13 Tips for Working With Acrylic Paints

By Nkolika Anyabolu in Art Tutorials > Painting Tutorials

Acrylic-based paints are one of the most versatile mediums on the market for artists, and can be applied to any surface that is oil and wax free. This means that acrylics can be used for just about any purpose, like painting on earthenware or writing on clothes in addition to painting on canvas.

Acrylic Paint

In other words, acrylic paint is simply awesome. . . but unlike oil paints, acrylics are notorious for drying up very quickly. If you’re not careful this side effect can end up destroying your brushes and wasting your paint.

Not sure whether to choose acrylics or oils? Try both and see which you like better. And for those of you just starting out with acrylics, I’ve compiled a few tips below to help you use your acrylic paints effectively despite their quick drying time:

1. Always keep a container of water next to your painting palette where you can rest the tips of any brushes you’re not currently using. This will prevent acrylic paint from hardening in the bristles and ruining your brushes.

2. Use an atomizer (or spray bottle) to keep your paints wet whilst on the palette. Misting your paints will keep them from drying in solid lumps on your palette.

3. Work fast. The more you adjust and repaint the same areas, the drier and less-responsive your acrylics will get.

4. When you can’t work fast, get a tube of acrylic retarder to slow down the drying time of your acrylics.

5. Do not use too much water when mixing colors or applying the paint, as this will cause acrylics to lose their quality and thick texture.

6. When cleaning, rinse out your brushes with water first then use a mild soap. Make sure no paint is left in the bristles by the end.

7. Never use solvents like turpentine or white spirits when washing your brushes. Acrylics don’t require anything more than water and soap. Solvents are only necessary when cleaning oil paint out of your paintbrushes.

8. Make sure the lids and tops of your acrylic paints are screwed on tightly at all times so the paint doesn’t dry out. This is a simple (and obvious) solution to keep from wasting a whole lot of paint at once.

9. Make sure your painting surface is free of oil or wax. This will ensure that your paint adheres properly to the surface.

10. Do not squeeze out too much paint at the same time as they may dry up on your palette. (If you do, see tip number thirteen.)

11. When mixing your paint colors, avoid mixing too vigorously—this may produce bubbles which could lead to cracking later on.

12. Do not use oil based primers to prime your canvas or painting surface. Use acrylic gesso whenever painting with acrylic paint.

13. To preserve your paints overnight, mist your palette with water and cover with a air-tight plastic bag or lid. You can also find palettes with a tight-fitting lid made for this purpose, like this Masterson Sta-Wet palette at Blick.

Really, the fact that acrylic paint dries quickly should not deter you from using it— quite the opposite. It is a beautiful medium that, once mastered, can be used to produce finished paintings very quickly.

To find more articles by Nkolika Anyabolu, please visit her website.


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