Best Acrylic Painting Tips for Beginners + Mistakes to Avoid

Are you in search of simple acrylic painting ideas to ignite your creativity? Or maybe you're seeking step-by-step acrylic painting tutorials to hone your skills in this versatile medium? Whether you're new to the art world or you've experimented with other mediums, acrylic painting offers a world of exciting possibilities. With its vividly beautiful colors and the diverse textures you can create, it's no wonder why this beginner-friendly paint is so loved! 

A beautiful acrylic painting of mountains

Today, we'll delve into a myriad of acrylic painting tips and techniques, catering to both beginners and those seeking advanced methods to experiment with. And that's not all - we'll also address some common acrylic painting mistakes and how to avoid them. By the time you've reached the end of this article, you'll be well-equipped to take on your acrylic masterpieces like a pro, so grab your paints and brushes, for an exciting artistic journey awaits!

What Makes Acrylic Paint So Special?

Acrylic paint, with its remarkable versatility and vibrant allure, has remained a favored medium, particularly among beginners. Artists have embraced acrylics for their unique properties that set them apart from other paint mediums like oil, watercolor, and gouache. 

From its fast drying time to the long-lasting vibrancy that acrylic colors have, there are many benefits to using this medium. However, one of its main features is how acrylic combines the best features of different paints into one medium:

  • The water-based solubility of watercolors
  • The concentrated colors of gouache
  • The texture buildability of oil paint

Unlike oil paints that use solvents as thinners and mixers, you can use water for acrylic paints. You can make them more transparent, like watercolor washes, or create textures by using less water. In the realm of painting, there are also less rigid rules for acrylic painting, so it's really a suitable medium to master if you want to pursue painting for the first time.

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Common Acrylic Painting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

An image of acrylic paint over thin paper

Have you ever asked yourself, "What not to do when painting with acrylic?"? Acrylic painting is more lax about painting guidelines, but there are still recommendations set in place to help you master this medium and its properties.

Lucky for you, we've already gone through the hurdles of being a beginner - so here's a list of the acrylic painting mistakes we made and how you can avoid them! By being aware of these common mistakes, you can sidestep frustration and enhance your artistic journey with acrylics faster.

Over Blending Your Colors

Blending colors excessively can result in a muddy appearance and loss of vibrancy. You can avoid this by using deliberate brushstrokes and being more mindful of your layers when you blend. When you don't want two colors to mix, allow layers to dry partially before adding more paint to maintain clarity.

Using Too Much Paint 

Like oil, acrylic paint can crack with rushed painting techniques. Although oil is more prone to cracking, uneven drying and application of acrylic paint can also lead to cracking over time. You can avoid this by thinning your paint with water or a medium and gradually building up layers. This promotes flexibility and prevents cracking.

A close-up shot of acrylic paint on a canvas showing the layers

Ignoring Brush Care

Failing to clean brushes properly can result in dry, hardened bristles and negatively impact your painting. Always remember to clean your brushes immediately after painting using water and mild soap. Reshape the bristles and store brushes in a dust-free container to maintain their shape.

Using Poor-Quality Materials

As a beginner, you might be hesitant to buy expensive art supplies. However, there are a lot of affordable, high-quality art brands (e.g., Artistry by Altenew) that will allow you to make more striking and professional results. It can be tempting to use inexpensive materials, but

using low-quality paints, brushes, or surfaces can hinder your painting's quality and longevity! Even as a beginner, your skills are worth investing in - invest in artist-grade acrylic paints, quality brushes, and appropriate surfaces. Quality materials will make a noticeable difference in your final artwork and will lend you a more frustration-free experience!

Fear of Making Mistakes

This is the biggest mistake you can make: being afraid to make mistakes! Being overly cautious can stifle your creativity and prevent you from exploring new techniques. Acrylic painting is a learning process! Embrace mistakes as learning opportunities, and don't hesitate to experiment and take risks. Keep in mind that many great artistic discoveries arise from unintended outcomes.

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Acrylic Painting Techniques for Beginners

Learn the best acrylic painting tips for beginners here at Artistry by Altenew!Embarking on your acrylic painting journey can be both exciting and intimidating, and that's why we're here to teach you these five essential techniques! As a beginner in acrylic painting, mastering these basic techniques is critical to building a strong foundation for all your artistic endeavors. So, if you want to succeed in the art of acrylics, master the following techniques:

Color Blending and Mixing

Out of the five techniques in this list, color blending and mixing are the most critical techniques in acrylic painting that you need to learn. These two techniques allow you to create an extensive range of captivating colors and seamless transitions, even with a limited color palette! 

Color mixing involves physically combining two or more pigments to create entirely new colors. This is a skill that you have to build in art, no matter what medium you use. Understanding color theory is the key to color mixing. The primary colors – red, blue, and yellow – are the foundation. Combining primary colors in varying proportions can produce secondary colors like green, orange, and purple. Further mixing these secondary colors results in a spectrum of tertiary colors. As a beginner, you can use a color wheel to visualize these color relationships easier. 

On the other hand, blending refers to gradually merging two or more colors to create a smooth and gradual shift from one hue to another. It's a skill that lends depth and dimension to artworks, making them visually engaging and realistic. In acrylic painting, blending can be achieved by layering translucent washes of color, gently merging edges, and using techniques like wet-on-wet application.

Layering Technique

The layering technique refers to applying multiple thin coats of paint on top of each other to create depth, dimension, and complexity in your artwork. It's a fundamental method that allows you to achieve various visual effects, from blending and color mixing to creating intricate details and highlights. 

In acrylic painting, you can build new colors and create transparency, depth, and gradations easily with layering. There's also the plus that correcting mistakes in acrylic painting is also easier since acrylics offer you an opaque cover-up! 

Similar to the tip we gave above, when using layering techniques, you need to let each layer dry before applying the next. If you apply wet paint over a wet layer, the colors may blend in ways you didn't intend. However, you may also use this to your advantage as you can apply wet paint over wet for easy color mixing! 

Pouring and Dripping Technique

Are you looking for a fun, dynamic, and somewhat advanced technique to try with acrylic painting? Why not try acrylic pour painting? When you do the pouring technique, you mix acrylic paint with a pouring medium to achieve a more fluid consistency.

This mixture is then poured onto the canvas, often in multiple layers or from different directions, speeds, and heights. As you tilt the canvas, the paint flows and interacts, blending and creating unique patterns. This technique will give you intricate color interactions, captivating marbled effects, and ethereal transitions between hues.

On the other hand, dripping involves allowing diluted acrylic paint to drip or flow down the canvas. You can use various tools like brushes, palette knives, or even their fingers to direct the paint's flow. Dripping creates a sense of movement and immediacy as the paint leaves its mark spontaneously and unrestrainedly. Artists like Jackson Pollock famously employed this technique to infuse their artworks with raw and emotional energy.

Both these techniques embrace the fluid nature of acrylic paint, making abstract compositions that are not only beautiful to look at but also exciting to create! 

Dab Painting Technique

In simple terms, dabbing entails picking up paint with your brush and dabbing repeatedly on the canvas. It can be achieved by tapping your surface with controlled strokes, allowing individual marks to build up and form a cohesive image. With the beautiful voluminous texture of acrylic paints,  artists often use this technique to capture intricate details or to evoke a sense of tactile realism. 

This technique's beauty lies in its ability to produce a textured appearance resembling various surfaces, such as the softness of clouds, the roughness of tree bark, or the intricacy of foliage. By varying the pressure and density of the dabbing, you can slowly but surely create stunning compositions made with just individual dabbing strokes.

Three acrylic painting artwork hung on a wall

Dry Brushing Technique

Similar to the dabbing technique, dry brushing is another method used in acrylic painting to create texture, emphasize details, and evoke a sense of depth. This technique involves applying a small amount of paint onto a relatively dry brush, almost devoid of moisture or water, and then gently sweeping it across the surface of the canvas. The goal is to allow the paint to catch on the raised portions of the canvas, resulting in a subtle, textured effect that adds dimension to the artwork.

Dry brushing is particularly effective in portraying textures like fur, foliage, weathered surfaces, and even certain fabric textures, allowing the viewer to experience a tactile quality in the artwork. To execute this technique, dip the tips of your brush into the paint and then dab off most of the paint onto a paper towel or palette. This leaves only a trace of pigment on the bristles. With a light touch, gently drag the brush over the textured areas of your canvas. 

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Other Tips for Creating Your Acrylic Projects

  • Experiment with various tools besides brushes to create intriguing textures. Consider using sponges, palette knives, credit cards, and even crumpled paper to apply paint! 
  • Apply masking fluid or tape to areas you want to keep white or protect from subsequent layers of paint. 
  • Combine acrylic painting with collage to add a multi-dimensional aspect to your artwork. Incorporate pieces of newspaper, fabric, or other materials into your painting to create cool mixed-media art!
  • Don't be afraid of drips, splatters, or unexpected outcomes. Incorporate these "mistakes" into your painting, as they can often add a unique and spontaneous energy to your work.

Remember, these tips are designed to spark your creativity and encourage experimentation. Acrylic painting is about expressing yourself, so feel free to adapt and modify these techniques to suit your artistic vision! If you want more inspiration on other painting techniques and mediums, check out our other articles on the ABCs of Art page!