Acrylic Painting Facts for Beginners and Advanced Painters Alike
I love creative chaos, and I love playing with art supplies. Give me free rein at an art store and I’m in heaven. Those moments of experimentation and getting messy with paint yield up incredible confidence as well as artistic insight for me.
When it comes to acrylic paints, there are secrets aplenty to share with you, so let these fun and interesting acrylic painting facts inspire you to make your own brand of creative chaos. Beginner painters will find them especially helpful because they let you know more about all the things you can do (and definitely not do!) with the paints you are just starting to use. Enjoy!
Hold up! You definitely can add everything from coffee grinds to sand to peppercorns to add texture to acrylics, and plenty of artists do. But please pause before you go all Swedish Chef on your paints. Adding organic materials of any kind to your acrylics is a risk because those coffee grinds may break down over time. That means your prize painting could eventually turn into a bit of a compost pile (ew).
But never fear! Your texture cravings, whether you want thick paint or thin, sticky paint or jellied, can be satisfied with the right additive. And these gels and mediums are made specifically for the job. Read on!
Tons of Possibilities
If you thought there were a lot of options of hair gel, wait until you get a load of the gels, pastes and additives you can combine with acrylics. That means pretty much any and every kind of texture you could want in a paint can be achieved.
There are pastes that dry so it looks like your paint is full of small granules and additives that give paint a thick, chunky consistency.
You can get a medium with glass beads actually in it — imagine the luminosity!
Mediums can make your surface look like it is paper. You can get a glassy smooth surface sans brushstrokes too, with self-leveling, glossy, clear mediums. And there’s more:
- Gloss medium: Gives paint a glossy shine
- Matte medium: Gives paint a matte finish
- Blending medium: Thins paint so it stays wet longer for blending and movement
- Gel medium: Thickens paint, increases transparency
- Heavy gel: Adds texture so paint holds peaks like whipped cream or icing (uh, yum, but don’t eat it)
- Modeling paste: Gives you the ability to create a lot of texture that dries with a high level of flex
And don’t even get me started on the iridescent and metallics, oh my!
Oil vs Water
Clearly, there are a lot of gels and mediums that you can add to acrylics to get the exact look and feel you want. But one thing acrylics don’t play nice with is oils. Oils and water-based acrylics are completely and absolutely incompatible, so if you are dabbling with both, be sure to keep your supplies and surfaces separate or art-making tragedy will ensue!
One Big Creative Family
If paints were in one big, happy and oh-so creative family, watercolors would be the matriarch, oils might be the eldest child and acrylics would definitely be the baby of the bunch.
Born in the 1940s, acrylics started out as house paints, but their quick drying time eventually caught the eye of modern painters. In 1955, to meet the demand from artists, Permanent Pigments Company developed the first water-based acrylic gesso called Liquitex, named for what it was all about: liquid texture. A year later Liquitex put out the first water-based fluid acrylic paints, called Soft Body acrylics, which you can still reach for today at your local art shop.
Identity crisis in real life, not much fun. Identity crises in painting, very much fun. With acrylics, you get them any way you want them. You can add gels to get acrylics to behave and look more like oil paints. Same with if you want them to act more like watercolors. Many artists reach for acrylics because they don’t want to choose–they want it all.
When it comes to hype, nothing works better than bringing out the big names. Acrylics have some very big names behind them, including:
- Robert Motherwell
- Roy Lichtenstein
- Kenneth Noland
- Bridget Riley
- Larry Poons
- Helen Frankenthaler
- David Hockney
- Andy Warhol
- Thomas Hart Benton
Unlike most other paints, acrylics stick to pretty much anything and stays where you put it. If you are working on wood, paper, metal, textiles, glass, ceramics, canvas — acrylics are your go-to paint. Daubing details onto your model car? Acrylics suits you. Adding eyelashes and rosy cheeks to a doll? Acrylics for you too. It’s a paint that is incredibly durable and definitely what you should reach for whether you are a traditional-style painter or a little more experimental.
When acrylics hit the market in the 1950s, modern artists took to them with a will. Maybe because they were living in unprecedented times and they wanted an art material that was just as new. And there hasn’t been another groundbreaking paint development since then, making acrylics as cutting edge as you can get.
And because acrylics are water soluble, they are safe to have around children and pets. And clean-up isn’t fraught with environmental issues. It is just soap and water, and you are done.
Liquitex was the first water-based acrylic paint created in 1955 and since then we have partnered with artists to ensure that we continually evolve and innovate – resulting in a long history of acrylic innovation. Today, Liquitex offers the largest array of vibrant acrylic paints, mediums and tools to enable acrylic artists to continually explore their art and take it to new and unprecedented boundaries. With our innovative drive, our creative passion and our intense desire to share the joys of artistic expression through unparalleled education and community outreach programs, Liquitex is and will continue to be a strong partner to help artists explore their art for decades to come.