10 Acrylic Tips

I started painting with acrylic in my teens. The main reason was because in comparison with oil, it's a lot cheaper. Although my parents encouraged me completely in my vocation as an artist, they didn't have the necessary resources so that I could buy other types of materials.

That's how this technique found me.

To be honest, at that time, I had many inferiority complexes with people my age who also painted, because I thought that to be a good artist, I had to know how to paint with oil. I thought all the great artists only painted with that technique. What nonsense!

I was gradually learning the differences between some brands of acrylic and others. I learned by making mistakes how to mix colors, to degrade, to control water (something very important too), and some things that I will write below so that you can keep in mind when painting with this technique.

My great discovery was in my first year of art school.

My focus in school was in decorative murals, and although we learned different techniques, in the end EVERYTHING we did was with acrylic. So my years of teaching myself and feeling insecure served me well, because that meant that without realizing it, I could master acrylic painting and I was far more advanced than the other students.

There, studying Mexican and North American painters of the early twentieth century I found a new world where I felt like a fish in water.

With the arrival of the industrial revolution and synthetic resins,

they began to manufacture their own acrylics because they realized that it was much more resistant, especially for commissions of exterior murals. They were very versatile, dried much faster and the colors were very bright among many other qualities.

Today I can tell you that it has become my favorite pictorial technique. And so I want to leave you with these tips that I hope will help you improve in your painting.

10 tips to paint with acrylic:

  1. Depending on the brand of paint you use, you will have to give more or less layers to get the tone brightness that you want. My favorite brand is Golden, because with a couple of layers I get the result I want. It's true that it is the most expensive, but it's worth it since the pigments are very intense and a jar can last a long time. I also like Liquitex (the high-end ones) and in Spain I used the Vallejo brand.
  2. I usually prepare the canvas with a Gesso primer with a very soft hair brush. A couple of layers is enough sometimes. When it dries, as the surface is usually rough, sand the surface with sandpaper so it stays very soft to the touch. I have discovered that by doing this my brushes thank me, they last me much longer and I use less paint.
  3. I add layers from lighter to darker.
  4. Whenever you stop using a brush and switch to another, it has to be left in water, because otherwise, it will dry very quickly and you will not be able to use it again. To wash them, simply use soap and water.
  5. I use synthetic brushes:
    1. fine bristles if I want to make flat or degraded inks.
    2. fat bristles to make textures.
  6. If you make a mistake while painting and you want to correct a color there are two options:
    1. If the paint is wet on the canvas, add water and brush it a little or use a cloth to remove it. 
    2. If the paint is dry and the tone is very dark, the only way to fix it is to paint it with white and after it dries you can add the color you wanted.
  7. When the paint dries, the color tone rises and becomes a bit darker. So if the mixture of green that you were painting has dried on the canvas and you want to continue with the same tone, try to make your palette a little lighter, so when it dries on the canvas it will have the same color.
  8. Acrylic paint dries very very fast, so to make gradients you have to keep this in mind. Controlling the water is essential. This is something that you will learn with practice. Don't get frustrated or discouraged. You will get it, you just have to have a little patience and commitment.
  9. If you want to use mixed media, for example, with oil, (I sometimes use oil pastels) you have to paint with acrylics first. The moment you start working with oil, you will not be able to return to acrylic again. With oil, the base is with oil and acrylic's base is water. As the saying goes "water and oil don't get along". You also have to keep in mind that the parts that you have painted with acrylic are going to shine more than the parts where you have worked with oil, so I suggest that the varnish you use is for mixed paints and gloss techniques so you don't notice the difference.
  10. If you want to get a texture like that of Van Gogh's paintings, I use a transparent colored molding paste that I add to my color mix. So I use less acrylic paint and it is much thicker when painting to give it that thick effect.
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