|ACRYLIC PAINTING TECHNIQUES
paints, a modern medium which came into general use in the
1960s, have become very popular due to their extreme versatility.
They are made from pigment, water and an acrylic binder, which
forms a hard, clear film as the water evaporates. It is this
transparent film, reflecting light from the pigment inside
it, that gives acrylic color its brilliance.
Acrylics dry very quickly, avoiding a tedious delay before painting further
layers. The film is more flexible than that of other media and
is unlikely to crack. Acrylics are resistant to water once dry,
which means they can be overpainted without disturbing the previous
color. This means that color cannot be dissolved with a damp
brush as it can with watercolour. To thin the color, simply add
Acrylics become darker in tone as they dry, rather than lighter as
with watercolour, so remember to allow for this effect when
mixing your colors. You can mix them with water and use them
rather like watercolour, or you can use them straight from
the tube as if they were oil paints. Do not think that they
are just a pale imitation of these other media, though they
are a fascinating medium in their own right and are used by
many professional artists in a variety of ways.
By thinning acrylics with a small quantity of water and acrylic
medium, a paint that can be used like transparent watercolour
is produced. Alternatively, Acrylic Flow Improver will give
acrylics the consistency of watercolours while maintaining strength
Comparison with watercolours
1. Since acrylics are water-resistant when dry, they can be
over painted without disturbing previous color.
2. For the same reason, there is no need to frame an acrylic
painting behind glass. For additional protection, it is advisable
to use varnish, which can be removed if necessary when the surface becomes soiled.
When used straight from the tube, acrylics have a consistency very
similar to that of oils. Like oils, they retain the impression
of the brush or knife, allowing you to create a considerable
variety of surface or textural effects.
Comparison with oil
1. Acrylics dry rapidly; it is usually possible to overpaint within an hour.
2. Even when dry, acrylics stay remarkably flexible, which means
they can be painted on to most non-shiny, non-greasy grounds
without cracking or splitting. The color can be built up into
thick layers and, provided that you are careful, the painting
can even be rolled up when it has dried.
3. Acrylics do not require a coating of size before being applied
to paper, cotton, linen or wood, as oil paints do.
4. Because they are water-thinnable until dry, acrylics can
be removed from brushes and palettes simply with soap and water.
Be thorough about it, or paint can build up at the base of the
hairs or bristles and cause damage.
5. Acrylics are weather-resistant (making them ideal for murals),
and they retain their brilliance with age.
How to use acrylics
As mentioned before, for the watercolour technique you should dilute
the paint with water (or medium) as you would watercolour to
give transparent washes. (Work fast, though, as the paint dries
so quickly.) Work from light to dark as is normal when working
With the oil-painting technique, using the paint in a more opaque
manner, you should work from dark to light.It is a good idea
to put a wash of diluted paint over the whole of your paper
or board before you start - this helps to pull your picture
together if it shows through any later work.
Acrylics can also be used for 'impasto' work, which means that you want
the paint to be really thick, layered and textural rather than
smooth and flat. You can make things such as grass and rocks
slightly three-dimensional in this manner, which can look rather
effective if not overdone.
Acrylics are excellent, too, for portraying texture, as the varied techniques
will give a wide range of different effects. For a rough surface,
try applying a lighter tone over a darker background with a
dry brush and undiluted color. A succession of glazes of thin
paint can produce some interesting effects, while heavy impasto
work is good for portraying rough plaster or stucco.
Painting knives can produce crisp marks that are excellent for
tree bark and foliage. Just experiment! In general, work quickly
and boldly to keep your painting free and spontaneous - after
all, you can easily correct it if you go wrong without losing
that fresh look!