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How to Paint with Acrylics: Creative Painting Techniques

Updated on May 23, 2016
Robie Benve profile image

Robie:an artist believing in the power of positive thinking, she paints images intended to bring joy the viewer and loves to share art tips.

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.

Here are examples of very creative techniques that you can achieve with acrylic paint. You can often take them further by adding mediums to the paint.

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. | Source

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.

Thin the acrylic paint with water or a medium and lay your painting surface flat, to avoid run-downs. Load the brush with watery 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.

Then 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) | Source

Golden Fluid Acrylic Paint: Perfect for Pouring and Dripping Techniques

Pouring and Dripping Acrylic Paint

- Pouring paint is an innovative way to use fluid acrylic paint to create art, where the application takes 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 desire 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 acrylic thicker 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). | Source

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, but acrylic modeling paste is ideal for dramatic texture.

You can create the texture you like using different tools to apply and model the texturing medium: palette knife, stiff brush, comb, rag, bubble wrap, metal objects, and anything you can come up with.

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

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 motion. You can also use a sponge to lift wet paint.

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 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.


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. | Source

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. | Source

Collage 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 a 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 in a permanent way. If the object is quite heavy, you may need extra support, like nails or wires.

Painterly Reuse and Recycle

Almost anything can become an acrylic painting tool.

Credit cards, old combs, sandpaper, pieces of boards, spoons, toothbrushes, bottle caps, kitchen knives, etc. They all can be used to apply paint and create textures.

So before you throw anything away, think how you could use it in your studio.

Painting with 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, in order 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 effect both on wet or dry paint layers. Whether you want to create texture, partially reveal a background layer of paint, or produce a distress 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 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 to an abstract painting. Click the source link to see the final result of using this painting as background for a model portrait.
Using bubble-wrap to add texture to an abstract painting. Click the source link to see the final result of using this painting as background for a model portrait. | Source

Abstracts Make Great Backgrounds

I ended up using this abstract painting as 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.

_______________________________________________________________

By no means I consider myself a master artist, but what I know I enjoy sharing with others. I wrote this article hoping that it will help beginner artists in their painting process, not because I believe I “know” how to paint.

I hope you found it useful and enjoyable. Happy painting! : )

© 2012 Robie Benve

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    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 13 months ago from Ohio

      You are very welcome Maggi78! :D

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      maggi78 13 months ago

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 13 months ago from Ohio

      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! :)

    • profile image

      maggi78 13 months ago

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 22 months ago from Ohio

      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. :)

    • jbosh1972 profile image

      Jason 22 months ago from Indianapolis, IN. USA

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 2 years ago from Ohio

      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 profile image

      Cheryl Paton 2 years ago from West Virginia

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 4 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks Sue. :)

    • Sue Andreas profile image

      Sue Andreas 4 years ago

      interesting...

    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 4 years ago from Ohio

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

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 4 years ago

      Robie, wonderful hub, beautiful hub with great ideas.

    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 4 years ago from Ohio

      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 profile image

      Sarah Jane Bourdeau 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 4 years ago from Ohio

      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 profile image

      Sarah Jane Bourdeau 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      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 profile image

      Sarah Jane Bourdeau 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 4 years ago from Ohio

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

    • SaritaJBonita profile image

      Sarah Jane Bourdeau 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 4 years ago from Ohio

      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 profile image

      Jen Card 4 years ago

      Great hub and helpful information. Thank you!

    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 4 years ago from Ohio

      Thank you Carol, happy painting! :)

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

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

    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 4 years ago from Ohio

      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.

    • coffeegginmyrice profile image

      Marites Mabugat-Simbajon 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      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 profile image

      singleaple 5 years ago

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

    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      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 profile image

      singleaple 5 years ago

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      (: 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 profile image

      europewalker 5 years ago

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

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      Gypsy Willow 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Great inspiring hub. Congratulations on your nomination

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      masmasika 5 years ago

      Congratulations. This is an awesome hub.

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      Mage-It 5 years ago

      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 profile image
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      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

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

      Thanks to everyone that voted!!! :))

    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

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

      @ elayne001 - that's awesome! Happy painting!

    • elayne001 profile image

      Elayne 5 years ago from Rocky Mountains

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

    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      @ 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!

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      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      @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. :)

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      sherryebarrow 5 years ago

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

    • mindyjgirl profile image

      Mindy 5 years ago from Cottage Grove, Oregon

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

    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

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

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

      Nice solid painting basics here - thanks so much!

    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      @ 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 profile image

      tiagoz 5 years ago

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

    • Little Light profile image

      Lilly May Rose 5 years ago from Australia

      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 profile image

      Manna in the wild 5 years ago from Australia

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

    • Robie Benve profile image
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      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      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 profile image

      VengefulArt 5 years ago from Las Vegas

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

    • rosettaartist1 profile image

      Rosetta Ceesay 5 years ago from United Kingdom

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

    • sasanka7 profile image

      sasanka7 5 years ago from Calcutta, India

      Helpful and interesting hub.

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