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What Should I Know about Acrylic Painting?

Blending acrylic paint may be difficult.
Acrylic paints can be thinned or thickened using additives.
Acrylic paints dry quickly.
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  • Written By: Margo Upson
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2014
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Acrylic painting is a rewarding pastime for artists who enjoy using a paint that is both versatile and challenging. Artists are able to change the properties of acrylic paints to achieve the look they are trying to create. The challenges involved in acrylic painting can be overcome by knowing about them in advance, and planning around them.

There are several things to keep in mind when using acrylic paints. The most important is that acrylic paint dries fast. Only squeeze a small amount of paint out of the tube at a time, and use it quickly. Be careful, though. Acrylic paints are also very difficult to remove once they have dried. Solvents are available to remove the paint, but they can’t be used for small mistakes. They will remove everything down to the canvas.

A fast drying paint also means that blending can become very difficult after a very short period of time. To work around this challenge, paint small segments of the canvas as fully as you can before moving on to the next. Have an idea of the details you want to add that might require blending, and incorporate them as you go.

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To get the best results when acrylic painting, prepare the canvas with artist-grade gesso. Smooth this onto the canvas, then allow adequate drying time before painting. While this step is not necessary, it will help the paint bind more securely to the canvas. Gesso is available in many colors, and can be used as the back drop of a painting.

Because acrylic paints are quick drying, blending is sometimes difficult. It is better to paint in small areas at a time, then blend as needed, then to use one color at a time over the whole canvas. A medium may be used to slow the drying process, but not by much. For the paint on your palette, occasional mists with a water bottle should help keep it wet enough to use.

Acrylic paints can be made either thinner or thicker by using additives. Additives are one of an artists best tools when acrylic painting. Not only can they change the thickness of the paint, but they can also change the finish, the drying time, and the transparency level. Water can also be added to acrylic paint to thin it down. Using more than 30% water mixed into the paint, however, can break down the paint’s properties and make it unusable.

Be sure to blot your paintbrush often when acrylic painting. With thick paint, the paint can dry up and form thick globs on your paint brush. When using thinner paint, extra droplets may run off the brush and onto your artwork.

Acrylic painting lends itself easily to mixed media artwork. Acrylic paints are almost impossible to remove after they have dried. This means that an artist can use oil paints, chalk, pen, charcoal, and other artistic mediums on their paintings without ruining the work they have already done.

Cleaning up after acrylic painting is easy because the paints are water soluble. Rinse paintbrushes off with water, and dry thoroughly. Work surfaces should be wiped up immediately after any spills to prevent staining.

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