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Acrylic paint has become the most popular painting medium of all. Accordingly, you have a lot of choices as an artist for the best acrylic paint. But which paint types are most suitable for which application? Besides the price, there are also other differences in quality, pigmentation, consistency, opacity, and density. In this acrylic paint guide, you will get a good overview of the wide range of available paints in order to find the best acrylic paint for your next project. Whether you are looking for professional acrylic paint or acrylic paint for beginners, there are great options out there.
Table of Contents
- 1 History of Acrylic Paints
- 2 Almost Infinite Application Possibilities
- 3 Characteristics of Acrylic Paints
- 4 Acrylic Paint Reviews – The Best Acrylic Paint
- 4.1 Overall Best – Artist Quality Pastose Acrylic Paints
- 4.2 Best Artist Quality Acrylic Paints
- 4.3 Liquid Acrylic Paints
- 4.4 Best Acrylic Paint for Beginners
- 4.5 Best Acrylic Paint Set
- 4.6 Effect Paints for the “WOW” Factor
- 5 Adhesion of Acrylic Paints to Surfaces
- 6 Painting Techniques With Different Painting Materials
- 7 Various Painting Materials for Creative Effects
- 8 Acrylic Paints for Acrylic Pouring
- 9 Frequently Asked Questions
- 9.1 What is Acrylic Paint?
- 9.2 What are Acrylic Paints Made of?
- 9.3 How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry?
- 9.4 How to Get Acrylic Paint Out of Clothes?
- 9.5 Which are the Best Acrylic Paints?
- 9.6 How Do I Make Acrylic Paint Waterproof?
- 9.7 How Can Acrylic Paint be Thinned?
- 9.8 Which Acrylic Colors are Best?
- 9.9 Is Acrylic Paint Weather Resistant?
History of Acrylic Paints
The method of Acrylic Painting and its relevant acrylic paints have not existed for very long. Only around 1955 were the first water-based paints developed. This was a revolution at the time, as it was now possible for the first time to do without solvents to a large extent. The demand, especially in the hobby sector, was correspondingly high and the triumphal march of the new painting medium had begun.
However, the new medium was initially met with skepticism among professional artists. They worked predominantly with artist paints from the watercolor and oil sectors, which looked back on a long-standing tradition. It took a few more years before professional painters recognized the advantages of acrylics, and became enthusiastic about this type of paint.
Almost Infinite Application Possibilities
The real trump card of acrylic paints is their wide range of applications. There are only a few painting techniques that cannot be achieved with this painting medium. With new mixtures and pigments, acrylic paints come close to oil colors in terms of color intensity. They also have numerous advantages:
- Hardly any smell
- Harmless to health (water-based)
- Fast processing without mixing
- Dilutable with water
- Short drying time, can be painted over quickly
- Drying time can be further shortened with a hot air dryer
- Acrylic paint is waterproof and slightly elastic after drying
- No cracks develop even with thickly applied layers
- Good light and aging resistance with high-quality paints
- With appropriate preparation, you get very good adhesion on almost all surfaces
Characteristics of Acrylic Paints
The opacity of your colors is an important factor. Depending on the technique used, opaque, semi-opaque, semi-translucent, or translucent paints are suitable. Depending on the pigments used, this results in inks with different opacity. Even if acrylic paints are produced by the same manufacturer from the same line, they have different opacity due to the natural properties of the pigments used.
You can increase the opacity, for example, by adding some white. With the addition of water or special painting agents, you can dilute your acrylic paint and make it less opaque. For artists’ acrylic paint and many manufacturers, the information on the opacity of the paint can be found on the label.
If you can’t find any information about the opacity, you may be able to find more information on the manufacturer’s website, or you can contact the manufacturer directly. You can also find out the opacity yourself with the following process.
How to Test the Opacity of Your Acrylic Paint:
Take a white sheet of paper and draw a long line on it with a waterproof black marker. Once this line is dry, take some of the acrylic paint to be tested on a brush and paint over part of the black line. If the black line is still clearly visible after drying, then you have a translucent color, if it still shows through, then you can assume that it is a half covering color. If the black line is no longer visible, it is a good covering paint.
The lightfastness is another important factor when buying acrylic paints. You should always make sure that you buy the highest possible lightfastness. The lower the light fastness, the faster the color fades under sunlight. The main part of this is due to the pigments used, which have varying degrees of resistance to UV radiation.
High-quality artists acrylic paints usually have better light fastness because of the more expensive pigments. However, there are also color shades for which there are only moderately light-resistant color pigments. Here you can apply a special UV-varnish after drying, which prevents your acrylic colors from fading to a certain extent.
You can usually find information about the lightfastness of your paints on the label next to the opacity information or on the paint manufacturer’s website.
Acrylic Paint Reviews – The Best Acrylic Paint
Looking for the best acrylic paint for your project? We have highlighted the top choices below, each one with its own unique advantages and disadvantages.
Overall Best – Artist Quality Pastose Acrylic Paints
You can’t go wrong with artist acrylic paints. This can be the best acrylic paint for beginners or experienced artists. They guarantee you a high quality of pigments, high pigment density, and thus a high color brilliance. Due to the paste-like consistency, you can use them for the spatula technique, but also dilute them and use them for many other purposes. Often you will find the words “Heavy” or “Heavy Body” in the name of these paints. This is often considered professional acrylic paint. Below are some of the properties of these paints:
- High-quality pigments
- Very high pigment density
- A tendency towards a more paste-like consistency
- Good light resistance
- High brilliance
- Hardly any color deviations
Some of the best acrylic paint brands in this category are:
Best Artist Quality Acrylic Paints
While there are many great options available, we have chosen the following acrylic paint set in as the top choice in the artist quality category. This is a good choice for professional acrylic paint or for those that are serious about their art.
Liquid Acrylic Paints
If you often need more liquid acrylic paints, you can also buy them directly. For example, it is useful to use more liquid paints specifically for acrylic pouring so that you don’t have to dilute them every time. Normally, liquid paints tend to contain fewer pigments, so that they are mostly cheaper. In this case, it is worthwhile to rely on high-quality paints, as otherwise, the brilliance of the colors might suffer. You can recognize the more liquid colors by the fact that the name often contains the word “liquid” or “fluid”.
Best Acrylic Paint for Beginners
If you want to get into acrylic painting, you can also buy cheap acrylic paint sets without any problems. The best acrylic paints for beginners are available in convenient, affordable sets. You can still get the best acrylic paint brand offering excellent value here. Even in the low price segment, there are hardly any bad products available. Especially for bulk consumers or for special techniques like action painting or acrylic pouring it can be worthwhile to buy cheap acrylic paint.
These paints typically have a medium consistency and are therefore widely applicable. However, if you want to use the spatula technique, you will require additional painting materials. For the start of acrylic painting, it is worthwhile to buy an acrylic paint set. This way you already have the frequently used colors available and you will save money when buying them.
Below are some common properties of these acrylic paint sets:
- Less pigment density
- A tendency towards medium viscosity consistency
- A trend towards more additives
- The lightfastness varies depending on the pigments used
Best Acrylic Paint Set
a great acrylic paint set? This set by Arteza is our top recommended choice.
Effect Paints for the “WOW” Factor
If you want to create special effects, you can use effect paints. In the field of acrylic painting, there is an impressive variety of such paints. From metallic colors, iridescent colors, and color shift effects, you can choose between a wide range of products.
Metallic colors come in many different shades, but the most popular are gold, silver, and bronze.
Pearl paints have a pearlescent effect after drying and are especially effective against a darker background.
Using glitter paints can create fascinating glitter effects on your paintings and crafts. These can help to make certain colors really stand out.
Color Shift Paints
The color shift colors from Folkart are highly recommended, they change color nuances depending on the viewing angle.
Glow in the Dark Paints
These acrylic colors can glow in the dark, creating stunning effects at night.
Fluorescent Acrylic Paints
These colors glow under black light and can create interesting effects.
Adhesion of Acrylic Paints to Surfaces
Correctly prepared, almost any surface is suitable for painting with acrylic. If it is a porous, absorbent surface, you can usually apply the paint directly and the adhesion is guaranteed. If it is a very smooth surface, you had better play it safe and prepare it for the paint. Acrylic paint also adheres very well to wood, paper, and stone. For smooth surfaces, we recommend the following application to prepare almost any surface for acrylic painting:
- Sand the surface a little with sandpaper
- Clean the surface with some detergent and water and dry it
- Use gesso as a primer and apply it with a brush
- Repeat step 3 at least once more to obtain an appropriately thick layer of primer
With this simple preparation you have now perfectly prepared the surface to apply the acrylic paint.
Painting Techniques With Different Painting Materials
As you have already learned, you can change the properties of your acrylic paints with different painting materials and thus use them for different purposes. For example, the consistency or the flow properties can be specifically changed to enable painting techniques that are not possible with any other painting medium.
- Glazing: The glaze is based on watercolor painting. Here the paint is diluted with water and then applied in several transparent layers of paint. In this way, the underlying layers shimmer through and create an interesting color effect with fine gradations. The light colors are always applied first, followed by the darker shades.
- Washing: Washing is similar to glazing, but in the last step the different layers of paint are mixed together with a little water. You can achieve extremely fine color transitions with this.
- Wet-on-Wet: To make this technique possible, you can wet the painting ground a little so that the acrylic paints do not dry as quickly. With the wet-on-wet technique, you paint a shade of color into a shade of color that has already been painted on but not yet dried.
- Sponge Technique: With a sponge, you have different artistic possibilities: Either you can use acrylic paint diluted with water to paint large areas with soft tones. If you work with thick paints, you can make use of the structure of the sponge and apply sponge textures. Ideal, for example, if you want to imitate the leaves of trees.
- Layering Technique: The short drying time allows you to apply several layers of opaque paint on top of each other after it has dried through.
- Spatula Technique/Impasto: Here you preferably use very thick acrylic paints, which you apply in thick layers with a spatula/painting knife. The aim is to create surface structures. You can add structure pastes to these paints to obtain different textures and to bring even bigger structures to the painting surface.
- Alla-Prima: Here you mix the different paints on a palette and then paint this mixture freely on the canvas.
- Collage Technique/Mixed Media: Because of the binder, acrylic paint can also be used as an adhesive to fix different materials on the painting ground. Thus, for example, photos, scraps of paper, various natural materials, or whatever else creativity can produce can be combined.
Various Painting Materials for Creative Effects
Meanwhile, there are various painting materials on the market, which supplement acrylic painting with other application variants. You can influence the drying time, structure, consistency, and surface effects after drying. Below we have included an overview of the available painting materials.
Modeling pastes can be mixed with paints and allow you to give your paintings a 3D look. You can mix the paste with good acrylic paint to thicken the color. You can also mix it with all kinds of materials like sand, wood splinters, or pebbles to create interesting surfaces. If you want to create extreme structures, you can apply different layers on top of each other after drying.
Structural gels are available in different versions with different structures. From small glass beads to various sand structures, flakes, or fibers, there is a wide range of possibilities. You can mix the structure gel directly with your paints and apply it with a spatula or painting knife. For a textured surface, you can also mix the texture gel with gesso and create real landscapes on canvas. These structures are especially exciting because they influence the refraction of light and thus provide highlights. You can then take these structures further with metallic paints. The possibilities are endless and can also be used for mixed media artwork.
Painting Agent on Acrylic Resin Basis
You can determine the degree of gloss of the paint with acrylic resin-based painting materials. From matte to shiny after drying, you can use these painting materials according to your wishes. You can also influence the transparency of your colors.
With painting gels, you can change the consistency and brilliance of the paint according to your wishes. Good acrylic paint gel can help you to achieve all kinds of interesting and creative effects.
Drying retarders were developed to influence the drying time. For example, if you want to paint wet-on-wet, these paint products will help you to have more time. You can add up to 25% drying retarders, which can extend the drying time by up to several hours.
Pouring Medium is used to optimize the flow properties. The drying process is also significantly delayed here, so that it may well take a few days before the image is dry. Pouring media are used in particular for all fluid painting techniques.
Acrylic Paints for Acrylic Pouring
The pigments used help to determine the density of the respective paint. However, the binder used also has an influence. This ensures that red from different manufacturers have a different density. Density is certainly an important factor for acrylic pouring. After all, the higher the density of the paint, the greater the probability of it sinking onto the painting ground. Lower density means that the colors tend to rise. Therefore, density is an important factor in color composition and finding good acrylic paint for pouring.
The pigments used for white paint are usually so heavy that white is generally the densest color and therefore sinks to the painting ground. Combined with red, the color red will therefore tend to dominate, as it is less dense. You can take advantage of this and pour the dense color over the less dense colors to create exciting effects in combination with silicone oil.
For example, the color combination could look like this:
- White (high density, opaque)
- Red (medium density, semi-opaque)
- Pink (low density, transparent)
- Black (low density, opaque)
The dense and opaque colors make up the layers, or the border color so to speak The lighter colors form the cells. Additives such as pouring medium or silicone oil have an additional influence.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Acrylic Paint?
Acrylic paint is a painting medium that consists of color pigments, binders, and solvents. It is probably the most popular painting medium worldwide and is suitable for almost all applications.
What are Acrylic Paints Made of?
Modern acrylic paints consist mainly of color pigments, binders (pure acrylate), water, and some solvents for durability. The binding agent used is whitish milky in a liquid state and brings out the color properly only after drying.
How Long Does Acrylic Paint Take to Dry?
Acrylic paint dries very quickly. It depends on the temperature, humidity, and applied layer thickness. As a rule of thumb, you can count on 2 to 3 hours of drying time.
How to Get Acrylic Paint Out of Clothes?
As long as the acrylic paint is still wet, you can still wash it roughly with a damp cloth. The garment must then be washed as soon as possible. If the acrylic paint is dry, it will be very difficult to remove. You can try using isopropanol or acetone after you have mechanically scraped off the coarsest residues of paint. Ideally, you should protect your clothes while you are painting.
Which are the Best Acrylic Paints?
Basically, it is worth buying artists’ acrylic paints, as they offer very good quality in terms of color pigments, consistency, and color intensity. However, the best acrylic paints also depend on your project and specific needs.
How Do I Make Acrylic Paint Waterproof?
Acrylic paint is not waterproof when wet, but after drying it automatically becomes waterproof. This applies to all available products, no matter what quality you buy.
How Can Acrylic Paint be Thinned?
The easiest way is to dilute acrylic paint with normal water. But there are also several other methods, which can be done with different specialized materials.
Which Acrylic Colors are Best?
Basically, the quality of the color pigments and the binder is decisive. You will have the most fun if you use high-quality acrylic paint. See our winners above for the best acrylic paints.
Is Acrylic Paint Weather Resistant?
For a certain time, acrylic paint is weatherproof outside. However, the color pigments can fade after some time. In this case, acrylic paint with UV protection helps to keep the colors radiant even after a long time. The best acrylic paints will have some added durability and weather resistance.
Acrylic paints are incredibly popular due to their versatility and numerous benefits. These paints can be used for wide-ranging artistic creations, and on all kinds of surfaces. Choose some of the best acrylic paints listed above, follow our painting tips, and enjoy creating your next artwork!