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8 Creative Acrylic Painting Techniques

Robie is an artist who loves sharing what she's learned about art and painting in the hope that it might help other creatives.

Lots of Creative Effects with Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is a very versatile medium. If used straight from the tube it handles like oil paint, when diluted with water it’s more similar to watercolor.

New technologies allow the development of more sophisticated acrylic paints, available in different thicknesses and able to achieve different effects (see table below).

In this article, you'll find 8 examples of popular creative techniques that can be achieved by using acrylic paint.

We'll talk about:

  1. Splattering
  2. Pouring and Dripping
  3. Texturing
  4. Sponge Painting
  5. Masking
  6. Collaging
  7. Creative Applicators
  8. Using Mediums
Examples of very creative techniques that you can achieve with acrylic paint: Splattering, Pouring, Dripping, Texturing, Sponge painting, Masking, Collage, etc.

Examples of very creative techniques that you can achieve with acrylic paint: Splattering, Pouring, Dripping, Texturing, Sponge painting, Masking, Collage, etc.

Types of Acrylic Paint

All kinds of acrylics are compatible and inter-mixable.

TypeConsistencyUses

Heavy Body

Smooth, thick, and buttery.

Retain brushstrokes or palette knife marks.

Soft Body

Creamy and fluid.

Wide range: stenciling, murals, silk-screening, calligraphy, printmaking, graphic design, sculpture, photo retouching, hard-edged painting, watercolor techniques, fabric painting, airbrush, etc.

Fluid

Very thin, similar to heavy cream.

Spattering, spraying, brushing, pouring, dripping, and staining

High Flow

Ink-like consistency.

Wide range: spattering, painting, drawing, staining, glazing, inking, hand-lettering, spraying, etc.

1. Spattering Acrylic Paint

Spattering is a technique for applying splashes or small droplets of paint on your surface. You can use your fingers to spatter the paint from any stiff brush dipped in thin acrylic paint, a painting brush, a toothbrush, or a stencil brush will work.

Lay your painting surface flat, to avoid run-downs. Load the brush with very thin paint and flick the bristles of the brush with your fingertip, or flick your wrist while holding the brush, to let the spatter fly from the brush to the support. You can also hit your brush handle with a stick to generate the splash.

Spattering can add texture to a flat color area, and can also be used to obtain a nice stone or marble effect.

You can use either fluid paint or a thicker paint thinned with water or a medium.

When applying spatters to a small area, mask off the surrounding parts with sheets of paper.

The Splattering technique can also be used to create added  textural detail to a brush painting. (Japanese maple Tree II, by Robie Benve, detail)

The Splattering technique can also be used to create added textural detail to a brush painting. (Japanese maple Tree II, by Robie Benve, detail)

2. Pouring and Dripping

- Pouring paint is an innovative way to use fluid acrylic paint to create art, letting the application take advantage of gravity. You can use fluid acrylic paint, or mix thicker acrylic paint with a pourable acrylic gloss medium to make it fluid.

Pour the paint and tilt the support around to make the paint flow in the desired directions. This will create smooth colorful shapes. If you pour multiple colors, the colors will blend and mix.

You can vary the intervals of the pourings, choosing if you want the previous layer to be dry or still wet.

- Dripping is a variation of pouring. Mix your fluid paint in small containers. A good medium to add to thicker acrylic paint to make it fluid is clear tar gel.

Set your support horizontally, load your palette knife with fluid paint and let the paint drizzle from the knife onto the surface, moving the knife gently around to create a stringy effect.

Let one layer of drizzled acrylic dry before you apply another layer. Layers can be of the same color or different colors.

A side view close-up of "drip art" painting entitled 'Tornadoes at Sunset'. The right side is close to the camera so it is somewhat out of focus. The project involved unused paint (which could not be easily recycled).

A side view close-up of "drip art" painting entitled 'Tornadoes at Sunset'. The right side is close to the camera so it is somewhat out of focus. The project involved unused paint (which could not be easily recycled).

3. Texturing the Painting Surface

Dramatic effects can be achieved by creating your own creative textured ground.

Textured effects can be created in many different ways. Acrylic modeling paste is great for dramatic texture and it can be applied with a variety of tools: palette knife, stiff brush, comb, rag, bubble wrap, metal objects, stencil, and anything else that may serve the purpose.

You may also mix paint into the modeling paste and create a colorful textured ground.
Let the ground dry before you paint on it.

I also love to create texture adding wrinkled tissue paper, tore paper, and fibers to the surface. I this case I use soft gel medium as glue.

For best results with texturing use a rigid surface; the dry paste may crack on canvas.

4. Sponge Painting

A sponge can be a very versatile tool in painting, it can produce a broad range of effects.

Natural sponges have the advantage of being more flexible and produce more interesting patterns than the less expensive synthetic ones. Synthetic sponges are suitable for lying flat and even areas of color.

When painting with a sponge, always wet the sponge with water and then squeeze well; then apply the paint with soft dabbing motions. You can also use a sponge to lift wet paint.

5. Using Masking Tape in Acrylic Paintings

Masking tape can be a very useful tool for the acrylic painter.

Masking some areas with tape can protect them during splattering or other low-control painting techniques, and can be very helpful when you need to paint straight lines or patterns that would be very challenging to complete free-hand.

Whether you are painting an abstract subject with crisp, hard-edged areas of color, or a representative painting, it is particularly difficult to paint a perfectly straight line or a clean edge, like a horizon line or a windowsill. Apply masking tape, paint the area near it, then remove the tape.
You'll have a pristine unpainted area where the tape was. This can be used also to preserve parts of the ground color from being contaminated by layers of paint.

Using masking tape to create a pattern

Using masking tape to create a pattern

Apply masking tape, then paint in the gaps between tapes.

Apply masking tape, then paint in the gaps between tapes.

How to Use Masking Tape

The easier way to proceed is by sticking masking tape over dry paint to define the line, than paint it.

Remove the tape when the paint is still wet, to ensure a sharp edge. Also, make sure you don’t thin the paint too much, or it can seep under the masking tape.

When the masking tape is removed, the pattern appears.

When the masking tape is removed, the pattern appears.

6. Collaging with Acrylics

Acrylic paint is an excellent adhesive and can be used for binding papers, fabrics, sand, and other material to the support; it serves as the main bonding element in collages.

Acrylic gels or texture paste can be used to stick larger objects.

When making a collage, lightweight objects are obviously best, because they are easier to glue permanently. If the object is quite heavy, you may need extra support, like nails or wires.

I love to include paper in my paintings, and I use the Golden soft gel medium matte as "glue".

7. Creative Applicators: Sandpaper, Wire Brushes, Cloth, and Plastic Wrap

Many materials, tools, and techniques can be used to obtain the most creative textures on an acrylic painting, your imagination is the limit for what you can use. Some of the things I like to use are:

- Sandpaper. Once a layer of paint is dry, you can use sandpaper to distress the paint and uncover an earlier layer. If sanding large areas, spray with water and use water-resistant sandpaper, this helps to minimize the particles of paint flying around. (Not the best thing to breathe.)

- Wire brushes, pot scrapers, and other abrasive tools can produce interesting effects both on wet or dry paint layers. Whether you want to create texture, partially reveal a background layer of paint, or produce a distressed look, you can really get creative finding a scratchy tool to use.

- Cloth and plastic wrap can be used to produce unique textures in your painting.
Examples:

  • Rub a textured cloth on wet paint to create texture.
  • Press gauze or stings into wet paint and, after it dries, pull it out.
  • Scrunch a piece of plastic wrap in your hands, unfold it loosely and gently tap it down onto wet paint, keeping the wrinkles. Before the paint dries remove the plastic wrap.
Using bubble-wrap to add texture. Click the source link to see the final result of using this painting as a background for a model portrait.

Using bubble-wrap to add texture. Click the source link to see the final result of using this painting as a background for a model portrait.

Abstracts Make Great Backgrounds

I ended up using the abstract painting above as a background for a live figure portrait and loved the combination of painting a model over the abstract texture, letting parts of it to be seen throughout.

8. Use Acrylic Mediums to Add Textures and Effects

Invest some time into investigating and understanding the various medium types and which can work for you and the effects that you are trying to achieve.

By mixing your medium of choice into your base paint, you can make your paint thicker, thinner, shinier, textured or change how long it takes to dry - just to mention a few properties of the available mediums.

There are so many different acrylic mediums, it's almost impossible to try them all. See if a friend lets you try one for free or search for a Liquitex or Golden paint demonstration in your area. Those demos are done by trained artists and they teach you about what each medium and paint type does. Often, in the end, you get to go home with a free goody bag full of samples.

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: Can tree seal be used in acrylics paintings?

Answer: As far as I know, tree seal can be used to water-proof pots, so I would recommend that you try to use it, but wait at least a couple of days for the acrylic to be completely dry before you apply tree seal.

Then you can call it a mixed media painting.

Question: If you start a painting using palette knives, can you walk away after just painting the sky, for example, and come back later to a dried partial painting and pick up where you left off?

Answer: Sure! Acrylic dries so much quicker than oil that it's very hard to do wet on wet painting.

In fact, it does not make much difference if you come back to a painted area after 15 minutes or after a week. It's in the nature of acrylic to have several layers that don't mix with each other.

Question: Can you use a sponge with acrylic spray paint?

Answer: Sure, you can use a sponge with any acrylic paint.

© 2012 Robie Benve

Comments

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on October 27, 2019:

Oh Rita, to explain how to use the various mediums I need to write a whole new article... which sounds like a great idea! In the meantime, you may want to browse the Golden and Liquitex acrylic websites, they have lots of excellent information. Also, if you get the chance, try to attend a Golden or Liquitex demo session, they are awesome and you go home with free goodies. Check if there are any available in your area.

RITA RAMBHAROS on October 25, 2019:

Please explain how to use the various mediums,thus far i only used the smooth gel medium, and would like to use others.

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on July 14, 2019:

Awesome to hear Nandini, happy painting!

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on July 14, 2019:

Thanks a lot for your comment Linda, it makes me always super happy to hear my articles are helpful and easy to understand. (Smiling big) :)

Nandini on July 09, 2019:

Love the article.I am just starting out with acrylics so it was a wonderful article with a ton of information and pictures to go with it.Thanks

Linda Dugas on July 05, 2019:

I am so happy to have found you on Pinterest. Your explanations are very easy to understand and so helpful for a beginning painter. Thank you for all you do.

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on May 04, 2019:

Irene, if it's a store-bought canvas you don't need to do anything, it's already primed. If it's raw canvas you can find all the info in this article https://feltmagnet.com/painting/How-to-Prepare-a-C...

Irene on May 03, 2019:

What kind of preparation you need to do to the canvas before you start painting?

Evelyn on September 15, 2018:

Appreciate all of the information. Thank you so much.

Katrinah on July 28, 2018:

Great information! Thank you.

tinamariecorkern@gmail.com on April 22, 2018:

Great write up

Maya Malik on March 09, 2018:

Hi Robin, having worked an office job for the last 10 years or so, and having had children recently, I've recently gone part-time and with the spare time have decided to start painting simply for the enjoyment of it, but always ended up painting the same kind of thing. Your posts have been So Very useful and I look forward to trying out these techniques. In short - thank you for doing what you do here for all of us amateurs. We appreciate it very much :)

Kathryn Blakemore on March 04, 2018:

Hi Robie , I do appreciate your expertise and you certainly are a painting. I love to paint and some of your techniques are very unique to me thank you for posting all of these wonderful ideas that you could actually sell that you choose to be given to the public and we can appreciate that I can't wait till I use some of your techniques and I'm going to start painting as much as I can I feel like painting everyday doing something or drawing actually enhance my ability to become an expert and have a wonderful blessed prosperous life.

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on February 22, 2018:

You are very welcome Chang Zheng Garo. :)

Chang Zheng garo on February 21, 2018:

I like to Learn from you thank you so much

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on February 20, 2018:

Hi Ally, online resources can be amazingly useful to learn about a lot of things. I am so glad to give a small contribution to that! If you have a library near you check it out as well, they have all kinds of art books and videos. Thanks for taking the time to write your feedback! :)

Ally on February 18, 2018:

Thank you Robbie!

All help is appreciated as I cannot get to art lessons with the job I currently do and online is all I have.

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on October 29, 2017:

Yes, thank you Zelda, that was the idea. I wrote the article so that anyone interested could find this info all on one page, but I would definitely recommend to take it slow and experiment with one or two at a time.

Zelda on October 28, 2017:

These are good ideas for school students; but don't overwhelm them with too many, too soon. Let them try a new one each session. And make it fun.

Lynn on October 14, 2017:

That was very helpful and awesome!

Newbie

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on April 17, 2017:

Hi Martha, I think painting is like riding a bike, you may stay a long time without doing it, but when you hop on again and start pedaling, it all comes back to you. Relax, experiment, and have fun; when it comes to creating art, it's all good. :)

Martha Selzer on April 15, 2017:

Great help ! I painted 20+ years ago. Starting back. I am very rusty and need help !

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on February 23, 2016:

You are very welcome Maggi78! :D

maggi78 on February 23, 2016:

Thank you very much Robie, for taking the time to bothe watch the videos, and answering my question! I am a happy girl! :)

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on February 22, 2016:

Hi maggie78, I watched a little of Michael Snapcott's videos to see what you were referring to (great artist by the way!) and from what I saw I am pretty sure he was using acrylic glazes, diluting the acrylic with water, and then wiping off the excess with paper towel. This technique is useful to create transparent glazes and for blending acrylics in order to avoiding hard edges. Hope this answers your question. Thanks for stopping by! :)

maggi78 on February 21, 2016:

Hi. I was watching some videos byte artist Michael Shapcott on yotube, and I just loved his paintings. Theywere a mix of graphie, acrylic and Oil. He was using a very thin paintmix on top of his graphite portraits, and then wiping some of it back off With a piece of cloth. What sort of a mix do you think this may have been?

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on May 24, 2015:

Hi jbosh1972, using masking tape technique on metal art sounds like an exciting idea, full of possibilities and creative solutions! Thanks for taking the time to comment about it. :)

Jason from Indianapolis, IN. USA on May 18, 2015:

This is an awesome hub! I loved the techniques discussed here. i especially appreciate the commentary on masking tape. I will use that on my metal art.

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on February 20, 2015:

Hi Cherylart!Thanks a lot for reading and leaving a a supportive comment. The pouring technique can be a lot of fun. Happy painting!

CherylsArt on February 18, 2015:

You've listed some interesting techniques here. I've used the bubble wrap before and really like the effects you can make with that. I look forward to doing the pouring technique sometime.

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on March 11, 2013:

Thanks Sue. :)

Sue Andreas on March 10, 2013:

interesting...

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on March 04, 2013:

Thanks Shyron for reading and taking the time to comment. :)

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on February 28, 2013:

Robie, wonderful hub, beautiful hub with great ideas.

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on February 01, 2013:

Oh My, SaritaJBonita, sorry to hear that!!! I hope you feel better soon!

You must have done a lot of sanding, I never had that volume of dust myself. However, I'm happy that this incident did not lower your love for acrylics, and you are willing to try again (with mask ;).

Take care and thank you for stopping by and letting me know how it's going for you.

SaritaJBonita on January 30, 2013:

Yup, I'm definitely wearing a dust mask when I use sandpaper from now on. Turns out my lungs are inflamed and infected, and I'm now on an inhaler and antibiotics. I'll still be using sandpaper, but with a mask every time. Just a forewarning to others... Can't say you didn't warn me though, lol.

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 27, 2013:

Hi SaritaJBonita, sounds like you have embraced the sandpaper adventure! :) I hope you had fun and your cough is totally unrelated - lots of people sick this season.

I'm writing a hub on painting using masking tape and bubble wrap, another of my experiments, to be release soon.

Take care. :)

SaritaJBonita on January 27, 2013:

Robie,

You were soooo right about wearing a mask when you sand down an acrylic painting! I didn't think it was a big deal because I didn't see anything floating in the air, but then I saw the big pile of paint dust and when I blew my nose it was orange. Perhaps it's a coincidence, but now I have a horrendous cough.

The sandpaper is awesome though, and yes, I now wear a mask :)

SaritaJBonita on January 21, 2013:

robie, i actually wasn't able to find sandpaper yesterday, so, no i haven't tried it yet. i'm sitting here eating pb&j, brainstorming alternate tools (that would be why i'm typing in all lowercase). i really should go to bed though :(

Any other tools you recommend that most people would have in the junk drawer?

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 21, 2013:

Hi SaritaJBonita, thanks for your comment. Did you try the sand paper? Let me know how it goes. :)

SaritaJBonita on January 20, 2013:

Excellent Hub that gave me some great ideas! I never thought of using sandpaper to uncover layers of paint, I've just been using the flat end of a plastic handled paintbrush, and sometimes it peels off all the layers of paint and I have to fix it... I will try this technique tonight! Thanks

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on November 02, 2012:

Hi Jen Card, acrylics are perfect for exploring with different painting techniques and have fun in the process. :) I'm glad you found it helpful. Thanks!

Jen Card on October 31, 2012:

Great hub and helpful information. Thank you!

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on July 13, 2012:

Thank you Carol, happy painting! :)

carol stanley from Arizona on July 11, 2012:

Another great article and so comprehensive about acrylics. Great job.

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on April 18, 2012:

Thank you coffeegginmyrice, too bad cost was the reason to give up painting. But you never know where the path in life will take you, you may find yourself painting again soon. :) Thanks for your nice comment.

Marites Mabugat-Simbajon from Toronto, Ontario on April 18, 2012:

This bring back memories when I was still in my art class. I don't know why I did not proceed with painting, probably because the medium is too expensive back in the Philippines. However, my favourite medium is watercolour. Then, I found out later that I enjoy much doing graphic designing and layouting.

This is a nice article and very useful!

singleaple on February 15, 2012:

Great - I would be very interested to know how you get on with it

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on February 15, 2012:

I have never tried digital painting... something to look into, you made me curious now. I'll check it out, but to be honest I don't think it will ever replace paint and brush for me. :)

singleaple on February 15, 2012:

Have you tried painting with digital software - if you go to my homepage and find the link to my youtube channel you should find a couple of free painting software tools on there(and demo's). Also I find that using some of the free game engines allows you to create living art landscapes. What I mean by that is that you can create a living and breathing 3d landscape that you can step inside and move around in. So much better than a flat oil painting; and using new technology to create improved artwork.

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on February 09, 2012:

(: Knowing that I was actually able to inspire someone to create art just by writing about things I truly enjoy, really gives me the enthusiasm to keep writing.

Wow, if I think about it, I feel truly blessed.

Thanks for reading, voting up, etc. :)

europewalker on January 27, 2012:

Excellent informative hub. I can use some of these tips in experimenting with my art work:)Voted up

Gypsy Willow from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand on January 26, 2012:

Great inspiring hub. Congratulations on your nomination

masmasika on January 26, 2012:

Congratulations. This is an awesome hub.

Mage-It on January 25, 2012:

I've always have a burning desire to paint but am afraid about how to start. Your post has provided me with some confidence to do something and let out the artist within me. Thank you very much and I look forward to more of your hubs!

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 25, 2012:

Yayyy! I won the HubNuggets contest, this Hub was selected by the HubPages community as a winner!

Thanks to everyone that voted!!! :))

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 24, 2012:

Thank you ripplemaker! I hope people who like the hub will click and vote for it! :)))))

@ elayne001 - that's awesome! Happy painting!

Elayne from Rocky Mountains on January 23, 2012:

Great information, and I'm glad I found it. You inspired me to do some more painting.

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 22, 2012:

@ mindygirl and sherryebarrow - it makes my day to know that what I write can be useful to someone. Thank you for taking the time to read and leave such a positive feedback!

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 22, 2012:

@DougBerry Thank you! And thanks for posting the link! I'm really happy for the nomination. :-) Hope my friends and supporters will take the time to vote for my article. :)

sherryebarrow on January 22, 2012:

Absolutely wonderful article...just wht I was looking for

Mindy Bench from Oregon on January 21, 2012:

Voted up, I love to paint I am just a newbee, so it all helps,Thank you!

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 20, 2012:

RedElf, from an experienced artist and hubber like yourself that is a wonderful compliment! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. :)

RedElf from Canada on January 20, 2012:

Nice solid painting basics here - thanks so much!

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 13, 2012:

@ Manna in the wild, I'm happy you find it inspiring; and sand paper is the technique I use the most. :)

@ Little Light, acrylics can be a lot of fun, I'd be very proud if my hub helped you having a go.

@ tiagoz, I'm glad you find it useful. Thanks a lot for the compliments!

:))

tiagoz on January 13, 2012:

Awesome! Totally useful! I loved the Knife Painting technique.

Lilly May Rose from Australia on January 12, 2012:

Thanks for this. I have been wanting to have a go at acrylics for a while now so this Hub will prove extremely useful!

Manna in the wild from Australia on January 12, 2012:

This is a great collection of inspiring ideas. I particularly like the sand-paper idea.

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 11, 2012:

Thank you sasanka7, rosettaartist1, and VengefulArt for the positive feedback. I'm glad you find this hub useful and helpful. I try to write the info I needed when I was getting started. :)

VengefulArt from Las Vegas on January 11, 2012:

There's a lot of great information here. I've been experimenting with acrylic paint so this is definitely helpful.

Rosetta Ceesay from United Kingdom on January 11, 2012:

Excellent. I am sure beginners will find this very useful.

sasanka7 from Calcutta, India on January 11, 2012:

Helpful and interesting hub.