Do you want to start painting again or looking for a creative way to relax? Maybe you have seen an impressive painting and are eager to create something similar or put a unique twist on it?

Self-expression is an important part of who we are and there’s no better way to do so than through a piece of art. Paintings can convey stories and feelings and formed an integral part of how human history was recorded.

Most of all, painting is a great way to relax. You can leave the busy world outside and once you place your full focus on what’s happening between you and your paintbrush, your experience can become something quite meditative.

This article will tell you all about the easy medium of acrylics. Why easy it is to use and a fairly inexpensive way to create your own colourful expressions.

The History of Acrylics

Acrylics is one of the youngest paint mediums in the world of arts. The development of acrylic paints started in the 1940s. It was originally created to paint walls, cars and other substrates, before artists discovered just how easy it was to work with.

In the 1960s they started to commercially promote acrylic paints for artistic reasons and today it is one of the most used painting mediums in art classes across the globe.

The history of acrylics is certainly not as extensive as oil-painting, but a lot of well-known modern and pop-artists created significant work you can study to learn about paint techniques using acrylics. Andy Warhol created bright and luminescent art pieces like his well-known ‘Campbell Soup Can’ and artists like David Hockney created pieces that have a softer watercolour feel.

Using acrylics like any other medium will be a discovery on its own and all artists should dabble in different paints and mediums to truly understand the benefits of each.

Painting Walls
Acrylic paint was originally developed to paint cars, walls and other surfaces. It's the ideal paint for mixed-medium work - Image by tyson-e_cZIAiWn_Q on Unsplash

Acrylics - The Artist Advantage

Acrylic paints are incredibly easy to use and there are a myriad of reasons why most people will start out using acrylics when they learn to paint. Not only is it a paint that can be applied to almost any surface, it also dries quickly, has less fumes than oil paints and you don’t have to wait weeks or months before you can apply new layers.

The most amazing part of painting with acrylics is the fact that you can use and apply the paint in a million different ways.

Acrylic paints can be diluted and used like watercolours to create a soft brilliance in your work, but it can also create the dense colours and definition that would normally be associated with oil colours.

Whether you want to a landscape painting, still life painting or simply experiment with paint for the first time, learning how acrylic mediums can bring your idea to life is an exciting journey.

Similar to oil painting, acrylic gesso allows you to do textured brush work and impastos like a professional artist, but you can also use acrylics to skillfully create a smooth, opaque or translucent feel.

Another reason why it is the ideal medium for all artists, especially beginners, is the cost.

Acrylics are synthetic in nature and therefore quite affordable. It allows paint manufacturers to change and dabble with the paint to make it more environmentally friendly while they create a range of paints, from the cheaper student acrylics through to the durable types for professional painters.

Acrylic paints can also be used in decorative painting or art projects because it’s so easy to clean. You don’t have to use thinners, turpentine or harsh chemicals to wash paint brushes and you can easily use your fingers to apply paints before washing it off with soap and water.

Soluble Paint
Acrylic paint can be easily dissolved or rinsed off with water - Ulrike Leone on Pixabay

Acrylic Painting for Beginners

Have we mentioned how easy it is to use acrylic paint? It is also easy to get your hands on acrylic paint sets or canvasses online or at any art store.

The process of learning to paint with acrylic paints is certainly not as formal as other paint mediums. Acrylic painting allows you to be more playful and is more suited for an explorative approach.

If you are new at painting, we recommend trying a relaxed approach to acrylic painting where you learn as you go, especially if you are planning to work and discover other paint types.  If you’ve done some other painting techniques, why not try them out with acrylics, it’ll teach you exactly how the medium behaves in different ways.

Hand Painting
Most beginner art studios use acrylic paints - Image by Andrew Donovan Valdivi on Unsplash

The sky is the limit, but here are some notable recommendations when you start to paint with acrylics:

  • Ensure you always use a primer to ensure the paint sticks. Usually the colour of primer is white or one of the lighter colours, but this depends on you and the painting you want to create. Some artists use the main colour of their painting as primer colour.
  • Acrylics are more transparent than oils and for that reason most artists will work from light to dark. They will create the background first and work to the foreground of their picture. First layering the light colours and lastly the dark ones. These techniques become more complex the more experienced you get, and you’ll soon discover exactly why dark colours should go on last as they wash away the light ones.
  • Have some idea of where you are going with the painting as it’ll guide you in which materials and tools you need. We’ll go a bit more into the basic art materials you'll need later in this article.
  • Acrylic paints dry quickly, for this reason you might want to mix your colours before you start painting. You can also mix them while painting, but you'll have to paint very fast, something we'll encourage as you learn and play with acrylics.
  • Above and beyond the traditional paint brush application, can you create and add pattern work to your painting using unexpected painting objects? Things like your fingers, crumpled paper or even leaves will create some different and interesting techniques.
Trying techniques
Why don't you try some of the paint techniques traditionally used in oils, using your Acrylics - Image by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

Advancing Your Art

Hopefully the experience of bringing your ideas to life in acrylics will spark a real passion in you for painting. If so, you might consider studying a formal qualification like a degree in fine arts.

If you prefer a more casual approach you can always just teach yourself with all the resources that are easily available. There are hundreds of acrylic video tutorials out there to help you along the way and you’ll be able to find many books on how to paint. You might think the history of painting is silly, but this will help you to discover new techniques and methods to use in your own painting.

The most important part is to invest time in crafting your art and skills. Doing a weekly art class at a studio allows you to have this continuous commitment while you meet like-minded artists.

You can use an online, private art tutor if painting lessons at home sounds more like your vibe. We have a selection of tutors on Superprof who are great at giving online classes or you can get them to do a group class for you and your friends.

Online Art classes
Online art tutors can help you master your watercolour techniques - Image by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

What You Need For Acrylics Painting

Getting started with acrylics is as simple as one, two, tree. Get your hands on some acrylic paint, decide what you want to paint and get the materials you need. Student grade painting materials can easily be found at your nearest stationary shop or online.

Then decide what you want to paint on, you can use paper, stretched canvas, steel, wood or even something unexpected like a piece of newspaper.

Lastly, decide how you will apply your acrylic paint. Usually the painting you want to create will guide you in what would work best and if all else fails you can use your fingers to apply the paint. Knifes, cloths or a sponge and a lot of unexpected, everyday utilities around the house can also be used.

There will be a myriad of art supplies you can add to the mix, but for acrylic painting we recommend that you allow the medium to lead you. Allow yourself to make mistakes since you can do and redo the artworks until you master a specific technique.

If you’d like more specific direction in how to paint getting an art tutor would be the best solution. They’ll guide you in some particular techniques, painting tips and practices that will show you the versatility of acrylics while taking out all the guesswork in getting started.

Most of all, don’t forget that you are painting for fun. Go get your paints and let the fun begin.

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Writer and qualified yoga instructor, who is passionate about health and well-being.