Helpful Acrylic Painting Tips

Helpful Acrylic Painting Tips

Mixing Acrylic Paints

You can mix colors with a paint brush but many painters prefer to use a palette knife as it is the easiest way to mix acrylics.

  • Keep your paints and your brushes moist. Acrylic paints have a fast drying time so to save your paint and brushes from drying out, keep the brushes in a jar of clean water while painting and use a spray bottle to lightly spray your paints while working.
  • After you have finished working, clean all your brushes with soap and warm water.
  • You can use a retarding agent which is added to the paint to increase the drying time a little.

A great way to keep your paints from drying out both when working and when you are not painting is to use a sealable paint palette. You can either buy one or make your own, but always read acrylic paint reviews before you are out to buy the acrylic paints.

Add paper towels or tissues to your art supplies

When you are painting, keep a box of tissues or paper towels next to your equipment. Every time you spill a bit of paint, you can use a tissue to wipe it up straight away. Also, it’s good to get into the habit of wiping dry your paintbrushes after every time you rinse them off in water. It takes away the excess water and cleans off any residue paint.

Thin acrylic paints with water or acrylic medium. Some acrylic colors are very fluid and are easy to use straight from the tube. Others are very thick and may need a little water to make them more fluid and easier to use. Just remember, not to add more than 50% water or you will break down the binding agent that helps the paint to adhere to your painting surface.

Some artists prefer to use acrylic paint mediums to retain the richness of the pigment and to avoid over-thinning the paint.

Matting Mediums reduce the glossy look of acrylic paint. If you don’t like the glossy look of acrylic paints, then you can add a matting medium to the paint to reduce the glossy finish. A matte varnish can also be used over your finished work to reduce the gloss and to seal your work.

How acrylic paints dry. Acrylic paints dry in stages. The top layer of the paint usually dries first creating a skin over the underlayer due to evaporation of water in the paint. The acrylic polymers take longer to completely dry: times can vary a lot, from a couple of days to weeks depending on how thick the layers of paint have been applied.

Leave your work in a ventilated dust-free place to allow the drying process to proceed.

  • Don’t overpaint your work. Don’t keep working over an area where the paint has become tacky because this will cause the paint to become streaky or to lift off from the canvas by your continued brush.
  • If you need to do more work on the area, leave it to dry completely and then restart painting. You could speed up the process by using a hairdryer over the area.
  • Creating hard edges
  • To make it easy to produce a hard edge, you can either use masking fluid or masking tape, to protect those areas of your painting that you don’t want painted. Just remember to make sure the surface is dry before applying the fluid or tape. The masking tape won’t damage your work. You can wash off the masking fluid and clean your brush with some kitchen washing-up soap.

Painting on cardboard with acrylic paint or boxes as a replacement for regular canvas can really give your painting a whole new dimension. Although this type of material can be somewhat problematic in some ways, it does provide a cheap and eco-friendly way of painting.

Before you can begin painting on cardboard with acrylic paint, it is important that you coat it with one or two layers of gesso. The gesso will help to support the delicate cardboard and prevent it from soaking up too much water, which can cause it to collapse. I prefer to always use the cardboard with two layers, and I usually wait for a couple of hours between the layering.

Once the cardboard canvas is sufficiently dry, it is time to bring out the acrylics paint and the brushes. Now painting on cardboard with acrylic paint is a lot different from painting on regular fabric canvas. The two biggest differences are that the cardboard easily absorbs the paint, so you must be quick and be prepared to use more acrylic paint from what you are used to.

The second difference is the structure of the cardboard itself. All boxes or sheets of cardboard have a linear structure which will make or break your painting. However, the structures on the cardboard canvas will make the painting look more alive. It works almost like a regular impasto and gives the painting an interesting 3D effect.

When painting with acrylics on cardboard, there really are limits as to what works and what doesn’t. I have previously made both portraits and surrealistic paintings on cardboard sheets with good results. The most important factor in my opinion is to work with the structure of the cardboard and not fight it.

If you want to apply a glaze or two to your painting then you should be careful with the amount of water that you use. As mentioned, this medium doesn’t really work all that well with water, so be patient and allow for the glazed layers to dry up properly before moving on with the painting.

Using cardboard boxes can also be very interesting and offers you a 3 dimensional structure to paint on. I have not had the best results myself, but I know of other artists who have made some interesting art pieces this way. For my own part, painting on entire boxes has mostly served as cars, planes and pirate ships for my kids. One last tip is to not use water with your acrylic paint, but purely paint impasto/dry brush on cardboard. Again, this is important to avoid the cardboard from collapsing. I hope you found the information useful and that it might be added to your arsenal of acrylic painting techniques.


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