Essential Acrylic Painting Techniques

There are countless acrylic painting techniques you can adopt. This is an extremely versatile medium. Since my site is focused on traditional painting, this page will concentrate on techniques that are helpful for that.

So if you are interested in learning about acrylic techniques, but not thinking about experimental media, you are in the right place!

  1. Acrylic Painting Techniques #1: Washes or underpainting- Wet the surface first with water or mix water into the paints for a watercolor look. By applying a thin underpainting loosely on a stark white canvas, you not only block out the white background, but also set a foundation for a set of tonal values.

    Loose washes for background

    acrylic painting techniques

    You can either dilute the paint with water or with glazing mediums.

    Note that adding too much water to acrylic paints can weaken the binder in them, especially when you paint with fluid acrylics instead of heavy body paints. So, don't go overboard with water when using acrylics.

    Mediums have their place; use them so you do not end up having a dull painting compromised by weakened pigments.

  2. Acrylic Painting Techniques #2: Wet into Wet- Work more wet paints while the layer underneath is still wet. Act quickly, because you do not want the paint to dry too much before you work the new paint into it.

  3. Acrylic Painting Techniques #3: Glazing- A glaze is a thin layer of transparent paint that usually does not contain white or opaque pigments. Apply it over a dried layer to create richer and darker colors than you can achieve when mixing paints on your palette. Glazes can work either on impasto paints (thickly applied paints) or on thinly applied paint. Any stage of the painting is suitable, as long as the underlayer is dried.

    Also, you do not have the limitation of 'fat over lean' as in oil paints. You can apply multiple layers on top of each other as long as each of them dries before the next is added.

    The shadow on the pear is glazed with orange and then red.

    acrylic painting techniques

    You can use water or gloss glazing medium to achieve this result. Personally I prefer using gloss glazing medium because it produces better adherence and translucency. Not to mention that it offers more handling possibilities. I also like the fact that the acrylic colors stay vibrant, unlike the weakening you see with water.

  4. Acrylic Painting Techniques #4: Dry-Brush- You create the effect using a bristle brush to put relatively dry paint over a textured background. The high area will catch the paint. The original color stays in the low areas.

    This creates broken colors and lets the previously painted surface to show through. You use paints with little or no liquid for this effect. A stiff-haired brush will work for this job. Make sure you wait until the layer underneath is dried. If the tube colors are too moist for this technique, simply squeeze them out onto a sheet of paper first to absorb some of the moisture.

    The light tones on the pair are dry brushed

    acrylic painting techniques -dry brush

    It is important to charge the brush with the right amount of paint. Too much paint will completely cover the surface and ruin the effect.

  5. Acrylic Painting Techniques #5: Scumbling- Apply a thin, lighter and more opaque layer over a dried area so the underlying color still show through. Similar to dry brush technique, scumbling adds depth and texture to ares of shadow. It is another good way to achieve a broken color effect. You should use thick paint with a hog hair bush for this technique.

    An opaque paint is dabbed over the darker dried layer.

    acrylic painting techniques -scumbling

  6. Acrylic Painting Techniques #6: Impasto- Apply thick paints to create texture—usually for the last stage of the painting. Acrylic paint will build up, layer on layer, to any thickness you want.

    Mixed media artists use impasto gels and mediums to exaggerate the impasto effect. For traditional painting, you can use thick body acrylics for the same effect without the need for impasto mediums.

    Thick paints are applied over the pear for highlights.

    acrylic painting techniques impasto

    Lastly, you can choose to varnish your finished paintings or not. It is a matter of personal choice. Acrylic varnish does not yellow and is flexible. It protects the painting and unifies the picture surface. It also produces depth in areas that have dried slightly chalky. Varnishes come in matte (flat, not glossy), semi-matte, or gloss. They are either permanent or removable.

    The sky is the limit when it comes to acrylic painting techniques!

    Mastering Color - click here for more info.

    > > Acrylics Painting Techniques

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