Robie is an artist who loves sharing what she has learned about art and painting in the hope that it might help other creatives.
How to Paint With Acrylics
To start an acrylic painting you need two things:
- Seven basic painting supplies (see below), and
- Ideas for what to paint.
Of course, there are techniques for how to make your idea into a piece of art. We will discuss those further on, including:
- Best lighting
- Deciding the subject and focal point
- Planning your painting's layout
- Tinting your canvas
- Drawing your idea first
- Painting the middle values first
- Adding details and highlights
Let's get started!
7 Supplies You'll Need for Acrylic Painting
Do you want to learn how to paint with acrylics? I've compiled a list of the seven things you'll need to get started - more details on each one further on.
- Acrylic paint
- A variety of brushes
- Painting support (canvas or gesso boards)
- Cloth rags or paper towels
1. Acrylic Paint
Get the best quality paint you can afford. Aim for artist quality, not student quality. The student quality hues have more fillers and respond less efficiently to color and media mixing.
You don’t need many colors; a limited palette of basic colors is great for starters. To begin with a very limited palette, you can buy single tubes and make your own primary color combination. Or, I really like this pre-made set of havy body paint. The Liquitex 4-Color Mixing set has a good choice of tubes: Quinacridone Crimson, Yellow Medium Azo, Phthalo Blue (Green Shade), and Titanium White.
Tip: A "black" can always be obtained by mixing the three primary colors together.
A Note of Caution About Phthalo
When you use a phthalo blue or green, be aware that they are very strong pigments. A small amount goes a long way.
Learn to check the pigments listed on the tubes. You'll see that several colors have phthalo inside, like Windsor blue and other blues. That makes them pretty strong in color mixes. At first, phthalo blue really messed me up. But that was my fault because I did not know how to handle it.
It's actually a wonderful pigment when used in small quantities, and it's amazingly flexible, very useful in many color mixes. However, I pretty much never use it pure, right out of the tube. Only mix it with some kind of orange to dull it as needed.
2. Brushes of Different Shapes and Sizes
A rule of thumb for brushes is to use big brushes for big areas and loose painting styles and to use small brushes for small areas and details. That's why it's important to have a variety of sizes.
3. Painting Support
Acrylic paint works on many kinds of surfaces, including canvas, paper, or board. If you buy pre-primed canvas, make sure it’s primed with acrylic gesso. A canvas primed for oil painting is not suitable. Acrylics don’t stick on oily surfaces and would peel off with time.
Your palette is the surface on which you mix your paint. You can use any flat, tray-like object made of plastic or other water-proof material.
Get a big jug of water to rinse the brushes when you switch from one color to another. Better yet, you should have two containers of water: one to rinse brushes after painting and one with clean water to use to dilute the paint and moisten brushes when needed. (Read Tips for Cleaning Acrylic Paint Brushes for more information.)
6. Cloth Rag or Paper Towel
These come in very handy to dab brushes after rinsing, correct mistakes, and keep your hands clean.
It’s beneficial to keep your painting support at an angle directly opposite you as you work. This helps a lot with perspective and proportions. To keep your canvas or board inclined, you can use a stand-up easel or a tabletop one. Easels come in different shapes and prices. You can get a tabletop easel for less than $10.
Pay Attention to the Quality of Materials!
The quality of the materials you use is crucial, especially the paint. There are student quality canvasses, brushes, and paints and professional ones available as well.
Student quality has a smaller percentage of pigment in the acrylic binder and fillers. It’s hard to see the difference until you start painting with it. The paint behaves in a less efficient and more challenging way. When in doubt, opt for professional quality. Otherwise, you may waste time and energy to obtain the results you want.
The rule of thumb is this: Get the best tools you can afford. For paint, Golden is a great brand and so is Liquitex. Pay attention to the labels and avoid paints that say "student" or "studio". Go for "artist" quality.
For example, Liquitex Basics is student quality and Liquitex Heavy Body is artist quality.
"Painting is damned difficult - you always think you've got it, but you haven't." Paul Cezanne
There is no substitute for practice. The more acquainted you are with the acrylic medium... the easier it is to express your ideas with more professionalism.
— Joseph Orr
What Is the Best Light for Painting?
Once you've gathered your painting supplies, it's time to find a well-lit area. The old masters like Leonardo and Botticelli set up their studio in a room with tall windows that would get northern light because it's less direct, remains pretty stable throughout the day, and does not alter colors with its warmth or hue.
- If you can’t have a nice Northern window in your painting area or if you need to paint when it’s dark outside, make sure that your artificial lighting has a neutral light scope. Compact fluorescent lights (CFL) are good for this.
Arrange your light source and your canvas so that the light is higher than the canvas, and it’s not coming from behind you. This is to avoid disturbing reflections on the painting surface and having your shadow cast on the painting surface.
What Should a Beginner Paint?
Even the best painters don't necessarily choose complicated subjects to paint. One of the most challenging things to paint for beginners is probably a portrait of a person. You don't have to start with a huge challenge.
Think about all of the beautiful paintings you've seen (or seen pictures of) that are of much simpler subjects.
- A vase of flowers
- A simple landscape
- A scene at the beach
- A still life of simple objects
- A bowl of fruit, or one fruit
- A plant
- The interior of a room
These subjects will offer plenty of challenges for a beginning painter while allowing you to keep your painting simple.
Deciding Your Painting's Focus
What do you want to paint? What are you trying to represent? Maybe it’s a landscape, but what is it about that landscape that inspired you to paint it? Its light? Its calm? Its liveliness?
Before you get started, decide what you are trying to represent in your painting and, on a piece of paper, plan the composition of your painting keeping your focus in mind. It might take several small composition sketches before you find one that "sings" to you.
If you work from a photograph, there is no reason to be 100% faithful to the photo layout and/or colors. You can alter sizes, positions, and colors of things to suit your artistic goal. You can edit some of the trees out, add some others, and move a home or a bridge to make your composition more balanced.
In fact, if you do use a photograph, use it for reference only, don't copy it. Make a sketch of the elements and shapes that you like, but then put the photo away. Then feel free to rearrange the figures and create your own composition for your painting.
Plan Your Layout: It Will Save You Trouble Later
The temptation to start painting right away is huge, but if you jump right into the drawing and painting on your canvas, you may find yourself stuck with a weak painting that needs improvement and you don't know how to "save" it. In many cases, this is a sign of poor composition and value structure.
Before you jump into your painting, make some preliminary sketches to use as a reference. The rule of thirds can help you decide how to plan the layout of your painting and where to place your focal point.
You can paint different colors from what you see in order to stick with a specific color scheme. Some planning using value sketches can make a huge difference.
The quick drying time and incredible flexibility of acrylics allow for 'almost' foolproof experimentation.
— Corrine Loomis-Dietz
Start Drawing on a Tinted Canvas
I used to draw first and then apply a tinted background for my painting. The problem with that is that the paint smudges your drawing and it can make details hard to see.
I learned to tint the canvas first and then draw my layout. It’s much easier this way.
You can pick any ground color that complements your composition. When in doubt, I usually paint a diluted base of yellow ochre on the whole canvas. It provides the painting a vibrant undertone and it helps me avoid the feeling of artist’s block in front of a white canvas.
Tips for Painting With Water-Based Paints
- Acrylic paint is water-based so you can thin it with water. There is no need to use chemical paint thinner. You can also clean your brushes with water.
- Even though acrylic paints are water-soluble, they dry quickly and are water-resistant when they're dry.
- You can't mix acrylic and oil paints (oil and water don't mix!).
- You can use acrylics with a watercolor technique, but unlike watercolor paints, you can't reactivate the paint once it's dry.
Paint the Middle Values First
When you are happy with your composition, fill the rough shape of the focal point of your painting with the middle value for that object.
Then move to another object or shape adjacent your focal point and paint its rough shape with the middle value.
Keep working around the whole composition blocking in all the shapes and objects. Don’t bother about shadows and highlights at this stage.
Here's some guidance on different brushstroke options to help you.
Adding Details to Your Painting
Once you have blocked off all the shapes in your composition, step back and take a look. Does it make sense? Did you choose good colors for each object?
Then go back and make any needed changes to the colors. When you are happy with the colors, it is time to start filling in more details: smaller shapes and different values. Start with the lighter values then move to the darker ones.
Paint the shadows. Shadows should be of a cooler color than the rest of the object. Note: Shadows are never black.
Paint the Highlights Last
The last thing you need to do is to add the highlights. Highlights don’t have to be white; they can be a very light value of the main color of the object.
Step back often and look at your painting from a distance. This will help you see the direction your painting is going and evaluate the values and areas that need tweaking or improvement.
Tell a Story on Canvas
Throughout the process, keep your focal point in mind. What were you trying to achieve? Does it come through to the viewer? The goal should not be to represent something, but to tell a story, to convey feelings. To remind yourself of the story that you are trying to depict, it’s a good idea to decide on a title that summarizes it from the beginning and keep it in mind. It might help to write it down and keep it in front of you.
Keep Painting Fun, No Matter What!
One of the main challenges for beginner artists is that the painting does not come out looking like what you had in your head. How our imagination envisions the final piece is often very different from the results on canvas.
It’s okay for the painting to take a different turn during execution and come out different. It takes a lot of practice to be able to plan to know exactly how to render a certain effect.
Don’t get discouraged. Keep painting and don’t forget the most important thing: in painting, the fun is in the journey, not the destination.
Enjoy every step of it, even the mistakes, because they teach you a lot.
My First Artist Quality Set of Paint
At first, I used very cheap paints - not recommended. When I felt ready to try better quality paint, I wanted to start with a few tubes of acrylic paint, just to see how I liked the medium. I got the Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylic Paint Set. It has four hues plus white, a set from which you can mix all kinds of colors: quinacridone crimson, yellow medium azo, phthalocyanine blue, and titanium White.
I loved it so much that I have kept using heavy body acrylic paint for many years to come. Recently I have started experimenting with fluid and soft body as well.
Note of caution: every time you use a pigment that has "phtalo" in the name, usually a blue or a green, be aware that it's a very strong pigment. A small amount goes a looong way. I had a hard time with phthalo for many years, but now I've learned that when used in small quantities, it's an amazingly flexible color, very useful in many color mixes. I rarely used it pure, right out of the tube.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do you have any tips for keeping my acrylic paints usable after they've been mixed on a palette?
Answer: I like to keep my acrylics wet by spraying them with water as soon as I squeeze them out. Creating a moisturizing film on top prevents the blobs of paint from drying.
I make sure I spray throughout the painting process, including the mixed paint pools. Don't spray too much water; you don't want to make the paint too runny, just wet on the surface.
I've heard of people using a stay-wet palette, and they say it works. I haven't tried it yet, but I think I need to look into it, especially if I start painting more with acrylics (I've been doing a lot of oil painting lately).
This palette has a lidded plastic tray containing a piece of acrylic paper over a thin rectangular sponge. Keeping the sponge wet provides moisture to the paint and, once you close the lid, it can stay wet for days.
Question: How do I paint a mist on the lower part of a mountain?
Answer: Here is one way to paint mist on the bottom of a mountain. You paint the mountain normally, then you mix a dull and light color for the mist and you apply it to the area with thin washes. Wait in between washes so that they can dry.
Question: How can I convince people that painting is fun to do?
Answer: Convincing others that anything is fun to do is quite tricky.
I have a kid that does not want to have anything to do with painting, and I tried to convince him he can do it, but he's stubborn on his refusal. So, trying to convince people that painting is fun does not always work, but it's worth a try.
That said, I can think of two analogies that may come in handy.
1. Appetite and food enjoyment.
Even if we are not hungry, seeing someone eating with true pleasure and enjoyment can make us crave that food. I remember as a child seeing a cartoon of Vicky the Viking where the hungry Vikings devoured huge roasted thighs, holding them with their hands and taking big bites out of them. Those scenes made a life-long impression on me. I still crave roasted thighs now, after many years.
2. Bob Ross.
He made millions of regular people think that painting was easy and fun. How did he do it? He showed how much fun he was having creating and that making mistakes is not a big deal, you can fix mistakes or turn them into opportunities for unplanned beauty.
The two examples have one thing in common: both the Vikings and Bob Ross were truly enjoying what they were doing, and that showed through.
In short, I think the best way to convince others that painting is fun is to do it and talk about it with passion. Show them how much you enjoy painting, talk about how it makes your life happier.
Talk about painting with a sparkle in your eyes and a grin on your face, and they will want to have that joy in their life.
Question: I've never painted before. I usually draw animation, but I've been asked to paint something lively and radiant on a fabric canvas. I've sketched an elegant but straightforward landscape drawing on paper, and now I'm going to my canvas. Any tips on how I begin to sketch, and what I should avoid doing as a beginner?
Answer: It sounds like so far you have been doing the right things.
To transfer your sketch to canvas, maybe you can use the grid method. You may want to look it up online, but in a nutshell, you draw a grid of squares over your sketch and draw a proportional grid on your canvas. Then you focus on one square at a time and draw the image on each square on your canvas until the entire image has been transferred. Keep the grid lines light, and when you're finished, you can erase or paint over them, and start working on painting your landscape. I hope this helps.
Question: I would like to design a painting for my kitchen. What do you suggest for a beginner?
Answer: To pick a good subject for a painting to hang in your kitchen, a place where you are going to spend a lot of time, I would choose something that makes you smile and gives you good vibes. I have two of my first paintings hanging in my kitchen, and I still love looking at them. For mine, I chose a colorful subject because I love colorful paintings.
Also, I looked at art by painters that I admired and picked two pieces that I really liked and copied them. It's not recommended to sell them, because they are made from a copyrighted image, but to keep in my kitchen it's super fine. It's also much easier to paint using a painting as a reference, rather than a photo.
Whatever you are painting, make it something that brings you joy and, since you say you are a beginner, keep it simple.
Aim for something that you feel it's doable, with some degree of challenge, of course, as any painting should have, but within reach.
Question: What is tinting?
Answer: You tint your canvas when you cover all the white with color before starting creating your painting.
Question: How long do you believe it takes to learn to complete a high-quality acrylic painting?
Answer: Well, the drawing stage can take very little or very long, depending on the painting style.
There are high-quality acrylic paintings with very loose drawings, almost abstract.
On the other hand, you may embark into a very detailed drawing with lots of small details and perspective. In that case, you may need more time to get all the details on the canvas. Some people draw on paper first and then transfer the drawing to the painting surface.
In short, it all depends.
How important is a detailed drawing for the success of your painting? I guess that is the key question.
The more detail and precision you need in your drawing, the longer it will take.
From a few minutes to hours, the range is huge.
Question: Do you have any tips for a 13 year old on how to start acrylic painting? And what should my first painting be?
Answer: Jump into it, try what you like, and find out what you don't like.
Paint for fun, don't worry about what others think, paint for yourself, and you'll see that the more you paint, the more you'll learn.
Question: Just started painting and was wondering if I need to add a varnish or protective coating to my finished paintings?
Answer: To varnish or not to varnish? It's a tough call.
Let's say that if you are sure you are DONE with your painting and you are not going to add or change anything, varnishing is a good option.
Especially if you are going to hang it without glass, a coat or two of varnish will protect the surface from dust and other dirt.
I wrote an article that goes more in detail about the pros and cons of varnishing, and explains how to do it, step-by-step. Here is the link:
Question: I've never painted before, and I am right-handed. Do I paint starting from the top left-hand corner or from the subject, ie the face of the person I want to paint? What is a good way to gauge the proportions if I am using a photo as a reference?
Answer: If you are painting with acrylics it does not really matter where you start on the canvas, because they dry pretty quickly and there is little risk of smearing with your hand. Also, it's recommended that you use long brushes and hold them far from the bristles, which has several benefits including no smearing.
Some people start from the focal point, others start from the background, I like to work on everything, keeping the same level of progress all over the canvas. You'll figure out what works for you after painting several pieces.
To gauge proportions, you may draw a grid on the reference photo and a proportional grid on the painting surface, that way you can look at each rectangle and compare how the different lines intersect for the correct placement of elements.
Question: The whole document is helpful, but I can't understand what is gesso? And how to use it? Is it necessary?
Answer: Gesso is an acrylic compound used to prime the surface on which you want to paint. If you buy a ready-made canvas at the store it already has gesso and it's good to go. If you want to learn more about how to prime a canvas (or any surface) and get it ready for painting, check out this article "How to Prepare a Canvas for Painting: A Step-by-Step Guide"
© 2012 Robie Benve
y,Naga tayaru on March 21, 2020:
I love painting
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 20, 2020:
Hello Rob, painting can be great art therapy, whether we need it or not, lol. I love the feeling of evading reality that I get while I’m painting, I really get “in the zone”. Best of luck to you, keep painting and paint whatever pleases and/or intrigues you. We are our own worst critiques, but don’t let that stop you, after all we do it for the process and the journey more than the final products.
I did not write any books (yet?, lol) but there are many out there. If you have a public library near you, you can check out many art books at no cost. Best wishes!
ROB on January 10, 2020:
I'm a 77 year old PTSD veteran
painted tree in art therapy w student paint
got good comments from class mates / except me
my mind started to get filled with abstract things to paint
got a acrylic gesso canvas
looked at it for the past three months / visualizing
went to an art store to look & touch
went to the internet there you were, red your notes
I'll purchase supplies in due time / read a beginners art books / yours?
in due time, I'll be set, relaxed and ready to begin
Thank you for your inspiration
emily on January 08, 2020:
this might help me because I never paint before
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on December 30, 2019:
You can achieve dripping with fluid paint, or by diluting heavier acrylic paint. also like to apply thick paint and then spray with water while keeping the canvas tilted.
Rene’ on December 28, 2019:
I love the effect of dripping on an abstract painting. How do I achieve that ?
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on December 04, 2019:
That is so very true Lily! It's one of the main challenges of painting, that disconnection between our vision and what our hand creates. Keeping painting is the best way to overcome that hurdle. :) Happy painting!
Lily O on November 24, 2019:
I love painting but it could be frustrating.Sometimes what's in my mind isn't what my hands follow but it takes patience. I'm on my way!
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on July 15, 2019:
Hi J'Ariel, I am not in the supply sale business, so I don't know how much it would be. I recommend you look for back to school sales in your area and shop around.
J’Ariel on July 14, 2019:
I want all the school supplies how much that will be I am 10 years old please be cheap
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on June 30, 2019:
Hi Nikita, it sounds like we have a lot in common :) Keep on creating and following your dream. Happy painting!
Nikita on June 29, 2019:
Hi im Nikita,i love painting. Its my dream,my life,my all...
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on June 04, 2019:
Yeah, do it! :)
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on June 04, 2019:
If dreams are not big, why even dreaming? Give it a try, make a plan, and work on it. You may surprise even yourself. Best of luck to you.
Haritha on June 03, 2019:
I am a sri lankan mother of three and seeking some way of earning as i am now in the depth of the depth of well of life . found your attempt when i am searching for painting guide.I am impressed and thanks .you have noted that you hope to share ideas to improve creatives of others .But it is such a big thing to me .
Reabetswe Hancho on June 02, 2019:
Yea I'm a beginner n I'm will to do it
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on March 20, 2019:
Hi Claudia, you are right, painting the middle value first is not the first instinct for an artist. I actually learned it when I read a book by Carol Marine, and it is a great, useful concept. Thanks for your comment!
Claudia Mattis on March 18, 2019:
I like the suggestion to paint the middle value first, I've never tried that, I usually paint what I see, and try to mach the final look from the beginning, but you are describing a slower approach that adds details much later in the process, that sounds like a good way to get looser, not too tight and detailed. Thanks!
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on February 04, 2019:
That's wonderful to hear Madhu! Best wishes for many more paintings completed and lots of great exhibits of your work.
Madhu on January 30, 2019:
I am a retired Doctor (Anaesthesiologist). When I was in school I used to paint well. Our Drawing teacher always used to appreciate my paintings. Now during my retirement I restarted my hobby. & it has helped me a lot. I must thank you very much for giving very useful tips for using acrylic colours. I have done few water colours, oil colours & pastel colours. & I am glad to tell you that I held an exhibition of my paintings in one art gallery in my city.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 25, 2019:
Hi Lory, aren't social media amazing? You found me through Pinterest and somehow that has had some kind of good influence on your life and inspired you to paint. I find it amazing and totally wonderful that complete strangers from different part of the world can ow connect and inspire each other just with an online search. How wonderful!
Lori on January 24, 2019:
Thank you so much. I just found you on Pinterest, and feel very empowered to fine tune my painting.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 15, 2019:
Cyn, I'm not sure what gave you the impression that I would support copying from artists you like instead of purchasing from them.
That is not something that I would encourage.
Cyn Rogalski on January 14, 2019:
Instead of copying from artists you admire, why didn't you purchase from them? I feel this is ripping off the artists.
Please don't encourage such actions.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 08, 2019:
Hi Adyson, I painted on and off all my life, but 2010 is when I started doing it full time.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 08, 2019:
That's awesome to hear Lorenzo, so happy the info in my article helped you get an A+!
James on January 02, 2019:
Lorenzo Ditieri on December 29, 2018:
So I take a art school here and when i went to this website i got an A plus thank you for the great article! :)
Adyson on December 25, 2018:
This was very helpful and for christmas my dad got me this cool set and yea so and when and why did you start paintng but thx alot
Frances Plascencia on October 18, 2018:
I would love to learn to paint but have no experience
Chris hemsworth on October 15, 2018:
Thanks for sharing the idea
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on July 27, 2018:
Hi Kylee, thank you very much for your feedback, it's very much appreciated.
Kylee Henrie on July 27, 2018:
This is the most helpful and straight forward article I've found. Thank you so much. :)
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on July 02, 2018:
Thanks a lot Nouveau Artiste for your supporting words. I see that you are new to the Hubpages community, welcome!! I hope you'll love it as much as me. :)
Nouveau Artiste from Dover, NH on July 01, 2018:
I appreciate the detail in this article. Well written and too the point! Thank you for your valuable resources keep share the information like this…
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on June 26, 2018:
Thanks a lot MaryB, glad to hear you appreciated my writings.
MaryB on June 24, 2018:
Very helpful and encouraging - thank you!
ingrid gerbich on June 22, 2018:
I want to learn every thing I can. thank you so much for it his information
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on May 06, 2018:
Hi Aasif, that is a very good question. The short answer is that it depends, you may start a painting from light to dark, from dark to light, or whichever way you feel like it's going to work for that specific painting. I think that with acrylics most people put down the darks first, and then fill the shapes with a mid-value color, adding the lights at the end, especially the highlights and reflections, those should be painted only at the end.
The rule of thumbs is to paint "general to specific". Big shapes first, unifying things of similar color/value, and details later.
That is really what counts, don't get bogged down into details too soon. Light first or dark first, that depends on your personal style.
Aasif haneef on May 06, 2018:
Hello Robie...your article was very helpful to us,
Acrylic paint is starting from light to dark,dark to light or it is up to painter or situations?
Hugusta Manniui on April 09, 2018:
This worked great thanks for you advice!!!
Nokhuthula on March 05, 2018:
It was a good help.looking forward to be working out with your site
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 09, 2018:
Hi Karen, for bigger canvases I like to start with brushes meant for wall painting. I got a few at a home improvement store, a set of 1, 1.5, and 2 inches. I also got a few from the dollar store, not too bad. Paint can be applied with all kinds of tool. Brushes are the most popular. As long as you find a tool (or brush) that makes the mark you need at hat time, you are fine. Cheaper brushes sometimes are awesome, other times they shed or the bristle "bush up" and lose their shape. But anything goes, really. In general, I like to use a brush much bigger than what I would have picked up at first. Especially in the beginning stages of a painting, or for bigger canvases. Towards the end I add details with smaller brushes. Also, big brushes and big canvases need a lot of paint. Mix twice the amount you think you'll need, and use it all. :) I hope this helps.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 09, 2018:
Hi Barbara, paint can be applied with any tool. Brushes are the most popular. Some people use their fingers, others, palette knives, some people even old credit cards or toothbrushes. The bottom line is, as long as you find a tool (brush) that makes the mark you need at that time, you are fine. Cheaper brushes sometimes are awesome, other times they shed or the bristles spread out and lose their shape. But anything goes, really. In general, I like to use a brush much bigger than what I would have picked up at first. Especially in the beginning stages of a painting, it's size 10 or bigger. Towards the end I add details with smaller brushes. I hope this helps.
Karen on January 08, 2018:
What 3 or 4 brushes would you recommend for large canvas 3-4 ft acrylic painting? Is there a set that you like?
Thanks for your help.
Barbara Hood on January 08, 2018:
My problem seems to be finding the right brushes to use on what....never know what size to use...I mostly paint scenery....not much on faces. I have painted animals, barns, churches, birds and lots of flowers.....can you help me?
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on December 29, 2017:
Hi Sandy, since you like to draw, I would suggest looking at painting as drawing with color. Use you knowledge of dark and light when you apply color. Squint and mix colors of the right value, that simplifies things. For more articles with tips for beginners, click on my profile and peruse my writings, there are probably a few that you may find interesting. Thanks a lot for taking the time to read and leave a comment. Have fun with your new art set!
Sandy Halpern on December 28, 2017:
Hi I love to draw so my hubby got me an art set. I am new to painting and don’t know the first thing about it. I was wondering if you could give me some advice for a beginner. Thanks
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on December 27, 2017:
Hi Juana, I don't know how old you are, but there is not "too old" in art. You are who you are, and your work magically reflects that, and also it changes with you as you keep practicing. Painting is a fascinating journey, where every traveler has different skills, different experiences, and different personality. There is no right or wrong, as long as we enjoy the journey. Happy Panting!
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on December 27, 2017:
That's wonderful Jay! What a great and fun way to break the ice and start painting again! Thanks for sharing and keep it up. May those be just the beginning, with many more paintings to come.
Juana Wooldridge on December 26, 2017:
I am so excited to start!!! IHope I am Not to old
Jay on December 25, 2017:
I just started painting again after years of nothing. I did an X-Mas variation of Starry Night (with a snowman in the foreground!) and an Elf on the Shelf for my son in law and set the elf up like he did it. Even signed it "Elf". I thought I'd do terribly, and while the end result wasn't what I'd hoped for, the kids absolutely LOVED them. I read this article beforehand and it reminded me why I wanted to do this to begin with-FUN. I'll try the materials you recommended and keep practicing. Thanks.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on November 30, 2017:
Hi Nawal, I wrote an article with some tips on how to get over an artistic burnout, maybe you can find some tips in there that will help you get started.
Good luck to you :)
Nawal on November 30, 2017:
I have a need to get started but always something stop me need help to get out of my mood
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on November 29, 2017:
Hi Ehis, I call painting my "free" mental therapy, who does not need some every once in a while? Glad to hear you are getting started, I would say jump into it. The good thing with acrylics is that you can paint over and change everything is you don't like the results. Have no fear. Pain on. Watch some you tube video for some free instructions. You can also borrow video from a library, if you have one nearby. Happy painting!!
Ehis on November 28, 2017:
Well I've been trying to get so many things off my head I think painting would help me do that but my biggest problem is that I don't know where to start from and I really need a teacher to help me aim this thinking. I've learnt somethings now the position of your light painting supplies and all that
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on November 13, 2017:
Hi Eileen, thanks for stopping by and leaving your feedback. Happy painting and good luck finding the perfect lighting solution for your needs. :)
Eileen on November 11, 2017:
This was so helpful! I’ve been painting with acrylics for almost 2 years and have trouble with the lighting. I don’t have a northern window for light, but I can work around that and now know not to have the light behind me!!
Diana Adkins on October 27, 2017:
Thank you. This is the first thing I have read about acrylic painting and it is very easy to understand and encouraging.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on August 01, 2017:
Hi Sharry, the internet can be a great source of inspiration for an artist, but you are right, you need to be careful and use copyright-free photos. There are several sites that provide them, check them out. Here are a few: Wikimedia Commons, Morgue File, Flickr Creative Commons. pay attention to the different kind of licenses and what they allow you to do. There are also facebook groups that share free photos for artists to use, you'd have to ask to join the group (one is called Photos for Artists). And of course you can always use your own photos or somebidy else's, with permission.
I hope this helps. Happy painting!!
Sharry on July 31, 2017:
Robie, I started discovering an ability to paint with Paint Nite. For the next three years I've used images that appealed to me that I've found on the internet as my guides and I'm getting much better. But, now I need to be careful I'm not accused of copying someone else's work. And now I don't know where to begin, and I feel stymied because I haven't yet found "my" style. Any thoughts or suggestions? Thanks!
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on June 30, 2017:
Hi Sarah, that's it: prctice is the key word. The more you paint the more you learn. The more you learn the more you (and probably others too) are going to like yout paintings. Keep those brushes moving. :)
Sarah on June 27, 2017:
Thank you for your tips and words of encouragement. I am just beginning. Hmm, must practice, practice, practice.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on April 17, 2017:
Awesome Lynnie, keep on painting and have as much fun as you can.That's the best way to go, I think. Every painting we do teaches us something; every painting we start has the potential of being our best one yet. And if turns out not so good, oh well, let's start another one, or paint over. It's a wonderful journey no matter what. :)
Lynnie on April 15, 2017:
I have no talent but I love to paint with acrylics canvases are inexpensive in bulk packs and make you feel professional it is so much fun - thanks for the tips !
Dr Salma Mohsin on April 14, 2017:
I have done a lot of paintings in oil and water colour.Never tried my hand on acrylic.Your tips and suggestions for a beginner in acrylic are very useful and to the point.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on April 07, 2017:
Hi Jody, you are very welcome, it's great to hear that something I write sharing my passion for painting is inspiring to another artist. Thanks a lot for your comment. Happy Painting!
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on April 07, 2017:
Hi Varun, I saw your pencil portraits, you are very talented! Have fun experimenting with acrylics, I bet you can do amazing things with them!
Judy Burchett on April 04, 2017:
I'm trying to figure out a few styles of painting. Your article has given me away to focus on my vision. Thanks for the advice on that.
Varun N Rao from Bengaluru on April 03, 2017:
Hi Robie, that's a wonderful and a very useful article. I am a portrait artist primarily working with pencils but off late, I am working with Acrylics on canvas and kind off struggling a bit with my approach. Your article has given me some direction I was looking for and will build up more on it. Do go through my profile... www.facebook.com/vartoonss when you have time. I will keep following your blogs for more. Thanks again!
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on March 20, 2017:
Hi Katie, keeping it simple is the key, even if you don't have a hand problem. : ) I love that you are learning as much as you can while you can't use your hand, you'll be ready for success when the time comes, hopefully very soon.
I sent you an email with some useful links. Thanks a lot for reading and your comment! : )
Katie.firstname.lastname@example.org on March 14, 2017:
Ive wanted to paint on canvas forever but just haven't but always in the back of my mind. I've all kinds of creative things through my life time I love it from simple coloring to jewelry
I'm 69 years old. My hands are giving me different problems now. Recently surgery on my right hand for trigger release of middle finger and trigger thumb. February 20th I was at the ER had cellulitis. My hand swelled to twice its size.
It turned out to be Staph infection. I've never had any thing hurt so bad. It's been a ordeal. But doing much better now. God is good! I kept my hand and fingers.
During recovery I've been watching on YouTube painting videos. I've decided on one and that's Clive5Art from Wales in UK
In the past I had been on Pinterest and saved all different articles of which one is yours.
I've just started reading this. I know Practice is So Important. Right now I'm handicapped since I'm right handed.
But want to learn "How ".
To keep it simple.
I've been obtaining various items for my wanting to paint. I've chosen Acrylic painting.
Looking forward too learn much more from your site and you
Katie and Sheldon
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on March 08, 2017:
Yay Mona, that's the attitude I love! Start doodling, sketching, painting, do the things you love, no worries about the final results. The important thing is the process, the fun, and the learning from our own mistakes. :)
Jason Mackenzie from Perth WA 6000 on March 05, 2017:
Very informative article - an encouraging too!! I appreciate the time you have spent in researching the information and the positive tone with which you have presented even the most difficult concepts.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on February 24, 2017:
Hello Khan, I have seen some artwork with calligraphy on canvas, both Asian and Arabic, and I love it. I have never tried including fancy calligraphy in my paintings, only some basic text when needed, but it can surely be done. I can't really give you any decent tips on how to paint calligraphy, but it sounds like a wonderful thing to learn. Good luck to you, and happy painting! :)
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 27, 2017:
Hi Julie, you comment is very encouraging and made my day! It is truly as you said. It's ok to make mistakes. There would be no masterworks if the great painters didn't accept to make mistakes and then moved on, and kept painting. :) Being creative, and having fun while doing it, that's what it's all about. Happy painting!
Julie s on January 27, 2017:
I've read other articles on beginning painting with acrylics and they were more "clinical" in their approach. Your article suggests that it's okay to try and to make mistakes. To create a feeling, tell a story and aim for that. Excellent article for a beginner like me. Thank you.
Rosi. A on January 26, 2017:
Thanks for all tips.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 12, 2017:
You are very welcome Vinca Voda. :)
Jan Bushey on January 11, 2017:
I have been trying to learn to paint. Not easy, I have taken lesson from different teacher with different styles. I don't seem to be good at any of them. But I won't give up. Thanks for your help
Vinca Voda on January 10, 2017:
Thank you so much!
Tina Whethers on December 20, 2016:
Thanks for tips
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on November 03, 2016:
Thanks a lot Magicfive! Receiving some positive feedback never gets old. :) ;)
MAGICFIVE from New York on October 26, 2016:
Great ideas! I love your artwork - mostly your use of white and "light."
leonard on September 25, 2016:
i am a retired 65 year old farmer in the Philippines and was given a bunch of stuff for Acrylliic painting and I don't know what to do with it. I am so happy I found your blog. I don't know how I got to your website and i should say not very computer saavy and am afraid if but I am afraid if shutdown my computer, i can not get your website back.
just in case here is my email add email@example.com and maybe give me some tips. Thank you.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on September 11, 2016:
Hi Inga, that's right , getting the painting supplies is only the beginning, then there is the "and now what?" stage. Glad to be of help! :) I hope your make great use of those supplies by paintings squared miles of canvas and enjoying every minute of it! Best wishes :)
Inga on September 11, 2016:
Thank you for the checklist. I just picked up supplies on a whim from our local dollar store and brought them home wondering what the hell was I thinking. Your article really helped me to focus on the next steps.
Eduardo on June 20, 2016:
Excelente el artículo, de esta manera podremos pintar mejor nuestros cuadros...muchas gracias y bendiciones...
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on February 23, 2016:
Hello Rae, thanks a lot for your kind words and comments! Happy you found the article helpful. Blessings to you too, and Happy Painting!
Rae on February 23, 2016:
This is perfect! You're a great teacher. Thanks for taking the time to break painting down in this way -- it makes perfect sense and is so helpful! God Bless!
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on February 15, 2016:
Great! That's exactly how I started: with a beginners' set received for Christmas, including an easel. How wonderful! Enjoy! :)
Jennifer Kessner from Pennsylvania on February 15, 2016:
I've always wanted to learn to paint! For this Christmas, I was given a beginners set, and then I found an easel for $15! This article is great, thanks so much!
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on January 11, 2016:
I used to paint with acrylics but have not done so for way too long. Just trying to get back into it, I really appreciated this article.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on October 20, 2015:
You're very welcome Robie. It sounds like fun.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on October 20, 2015:
Hi Kristen, glad you found the hub informative! Thanks a lot!
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on October 13, 2015:
Great hub, Robie. This was very informative on how to get starters with easy steps from prep to doing the painting.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on October 12, 2015:
Hi Scribenet, I found that doing the first layer of shape-painting using mid values helped me quite a bit. I usually leave the lightest highlights for the last fancy touches, I learned that less is better for strong highlights. You are right, looking for the perfect reference photo is very important. A good starting composition is the needed foundation for a good painting. Once you find one you like, dive in and have fun! Happy painting!
Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on October 10, 2015:
I like the idea of doing the shapes in the middle values of the final acrylic colors and then detailing with the shadows and highlights. I think I will start looking for a composition with colors that appeal to me. I am going to have to go through all the photos I have taken!
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on July 08, 2015:
Hello Jonas, painting daily is a wonderful way to improve one's skills. One way to start is to create a painting challenge for yourself, like 30 paintings in 30 days. There is one going on every September, check the blog of artist Leslie Saeta, she organizes a 30 paintings in 30 days challenge every year. The fact that thousands of painters participate really gives me the incentinve and commitment to paint daily, you may want to check that out. Thanks a lot for your feedback and Happy Painting!
Jonas Rodrigo on July 05, 2015:
I resolved to myself a while back to make painting a daily habit, but I've never really gotten around to doing it. Thank you for this very useful hub. Cheers!