Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Acrylic Painting

Are you captivated by the beauty of acrylic painting?

Then don’t worry, because you are definitely not alone.

However, looking at acrylic paintings and making them yourself are two completely different things.

We have written this guide about acrylic painting for beginners to teach you all you need to know to get started.

Finding the Best Acrylic Paint

The first step to learn acrylic painting is to buy your art supplies from one of the best acrylic paint brands out there.

Acrylic paint was first made in 1934 by a company called BASF. But since then many other producers of acrylic paint have joined the market.

For beginners, it can be a daunting task to find high-quality acrylic paint without having to pay a huge price.

best acrylic paint


Criteria to Keep in Mind when Buying Acrylic Paint

With all of those different brands out there, it might be difficult to discover the best quality acrylic paint for you. When buying acrylic paint, keep the following points in mind.

  • Quality: acrylic paint owes its vivid colors to the pigment it contains. The more pigment in the paint, the more lively your colors will look. Depending on the amount of pigment, acrylic paint can be classified as student quality or artist quality. Since the artist quality has a higher degree of pigment, it will look more vibrant, has a better consistency and will give better coverage. However, student quality might be the best acrylic paint for beginners, since it comes at a lower price.
  • Viscosity: the viscosity of acrylic paints can vary across different brands. Some are thin like water, while others are almost as thick as a paste. Nowadays heavy body acrylics have gained a lot of popularity since they are easier to mix and blend together.
  • Lightfastness: the lightfastness (also known as permanence) is an indicator of how well the paint can withstand exposure to light. Most paints will contain an ASTM label that indicates their lightfastness. Acrylic paints with a bad ASTM rating will slowly change color and start to fade over time.
  • Drying Time: compared to other types of paint, acrylic paint dries pretty fast. This might work well for experts or impatient people that like to work as fast as possible. But this is why it can be difficult to do acrylic painting for beginners. If you like some more time, you can consider buying interactive or open acrylics. These paints contain a retarding medium which makes the acrylic paint dry slower.
  • Color Palette: you don’t want to waste money on buying every single color of acrylic paint. Theoretically, the best acrylic paint set contains exactly the colors you need. If you do landscape art this will be a lot of green and brown colors, while portrait artists will need more pinks. Additionally, mixing the colors you already have to obtain new colors will get you further than you might think.

Our Recommended Acrylic Paint Set for Beginners

If you are just starting out with acrylic painting, we recommend buying the acrylic paint tube set by Liquitex. This paint is developed to suit both students and beginning artists.

Depending on your budget, you can buy a set that contains only 5 different colors or all the way up to 48 different colors. The paint has a thick and creamy consistency and dries to a satin finish. Since the colors are intermixable, these tubes are ideal to practice color mixing and color theory.

Also, read our other article for more details on finding the best acrylic paint for you.

Best Acrylic Paint Brushes for Beginners

Having the paint is only the first step. Next, you will need some decent acrylic paint brushes.

You are only as good as your tools after all.

The basic art brush consists out of a bristle (the hairs), a handle (the wooden part you hold) and a metal part that is connected to the hairs on one side (ferrule) and the handle on the other side (the crimp).

To find the best acrylic paint brushes all four of these components need to be perfect.

Criteria for Good Acrylic Paint Brushes

To find the best acrylic paint brushes for beginners you will inevitably need to make a trade-off between price and quality. This might be different for everyone. If you have difficulty choosing which paint brush to buy for acrylic painting, keep the following things in mind.Best Acrylic Paint Brushes For Beginners

  • Brush Hairs: the hair on a paintbrush can come from many different animals or synthetic fibers. Depending on the medium used, one type of hair might be better than another. Many of the best acrylic paint brush brands use synthetic hairs made out of Taklon nowadays. These hairs are relatively stiff and don’t react with the chemicals in the paint.
  • Brush Shape: brushes come in many different shapes. The most common brushes are the round brush and the flat brush. But there are many others like the fan brush, the spotter brush, etc. Owning a few round and flat brushes is a good start for any beginner. Over time you can add more specialized brushes as you see fit.
  • Brush Size: art brushes not only come in different shapes, but also in different sizes. Obviously, smaller brushes work better for filling in detail and small areas. Bigger brushes can be used to paint large surfaces evenly. Keep in mind that sizes can differ across acrylic paint brushes from different brands. So a size 2 brush from brand A might be different from a size 2 brush from brand B.

Our recommended Acrylic Paint Brush Set for Beginners

To learn the most common painting techniques, you will need to have a few round and flat brushes in varying sizes. The Mont Marte 15 piece art paint brush set has exactly that. This paint brush set is relatively cheap but still comes with 15 brushes. Although they are not specialized acrylic paint brushes, they will still give good performance for the money.

The set contains the round brush in 5 different sizes and 2 differently sized flat brushes. When you get the hang of the round and flat brush, you can try to experiment with the specialized brushes that come with the set, such as the filbert, fan and rigger brush.

The hairs are made from synthetic Taklon fibers and the handle is fairly long to facilitate acrylic painting with an easel.

Want to learn more? Read this article on our other recommended brushes for acrylic painting.

Best Canvas for Acrylic Painting

Acrylic paint is pretty versatile. You can apply it to many different surfaces such as paper, plastic, wood and even some types of metals.

The most conventional choice amongst serious artists is to use canvas. We have all used regular printer paper with acrylics when we were younger. Some of us are even still using paper.

However, for to obtain the best results you want to use linen or cotton canvases. These are ideal for painting with acrylics on canvas for beginners.

Criteria for Finding a Good Acrylic Paint Canvas

To a beginner, most canvasses may look exactly the same. But there are a few very crucial differences amongst canvasses that you might not see on the surface. Before buying a canvas for acrylic painting, consider the following points.

  • Texture: some canvasses have a rough surface, while others are smooth. If you are using a canvas with a rough texture, you might be able to see the texture through the paint. A fine texture will be nearly invisible after painting.Best Canvas For Acrylic Painting
  • Primed or Unprimed: a primed canvas contains one or several layers of gesso. This smooths out the surface texture and prevents ink from sinking into the canvas unevenly. Fortunately, most canvasses are already primed when you buy them nowadays.
  • Stretched or Unstretched: we normally imagine a wooden frame holding a piece of fabric when we think of canvas. This is called a stretched canvas. Canvas can also be sold unstretched. This means you will receive a big roll of fabric that you have to stretch yourself. For beginners, buying stretched canvas is ideal. You don’t have to waste time or learn how to stretch a canvas. However, unstretched canvas can give a little more flexibility since you can stretch it to any size or shape. Whereas stretched canvas normally only comes as rectangles in set sizes.

Our Recommended Canvas for Beginners

We normally recommend people to buy a stretched canvas that is already primed. This saves a ton of time and effort. Afterall, you would rather be painting, right?

Additionally, buying a set of canvasses is a true money saver, rather than buying them one by one for each project. So a small investment upfront can actually save you money.

If you buy canvas panels from Artlicious, you can choose between different sizes. The smallest one is 4 x 4 inch while the biggest one is 16 x 20 inch. You can even choose to buy the combo set, which will give you 2 panels for each of the 6 different sizes they offer.

All of the canvas panels are made from 100% cotton, primed and stretched for you. Besides acrylic painting, you can also use these panels with oil paint or tempera.

Click here to read our guide on the best canvas for acrylic painting.