This Acrylic Painting guide will give you new painting ideas and help you get the most from using acrylic paints. Whether you are a beginner or more experienced artist I am sure you will find some useful hints and tips to help you create better art.
It is also a great way to get kids interested, so why not have some fun and let the childrens imagination run wild for a while. A few good painting ideas can keep them occupied for hours.
The Ultimate Guide To Using Acrylic Paints
Anyone can use acrylic paints. They are great fun, cheap, fast drying and easy to use. They make painting really easy. The opaque nature of most of the colours means you can quickly paint over any “mistakes”. The ability to cover dark colours with light is really useful and makes them incredibly flexible.
They are a great way of getting painting ideas down quickly.
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Paint On Anything You Want To
One of the wonderful things about acrylic paint is that you really can paint on anything. From canvas and paper to wood, ceramic, stone, metal or even plastic, acrylic paint will stick to pretty much anything.
If you use an absorbent paper, it is a good idea to stretch the paper first. You never know if you will need to wet an area of the painting more. This can lead to the paper becoming rippled permanently with no solution possibly ruining a good painting idea.
When you paint on something with a very smooth surface, if you are painting the whole surface, roughing the surface up a little with some abrasive paper will give the paint better sticking power.
The Colour Of The Material You Paint On Makes No Difference
The colour of the background material makes little difference with acrylic paint too. Because the paint colour is opaque the colour of the material you paint on becomes much more of a decision based on personal taste or availability. This means it can be easier to complete the painting ideas you have.
Both U.V. and weather resistant as well as hardwearing, acrylic paint can be used indoors or out. You can experiment by decorating literally any item you want. You should try painting some plant pots or make a “nameplate” or “number board” for your home.
Brighten Up The World
Use your imagination to brighten up the world. I have seen amazing painting ideas used to decorate rubbish bins and incredible murals used to create a very specific atmosphere in pubs, clubs and even high class restaurants.
Paint From Dark To Light
One of the great things about acrylic paint is the opaque nature of most of the colours, there are ways to make it appear more translucent, but the ability to cover dark colours with light, all within a short drying time, makes them incredibly flexible. It isn’t a fixed rule, but it will make certain painting ideas much easier if you paint from dark to light.
You can paint initially using fairly flat colour and then introduce the lights and darks. They will help breath shape and depth into each element within the picture as you can see below.
Framing The Picture Well
Whatever the painting, you want to frame the image well. A great painting idea can be ruined if it is framed badly. In a landscape painting you can use the shape of the landscape or you might have some foreground trees that will help you do just that.
However you do it, what you want to achieve is to guide the eyes of the viewer into the painting. Take them on a journey into the finer details of the picture while anchoring their focus on the picture as a whole.
Draw A Grid To Help You
Something that might help is to draw a grid over the painting area. Draw 2 lines equal distances apart, vertically and horizontally, to form grid 3 squares by three. You should place your main focus of your painting idea on one of the 4 points where the lines cross, not directly in the middle.
With landscape painting, if the sky is a main point of interest, put your main focus in one of the lower 2 grid points. This will give you more canvas to dedicate to the sky. If the main idea is in the foreground, use one of the 2 higher focus points so you have more canvas space for your idea in the foreground.
Wherever your horizon line sits within the picture, you can use it to emphasise the distance. It may be that the horizon helps you frame the picture, if not, try to use something in the foreground to guide people in and take their eyes on the journey you want them to take.
Mix Colours On Your Palette
Iridescent colour is a characteristic of acrylic paint, and bold striking painting idea can be remarkably easy to create. You will need to get used to mixing paints quickly, and tonal shading has to be approached differently.
Mix the base colour you want as the colour there is most of or in the middle of the tonal range you will be using. You can then darken or lighten areas using one of the techniques explained here. This will help you create a 3-dimensional feel in the painting.
You can rely on wonderful striking colour from acrylic paints and they are a joy to use. Just keep practicing. You can use any scrap paper or wood to get a painting idea down quickly, and because acrylic dries so fast you can simply paint over the ones you don’t like and start again.
I always have a blob of white and a blob of black on my palette and so I can quickly add in a little to the edge of the base colour to change the tones.
I do try to leave space between colours on my palette so I can cross mix them easily and quickly. If the bulk of my painting is an earthy green I will have an earthy yellow like “yellow ochre” and a deep blue like “Ultramarine blue” close by, so I can mix a little more or less into the green as required.
You can add a little water to extend the drying time but this will affect the texture too. Sometimes it is better to wait and then add washes or try dry-brushing after the first layers of paint have dried.
Paint As Fast As You Can
The ability to work fast with these paints can also help people grow in confidence more quickly. I find the knowledge that you can simply paint over any ‘mistakes’ helps people worry less. Working fast and not thinking too much about the process can lead to some outlandish painting ideas and wonderful results.
The colours can be blended into each other if you work fast. This will help you to achieve graduation of colours and tones. Run the colours into each other without over-working them. That way there will be a variety of tones visible within each area of blended colours. It gives extra texture to the ideas you paint.
Have All Your Equipment Ready
Have all your colours and brushes ready, keep a dry cloth to wipe your brushes and preferably 2 containers of water close by, one for cleaning brushes and one for mixing colours. Start with the darker colours first and brush them in all over the painting. Then quickly wipe your brush and work in the adjacent colours.
You can use one container of water to wash the brushes when needed, but keep the other for clean water. The clean water can be used to mix any colours or washes you need.
Always remember tones and colours can both be changed after the first layers of paint have dried if needed. That is the beauty of acrylic paint.
2 Ways Of Over Painting
There are two ways of “Over painting” I want to talk about. One is a solution and is literally, painting over a dried area of paint to cover it up. The other is negative and an easy trap to fall into because the paint dries so quickly.
Acrylic paint does dry fast, even when applied quite thickly. This means it is easy to cover up areas if needed. When you start, just experiment, have a play, and don’t worry about ‘mistakes’. If worst comes to the worst, you can simply paint over everything on your painting idea in any neutral colour, and start again after it has dried.
You should however be aware of something. Striving for perfection is admirable, but no painting idea will ever come out perfect. What you are creating is not a photograph, it isn’t meant to be a perfect representation.
Use Bold Confident Brush Strokes
Using bold confident brush strokes can help you create shape but it also shows the confidence of the artist. Overworking an area will flatten any brush marks. This can work in certain areas of some paintings, but in general it flattens the way people will see the overall painting. I try to avoid it when possible. Using the ripples of the paint makes for a much more interesting and “painterly” result.
You should be careful not to overwork any painting ideas. Just concentrate on getting all the colours on as quickly as possible. There are many painting ideas I have had where I wished I had Stopped sooner when actually painting.
Gradually work from dark to light, wiping the brush thoroughly each time. Then, when all the colours are roughly applied, take a clean dry brush and lightly work the edges together to create the gradients of colour and tone. You should always wipe your brush regularly to make sure everything doesn’t end up muddy brown.
Creating Depth In Your Painting Ideas
Because the Acrylic paint dries so quickly it is easy to apply one layer, wait for it to dry, then add a little more that is watered down, covering slightly different areas or overlaying certain sections of the picture. By doing this, the background colour shows through, but the definition of the overlaid images remains intact creating a perception of depth in your painting ideas.
Objects that are in the foreground will have more extremes of light and dark. Objects in the background will be more indistinct so black to white in the foreground becomes light grey to darker grey in the background. Using those tonal differences will help you create the perception of distance within any painting ideas you have.
How To Use Colour Temperature
Colour temperature can also help. You should use warm colours to bring objects closer and cooler colours to move things into the distance.
You can also use Colour intensity. Use bright colours in the foreground and dull colours will immediately make something look further away.
Perspective is the most important thing to understand. The size of an object within the picture has the most immediate effect on your perception of its position. You will hear people talk about the “S-curve”, this is the effect perspective has on the meanders of a river moving into the distance. As the river moves forward in the picture the loops appear bigger.
You can use diagonals to practice by simply drawing 2 lines that connect at one end, where a river starts in the distance, then spread apart slightly until they reach the foreground. As you draw in the meanders take them close to each of the 2 lines on each side. You will see as the loops get bigger they appear closer and begin to dominate the foreground.
By overlapping and layering shapes you can make it really obvious where an object sits within the picture.
You should use more detail and texture in the foreground. As objects move into the distance the detail just isn’t seen, so painting detail in the distance isn’t a representation of how we see things and can confuse the people looking at your painting.
Creating Shape In A Painting Idea
You can create shape easily in any painting idea just by loading your brushes heavily and using bold confident brush strokes. The paint should be thick enough to retain the texture of the brush strokes. You can then enhance these shapes by dry brushing or using washes if needed. You should also use the dark and light of the image to enhance the shapes you create.
Another option is to part mix the colour on the brush by dipping it into 2 different colours. Use one colour one side and another colour on the other side, then paint so the brush partly mixes the paint but leaves streaks of the 2 original colours within the brush stroke. This makes the brush stroke itself more visible.
Light will help you separate the different faces of any object in your paintings. You can use this on every object as described below. Whether the object you are painting has curved faces, or a sharp angled corner, the light falling on it will help you depict its overall shape.
Using Washes To Add Translucent Colour In Your Paintings
Layering thin washes of colour is a great ways to create depth and texture. It also helps add more natural tonal variations in your painting ideas. You can mix the colours down with a lot of water and apply multiple layers over any initial colours to allow you to create subtlety as well as boldness from these paints.
You should try leaving each layer to partly dry so some parts mix more than others, very few things have a perfectly flat colour. Painting grass or fur i use an old brush, splay the bristles and sometimes even cut sections out so that it appears like miltiple smaller brush heads.
Mistakes Don’t Matter
With the darkest colour watered down i paint a fairly heavy layer of darker small brush strokes from back to front. Then, i put a lighter wash on and just before the first layer is completely dry, I brush a lighter layer in a similar direction. You can repeat this as many times as you need to to give texture and tone to any painting ideas that need it.
You can overlay these thin washes on a dry background to achieve an amazing level of translucense, allowing the background colour to show through wherever you need it to.
If you are using a lot of washes and on absorbent paper it is a good idea to stretch the paper first and stick it down. Otherwise the paper can become rippled permanently ruining your painting.
Painting The Details
You can use pencil lines to draw guide-lines very easily with acrylic paint. The paint will simply cover the pencil lines. You can draw as much detail as you want. If it helps you, include it. As you become more confident you will probably draw less, but we all work differently. Part of the joy of painting is to see a less experienced painter doing something differently and realising it is a good idea that you can use too.
With acrylics paints, two colours can be painted next to each other to create a solid bold line with very little bleed of colour from one side to the other, it is only when you begin to brush across the joining line that the colours will start to mix. This makes painting detail really easy.
Allowing one colour to dry before adding the adjacent colours will stop any mixing completely and watering down the paint slightly will allow the paint to flow off a small brush much more easily to create really fine detail work.
Using this detail you can emphasise the objects in the foreground, as described above, to create real depth within your painting ideas.
Use Light To Add Depth To Your Painting Ideas
Careful use of shadows and highlights really does bring a painting to life. You can use it to emphasise the depth of any painting. You will need to practice, but it won’t take long before you can create the perception of depth with ease.
It also helps creating shape, because as the light falls on an object, the shape of that object will affect how the light hits it as I have described above.
Be consistent throughout the painting. Having one dominant light source makes it easy. You could make a small cut out of a sun and stick it to the place the light is coming from on your painting idea. Then, as you work through the images in the painting. You can contour each one, introducing light and dark relative to its position in relation to the light source.
If your light source is on the right of the picture, the right side of all the objects in that picture will appear lighter than the rest. If the light source is above, then the top of each object will be highlighted. Also, the closer an object is to the light source, the more it will be affected by the light. The effect of the light will diminish in the distance. This is particularly important in landscape paintings, where vast horizons are sometimes required.
Dry Brushing Can Give You Fantastic Results
This is a simple technique that is a great way to create depth and texture in your painting ideas. It will also help you create natural tonal variations. By dry-brushing lighter colours onto the part of an object in your painting facing the light source, you can begin to capture the shape of the objects. You should also introduce dark or shadow where appropriate to enhance this. It helps to create more defined depth within the painting ideas you have.
For dry-brushing often the perfect tool is one of your older brushes with splayed bristles. Don’t be embarrassed, we all have them. I often crush the ferrule a little to splay them even more.
You should load the brush with paint and then scrape off as much paint as you can. You can use the edge of your pallet, any sharp edge or you can use a scrap piece of paper or wood and just keep brushing until only a small amount of paint is left on the brush.
When you are happy, you can lightly dab the brush or make short light strokes to introduce the lighter or darker tones. Always work lightly. A bristle brush can make this easier, but I do use old splayed brushes most often for this job.
Keep Your Brushes Clean At All Times
You can simply clean brushes in water with acrylic paints. This makes life really easy. Do remember to work soap up into the shoulder of the bristles. If you let the paint up there dry it can be hard to remove. Cleaning your brushes thoroughly straight after use will save you time and money.
If you are working on a large painting or using several brushes it is a good idea to keep the brushes wet and wipe off any excess water when you start using that brush again. You don’t want to have to buy replacements just because the bristles start to splay out.
How To Transform Old Brushes
You can transform old brushes into useful tools too. If you notice a brush starting to splay out and it refuses to clean, crushing the ferrule in one direction will flatten it, splaying the bristles into a fan shape. So there is no need to buy specialist fan brushes. You can also cut sections of the bristles away to create “comb” brushes. I also use big old splayed round brushes to blend large areas of colour. It gets easier as the bristles get older with age and use.
You will develop different techniques to achieve what you want in your painting ideas. Dry-brushing and layering thin washes are great ways to create depth and texture as well as tonal variations, and you will find many other ways to help express yourself with this wonderful medium.
Remember, enjoy the painting, don’t get too hung up on if it’s everything you wanted. You can add detail, shadow, tone, texture, or simply paint over the whole thing and start again if you really need to.
As your confidence grows this will show up in your brushwork. It will help you grow and develope more as an artist, all in a remarkably short time. Acrylic paints are a great addition to any artists tool box. They are hardwearing, UV stable, and easy to work with, so why not try them?
Go on, see what you can create, and let us see the results too. You never know, we may use them (with your permission) to help illustrate this or other blog posts in the future.
Enjoy Each Step
Always remember to enjoy your painting. If you are finding a particular stage difficult, don’t struggle. Sometimes the best way to finish a painting can be to stop and take a break.
It is often better to step away than to struggle on when you are finding something difficult.
Don’t forget to check out all our other posts for more hints and tips to help you draw more easily. (https://brightercraft.com/?s=draw). From cars to flowers and tigers to moons. There really is something for everyone.
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