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10 Acrylic Painting Techniques You Need to Try

Everyone loves acrylic painting. Even the most hardcore, no-nonsense oil painter will admit that the quick dry time and easy cleanup make acrylics a fun medium to play with.

But, a lot of folks don’t realize how diverse the medium is. There are so many different things that acrylic paints can do. Unfortunately, many artists are leaving creative opportunities on the table by simply sticking to the same old paintbrush-on-canvas technique.
So, if you’re looking to test out some new methods, we’ve got some ideas. Here are a few acrylic painting techniques that you should try out.

Painting with Washes

One great thing about acrylic paints is that they’re water-soluble. Much like watercolor paints, they can be diluted to achieve a wet, washy effect.

The more water you mix, the longer it will take the paint to dry. But, they still don’t take nearly as long as oils.

Dry Brushing

On the opposite end of the spectrum, it can be fun to paint with a very dry brush. This allows the canvas, or whatever color is painted underneath, to poke through.

Start by applying very small amounts of paint to the brush and build up from there. You can get some pretty interesting effects by painting dry layers on top of one another.

Painting with a Palette Knife

Oil painters aren’t the only ones who use palette knives. Acrylic painters love them, too! A palette knife allows you to create large, thick swatches of dense color. It also enables you to blend swatches into one another quite seamlessly.

You don’t need a professional palette knife, either. Many painters prefer to use a plastic butter knife, instead. Try it out and see how it feels!

Squirt it Outta the Tube

It doesn’t take long at all for acrylics to dry. If you leave your painting out, even a dense glob of pigment will dry in a couple of hours. This makes it the perfect medium for impasto painting, or laying the paint on really thick.

If you’re really into thick paint, you might not need a paintbrush at all. You can actually squeeze the paint directly out of the tube and onto the canvas. It’s almost like painting with toothpaste!

Monoprinting

A monoprint is created by painting a picture and then, while the paint is still wet, pressing that picture into another surface to create a replica. For example, if you were to paint an image of a flower on paper, you could print that image onto a canvas by simply flipping that paper onto canvas and rubbing the back.

A lot of artists enjoy the unexpected effects that this process generates. Be careful not to use too much paint here, though, or you’ll end up with a big, smudgy mess.

Paint the Back of the Surface

This process is similar to monoprinting in that it allows for fun surprises. Instead of painting the front of your paper or canvas, dilute your paint and apply it to the back of the surface.

As you’re painting, the pigment will soak through to the other side. If your paint is wet enough, you’ll get a “ghost” image of your painting. It may seem strange, but the results usually look awesome.

Paint a Gradient

Acrylics blend together very nicely. As it result, it’s relatively easy to paint smooth, seamless gradients.

Paint two large blocks, each in a different color. Make sure that the edges of the blocks touch one another. Then, use your paintbrush to blend them in the middle. It takes some work to paint a perfect gradient, but it gets easier the more you do it.

Mix in Some Textured Materials

Essentially, acrylic paints are like colored plastic glue. They’ll hold any material that you mix into them.

So, if you’re looking for a rough texture, try mixing in some sand or gravel to thicken it up. Then, apply the mixture to the canvas. Or, apply a thick layer of straight paint to the canvas and sprinkle some gravel on top of that. As long as there’s enough paint, it will dry and you’ll have a fun, unique surface to paint on.

Utilize Tape

Painter’s tape is a great tool for acrylic artists. It allows you to get smooth, crispy lines without having to worry about the paint bleeding over.

You can find painter’s tape at any art supply, hardware, or big-box store. Simply lay it down in the spots that you want to keep clean, paint right up to the edge of it, let the paint dry and pull it up. Amazing! You can use to make some vibrant, dynamic paintings with just a few pieces of tape.

Splatter!

Of course, one of the best things about acrylic paint is that it’s super easy to clean up. If you get it on your floor or walls, it should come out with some soap and water.

So, if you’re looking to make some Jackson Pollock-esque splatter paintings, definitely use acrylic. The paintings will look great and your floor will, too.

Now get to painting!

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Comments

Arteza - April 28, 2022

Hi there, Bill. These are really exceptional ideas and we couldn’t agree more. The possibilities are truly endless experimenting with our acrylic paint and we’re so glad that you highlighted some very special ways to do so.

Arteza - April 28, 2022

Hey there, Dennis. Thanks so much for your feedback. This is a great suggestion and we will be working on this in the future to improve our content.

Dennis LaDow - April 28, 2022

would liked to have seen an picture of each technique.

Bill - April 28, 2022

The best way to explore Acrylics is to experiment with different mediums. Use gesso rather than white paint. Add things not “made” for acrylic painting medium like Elmer’s glue, and powdered chalk. There are many products in hardware stores and Sherwin Williams like Whiting, Plaster of Paris, and powdered Marble.

Ingeborg - April 28, 2022

@Madeline Hunt.
First of all: if you just had to pick one, which material interests you the most?
That could be your starting point.
From there you can go to a dollar store. Buy a small variety paints and some brushes, and just start experimenting.
Or you can get better art supplies. But only a little. Red, yellow, blue and white go a long way. Google color wheel for mixing tips. Black is very harsh. If possible, get Paynes grey.
Doodling is always great, but of course you can look at YouTube films.
Select a topic you like and go from there.
Landscape? Botanical? Urban? Still life?
Or if you really want to dive into paints, why not use an adult coloring book? Great for practice.

Robert LaFortune - April 28, 2022

Water down two or three different colors of your choice (very translucent), and pour them next to each other, then quickly dry them with a HOT hair dryer before they blend together. Very fun effect.

Madeline Hunt - April 28, 2022

I am a beginner with no knowledge of techniques. Are there books, magazine articles or DVDs that teach technique for watercolors, oil paint and acrylics? Also, which medium should I start with? I am anxious to begin but I do not want to take a load of research to understand what I may accomplish. All suggestions are welcome!

Sharon - April 28, 2022

Thank you for such great ideas. Anxious to try some😁

Andreon Long - April 28, 2022

Thank you for these wonderful tips. I love acrylic paints. The possibilities are endless when using them.

David - April 28, 2022

Good article. Would be nice to see some pictures /examples to go along with. Regardless, just go push some paint around and have fun!

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