If you are looking for the vibrant, quality tone of oil paints without spending too much or wasting too much time, acrylic paint is for you. Painting with acrylic paints is a fulfilling hobby and a great way to create artwork for your home and friends.
Part 1 of 4: Getting the Right Tools
Step 1. Choose the acrylic paint
You can find it on the market both in tubes and in jars. When buying acrylic paint it is one of the few cases where it is better to spend and take a more expensive brand. Cheap brands often do not have as high a pigment content as others of better quality; consequently they require 2 or 3 more coats of paint to achieve the same liveliness and depth of a single layer compared to the more expensive product.
- First of all, get the basic colors: titanium white, magnetite black, ultramarine blue, crimson and ocher yellow. Most of the necessary colors can be created by combining these with the aforementioned shades.
- Tube paint is generally more suitable for beginners because you can buy small quantities to get started; there is no difference in quality compared to that in the jars.
Step 2. Pick some brushes
There are different types and they are classified according to two distinct aspects: the shape of the tip and the material of the bristles. There are three different tip types: flat, rounded and cat's tongue (rounded and flat). There are many different materials that are used to make bristles, but the most common are synthetic and boar hair. Most novice painters prefer synthetic brushes with different assorted tips.
- Go to an art store and try a couple of different brushes to get an idea of what you prefer. Synthetic brushes are softer and easier to clean than real hair brushes.
- If you think you won't be painting for a long time, there's no need to spend too much on brushes. While it is beneficial to have good brushes to work with, it is more important that the paint is of good quality.
Step 3. Find a palette
You need a base on which to mix colors and store them between painting sessions. If you don't want to spend a lot, a paper or plastic plate is fine too. Any large, flat, clean surface is suitable as a palette. However, since acrylic paints dry incredibly fast, it can be a good idea to invest in a palette that retains moisture. This generally contains a damp sponge and a special paper that keeps the paint moist so you can use it for several weeks.
- Put a plastic or other material cover on the palette to store the paint when not in use.
- If you need to mix large amounts of paint at once, it may be helpful to get small cups / lids to store the paint between sessions. This method is more effective for preserving acrylics than covering them with plastic wrap over the palette.
Step 4. Determine which material you want to paint on
Acrylic paint is thick and heavy, so it can only be used on certain surfaces. The most typical are canvas or canvas cardboard, watercolor paper or treated wood. You should still get good results on any material as long as it's not greasy, oily or very porous.
If you don't want to paint on an expensive material, start with watercolor paper and work on canvas or wood when you feel more confident
Step 5. Get the other hardware you need
In addition to all the essentials just mentioned, you also need other tools, which you probably already have available at home. You will need 1-2 jars / glasses for water, a spatula, an old rag or cloth, a spray bottle to mist the water and some soap to clean the brushes. These items are all available in art stores if you can't get them at home, but none of them need to have any special features.
- Since acrylic paints dry quickly, you need to mist your drawing / palette from time to time to keep the paint moist.
- You should wear an apron or old shirt while painting, so you don't get acrylic paint on your clothes.
- Some painters prefer to put newspapers on the countertop, to avoid big messes.
Part 2 of 4: Getting started
Step 1. Choose a good place
As with most businesses, painting works best with natural light. Create your painting nook near an open window or in a room with lots of natural light. This way you will be able to perceive the shades and colors of each brushstroke that you would not otherwise see.
Step 2. Arrange the material
Each artist has their own way of arranging the equipment, but it is certainly better to place each accessory before starting the painting session. Fill the jars with water, have brushes and paints handy, and set the palette in an easy-to-reach place. Remember to wear an old shirt or lab coat.
Step 3. Decide on the subject
As a novice painter you may already have a good idea of what you want to portray, or you may need some suggestions. Try to think of any subjects or models to use for the realization of the first work. It is much easier to work with a photograph or a three-dimensional model than to try to put an image on canvas that is only in your mind. If you're not sure what to paint, here are some tips:
- A fruit basket.
- A vase of flowers.
- An object of your home.
- A sunset or sunrise.
Step 4. Create a draft
If you feel confident in your painting skills, you can skip this step and go straight to paint. Many, however, prefer to have a pattern to follow. Use a normal pencil to outline a rough outline of your subject on the canvas; don't worry about details or shading at this stage.
You can create several sketches on the paper before transferring one to the canvas, just make sure you have good drawing skills
Step 5. Mix the colors
A frequent mistake is to mix colors as you paint, but it is better to use your time well and prepare all the combinations in advance. It's best to be foresight and mix more color than you will actually need. In fact, it is possible to keep the painting for future paintings, but it is almost impossible to be able to perfectly replicate color combinations.
- Use the color wheel as a helpful reference for mixing acrylics. All basic colors are created by mixing primary colors (red, blue and yellow) and specific shades are obtained by combining primary and secondary colors.
- Remember, you won't be able to get the exact shade with a limited range of colors, you can buy almost any shade in pre-mixed packs in both tubes and cans.
Part 3 of 4: Painting
Step 1. Find your light source
A color changes based on how the light hits it, so before you begin your work, you need to identify the main source from which the light originates. Pay attention when applying the colors, those that are closest to the light source should be lighter; on the contrary, the distant ones must be darker. It may seem like a trivial thing, but identifying the light source before starting to paint allows you to maintain some consistency in the work.
Step 2. Examine the composition of the subject
Even if it is a single object, it must have depth relative to the background and other surfaces. Look beyond the subject to determine what is closest and farthest away from you. Check if some elements overlap, if they change color and how the texture of the surfaces appears. You have to recreate each of these aspects in your framework and then you have to have a good idea of them together before starting.
Step 3. Start painting the background
When you paint, you go in layers from what is farthest to what is closest. So start with the background to work the simplest way. To apply colors effectively, start with medium tones, then move on to darker ones and finally to light ones.
Step 4. Add the background details
Once you are done with the basic colors, you can add the details to the background. If it is a solid color, it is best to proceed with highlights and shadows. If the background instead follows a pattern or is very elaborate, add some body and movement with brushstrokes that give structure to the final layer.
Step 5. Color the objects
When you begin tracing your main subject with color, break it down into identifiable shapes and paint them solid colors. As you proceed with this technique, you will see the subject take shape; work on small sections at a time so it will be a less daunting process.
- Some beginners find it easier to use a grid technique to trace the subject. Divide the canvas into equal parts with an imaginary grid. Concentrate and paint one section at a time before moving on to the next.
- Remember to start with the mid-toned colors, then move on to the darker ones and finally the lighter ones. It is difficult to cover a dark color with a light one, so working with this technique in layers will make painting easier.
Step 6. Add details using different painting techniques
When you have painted the background and basic shapes, you can continue with the details using different techniques; each of them focuses on the movement and body of color thanks to specific brush strokes and acrylic application methods.
- Punctuate the color by holding the brush vertical and touching the canvas. This technique, called pointillism, works best with dry brushes and small amounts of acrylic.
- Use a putty knife to apply sweeping strokes of color. If you want to give your artwork an almost rough look, use a palette knife. Cover it with a thick amount of acrylic and use it on the canvas to add layers of color and give body to the painting.
- Create a "washed out" effect by diluting acrylics in water. You will get a result similar to that of watercolors in which the color gradually becomes lighter on the paper. This is a great way to create shades.
Step 7. Finish your work
Pay attention to the subject and add the final details you think are necessary to perfect the picture. Often it comes to perfecting the light and dark, outlining the contours and diluting the shades.
Part 4 of 4: To Conclude
Step 1. Add some hairspray
While it's not always necessary, painters love to add a clear topcoat to seal acrylic paints. This helps the chemical bond between the canvas and the colors and protects your artwork from damage.
Step 2. Clean the brushes and work station
It is imperative that you clean your brushes as soon as you are done using them. Acrylic paint will severely damage the bristles if you let it dry on them. Use soap and cold water until it flows clean (don't use hot water or it will set the color on the bristles). Clean the workstation and rinse the jars of water.
Step 3. Store the unused paint
Acrylic paints last for several months in an airtight container, so if you have an excess of acrylics you can save them for future use. Store them in small containers with lids or seal them in the special palette that includes caps to close the paint wells (if you have one).
Step 4. Let the painting dry
Put it in a safe position and wait 1-2 days. Acrylic paints dry quickly, but should be left undisturbed until they have stabilized.
Step 5. Display your artwork
Art is meant to be shared, so put your freshly finished painting where others can see it. Have it framed if it's on canvas or paper, or just hang it indoors.
- As you practice, try more advanced techniques. Add depth to the paintings by working on color consistency, shading, highlights and details. Your works will improve over time.
- Practice, practice, practice! Start by drawing outlines and start with the little things! Then move on to the trees and flowers. Don't be afraid to try different styles, like the staff or the single brushstroke.
- Pay attention to the details. Quality is more important than quantity, right?