acrylic painting for beginners step by step

Acrylic Painting For Beginners – Guide on Painting With Acrylics

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Acrylic paint is probably one of the most satisfying painting mediums. It is inexpensive, easy to use, very broadly applicable and is suitable for beginners as well as professionals. The strengths of acrylic painting lie in the high color brilliance and its unlimited possibilities. That is why painting with acrylic is so well suited for abstract pictures and modern painting. At you can find out everything about painting with acrylic. From the painting techniques and the necessary materials to tips, tricks, and designs for repainting.



Pros and Cons of Acrylic Painting

To give you a better overview of understanding painting with acrylics, we have listed the pros and cons of this medium below:


  • Acrylic paint dries very quickly and allows you to paint over or add to your pictures quickly
  • You can paint either transparent or opaque depending on the acrylic paint and thinner
  • Acrylic paints can be easily diluted with water
  • Even though some additives are contained in the acrylic paint, this medium is not harmful to your health
  • Acrylic paints are available in different viscosities: You can fill with thick paint and pour with thin paint


  • The fast drying time can be a disadvantage, but with special painting materials you can extend this time
  • Mixing natural colors is a challenge


So you see, in acrylic painting the pros clearly outweigh the cons. If you want to paint photo realistic landscapes, we recommend trying oil painting. Otherwise acrylic painting is simply better suited for wider applications.



History of Acrylic Painting

The use of acrylic paint in art only began in the 1950s. At that time, only a few artists used acrylic paint in the field of Abstract Expressionism, and from the 1960s onwards also for Pop Art, by Andy Warhol for example. In the 1970s, the Liquitex company then introduced water-dilutable acrylic paint to the market, thus making it accessible to a larger public. From this time on the triumphant march of acrylic painting began, and it is now the most popular painting medium of all.

acrylic painting for beginners



How to Paint With Acrylics

Acrylic paint is water-dilutable, quick-drying, and easy to apply. High-quality paint is odorless, so you can use it to paint indoors. As long as the acrylic paint hasn’t dried, you can wash out tools such as brushes and scrapers with water and a little soap. The same applies to stains on clothes. But when the paint has dried, it is water-resistant and almost impossible to remove. It is therefore worth either using old clothes for painting or buying a painting apron.

Acrylic paint is largely made up of pigments, to which a binder and sometimes durability enhancers are added. In addition to the quality of the color pigments, the mixing ratio is also important. The more pigment content, the more intense and radiant the acrylic paint. We have included an acrylic painting for beginners step by step guide below to help you buy the right paint.


Tools For Acrylic Painting

Wondering how to make acrylic paints stand out? There are a number of specialised tools available. For acrylic painting, here is the range of products that can support you while painting:

  • Gesso is a white primer, which can be applied to almost any surface and ensures the adhesion of acrylic paint
  • As the name suggests, drying retarders extend the drying time and are necessary for certain techniques
  • Pouring medium is used for acrylic pouring to improve the flow properties and to let the paint flow over the canvas
  • Thickeners provide for a thickening of the acrylic paint, for the application in the spatula technique
  • Gloss medium helps your acrylic paints to get more glossy after drying. This can also be used as an effect together with matte paints
  • Acrylic binder is part of the standard equipment in acrylic painting. You can make your own acrylic paints together with color pigments, or mix them with glitter powder or marble flour to achieve fascinating effects
  • Finishing varnish is available from matte to glossy and should be applied as the last layer on acrylic paintings to protect them from UV radiation and mechanical influences

painting with acrylics



10 Helpful Acrylic Painting Tips for Beginners

  1. When starting, you can put your canvas on a table or a straight surface. To protect the surface from paint, you can put plastic foil or a slightly thicker layer of newspaper underneath. Later it is worth thinking about buying an easel.
  2. Wear either a painting apron or old clothes. Acrylic paint can be washed out of the clothes when damp, but once dry it is difficult to remove.
  3. To mix the colors, you can start with a piece of white cardboard over which you stretch a foil. This way you can mix colors again and again without having to buy a painting plate.
  4. Use the color black very sparingly, because once mixed too dark, acrylic paint is difficult to mix lighter again. By the way, acrylic paint dries darker – so mix your colors a little bit brighter.
  5. It is important to understand the theory of colors a little bit at the beginning. This way you will learn which paint mixtures produce which colors, and what simply results in indefinable brown tones.
  6. Most painting surfaces do not need to be specially pre-treated, as they are already primed
  7. Use a template at the start. You can either place it next to your canvas and draw it, or you can make a copy of your designs.
  8. Only use water sparingly, so always dry the brush slightly after moistening it with water. Otherwise, the paint can quickly become too liquid.
  9. If you change the color, it is useful to clean the brush well with water. This helps to get the desired shade and not get a mixture when applying the color.
  10. Acrylic paint dries very fast, but if you are impatient you can speed this up with a hairdryer. This will create a dry surface to continue painting within minutes.



Painting With Acrylics – The Best Techniques

When painting with acrylic there are a variety of techniques available. We have briefly summarized the most important ones for you below:


Glazing Technique

You can use thinned acrylic paints or opaque colors for the glazing technique. In this technique, you paint the first layer of paint, let it dry, and then paint the two thinned layers of paint over it. The lower layer of paint shimmers through the upper layer of paint. You should always paint from a light color tone to a darker color tone. The glaze technique or glaze painting is also known as transparent painting.


Wet on Wet Painting Technique

As the name says, you paint down the first layer of paint, and then apply another layer while it is still wet. For this purpose, a drying retarder is necessary so that the colors do not dry too fast. As an example, you can paint several color shades of a basic color tone wet on wet and then obtain different color gradations.


Spatula Technique

With the spatula technique, you use thick acrylic paints, which you apply with a painting knife or spatula. This creates exciting surface structures. However, the layers of putty should not be too thick, as cracks can form during drying.

how to paint with acrylics


Sponge Technique

In addition to painting with a brush, you can also apply the acrylic paints with a sponge. Ideally, a natural sponge is suitable for this, which can also be used for dabbing due to the surface texture. Foam brushes or foam rollers can also be used here. Below you can see an example of how the sponge technique can be used with acrylic paints.


Sgraffito Technique

For the sgraffito technique, you need two layers of paint on the canvas. The first layer of paint must already be dry, the second one still wet. Now you can scrape off the upper, still wet layer of paint with different tools and aids and thus create a “used-look”. Very exciting for abstract acrylic paintings.


Granulation Technique

The granulation technique is also known in pastel painting. You first apply a surface structure, for example by mixing the acrylic binder with sand and applying it with a spatula to the painting ground and then letting it dry. This creates partial elevations on the painting, which you now carefully dab off, for example with a sponge and some paint. In this way, the paint only sticks to the raised areas.


Impasto Technique

In the impasto technique, the acrylic paints are mixed with structural gel or paste. This changes the consistency and surface of the paints. You can also apply structures with it.


Acrylic Pouring

The acrylic casting technique is a relatively new painting technique with acrylics. This became increasingly popular in the USA in 2017 and is now very popular all over the world. The great thing about it is that no artistic talent is required and the results are completely unique.

Acrylic paints are mixed with a pouring medium, which makes them more fluid and easy to pour. Then, these liquid paints are poured onto a canvas and the canvas is panned. By adding silicone oil, exciting cell effects can also be achieved. Acrylic pouring is an extremely creative way to create abstract art with acrylic paints.

how to make acrylic paints


Airbrush Technique

Acrylic paint can also be applied by airbrush. Using compressed air, the paint is drawn from a container and sprayed onto the painting ground in a finer form. The consistency of the paint must be relatively liquid.

acrylics painting for beginners



With the collage technique, you can let your creativity run wild – the possibilities are endless. Due to the binder in the acrylic paint, you can use it to glue all kinds of materials such as natural materials, photos, newspaper articles, or any other objects onto the painting ground and design them in color.
beginner acrylic painting



Acrylic Painting Art Styles

Which art styles can you create with acrylic paints? We have summarized the most popular painting styles for you:

  • Abstract Art
  • Abstracted Art
  • Figurative Art
  • Retro Art and Modern Pop
  • Pop Art
  • Naive Art
  • Contemporary Surrealism
  • Contemporary Art
  • Classical Surrealism
  • Classical Modernity
  • Fauvism
  • Cubism

So you see, with acrylic you can create almost any kind of art.



Acrylics painting for beginners offers a great medium, but acrylic also offers advanced artists many design possibilities. When painting with acrylic there are all kinds of different painting techniques as well as different art styles involved. There is so much to discover here that you can spend many years with acrylic painting without reaching your artistic limits.



Materials Needed For Painting with Acrylics

For acrylic painting you need acrylic paints, painting surfaces, and other painting utensils. There is a massive amount of materials on offer for acrylic painting, therefore we have only listed the most important so that you can start painting immediately.


Acrylic Paints – From Pastes to High Viscosity

With acrylic paints, there are both cheap beginner colors, as well as colors in artist quality available. These differ primarily in the ratio of color pigment and binder, as well as in the color pigments used. There are no more bad paints to buy on the market – even cheap beginner acrylic paints already have a good color intensity and powerful workability. To start with, you can buy a cheap set or you can choose the colors black, white, and the primary colors red, blue and yellow. This allows you to mix every color tone and learn the theory of colors first.


Acrylic Painting Backgrounds – From Canvas to Gessoboard

Stretched stretcher frames, also known as canvas, are widely used and inexpensive as painting backgrounds. These are available in many different dimensions, shapes, and thicknesses. You can stretch canvases with the help of the supplied wedges.


Acrylic Brushes

There is a variety of brush forms, including a cat’s tongue brush, fan brush, slanted brush, etc. Depending on your painting technique you will need different brush shapes. If you are just starting with acrylic paint, you can either buy a cheap brush set or some flat brushes with which you can already achieve a lot.

Basically, you can stick to the following Principle:

  • For Painting Portraits or for pictures with fine details you should use brushes with very fine hair
  • If you want to paint abstract acrylic paintings, you can create exciting effects with coarser brushes with bristles


Painting Tools

There is a wide range of painting tools and painting utensils which support you when painting with acrylic. These can help to make the job easier, and achieve a wider range of specific effects and aesthetics while painting. It is a good idea to experiment with some different painting tools to help enhance the process.


Finishing Varnish / Lacquer

Acrylic paints are not always very waterproof and could be enhanced for durability. This is where a finishing varnish or lacquer comes into the picture. If you want to add an extra level of strength to your painting or want to paint with acrylics outdoors, then it is a good idea to seal it with some kind of finishing varnish.



Advanced and Beginner Acrylic Painting

Every beginning is hard. Would you like to start painting with acrylic again? Or do you already have some experience and want to expand your knowledge and skills? Then we recommend that you continue your education with books, eBooks or online courses.



Designs For Painting

From abstract to realistic almost every painting style can be painted with the acrylic technique. If you are looking for ideas to paint, there are loads of paintings and pictures available to draw inspiration from. Have fun!


We hope that this guide has taught you everything you need to know about how to paint with acrylics. Acrylic painting for beginners is easy to get into, and loads of fun. This is the perfect medium to get you hooked on creating beautiful art!


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