13 Must- Know Acrylic Painting Techniques for Beginners

You've got your acrylic paint, your work surface, and you're really inspired to paint. But how exactly do you do get started? Here's a guide to acrylic painting techniques for beginners that will help you begin your artistic journey. Want more? Check out our other resources for beginning acrylic painters!

Photos via CakeSpy unless otherwise noted

Once you've assembled all of the necessary tools for acrylic painting, you're ready for the fun part: putting paint to paper or canvas. Here, we'll explore some easy key techniques for applying paint, mixing color, and building paintings so that you can paint like a pro in no time.

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Techniques for paint application

The most basic supplies (brush, acrylic paint and paper) can be used in a variety of ways. These are some accessible techniques for applying paint to paper in a variety of styles. 

Dry brush 

When paint is applied to canvas or work surface using a dry brush and paint undiluted by water, you'll create a strong current of color on the page. Your lines will be uneven, as they won't have water to soften the edges, but this can be a purposeful painterly effect. Dry brush application lends texture and movement to lines. 

Washing

You can treat acrylic somewhat like watercolor when you dilute the paint with enough water. You can use the watered down paint to apply translucent washes on your surface. However, unlike watercolor, the acrylic paint will set permanently. Mixing wash and dry brush methods can be very effective in creating a variety of textures in a single piece.

Autumn woods via Craftsy member christine6622173

Stippling 

This is a method used in drawing which can also be used with paint (Georges Seurat's work is a fine and famous example). Creating an assemblage of tiny dots to create imagery can be an effective way to show texture and to create a compelling scene with subtle variations in color. 

Flicking 

Using a fairly wet brush, you can flick paint onto a work surface for an uneven splatter effect. It's fantastic for creating an abstract landscape or a starry night or for just adding texture to a piece. 

Fall tree scape via Craftsy member tricia.415425570

Dabbing 

Using a corner of a sponge or even a piece of paper towel, you can dab on accents of color. Think of it like very artistic sponge painting. Dabbing adds a lot of texture and movement to a piece. For instance, on the painting above, dabbing with a sponge perfectly captured the texture and movement of trees swaying in a light breeze. 

Photo via Craftsy blogger Sara Barnes

Detailing 

A small, fine brush can be used to apply details, such as the whites of eyes or the glisten on the wing of a bird. In our tutorial on how to draw eyes, you'll get a fantastic primer on detail work in acrylic, which can carry over to different subject matters. 

Palette knife

Applying paint with a palette knife is an instant way to make your painting "artsy." It might seem intimidating or advanced, but it's a technique accessible even to beginners. Simply use the palette knife to scrape up a bit of paint and apply it

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to your work surface. Pretend that you're artfully spreading buttercream on a cake or even butter on bread, and you'll get the idea pretty quickly. 

Techniques for building a painting 

One of the great things about these techniques for building a painting is that they will grow as your skills develop. Mastering these basic techniques is like laying a groundwork for your future painting. These techniques can become more involved complex as you advance. 

Underpainting via Craftsy instructor Micah Ganske

Underpainting

Start your painting by creating a "sketch" of the image in paint. Often this is done in a color that contrasts with the palette you have in mind for the finished piece. You can paint over the underpainting entirely using opaque acrylic to cover any evidence of the paint below, or you can let parts of it shine through for a dimensional effect.

Photo via Craftsy blogger Sara Barnes

Glazing

By incorporating matte medium into your paint, you can create luminous scenes. The technique, which is detailed in this tutorial, is simple: Mix acrylic paint with a small amount of matte medium and apply the paint in thin layers, building the color until it creates a rich, complex color. 

Photo via Craftsy blogger Sara Barnes

Layering

Layering, which can be combined with either of the two above methods, is simply to paint in layers. This means that you'll build the painting from the bottom up. You'll start by painting big blocks of color, often as washes, and then adding more and more refinement as you add layers. The technique is detailed in this post about how to paint a self portrait, but the method could be applied to paint other subject matter.

Flower painting via Craftsy member tricia.415425570

Paint in blocks of color

This is a fantastic method for beginners. Trace your image, separating each color or tone into separate shapes. Create a palette, and then paint in the shapes as if it were your own DIY paint by numbers piece. This is an easy method with monochromatic palettes or can be employed with a variety of colors, too. 

Color mixing techniques

Mixing acrylic colors is fairly simple: Combine colors and mix using a palette knife. But once you've mastered color mixing, you can explore some more creative methods. Here are just two: 

Partially mix colors before painting

Instead of fully mixing the two colors, just give them a brief mix with your palette knife. Then, use the partially mixed colors to paint. You'll get a fascinating mingling of colors as you apply the paint to your work surface. 

Create a family of colors

Creating a family of colors or tones to work with in a painting can help you create subtle variances in your painting. Whether it's slight varieties of skin tones or varying shades of pink, having a family of tones pre-mixed before you paint can really help streamline the process. 

Then, get creative

While there are a few tried-and-true techniques all beginners should try out, don't limit yourself to the basics! Mix and match these methods and techniques, exploring the ways of painting that feel right to you. As you develop your skills, you'll notice that your techniques will become refined into your own unique method of creating art. 

Learn more acrylic skills, for free!

Painting Flowers

In this free online video course, learn how to paint a stunning floral still life using easy acrylic painting techniques. Enroll FREE Now »


Category: Abstract

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