Acrylics Hints, Tips & Techniques

Posted on: 24 November 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Advice on experimenting with paint plus choosing and caring for brushes.

First used in the 1950s, acrylics are now established as one of the most important innovations for artists in paint technology. The popularity of acrylics with painters can largely be attributed to their versatility. Appreciated for their own merits of colour brilliance, quick drying and use with water, acrylics can also provide good results for both water colour and oil colour techniques.

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Paper is popular with acrylic painters for its texture and drag. Good quality heavy water colour paper can be used, if a traditional surface is preferred. Paper can be primed, using the brushwork for extra texture.

Plaster, brick, terracotta and leather are just some of the exciting surfaces on which acrylic can also be used.

When choosing new colours, an excellent investment is a hand painted colour chart of the range. For a small price, you'll be able to see all the colours in graded washes, helping you to make the right choice before buying new tubes.

New or different colours can really broaden your painting vocabulary. For landscapes, yellows, blues, greens and earth colours are always useful.

Try some texture gels too, rocks and sand work really well with them.

The fast drying and adhesive nature of acrylics make them ideal for building up layers of colour using the added texture of mediums for a unique range of effects. Mediums are available with added natural textures like sand and flint and a range of transparent textures from fine to coarse.

In paintings, landscapes and buildings work particularly well with the added texture. Texture gels and natural texture gels also have infinite craft applications, from stenciling to to model making.

For painters who find acrylics dry too quickly, Acrylics Palettes are available which keep the colours usable for days. This is particularly useful if you are painting every day, as they save you throwing away colour.


Long handled Galeria brushes and Artisan brushes are stiffer to cope with the thicker consistency of the colour and the roughness of the canvas in an ‘oil painting technique'. The different head shapes facilitate different marks. The short flat or Bright is the most popular shape; it provides quick coverage, accurately.

For glazing, and for those using blending or water colour techniques and wherever improved flow is required, soft hair brushes - synthetic or sable - are used. Short handled Galeria brushes are softer for working with diluted colour. Smooth applications of colour are possible without leaving brushmarks.

Brushes will last many years if well cared for and it's recommended that great care should be taken to clean brushes immediately after use. It is important to remember to rinse them throughout every painting session. Do not stand them on their heads in your water bucket, and wash them thoroughly at the end of the day.

After each use:

  • Rinse brush in water.
  • Wash with warm water and household soap, repeating until there is no trace of colour.
  • Shape brush, dry handle and stand handle down in a jar to dry.

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