Acrylic Painting for Beginners – An Easy Guide to Get Started


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This blog post contains tips for acrylic painting for beginners to make the most of their time and money. It includes everything from the basics of acrylic painting to setting up your creative space, affordable materials, what brushes to use, and what subjects to paint. If you’re new to acrylic painting or want to take your skills to the next level, this guide is for you.

Otto Rohm - acrylic paint founder
– Otto Rohm

Where it all began

Acrylics were first discovered by Otto Rohm, a German chemist. He developed a material called acrylic resin that rapidly turned into paint. In the 1900s, many artists experimented with this new type of paint. The color range was not very extensive and the paint was prone to drying out but it had several advantages over oil paints, and it became popular among artists who needed to work quickly or were dissatisfied with oil paint.

Andy Warhol helped the art form get its footing from the ground up. Andy is known for his famous series of paintings. He did Campbell’s Soup Cans in acrylic paint, which showed the powerful clarity we can achieve with the medium.

What is acrylic paint?

Acrylic paint is a water-soluble medium usually used for painting and other surface decoration. The main difference between acrylic and oil paint is that the latter dries by oxidation and polymerization of linseed oil whereas the former dries by evaporation. Acrylic paint is versatile, as it can be applied with a brush, palette knife, or any other painting tool.

“Acrylics are also affordable, making them ideal for covering large areas with paint. Because these paints are opaque and fast-drying, they can be very forgiving, allowing you to cover up mistakes with more paint.”

Acrylic painting techniques: Expert tips for artists, Creative Bloq Staff (ImagineFX)

You don’t need all toxic mediums, you just need to harness the power of both water and your passion to create!

Is acrylic painting a good choice for beginners? 

Yes!  Acrylic paints dry very quickly, so you can paint multiple layers as soon as the previous layer has dried. You won’t have to wait for days like with an oil painting before picking up where you left off. And it’s more forgiving than watercolors (which seem to have a mind of their own). Acrylics tend to be easy to work with. Watercolors can be difficult and make it hard to predict the outcome. This makes acrylics suitable for children as well.

Materials you’ll need to get started with acrylic painting for beginners 

Acrylic painting is a grand introduction to the world of art. It is a fun way to express your ideas and feelings. Below are the materials you’ll need:

  • Good quality artist grade paint
  • Affordable brushes
  • Paint palette
  • Palette knife
  • Acrylic sealant spray
  • Gesso-primed canvas, canvas board, or heavy weighted paper
  • Two water reservoirs
  • $3 pencil
  • Firm board if you prefer paper
  • A few old rags
  • Paper towels and wipes for clean-up

Acrylic paints

Paint is a crucial tool for any artist. Use either Golden or Liquitex artist-grade brands of acrylic paint. Golden brand offers artist-grade acrylic paints for professional use. Liquitex is another popular brand with a wide range of colors. These paints are quite expensive, but they have a higher pigment content and are more lightfast.

What colors do you need? So many to choose from!

Three words: keep it simple! You only need eight colors, and they are;

  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Cadmium Red light (or medium)
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Titanium White

With these colors, you can mix everything from one color to another to get the hue you need. Acrylic painting for beginners is all about taking small steps. Enjoy the learning process and don’t overcomplicate by getting too many supplies.

Oh, be sure to read this article, you will discover how to mix them like a pro!

Acrylic paint brushes

Again, keep it simple! No need to break the bank because brushes have come a long way in the past ten years. You can get quality acrylic brushes very affordably. They come in different shapes and types so that you’re capable of providing a range of professional-looking results. Each brush is uniquely intended for different purposes.

  • Flat brush: to bold strokes and fill wide spaces     
  • Round brush: for detailed work, sketching, and outlining  
  • Wash brush: to absorb any excess paint off
  • Angled brush-liner brush: the tip of the brush reaches small areas
  • Fan brush: a versatile tool for smoothing, blending, and feathering

What type of canvas or paper do you need?

Different surfaces have different benefits and drawbacks. Choosing the proper painting surface is essential, and many beginners are uncertain whether they should use canvas or paper.

Why sheets of paper work great!

I would recommend painting on sturdy paper at first, perhaps 140 lb. cold press water paper or Strathmore mixed media paper. Paper gets you the most for your money and is a versatile material. You can do a lot with papers, like using both sides. Plus, you can reduce the size to whatever you prefer.

Strathmore Mixed Media Paper works well, and I use it all the time.

What about acrylic sketchbooks?

These are great for those that prefer keeping their studies around a little longer. Unlike loose paper, acrylic sketchbooks won’t get easily damaged or stuffed in a drawer.

Use a heavy paper like Strathmore 400 Series Acrylic Pads; its linen texture allows for maximum paint adherence and layering.

Canvas – use gesso-primed canvas if you prefer this over papers. The best vessel for abstract painting and a favorite of many artists is the gesso-primed canvas. You will need plenty of them, so stock up to save you time and hassle!

I would highly recommend this incredible Blick Super Value Canvas Bulk Pack – 16″ x 20″, Pkg of 40; giving you plenty of canvas to create on and explore.

Do you need an easel?

No, but if you have the space and prefer to stand, you can certainly opt to purchase one. Although this may be an overkill early on, it’s worth the investment. If you decide to buy one, it needs to be stable like Blick Studio Convertible Studio Easel.

If you opt-out of an easel, you can sit and use a 2″x4″ which will work just as well to prop your art at an angle. Save a few bucks here and invest in paper and paint!

Firm board to paint on

I’d recommend this if you choose paper as your go-to surface. Gatorfoam boards are awesome! I’ve been using them for a long time. They’re water-resistant and durable.

Use a palette knife

Although many artists prefer using their brushes, these are helpful tools for mixing paint. Of course, this puts some additional wear and tear on the brushes. But they are great for spreading paint on the surface, and many artists use them over traditional brushes. 

Not sure I would recommend palette knife painting at first, but it can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience once you get the hang of it.

For now, opt for a set of three-size palette knives like these. This will give you some choices, and you will have a backup in the event that one breaks.

Loose ends and miscellaneous materials

Use mason jars for reservoirs. However, if you are clumsy like me or have a cat, like my neighbor, you should get quart-size plastic cups that will serve as a container for paint.

Purchase masking tape and paper towels at Target, Walmart, or other local big block stores. Take advantage of masking tapes to protect some areas of your canvas. Use paper towels to wipe your brush before switching colors.

An Easy Beginner’s Guide On How To Get Started With Acrylics

Now that we’ve covered the various materials, it’s time to set up your creative space! 

Set up your studio area

Setting up your studio area is the best way to ensure that you can work efficiently. Choose an area with natural light because natural light works the best. The space should be big enough so that you can move around.

It is essential to make sure you have everything you need close by so you don’t have to waste time getting up or running around the room. If you are right-handed, place palette, water reservoirs and paintbrushes on your right to avoid messy spills and make painting easier.

Water is your friend!

If you are painting with acrylics, always dilute the paint with water. This will help the paint come off your brush more easily. The ratio of water to paint in an acrylic painting is usually one-to-two.

Pre-wet your brushes as well to make sure the paint transfers easily to the surface, and it will be much easier to clean up afterward.

Get familiar with your materials

It’s imperative to make learning approachable and enjoyable. The best way to master the craft is to get your hands dirty. To do this, use some paper and just push paint around.

No subject is needed now. The first thing to do before considering a subject for your acrylic painting is to cover two pieces of paper, front and back, with the acrylic paint of your choice. You can try different brushes and color mixtures to find the one that suits your needs.

Paint simple shapes at first

This is a fun way to learn the basics of acrylic painting for beginners.

Paint simple shapes at first: circles, squares, and triangles. Once on a roll, turn them into three-dimensional forms like spheres, cubes, and pyramids. For this, you need to mix light and dark values.

Again, no need to stress about color or perfection, just relax and get familiar with the process of putting paint down. Enjoy making something without worrying about what it would look like at the end.

As you become more familiar with the materials, colors, color mixing and so on, you can start to take on more advanced ideas like landscapes and simple still life subjects.

That was fun. Now what?

First of all, we hope you enjoyed acrylic painting for beginners article. To take acrylic painting to the next level, you need to become a color mixing ninja and get to know the importance of values!  Learn more by checking out this course.

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