Skip to main content

Painting With Acrylics: Brushes, Color Mixing, and Storage Etiquette

Tricia Deed enjoys and relaxes with her hobby of painting portraits and landscapes with acrylic paints.

By the Sea: an acrylic painting of wind-blown ocean waves with a jetty in the background and a sky with summer clouds.

By the Sea: an acrylic painting of wind-blown ocean waves with a jetty in the background and a sky with summer clouds.

Acrylic paints are very versatile because they can be used to create the characteristics of watercolor, acrylic, and oil paints.

  • Add water to a little dab of acrylic and you will have the consistency necessary for the open and transparent watery form which defines watercolor painting.
  • Use the paint as it is from the tube or jar container.
  • Layer and layer to get the thickness of cover as seen in oil paints.

There have been changes in consistency and containers to give artists other choices. There is the fluid, soft, and hard. These changes make it easier for application, less time diluting the tints, or thicker for eliminating the need to add layer after layer to create a thicker texture.

Experimenting with these paints will illustrate the amazing characteristics of acrylic paints which will allow these three different techniques for creating portraits and landscaping. Both artists and craftsmen enjoy the qualities of this paint.

A Rainbow of Colors, a display arc of primary acrylic tints.

A Rainbow of Colors, a display arc of primary acrylic tints.

Qualities of Acrylic Paints

  1. Quick-drying.
  2. Easy cleanup washing brushes and equipment with soap and water.
  3. No strong chemical odors.
  4. No need for harsh chemical thinners.
  5. These paints will adhere to any type of paper, cardboard, wood, glass, or other surfaces. It is a very multipurpose paint for many crafts.
  6. Acrylics are known for their permanence, outlasting watercolors and oils. For added protection from dust and fingerprints, use a fix-it agent. Drawings and paintings may be stored for a long time without fear of fading or cracking. The paint itself is flexible.
A selection of artists paints and supplies.

A selection of artists paints and supplies.

Student, Artist, or Professional Grade

There are three types of qualities or graded acrylic paints. These are student, artist, or professional. Beginners and low budgets may wish to start with the student quality. Advanced and more experienced artists will want to upgrade to the artist or professional grade quality.

The main difference between the two qualities is the amount of pigment and fillers. The artist grade or professional quality are the better of the three for color intensity, paint thickness, easier mixing, and application.

These categories of paints are available in kits or packaged individually in tubes, jars, and easy application containers.

A palette of pigment samples

A palette of pigment samples

Mixing Colors

Premixed tints can be purchased; however, there are advantages to mixing your own colors.

Use any type of plastic for the palette. Water will be used to dilute the paint and for this reason plastic is recommended. Select a small amount of each of the primary colors as well as black and white.

Apply the primary colors to the palette with a separating distance approximately two inches.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Feltmagnet

Put a dab of red on a clean area, then add a dab of blue and mix together. Purple will be the result. Adding white will increase lighter shades resulting in shades of violet, and adding black will show create darker shades of purple.

It is worth the time and effort to mix and match the different primary colors to discover the variety of tints which can be created. This will give you a greater selection of tints. Create a color chart of favorites with their measurements for future reference. The most challenging tints to make are flesh tones.

Record the amount of each tint and the results. Make a personal color chart for future use.

Aerosol spray cans of sealants to protect artworks and a mask to protect the artist from irritants.

Aerosol spray cans of sealants to protect artworks and a mask to protect the artist from irritants.

Protecting Acrylic Paintings

Acrylic paints are proven to last longer than watercolors and oils. To help extend the life of the paintings, use a fix-it agent. It also discourages dust and fingertip markings.

Acrylic paints are permanent and have a longer storage life without fear of fading, cracking, or lifting. It is a flexible paint.

Store paintings in a cool environment as they are not heat tolerant. Thick acrylics will soften and become tacky. Should you accidentally experience this problem, place the objects in a cooler environment. The paint will cool down; the objects will release themselves, and can be removed without damage.

Do not stack pictures face to face in hot attics or hot garages. Do not hang paintings in bright sunlight.

A mug of acrylic paintbrushes

A mug of acrylic paintbrushes

Professional Paint Brushes

Synthetic brushes are the choice tool for working with acrylics. These brushes have white bristles.

Professional brushes are a key secret for successful artwork. Your artwork will look very refined and produce a finished work of art. Who would want a canvas with misplaced hair strands, unwanted scratches, uneven paint layers and other defects?

Art critics are able to distinguish one artist from another with their brush strokes. Your brushstrokes do dictate your style and are your signature in your landscaping, portrait, and other works of art.

When you are sitting with other people and all are painting the same object, step back and review the paints. It is interesting to note how each painting looks different. It is the brushstrokes. No two signatures are alike.

The hand of every artist will draw or paint in a different way because of the pressure of the pencil or brush, the amount of paint, and the application of paint as it is swept across the canvas.

Types of brush strokes will include light, medium, and heavy. Paint may be applied in the same direction. Techniques of interweaving, circular movements, rolling, turning, and twisting, stippling, and mixing and matching may be used.

To this list can be added scumbling, which is created with very little paint on the brush. Dark shades of paint skip between lighter shades as created by the brush hairs. This is a very popular technique used for hair in portrait paints.

There are basic brushing techniques to learn and each artist will use their personal methods or favorite strokes. One thing is very clear: it pays to purchase professional brushes. You will find it very frustrating when you are not able to paint a straight line or to create a streak-free blending or other fine techniques.

Regardless of being a beginner or an advanced artist, painting with acrylics or oils is much easier with the appropriate brush.

A clean brush applying the true rich color of the paint.

A clean brush applying the true rich color of the paint.

Paint Brush Care

  1. Do not throw away inexpensive or professional brushes. They may still have use when experimenting and creating different types of effects.
  2. Brush hairs that are stiff or separated can be utilized for painting shrubbery and grasses.
  3. Utilize a worn-out brush. Use old brushes to scoop and mix paints. Use lesser quality brushes for practicing new techniques or effects.
  4. Save brushes for a longer life with proper cleaning, drying, and storage.
  5. Acrylic brushes are usually washed with water. No need for harsh chemicals.
  6. Clean brush after each use in readiness for another color of paint.

Cleaning and Care of Paint Brushes:

  1. Dip brush in water and shake gently before dipping brush into paint. After applying selected paint, rinse brush with water. Acrylic paints dry quickly, therefore clean your brushes immediately after use with soap and water.
  2. Do not overload the brush to where it covers the metal part of the handle. It is difficult to remove paint from the metal.
  3. To remove stubborn dry paint from the bristles soak in fabric softener, rinse, and wash with soap and water.
  4. Do not soak brushes in water for long periods of time.
  5. After cleaning brushes, remove excess water and store flat on paper towels to continue the drying process.
  6. Store pointed brushes with their protective tip covers in an upright position.

Oil Painting vs Acrylic Painting

© 2016 Tricia Deed