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Working with acrylic paint

Paintings can be created with many different mediums. Though working with acrylic paint is what I personally prefer, and I’ll explain why, I would recommend to anyone fresh to the art world that they experiment with several different ones so that they can pick the one that is right for them.

Some of the most popular mediums for creating artworks are:

  • Oil paint
  • Acrylic paint
  • Watercolors
  • Pastels
  • Gouache
  • Ink
  • And of course, pencils

Some of these are better suited to certain painting techniques and drawing styles, but in the end, it all comes down to what you personally prefer.

Although I like switching it up once in while, my number one favorite is acrylic.

What is acrylic paint?

Acrylic paint is made out of pigments, an acrylic polymer binder, and in most cases, water. It is fast-drying and water-soluble. Acrylic paints became immediately popular with artists when they were first commercially promoted in the 1960s. Artists could work more quickly due to its faster drying time and its versatility unlocked new possibilities in the art world.

There are two grades of acrylic paint.

  • Professional grade. It has high quality pigments, a smoother consistency, and better longevity.
  • Student grade. It has lower pigment concentrations and less-expensive formulas.

Working with acrylic has many pros and cons. When I am not working on digital paintings on my laptop, I paint with acrylics. Acrylic is my medium of choice as an artist for many reasons.

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wolf acrylic painting mixed media

Advantages of working with acrylic paint

It’s versatile

Acrylic paint can be used on a lot of different surfaces due to its binding characteristics. It can be used on paper, canvas, wood, glass, ceramics, fabrics, etc. It can also replicate watercolors if you add water to it, and even oil paint if you add a medium that makes it dry more slowly. The possibilities are almost endless.

I personally love adding water to it so I can create effects similar to watercolors. I use this technique for my pet portraits. Most people my pet portraits are made with watercolors but it’s actually acrylics.

You can also create texture with acrylic paint by applying it in thick layers.

Moreover, you can use it with other mediums to create mixed media art. For some of my paintings I use acrylics and fine line markers with black ink, like for the wolf above for instance.

It’s affordable

Acrylic paint is one of the most affordable ones on the market. Unlike oil, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Even though it can get expensive depending on the grade you choose, you can always find some cheap tubes that are still pretty good quality.

You also need less supplies when getting started. No need for additional tools or solvents.

It drys quick

Which in turn allows you to work quickly. You don’t have to wait for days or weeks for a painting to dry.

The quick drying time also means that you can paint in layers. You can paint, wait a bit until it dries, and paint over it. That also means that acrylics are forgiving. You can easily cover a mistake or correct a line.

For someone like me who’s a big digital art fan as well, it’s kind of similar to using layers in Photoshop, in a way, which I really like.

The colors are vibrant

The colors are bright and vibrant. When dry, acrylics have a shiny, glossy appearance. And, they don’t yellow or fade with age.

tiger portait acrylic painting

Why I chose to use acrylic for my paintings

All of the above pros made me want to work with acrylic paint but I was really sold on it for its ability to be used in a similar way as watercolors.

Especially for my pet portraits, I wanted a medium similar to watercolor I could use to create color splatters. However, I also wanted to be able to paint over the splatters afterwards and create layers. I also wanted something that would work well on a canvas panel. All this led me to play around with acrylics.

Moreover, unlike watercolor paint, the colors stay vibrant after the painting dries. It doesn’t get that washed out look typical of watercolor. This is because watercolors dry lighter whereas acrylics dry closer to the original color.

For someone like me who’s all about colors, acrylics are the best choice.

dog painting custom order

However, it does have some cons as well.

Disadvantages of working with acrylic paint

It stains clothes

Once it dries on a shirt, that’s it. It cannot be washed away when dry and you can kiss that shirt goodbye. I’ve ruined quite a few that way. I now use a dedicated painting outfit whenever I start a traditional painting.

It drys quick

Both an pro and a con depending on what you want to accomplish. Once dry, it’s unable to shift. You have to either scrap it off or cover it.

On the other hand, with oil, you have a longer working time. You can come back to a painting a day later and keep on blending colors since it will still be wet and pliable.

Lacks the subtlety and richness of oil paint 

There’s a certain richness to oil paint you just can’t quite get with acrylic. Oil has more pigments, it’s thick, opaque, and glossy, more so than acrylic.

Conclusion

Acrylic paint’s flexible and adaptive nature make it a medium easy to pick up and learn for beginners, but also allows for fun experimentation. Many professionals are using it in increasing numbers.

For me, it perfectly suits my style of working.

Working with Acrylic Paint, Pros & Cons

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