Acrylic Painting Techniques for the complete beginner….
The most daunting thing about beginning a painting is probably the blank canvas. There are many acrylic painting techniques available, and trying them out is not only fun, but also allows you to develop your own style and technique. Acrylic paint is a very versatile medium, and suitable for bringing to and from an art class. By the time you have tidied up after a class, brushes washed and paints packed away, your painting will be ready to pack away to take home.
Getting rid of that white canvas is always a good start. An under-painting of a neutral colour can be your first call to action. Once that is done, it is so much easier to get started. Artists will most likely use different acrylic painting techniques depending on their desired end result, and over time expect to develop your own too.
There are also many mediums which can be used along with acrylic paint to either improve their flow or consistency. These will be covered further on.
Getting Started with Acrylic Painting
The following acrylic painting techniques for the complete beginner are just the tip of the iceberg. Here is the getting started advice….. Acrylics are water based so you will need a water jar, some paper towels (old t-shirts are great!) and a palette for mixing your paint. Disposable throwaway palettes are great for this as acrylic dries to a hard plastic when left exposed to light and air and can be difficult to clean off a plastic palette. Do not use a wooden palette as the paint seeps into the cracks of the wood and is difficult to remove.
Choosing what to paint is always a challenge. It can be a good idea when starting out to choose some images of a favourite painting or photographs as your reference. Later you can become more original! Having chosen the inspiration for your painting, choosing your colour palette is next. Try to leave enough area on your palette for mixing your colours. It is tempting to squeeze out a large quantity in the beginning, but it is best to start small until the desired mix has been achieved.
The advantage of acrylic is that it dries quickly, the disadvantage of acrylic is…..it dries quickly!
Acrylic paint dries quickly so needs to either be used up straight away or stored correctly for use again. If you wish to keep left over paint, a special box can be purchased or, you can do like I do…..keep a Ferrero Rocher chocolate box! Line it with damp kitchen paper, place a sheet of disposable palette paper on top, lightly spray your paints before you cover them then store away from heat and direct sunlight. Your paints will keep from week to week. If the paint on your palette looks like it’s trying to dry up on you, mist it with some water from a spray bottle, or sprinkle some water on it with your fingers.
If you can get into the habit of putting the colours in a particular order (like the rainbow, perhaps) and sticking with that same order every time you paint. That way, you’ll get used to where the colours are because they’re always in the same places, and you’ll paint more efficiently.
Now, grab a brush, dip it in one of the paints, and start painting! You can use the colours as they are, water them down a little by dipping the brush in the water and then mixing the water into the paint, or you can mix new colours on your palette. Colour mixing is for another day!
What to paint on and what to add to your paint.
Another advantage of acrylic is that most supports are suitable to paint on, from paper to board, canvas to metal and even walls. Boards may need to be sanded and primed with gesso to produce a smooth surface to paint on. Alternatively, by using different mediums mixed with the paints, a more texture finish can be achieved. There are different mediums available; Gloss medium which makes the paint more fluid and transparent; Matt medium gives a flat matt finish to your painting; Gel medium thickens the paint, creates textured brush strokes and great for impasto effects; Textured paste is very effective to use with a palette knife. It can be sanded, mixed with paint, used with collage or can be used for embedding objects or imprinting onto, and when dried painted over again!
Keep your brushes wet! The best way to ruin a brush is to let acrylic paint dry on it. Dried acrylic paint is plastic, hard and permanent. Don’t let that happen to your brushes! All you need to do is thoroughly rinse each brush in your water jar every time you finish using it during a painting session. When I say thoroughly, I mean so thoroughly that you can’t see any paint on the brush after you’re done rinsing it. Lay the rinsed brushes down, still wet, in a special place while you’re still painting. You might be tempted to just stand them bristle-end down in the water jar, but I don’t recommend doing that for more than a couple minutes, because it’ll eventually bend the bristles over. Just lay the brushes down wet (and make sure they stay wet) while you’re still painting. You then wash them in soap and water when you finish painting for the day.
Wash your brushes. When you’re finished for the day, take all the brushes you’ve used that day and wash each one with soap and water. Here’s the method I use: swish the brush in circles against the bar of soap, like you’re painting on the soap. You will see a little colour in the lather, which means that there’s still paint in the brush. Get a lot of soap worked into the bristles, then rinse the brush out by painting circles on the palm of your hand under running water. Repeat this soaping and rinsing at least 3 times for each brush to get them really clean. You’ll know they’re clean when no more colour shows on the soap. You can shake the excess water off the brush, or gently press it off using a paper towel. Make sure the brush is in the correct shape when you put it away. Round brushes should “re-point” themselves when you flick the water off them, but you’ll probably need to use your fingers to get the flat brushes to lie flat. Store your clean brushes bristle end up in an empty jar. If you do this your brushes will last longer.