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Acrylic Painting Techniques to Help Hone Your Skills

Acrylic paints are a favorite among artists; they offer a number of practical benefits – and, of course, help painters create beautiful works of art. Whether you are new to painting or wish to hone your skills in acrylic, several techniques will enable you to maximize the potential of this versatile medium.

The Beauty of Acrylic

First, a look at a few of the advantages artists can gain when working with acrylic paints:

Quick Drying Times. As any artist is aware, oils can take weeks to dry. This can be inconvenient, especially if you are working on a commission and have a deadline to meet. Acrylic, on the other hand, sets very quickly. This also makes it easier to achieve crisp, sharply defined lines.

Reactivation. Slower painters or those who want to leave paint on the palette for any length of time can find acrylics frustrating. That quick dry time becomes a disadvantage. Or does it? Acrylics can be reactivated; they are water-based, and adding a small amount of water to the paint can reawaken it. There are also specialized palettes that help the paint stay wet about .

Versatility. When water is added to acrylic paint, you can achieve an effect that is similar to watercolor.

Ease. Oils require a host of supplies and equipment, from turpentine and linseed oil to ventilation. With acrylic, all you need is water. It is faster and simpler to clean brushes, and you can work in a smaller space without inconvenience.

Affordability. While quality and price varies, acrylic paints tend to be less expensive than other  mediums, such as oil.To optimize the benefits of acrylic paints and realize your vision on canvas, try the following techniques:

Dry Brush. This is the most basic technique – and one that can yield dramatic results. With dry brush, you do just that: apply undiluted paint onto the canvas with a dry brush.This tends to give the acrylic a more oil-like feel in that it imparts more texture, and your lines will be more fluid.

Wash. As mentioned, acrylic can act like a watercolor substitute when you add water. Why not simply use watercolors, then? Remember, acrylic dries quickly and sets permanently, unlike watercolor. You can incorporate washes with other techniques in layers, creating wonderful effects.

Glazing. Adding a matte medium – a transparent liquid that increases the fluidity of your paint – allows you to apply thin layers to the canvas. Unlike washing, using a matte medium will result in richer pigments. (You can also use the matte medium to prepare canvas prior to painting.)

Stippling. Use small dots to give your image texture and depth. Think of autumn leaves; with the stippling technique, you can introduce all of those rich colors without painting each leaf individually.

Dabbing or Blotting. Use a sponge to dab color onto your canvas; you will be able to blend colors beautifully and introduce a feeling of movement and texture.

Palette Knife. Drop the brush. Applying paint with a palette knife is a smart technique to use if you want to achieve a more oil-like appearance. Spread it thick and work it with the back of the knife.

Scrumbling. A fun name for the technique of applying thin or broken layers of paint over each other. A bit of the previous layer will show through for depth and variation.

Impasto. This is when the paint is applied very thickly, giving the canvas rich texture. Adding an impasto medium gives acrylic a more dynamic performance.

Splattering. Just what it sounds like: flick or splatter paint onto the canvas. Abstract paintings can benefit with this technique, but it can also be useful when you are painting something like sand or gravel.

Underpainting. Many artists apply a foundational layer of paint on which to build their image. Doing so adds texture and can help create a mood. For example, a blue under layer can convey a sense of coolness. While it takes some time, proper underpainting can increase the richness of the subsequent layers.

Blending. Creating a gradation can be a difficult task, but it is one that can add intense interest to your paintings. Start by applying white paint and then a line of your chosen color at the bottom. Work quickly, brushing the color back and forth until you achieve a nice gradation. When blending colors, you are working “wet on wet” - that is the undercoat is not yet dry. Again, this is why you must work quickly or keep a water mister or retarding medium close at hand.

Acrylic paints offer artists a thrilling medium that could not be more versatile. Tip: whether you are just beginning to experiment with acrylic or you are a veteran, there are many useful videos available online. They offer tutorials that can be helpful. Even if you are familiar with the techniques, you may find inspiration for your next painting.Acrylic remains one of the most popular paint options today, and for good reason. The best way to discover its value is to pick up a brush and experiment. It is a forgiving medium, and one that can provide exceptional results.