your “studio.” Actually, acrylic painting is easy to indulge in because it is simple to setup, and you need only a few things to get going. Simply gather your materials together, along with a jar of water, a container with water to replace the water in the jar when it gets dirty, some paper towels, your subject or “model,” and you’re set.

  4. Quickly sketch the basic outlines of your shapes on the paper. While sketching, figure out the colors you will need. Have a picture in your mind of how you want the outcome to look so you can plan your color palette. Also, determine the placement of your light source and where the shadows should fall in relation to the light source.

  5. Prepare your palette. Squeeze the paint and mix the colors you will need on the palette. Acrylic paint dries fast, so squeeze out only as much as you think you can use in 15 minutes. However, it is better to have an excess of color, especially for mixed combinations. You will have a problem if you run out of a certain color while painting and have to mix the exact same shade that is already on the paper. So err on the side of excess. Put the caps back on the tubes and close tightly to prevent the paint from drying up inside the tubes.

  6. Start painting. Load color onto your brush, but don’t put too much on. Blot the brush on paper towels to make sure it won’t flood the paper/canvas or flow down into the ferrule. When you switch to another color, rinse the used brush in the water before dipping it in another color or picking up another brush.

    Build color up gradually. Do not put it in all at once. It is easier to add color than to take it away. It’s hard to “erase” acrylic paint as it dries up easily. Do the background first. Whether solid, textures, or graduated washes, work the background color and then add the details and the shadows. Then add the middle ground, details and shadows. Paint the foreground last. Give special attention to the details and the shadows, and continue to add depth and vibrancy with highlights.

  7. When you’re done, set aside painting to let it continue to dry completely, then clean up your materials. Always wash your brushes after using. Don’t let paint dry as this will ruin your brushes. When drying brushes, don’t let them stand with the brush hair squashed or standing up so that water floods the ferrule. The best way to dry brushes is tied with a rubber band to the mouth of an empty jar so that it hangs down, but the brush hairs are suspended and not touching the bottom of the jar. Make sure the paint tubes are tightly capped. Put your materials away to be used another time, and hang your painting up on the wall.

As you continue to paint, you will make mistakes, for sure. But you will also be learning how to avoid these mistakes and how best to work with your chosen medium to get the effect you want. Experience and practice will teach you how to paint with acrylics. If you stick with it, you may never look back.


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