Five Tips for Beginning Acrylic Painters

Five Tips for Acrylic Painters

I have always loved watercolors but twenty years ago I switched to acrylics and have learned so much about the medium since then.  So, here are five tips about acrylics that I wish I had known from the very beginning.  


Tip 1:  Acrylic paint will dry darker, the opposite of watercolor

It took me a long time to figure this one out.  I would get the perfect color mixture on the palette and then later the color dried way too dark in the painting.  It was frustrating because then I had to add more white on top and then the painting appeared chalky or flat looking.  So I took my watercolor technique of layering washes of a light underpainting and then using those luminous light colors to peek through the layers of acrylics.  

Tip 2:  Acrylics need to be built up in layers

This is why I love Golden acrylic paint so much because the colors I normally choose are transparent which are like watercolors.  I can layer over and over and get a rich variety of greens on my leaves or pinks on my Gerber daisies.  I always use white in the mixture at the end or as a base layer for more transparent colors on top.  

Tip 3:  Try not to use the color straight from the tube

When I use the colors straight from the tube to the canvas, the painting just appears so unrealistic and flat looking to me.  If you every watched me mix colors, you can see that I rarely use the color straight but mix smaller batches as I paint along.  There is rarely a space on my canvas that is the same color.  There are lots of varieties of a particular pink or green or purples as seen in the picture above.  It’s much more interesting that way.

Tip 4:  Try not to paint from memory

Trying to paint from memory is a struggle for me and it always appears cartoon like when I’m finished.  So, image resources are the key to solving this dilemma.  I always collect a variety of images from many resources for inspiration of a particular plant, leaf or flower.  I will often use Unsplash for free images to help me with different versions of one particular plant or flower. That way I can pick and choose from a couple of pictures to create my own composition.

Tip 5:  Always have clean water handy

I found that dirty water is great for making muted tones but if I want brilliant, crystal clear colors, the water needs to be fresh.  When I’m near the finishing point and adding my highlights, I’m constantly refreshing my water bowl.  I’d like those pops of accents to be fresh and clean.  Dirty water can really dull your colors.  



I hope these tips can help you in your own art journey with acrylics!

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