Acrylic paint is one of the most forgiving and versatile media that you can choose. It can produce effects like oil paints, or be treated like watercolor. It bonds to a wide variety of surfaces, dries quickly, and cleans up with water. It’s no wonder that acrylic paint is one of the top choices for beginning artists and professionals alike. If you’d like to start using acrylics yourself, here’s how.
You’ll need a few basic materials to get started using acrylics. First of all, you’ll want to purchase some basic paints. Avoid cheap craft paint, since it uses fillers, and doesn’t have the same quality or percentage of pigment in it. Instead, look for artist grade paints. If you’re worried about cost, choose just a few colors – black, white, red, blue and yellow are adequate. You can buy individual colors later. Student grade paints are also okay for the beginner, although the quality and handling of these paints isn’t as good as the pricier types.
A substrate is also important. Since acrylic binds to many surfaces, you have lots to choose from. Prestretched canvas or canvas board is popular, since it’s easy to buy and is already primed. You can also purchase wood boards that have already been coated with acrylic primer. Paper, plain wood, and illustration boards are also popular. You may need to use acrylic primer, or “gesso” to provide a surface on substrates that haven’t already been preprimed. Remember not to choose one that’s too flimsy however. If you paint with a lot of water, light papers will buckle. If you paint thickly, they may not be able to support the paint layer.
Brushes are also important. Which brushes you purchase, and what size you buy depends on how you intend to paint. It’s possible to buy assortments of inexpensive brushes to get you started, but later, you’ll want to move to better quality tools. Avoid craft packs, full of cheap brushes that shed their hairs and won’t maintain their shape. If you’d like to use your acrylics thinly, rounds and flats, like watercolor brushes, are best. Look for soft materials, like sable or nylon. If you’ve prefer a more textured, oil paint-like effect, try bristle brushes. Don’t know which you’d like? Get a few of each, and try them out. If you’re planning on painting fine details on a small canvas, you won’t need really big brushes. On the other hand, if you’d like to work large, in a loose style, you’ll never use those tiny liner brushes.
Once you’ve got your materials, it’s time to get started. A palette is useful for mixing colors. You can purchase one, or just use a plate or even a piece of cardboard. Likewise, water containers are easy to come by. You can either draw out your intended piece carefully, or just start straight on the canvas with paint. Experimentation is the best way to learn, so don’t be afraid. One of the big advantages of acrylic paint is that you can always paint over efforts you don’t like. Just reprime your surface and start again!