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10 Acrylic Painting Skills And Techniques Used By Artists

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Published on: 02 Dec 2020

Get ready with your paint palettes, we are about to go artistic with acrylic painting!
Developed only recently in the 1940s, this is a modern (and convenient) medium of painting. If you are living under a rock, allow us to familiarize you with this phenomenal painting art form. 

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This new age, fast drying and less messy form of paint glazes the canvas like butter. Artists love it for its ease of use and for the freedom of combining different techniques in acrylic painting to birth their creativity. 
Well, you will only believe what you see with your own eyes. So, here are some acrylic painting masterpieces to go over: 

  • Lanterns by April M. Rimpo 
  • Fancy Feathers by Cher Anderson
  • The Morning After the Snowstorm by Ray Hassard
  • Evening Snowfall in England by Dale G. Wolf
  • Frozen Ford Fairlane by Fred Schollmeyer 

Enough said! It’s time we dive straight into these handy acrylic painting techniques and skills for beginners and professionals:

1.  Stippling

Acrylic Painting Technique - Stippling Painting

Supplies: Medium flat brush 

This acrylic painting technique uses paint in small quantities and employs the brush tip for texture by helping make short vertical movements. Hold the paintbrush lightly and make small strokes as you go.
The goal with stippling acrylic technique is to put small dots or strokes very closely together. Adjust the boldness and proximity accordingly. It beautifully brings out the warmth of acrylic colours.
For inspiration, check out Walter Ropélé’s “Frühling am Vierwaldstättersee”.

2.  Sponging

Acrylic Painting Technique - Sponging

Supplies: Sponge (preferably cellulose) 

Sponging and dabbing are cousins going to the same party. Pick up your sponge, dip it in colour and use it in style to create an irregularly textured pattern. This will be highly useful for beginners learning acrylic painting as it is less detailed and produces extraordinary effects instantly. For inspiration checkout Theodoros Stamos Infinity Field’s ‘Jerusalem’ Series

3.  Pouring

Acrylic Painting Technique - Pouring

Supplies: Liquid acrylic paint, thinning agent (glue and water), gloves (optional),  

Just prepare, pour colour and splash to let the party begin. Use this medium to make abstract acrylic pour paintings. It is so fun and relaxing. If you have no idea on how to paint with acrylic, start out with this. 
Pouring can get messy so it's best to cover the work surface with plastic. Make easy flowing paint with a thinning agent. Drop colours on the canvas one at a time and guide the paint around the canvas. Add colour wherever you want and let it dry. Buckle up for your end product to look like those psychedelic paintings. 
For inspiration, check out the works of Sophie Tea.

4.  Splattering

Acrylic Painting Technique - Splattering

Supplies: Paintbrush 

Splish-splash-spatter and voila!  Your abstract art is served.  This acrylic painting technique is as messy as pouring. 
Whip out some colours and mix them into a thin consistency so they are ready to be splattered. Just get your brush out, dip and splatter. That's it! Along with precision, experimenting is a must while painting with acrylics. 
For inspiration, check out Conor McCreedy, “Blue and White Splash”

5.  Washing

Acrylic Painting Technique - Washing

Supplies: Water and acrylic paint

This Acrylic painting technique uses water to modify the paint's consistency to create thinner and softer washes. It will create a similar effect to resemble watercolour painting. Simply dilute the paint with water and you are good to go. 

6.  Drybrushing

Acrylic Painting Technique - Drybrushing

Supplies: Completely dry brush

Drybrushing is used to create a rough, dimension, irregular texture while painting. Use this technique if your art is not strict about lines. A dry brush, filled with lots of paint is optimal for creating structure and layers. With this acrylic painting skill, you can easily produce distinct strokes and tasteful highlights. 
For inspiration checkout Monique Orsini, Noir D’Ivoire II 

7.    Palette Knife

Acrylic Painting Technique -  Palette Knife

Supplies: Palette knife 

It is fancy and will make you feel highbrow like an artist instantly. With this acrylic painting skill, just apply paint to the canvas with a palette knife. It is similar to frosting or spreading cream or butter on a loaf. Beginners start out with a single colour and use multiple as you get the hang of it. 
For inspiration check out Jean Miotte, Composition.  

8.    Detailing

Acrylic Painting Technique -  Detailing

Supplies: Fine brush 

Your painting also needs some detailing. Those sharp edges and fine lines work like a charm to cast a lasting impression. Carefully touch different aspects of your art to accentuate elements by creating thin, soft strokes with a small detailing brush.
For inspiration, check out Robert Paul Waddington, “Dr. Robert’s Old Fashion Ice Cream” 

9.    Dabbing

Acrylic Painting Technique - Dabbing 

Supplies: Paper towel or stiff brush

This is where you use your sponge to literally 'dab' paint on your canvas and create appealing accents of colour. This skill is used by artists since ages to give their paintings the necessary texture. 
For inspiration, check out Stefan Szczesny, “Submarine I”

10.    Layering

Acrylic Painting Technique -  Layering

Supplies: Brush and paints

With this technique, you build your painting by adding washes of colours and add detailing to build on it. 
Layering adds more dimension and improves your scope to blend colours seamlessly. While you take your time and practice those techniques, navigate down below and know how acrylic painting can become your creative calling. Stefan Szczesny is known for his impressive layering.

Why is acrylic painting great for you beginners?

Gone are the days when oil paint and watercolours used to rule the canvas. Now, acrylics are all the rage. 
‘Why use acrylic paint as a beginner?’ you ask? Well, to begin with, they give you freedom because of their texture and are more affordable, vibrant, saturated, and safe. Moreover, they are made from plastic so that is an upside- easy environment protection. 
As a budding painter, acrylics should be your go-to as they are very low-maintenance. But take it from Rhéni Tauchid, writer of Acrylic Painting: Mediums and Methods, when he suggests that investing in quality paints is always a good idea. All in all, acrylic art can be the ultimate vent to portray your creativity. 
With that being said, we can't just leave you hanging. Here are some neat tips and tricks to have up your sleeve when you begin. 

Acrylic Painting Tips for Beginners

Acrylic painting tips for beginners

#1 Choose the Right Brushes

Since they dry fast, each stroke has to be planned and projected. Since you freshers are no Picasso, proceed in this order:

  • plan your painting
  • choose your brush 
  • decide the stroke 

#2 Mix it Like a DJ

Acrylic paints are the real deal in the artistic community since they: dry fast and lend easily (water-soluble). For this reason, they can blend and create the most fascinating hues. 
The colour family you choose or modify will define your artwork after all. 
You can either mix colour to a medium to play with its consistency or mix two colours (totally or partially) to produce an interesting effect. 

#3 Layer and varnish 

Painting with acrylics is a cakewalk simply because the colour formula is a dream. It blends easy and the consistency can be manipulated to bring out the desired consistency. This is ideal to layer colour on colour. 

It is hard to miss that painting is more about expression than colours. Let the artist within you shine bright. Start your journey of upskilling with our 15 minutes micro courses at KoolStories. Download the micro learning app to connect with fellow learners and ask away your queries from seasoned professionals. 


What are the techniques of acrylic painting?

Acrylic painting is a mix of both watercolour and oil painting. Therefore, the final result is vibrant, sharp and rich. Moreover, the mixed properties of acrylic paints are responsible for their diversity of use, making them suitable for use on different surfaces. It makes the acrylic painting subject to a lot of techniques to attain the desired effect. These techniques include:

3.Dry brushing
8.Palette knife

Do you wet the brush before using acrylic paint?

Acrylic paints are water-soluble like watercolours, and they work fine when used with water. Also, you can wet the brush before using acrylic paint for a smoother effect. After all, the way you use acrylic paints depends on the texture you are trying to achieve.

Do you use water when acrylic painting?

Since acrylic paints are water-soluble, you can add water to the acrylic paint to adjust its consistency. However, to avoid over dilution, you can use a ratio of 50 percent water to 50 percent paint.

How do I get better at acrylic painting?

The cardinal rule to get better at acrylic painting is to practice consistently. Apart from that, there are additional tips to gain finesse in your acrylic painting:

1.Get better at mixing colours.
2.Keep up with the pace because the paint dries up fast.
3.Experiment with primary colours initially.
4.Observe the details and techniques used by professional painters.
5.Learn from every artwork that you make and track your progress.
6.Step up your blending game.

What are the characteristics of acrylic paint?

Acrylic paints have only been recently introduced to the art world in the 1930s. They are highly diverse, making them a preferred choice for experts and beginners. The following characteristics make acrylic paints popular:

1.Its properties of being water-soluble and plastic polymer make it highly diverse and flexible to use. Moreover, acrylic paint can be layered on top of each other without disturbing the lower layers.
2.The paint dries up fast, which is ideal for adding successive layers.
3.The paint comes in various forms and can be used from tubes, jars, squeeze bottles and ink bottles.
4.The paint is water-soluble, which makes it adjustable as per the requirement.
5.The final result is bright and vibrant, but acrylic paint can also be manipulated to look like oil paint.

Is acrylic painting good for beginners?

Acrylic paint is pretty easy to work with, making it an excellent option for beginners. Also, it dries out quickly.

Can you use acrylic paint straight out of the tube?

Acrylic paints are some of the most versatile colours globally, as they are used straight from the tubes they come in. You can thin them with water in case you want to create a lighter, more watercolour option.