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Despite oil paint being thought of as an artist’s go-to paint, acrylic paint is just as popular for pros and beginners alike. The reason why acrylic paint is so popular is due to its versatility while also being water-soluble and fast-drying. Acrylic paint can also be used on several different surfaces including board, canvas, and paper. In this article, we will go into detail in terms of the advantages and disadvantages of working with acrylic paint on paper. We will also look at the use of acrylic paint on different types of paper and will equip you with the knowledge of how to select the correct type of paper for your needs as well as how to prepare your paper to paint on it with acrylic paints.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why Use Paper for Acrylic Paint?
- 2 Types of Paper
- 3 How to Prepare Paper for Acrylic Paints
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions
Why Use Paper for Acrylic Paint?
If acrylic painting is something new to you, which in all likelihood it is, as you are consulting this article, you may be asking which surfaces you can paint with acrylic paint. What is great about acrylic paint is that it can be used on the majority of surfaces, including leather, paper, board, and canvas to name just a few.
We are not going to give detailed positives and negatives in terms of the kind of surface material to use with acrylic paint, but we can highly recommend working on paper. To start with, paper is very affordable, although this depends on what type of paper you buy. Normally, paper is a lot cheaper than canvas. Paper is also very easy to transport and is light, which is a great attribute, particularly if you will be painting outside.
Overall, paper is a great option for both someone just starting with acrylic paints, as well as someone who has a lot of experience.
Even if over time you wish to paint on canvas, paper offers you an affordable option to experiment with acrylic paint and build up your confidence and skill set before you tackle your final piece. Instead of practicing on canvas, which can be expensive, you can simply experiment on paper. This also takes the pressure off and allows you to let your creativity flow, as you will not be wasting expensive canvas.
What to Consider When Selecting Paper for Acrylics
Keep in mind, however, that acrylic paint will not work on all types of paper, so you will have to consider some aspects before purchasing your paper. You ideally want glossy paper, as it provides the correct texture and is durable. In terms of durability, paper made from linen or cotton tends to be significantly stronger than paper made from wood. You will also find that this type of paper lasts longer and is less likely to tear.
When working with acrylic paint on paper you want a paper that is heavier than your standard printing paper, otherwise, it will wrinkle and buckle. It is a challenge to ensure that the paper does not warp when it reacts to the water when working with watercolors or acrylic paint. You can solve this problem by using the correct volume of water in your paint and using the correct paper.
Paper’s weight can be measured in pounds (lb) or grams per square meter (gsm). In the United States, the measurement of gsm is used. We do not recommend that you use any paper lighter than 300 gsm. Another advantage to using heavier paper is that it is easier to mount on a board or frame, which is a stunning way to finish off an acrylic painting.
You need to take into consideration the color of the paper you will be using, particularly if you do not plan to prime the paper before you begin painting. The color of the paper can impact the color of your paint, as it can show through the layers of your paint. To create an aesthetically pleasing border, we recommend you use a color that complements your painting. You can use the color of the paper as an enhancement for your art piece, but it may take some experimenting to determine which color paper works best with which colors of paint.
You want to use paper that is pH neutral, as paper that is acidic will begin to discolor over time. You will be able to find a huge variety of different types of paper at all arts and craft shops. Later in this article, we will go into a bit more detail into the commonly used types of paper.
You can determine the paper’s quality by its lack of acidity, which should be shown on the paper itself when you purchase it (this is more so the case with higher-quality paper). You need to know which types of paper will experience discoloration after some time (months or years) before you purchase it, as you will want your acrylic art piece on paper to last.
You will need to consider texture when selecting your paints. How your paint adheres to the paper’s surface is impacted by how smooth your paper is. The consistency of the paint you apply to the paper will also impact the extent to which the paint is absorbed by the paper.
At the end of the day, you will have to gain experience and experiment to discover how the paint performs on different types of paper.
Types of Paper
Watercolor paints are a form of watered-down acrylic paint. You can therefore use watercolor paper when working with acrylic paints. A lot of artists choose to use watercolor paper when working with acrylic paints as this type of paper is extremely absorbent. You want to use paper that is heavy enough so that the paper will not warp when using thin paints. Heavier paper is also able to handle thicker paint. If you are using heavier paper, then the paint will not crack. The same idea goes for cartridge paper and drawing paper – always select the heavier option.
Watercolor paper is available in a variety of textures. You can buy rougher cold-pressed paper, which has a toothy texture, or a smoother option like hot-pressed paper. The style of your painting will impact which type of paper you use. We recommend that you experiment on an assortment of types of paper before you being your work of art so that you know how they perform.
You can also work on acrylic paper, which has specifically been designed for use with acrylic paints and offers you a surface that is textured, thus assisting your paint in adhering to the page. As this paper is a specialty product, you will not always find it in-store and will probably have to purchase it online. An affordable option is made by Canson and is a great option for withstanding the demands of acrylic paints.
As opposed to linen or wood, synthetic paper is made from polypropylene, which gives it the advantage of not being prone to warping. Another advantage is that the paper is formulated to be pH neutral, so yellowing will not occur. Sadly, this surface is the least absorbent of all the available options, so you may require extra effort to have your paint adhere effectively.
You can experiment with other types of paper as well when working with acrylic paint. Another great option is cardboard as it can be relatively thick and is acid-free. You can also experiment with recycled or handmade paper.
How to Prepare Paper for Acrylic Paints
If you are painting on acid-free, high-quality paper, you will not have to prime the paper first. If you are looking to have a smooth surface that promotes less absorption, however, we can recommend that you use acrylic gesso on paper. Acrylic gesso stops the thin paper from buckling and bending by thickening and therefore strengthening the paper.
Gesso is a binder that is mixed with gypsum, chalk, and/or pigment, which is used as a base on an assortment of surfaces. You can purchase several different brands of gesso online, like Liquitex Gesso Surface Prep Medium or the Handy Art Student Gesso.
Impasto gel is an additive that you can use to thicken the consistency of your paints and allow for the impasto effect that is well known for its use by artists such as Jackson Pollock and Vincent van Gogh. Liquitex Matte Gel or a similar form of the binding medium can be utilized for the same purposes as gesso.
If you are using paper that is non-acidic before you begin with your acrylic paints, you will have to use a primer. When selecting your primer, the same principle applies to the surface acidity of your paper. You want to ensure that the primer does not have properties that are acidic, as this will result in discoloration and impact the longevity of your painting.
So, in summary, you can use acrylic paints on paper, as an acrylic artist working on paper is a great decision. Acrylic paints offer you a variety of possibilities in terms of the surfaces you can paint on. Paper is more affordable than canvas and is great for acrylic paints as it is available in an assortment of weights, textures, and sizes, making it the perfect option for any artist.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Surfaces Can I Use Acrylic Paint On?
With regards to different surfaces that you can apply acrylic paints to, there are many. Acrylic paints are very versatile, as they can be used on wood, plastic, leather, stone, paper, metal, and of course, canvas. Certain surfaces need less preparation to achieve the desired effect than others. To prepare the surface, you may need to do several things, like sanding and applying several layers of gesso or primer before you apply your initial coat of paint.
How Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Paper?
To begin, ensure that you have the right paper to work with. If your paper is less than 300 gsm, being very thin, you will need to use gesso on the paper to ensure that the surface is prepared so as to stop the paint from bleeding through and causing the surface to buckle. Once you have applied one or two coats of gesso (allowing each layer to dry and cure), you will then be able to apply your initial layer of acrylic paint.
Which Paper Should I Use When Working With Acrylic Paint?
There are a few options of paper suitable for acrylic paint. You ideally want paper that is thick and heavy, but it is also important to take into account the texture of the paper. Using watercolor paper that is heavy (more than 300 gsm) is ideal for acrylic paint, and you will have to select between cold-pressed paper or hot-pressed paper – each option has its own level of roughness. There is also a form of acrylic paper that you can purchase with a similar texture and thickness to that of canvas.
Will Acrylic Paint Bleed Through the Paper?
This is determined by which paper you choose to use. You can purchase paper in an assortment of weights; it is measured in gsm (grams per square meter). Lighter, thinner paper can cause your acrylic paper to bleed through the page. If you select the thinner paper to use (which is a much cheaper option than heavier paper), then you will have to apply gesso to prevent bleeding. Thicker paper will normally not experience bleeding.
Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Paper?
Of course! Paper is a convenient and affordable option for acrylic artists, making it one of the most popular options. Not all types of paper are good for use with acrylic paint, however, due to the paint being water-based. Thus, it is important to buy good-quality paper to ensure the best results. Alternatively, if the paper is too thin, you can prepare the surface before you start painting.