How to paint an acrylic painting

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How to paint an acrylic painting

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Paint an acrylic painting by following this simple step by step guide. Acrylics are a relatively new fine-art medium. They became commercially available in the 1950s. The quick drying, plastic-polymer based paint may be seen as transitional between watercolor and oils. You can use acrylics to mimic the look of either. Brush strokes painted in acrylic don’t hold their texture as well as oils and acrylics tend to flatten as they dry. Acrylics dry with a shiny plastic finish. The versatile paints also clean up easily with water.


Practice your drawing to develop the skills you'll need to produce a successful acrylic painting. Keep a sketch book to draw things you may want to paint later. A good drawing is the framework you will hang your painted colors on. Choose your subject matter and work up a finished compositional drawing for your painting. Prepare a canvas or use heavy 140 to 300 lb. watercolor paper for your painting support. Masonite also works well. Gesso the canvas or Masonite and sand it smooth.


Draw your composition onto your canvas or painting support in pencil or use a small pointed brush and thinned out paint. Get a thick sheet of glass or a white enameled butcher's tray for a palette. Scrape the palette clean of dried paint between working sessions. Squirt the paint from the tubes onto the palette and mix up your colors with a palette knife. You can also mix pure colors together on the paper or canvas, but you have to act fast as acrylics dry very quickly.


Use water or thinning mediums to paint using watercolor or glazing techniques. Add water to the colors on the palette until they become fluid. Keep two containers of water, a large one for brush and knife cleaning and a smaller one for diluting paint. Apply the paint in broad washes, or puddles, of transparent color. Build up your colors by overlaying coats of paint one atop another. Let the layers of paint dry before painting over them.


Experiment with heavy impasto effects. Paint with acrylic colors squeezed straight from the tube onto the canvas. Swirl and move the paint around for visually interesting textures. Try adding different gel and texturing mediums to the paint for various effects. Slather the paint on with painting knives. Use thick, heavily textured brush strokes. Let some of the underpainted colors show through to unify the painting. Add a flow-enhancing medium to the paint for increased fluidity. Brush on flat patches of fluid color using soft animal-hair brushes.


Paint quickly with acrylics as they dry surprisingly fast. Wash your brushes and knives anytime you're not using them. Take advantage of the strength and purity of the acrylic pigments. Use bright, fully saturated colors to punch up your painting. Work out a color scheme as you paint. Try to make all the colors relate to each other for a unified overall effect. Paint in the detailed focal points and add the accented highlights to finish your painting.


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