Acrylic Paint
Last updated: 06/03/2020

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As you might know, acrylic uses exactly the same pigments as watercolor or oil painting. Its main difference is that it must be diluted with a binding agent made from acrylic acid. This formula creates a water-soluble finish — either matte or glossy — that is extremely resistant to oxidation and dries quickly and effectively.

The acrylic technique emerged with the dynamism of the twentieth century and its frenzied activity. Like the city, acrylic paint and its drying speed blend in with modern times and the immediacy of the here and now. Pollock or Warhol portrayed some of its greatest examples. In the following guide, we will unravel everything there is to know about acrylic paintings.

Key Facts

  • Acrylic painting is one of the most appreciated techniques by artists for its versatility. Its pigments are diluted in a synthetic resin that creates a water-soluble, rust-resistant paint that dries incredibly quickly.
  • As if that weren’t enough, this type of paint can adapt well, making it suitable for a variety of surfaces, such as wood, metal, paper or canvas. The manufacturers often indicate on the label which surfaces their product is designed for.
  • If you’ve already decided to buy your own set of acrylic paint, you should pay attention to a series of purchasing criteria. These include the consistency of the pigments, the color palette available or the format you need to get started with this painting technique. It’s also a fantastic gift for artsy friends and family.

Our Selection: The Best Acrylic Paints on the U.S. Market

Whether you’re a professional painter, an acrylic newbie or simply want to make a gift to an artist, you’ll want to have a good assortment of pigments handy. Since choosing the right product can be quite a challenge, we’ve selected some of the best acrylic paints on the American market to help you make your purchase.

The Best Value-For-Money Acrylic Paint Set

Chosen as Amazon’s Choice in the category, this set of acrylic paints by Apple Barrel offers a wide range of colors at a very affordable price. With a total of 18 bottles of 2 ounces (including black, white and grey), you’ll be able to create virtually any shade you need for your artwork. According to the manufacturer, these acrylics are suitable for most surfaces like wood, plaster, and tin. These paints are easy to clean with soap and water.

The Best Full Acrylic Paint Kit

This acrylic kit by Benicci will give you everything you need for your paintings and more. Featuring 24 different pigment colors, but also a total of 12 art brushes, a sponge and a knife to create the shades you’re looking for, this set is extremely complete yet affordable. It is ideal if you want to experiment with various techniques such as sponge or drybrush painting. You can use these acrylics on any surface you want.

The Best Liquitex Acrylic Paint Set

Liquitex is a respected brand in the painting world, and this Basics set of acrylic paint offers some of the highest quality you can find on the market. Professional artists use these products, and you won’t be left with any hue missing since this kit includes 48 tubes of 22 milliliters (0.74 oz). The quality of the pigments, as well as the medium viscosity of the paint, make these acrylics extremely versatile to try different techniques.

The Best Starter’s Set of Acrylic Paint

Craft 4 All’s set of 12 colors might just be what you’re looking for if you want to try out acrylic painting without making a big investment. And at less than $10, you’re not taking a big risk giving this kit a go. In addition to the 12 acrylic paints, it comes with three brushes so you can let your creativity flow as soon as you receive it. Despite the affordability of this set, the colors are vibrant and include quality pigments.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Acrylic Paint

The drying speed of acrylic paint gave new impetus to artists throughout the last century. It finally allowed them to have an idea, capture it on canvas, and watch it dry quickly. This is exactly what Warhol did in his famous Factory, for instance. In the following section, we’ve answered the most frequently asked questions about this peculiar painting technique.

pinturaacrílica-1-Iakov-Filimonov-28020484_s.jpg

Acrylic paint allows you to experiment with a wide array of painting techniques.
(Source: Lakov Filimonov: 28020484/ 123rf.com)

What is acrylic painting exactly?

Unlike oil paint, acrylic requires a binding agent that consists of a water-resistant synthetic resin with powerful adhesive properties. This odor-free binder can be diluted with water to resemble watercolor. The paint dries very quickly and forms a very tough elastic film.

Because of their strong adhesion, acrylic paints can be used on a variety of surfaces beyond canvas. You can, for instance, paint on plastic, but also wood, metal, fabrics or glass, among others. In the list below, you can discover all the benefits that acrylic paint will offer:

  • Quick-drying. You’ll be saving time because it allows you to apply another layer faster.
  • Odorless. Since it doesn’t emit any strong smell, you can easily use acrylic paint indoor.
  • Adhesive to various materials. Its adhesive properties make it a useful support for materials such as cement, stonework or even certain plastics — all of which must be readied beforehand.
  • Resistant. Its color and shine are lasting, and it even resists the effects of sunlight.
  • Flexible. Acrylic paint can expand and contract, preventing the appearance of cracks.
  • Evaporation of humidity. This material is breathable.
  • Versatile. Acrylic paint is often used as a base for mixed techniques with various materials. It can be combined with spatulas, varnishes or rollers, among other tools.

What is the main drawback of acrylic paint?

In some cases, an advantage can also become a drawback. The fact that this paint dries quickly, for instance, means that you need to constantly care for your working tools — brushes and other rollers. In addition, acrylic paint may crack if it is not applied properly or if it dries too quickly.

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Its ability to work on a wide variety of surfaces is one of the most appreciated characteristics of acrylic paint.
(Source: Legor Khimchenko: 58448541/ 123rf.com)

What painting techniques work with acrylics?

An incredible range of techniques can be used with acrylic paints, which can easily be mixed with another medium or simply water — the latter creating an effect similar to watercolor. Let’s have a look at three different painting techniques that you can play around with. They’re particularly ideal if you’re beginning with acrylics.

  • Sponge painting. As its name suggests, you use a sponge to apply the paint with soft touches.
  • Drybrush. This technique consists of applying acrylic with a relatively dry brush, providing movement and texture.
  • Glaze. Just like watercolor, the paint is diluted in water before its application. Its effect is similar to color wash and the finish is translucent.
PicassoSpanish Painter

“Painting is a blind man’s profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen.”

What are the most common acrylic mediums?

These substances are mixed with acrylic paint to create a variety of different finishes. Without them, regular acrylics would lead to a semi-matt paint. In the table below, we’ve listed the main acrylic mediums and their effects so you can start getting acquainted with each of them:

Acrylic medium Type of effect
Gel medium You can do your own, but it’s easier to purchase it. Just like oil, it gives stable volume to the and can be light or dense depending on your preference.
Texture medium This gel provides greater texture than the previous one and is generally mixed with sand granules or other materials.
Transparent gel medium This medium creates a flexible and semi-transparent paint once it dries. It is ideal for transparencies and glazes.
Slow-drying medium As its name suggests, it delays the quick drying of acrylic paints so that you have more time before it dries once applied.
Flow increase medium It replaces water so that the acrylic paint concentrates the original pigments with more stability.

What are the best surfaces for acrylic paint?

Its ability to work on a wide variety of surfaces is one of the most appreciated characteristics of acrylic paint. While it generally requires priming, this isn’t always the case. In the following table, you can find out which surfaces work well with acrylic paint and whether they need priming or not. If so, remember that the primer should be tailored to acrylics.

Type of surface Does it require a primer?
Prepared boards, cardboard, and paper They’re suitable for acrylic paint with or without primer. If you do apply a primer, you should stress it beforehand because of its excessive weight.
Canvas It requires priming.
Murals The finish will be matt if they’re not primed, and glossy if they are.
Metal Zinc and copper are particularly convenient. They should be sanded beforehand.
Wooden panels Priming isn’t needed unless you’re working with hardboard, which requires sanding and acrylic priming.

How can I clean a canvas with acrylic paint?

An acrylic painting needs to be well cared for if you want to preserve it correctly. The softness of its texture means that it often accumulates dust and dirt over time. This is why we’ve prepared the following steps to help you take good care of your artwork so that you can keep it in mint condition:

  1. Check that the paint is dry. This is the first step to follow. Acrylics dry right away, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Still, you must check it and avoid touching the paint until at least 24 hours after your last session.
  2. Wipe the dust off with a brush. A soft-bristled one would be ideal, although you can also use a duster for this. Wipe gently from top to bottom.
  3. You can use soap and water. This is another option with which you need to be very careful. If you have any doubts, you are advised to check with a restorer. If you do it yourself, prepare a very mild solution of water and detergent. The less detergent you use, the better it will be.
  4. Dampen a cloth in the solution. Use it to slowly and gently remove the dirt so as not to damage the paint in any way. The cloth should be in near dry condition. Certain acrylic paints are diluted with water, so be very careful.

Buyer’s Guide

Even if you’re a painting enthusiast, there are a certain number of criteria that you should become familiar with if this is your first time using acrylics for your works. You’ll also need to have quality brushes, a palette to blend your colors and a retardant since this paint dries quickly. The following aspects will help you make a successful purchase:

Format

You should be quite mindful of this factor, as it is mostly determined by your level of painting experience. If you’re a professional artist, you will prefer specific tubes of acrylic paint, while you may want to opt for larger sets if you’re an amateur painter. In any case, you are not advised to purchase more than you think you need, as you may end up wasting money.

Acrylic Paint-3

Acrylic paintings aren’t necessarily done on canvas.
(Source: Maksim Gorbunov: 34332437/ 123rf.com)

Colors

Cyan (sky blue), magenta and yellow are basic colors with which you’ll be able to create virtually any other hues as long as you also have black and white. That being said, red can be challenging to make and you are recommended to purchase it. As you noticed in our selection of products earlier, the good news is that you can easily find sets with a wide variety of colors.

In the same vein, we encourage you to check which colors you’ll need for your paintings before you head online to buy a product. If you’re not quite sure or need a certain range of options, cases with 24 tubes of acrylic paint will make your life easier.

Jackson PollockAmerican Painter

“Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.”

Surfaces and Supports

As you know, acrylics don’t necessarily have to be done on canvas. You can also use this paint on wood, plastics, metal or even glass. Simply think about what surface you want to paint on, and choose the acrylic product that is most suitable for that specific support. In our selection of products, you may have realized that the manufacturers tend to specify this on the tube of paint.

Consistency

The consistency of your acrylic paint is another essential criterion. Generally speaking, quality acrylic paint should be as consistent as oil paint straight out of the tube. Don’t forget that the more consistent it is, the more pigments it will contain. If you prefer it to be more liquid, you can always dilute it in water for a watercolor effect. Manufacturers often provide the information necessary for this.

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Quality

The quality of acrylic paints is naturally a key factor, in particular if you’re a professional artist. The list of products we’ve created for you features high-quality products that will last a lifetime once applied to your canvas. Again, we can’t emphasize enough on the importance of selecting quality acrylics. You get what you pay for, as the saying goes.

User Reviews and Ratings

If you want to obtain additional information regarding the acrylic paints you’re interested in purchasing, you are advised to check the opinions of past users. These ratings and reviews generally include professional artists’ perspectives that will help you make your final decision. You may even learn certain technical aspects that you weren’t aware of.

Frida KahloMexican Painter

“I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.”

Summary

Acrylic paint offers so many advantages that it’s almost impossible not to use it if you’re an amateur or professional painter. It dries quickly and allows you to make an incredible variety of painterly effects. In addition, acrylics won’t give off unpleasant odors as oil painting does during your sessions. Now’s the time to get started with acrylic paint if you haven’t already.

In our selection of the best acrylic products of 2020, you can choose the most appropriate paint based on your level of experience. Some of them are even suitable for professional artists. Remember to evaluate key criteria before making our purchase, such as the consistency of the pigments or the range of colors available in the set.

We hope that you found our guide on acrylic paint useful. If that’s the case, feel free to leave us a comment in the section below and we’ll be happy to get back to you. You can also share our article on your social media so that others can learn more about this type of paint!

(Source of Featured Image: Dolgachov: 100899032/ 123rf.com)

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