Painting with Acrylics for Beginners

Guide to easy acrylic paintings for beginners. Covering topics like types of brushes,  color scheme, canvas, paint grades and  choosing subjects.

Ready to try acrylic painting but not certain where to begin?

Acrylics are great for beginners. They are fairly easy to use, dry fast and are cheaper to buy than oils paints. A few easy acrylic canvas paintings can help you start on your creative journey.

To take up Acrylic painting you will need below mentioned basic supplies.
Acrylic paints,  Variety of brushes, Painting support (canvas or gesso boards), Easel, Palette, Water and Cloth rags or paper towels.

1. Acrylic Paints

There are usually two grades of paints commonly available in market, artist grade and student grade, you can take whichever is suits your budget. There is another higher end called professional grade but we skip that for now.

Artist Grade:

  • Artist quality paint has high pigment level which gives a higher saturation color.
  • High quality ingredients(pigment and binder) are used to give long lasting and best quality paints
  • Color intensity/Vibrancy is higher and maintained even after adding water/medium.
  • Available in wide range of colors 

Student Grade

  • Student quality has lower pigment load and binder quality is also low. Hence the paint strength is not strong when mixed with water.
  • They appear little dull and sometimes dark when compared to artist grade.
  • Good for covering large areas and under painting.
  • They are cheaper and good for beginners, practicing and to try new stuff.

Student grade work well for beginners. Just remember to add little white to make them opaque. White will lighten the paint so that you may consider employing a slightly darker paint or paint several layers to find the tone you desire.

See which grade suits your requirement and buy those.There are starter collections acrylic paint sets available in almost all brands.

2. Buy fundamental colors to start with

Start with a limited palette. Primary colors along with white, black and earthy tone such as burnt umber are great to begin with. You can mix colors to make more colors.

Get a color wheel, learn how to combine acrylic paints to get the colors you desire. Color mixing adds excitement and detail to your art.

The primary colors are yellow, red, and blue. No blend of colors can produce primary colors, but primaries blend in a variety of combinations to form the other colors. You create secondary colors (orange, green, and purple) by mixing two primary colors. 

3. Painting Surface

Types of Canvases

Acrylic paint works on several types of surfaces like paper, canvas, fabric and wood. Select your surface which you want to choose. 

Canvas is the best choice if you are just starting to paint. Canvas are available in various forms like stretched canvas, canvas roll, canvas pad and canvas board. Take anything but not roll since they are expensive and for artist who are doing painting full time.

Remember to take a primed canvas. Do not pick a canvas primed for oil painting since it isn't appropriate for acrylics.

4. Variety of brushes

Different brushes are used for different purpose like big brushes are for filling large areas while small size brushes are for filling smaller areas and blending. You should use a liner brush for detailed work. That is why it's important to have round and flat brush in various sizes.

It is important to wash your brushes using gentle soap and water following every painting session. Dried paint is practically impossible to remove from brushes.

Never abandon your brushes sitting for long hours in water, they will get ruin. Always store your brushes with the bristles facing up.

5. Always have two jars of water

One for cleaning brushes and one for wash water to dilute your paint. Take bigger container like mason jar, so it is easy to clean brush in it.

Three Important Factors before Painting

tree leaves colored in different shades of green and yellow

Learn how to combine colors

Learning how to blend your color and get the right shade, this will help save you money and expand your palette. 

Use a palette knife for mixing paint. These are also affordable and simple to use for painting and mixing.

Choose the right location to paint

As soon as you've assembled your painting materials, it is time to pick a well-lit location. Find a location in your home where there is enough day light and also where you can get fresh air.

When the workspace and location is right, you feel energetic, creative and you are in a good mood to create.

Organize your light source along with your canvas so the light is enough for the canvas, and it is not coming from you. 

This is to prevent disturbing reflections on the painting surface and getting your shadow cast on the painting surface.


Choose a Subject to Paint

As a beginner, choose a easy subject to paint. There is no point of choosing a challenging topic, even though it may look very tempting.

Consider all the easy theme gorgeous paintings you have seen till now where less is more. If nothing strikes, then simply pick any one subject from the simple list given below.

Bunch of trees
Mountain painting
Easy Sunset Painting
A umbrella
A flower
A Fruit
A coffee mug
Sky with clouds
Little landscape
Beach view
Still items
Flower Pot
Paint night skies

Easy Acrylic Painting for Beginners, Steps by Step

1. Determine your painting focus

What do you really wish to paint? What are you attempting to represent? Perhaps it is a scene, but what is it about this landscape which inspired you to paint it? It's freshness or its shadow or its light?

Before you begin, decide what is it you're trying to reflect on your painting. On a bit of paper, plan the makeup of your painting maintaining your attention in mind. It may take several little makeup sketches until you find one which works for you.

2. Create a composition

If you do not have a reference photo, try few composition. Create few rough sketches of what you are going to paint. Basic outlines of where objects will be placed is enough for now. Use rule of thirds.

If you are copying a photo, do not copy 100%. It is possible make few change s like size, place, and colors of items to fit your artistic aim. It is possible to edit a few of the trees outside, add other element to make your composition balanced.

Remember, when you use a photo, use it with reference only, do not replicate it. Produce your own composition to your own painting. 

3. Paint the toned ground first

It is always good to start painting the background and cover it with base coat. Apply any color as background color that complements your composition. 

White canvas is not so appealing to start painting. Background or toned canvas provides a good undertone before you start painting. You can stick to one painting technique or apply multiple techniques as required.

4. Draw the design 

Before you leap to your painting, create a preliminary sketches to use as a benchmark. The rule of design can help you decide how to organize the design of your painting and in which part to put your focus.

Painting directly without drawing can be a indication of poor composition, so avoid.  Some planning using value sketches may make a massive impact. Stay with a particular color scheme and paint those areas first.

5. Paint the middle values first

When you're delighted with your composition, fill out rough form of the focus of your painting with all the center value for this object. 

Then proceed to some other item or contour adjoining your focal point and then paint its difficult shape with the center value.

Keep working round the entire composition blocking in all shapes and items. Do not bother about darkness and highlights in this phase.

6. Work quickly to keep the paint from drying out

As you know acrylic paint dries much faster than oil paint, hence act quick. 

Start with just a little paint at a time so you're not wasting paint. When you mix colors, use the color quickly, as the mixing process will cause it to dry faster.

Have a fine mist spray bottle to keep them from drying out. Spray it on paint when you think paint is about to dry.

7. Use fine liners to do detailing

Once you've blocked off most of the shapes on your composition, step back and have a look. Does this make sense? Does selected colors go well with each object?  If not, then return and make desired changes to the colors. 

When you're happy with the current color composition, now is the time to begin filling in more areas. Begin with the lighter values and subsequently proceed into the darker ones.

8. See how colors influence a painting

girl standing in museum looking at paintings

Choice of colors play a very important role to bring the picture to life when you are creating art. 

It will be very disappointing to see your final version of art looks very different from what you had planned just because colors chosen were not right.

Before you begin working on the color to your artwork, you need to understand the color theory, so you're able to set the mood with the ideal color scheme.

9. Step Back from the painting frequently

You get a better view of the painting from a few feet away. This tells you how your painting is going and assess the worth and regions that require any changes.

10. Paint the Highlights Last

The final thing you have to do is to bring the highlights. Highlights do not need to be white they could be a rather light shade of the most prominent color of that object.

11. Tell a Story on Canvas

To remind yourself of this narrative which you're attempting to portray, it is a fantastic idea to choose a name for the painting. Write this name and keep it in front of you.

The goal shouldn't be to represent some thing, but to tell a narrative,  communicate feelings. Through the process, keep your focal point in mind. Check this Acrylic Painting tips article to escape common mistakes beginners make.

12. Seal your Painting 

When you decide your painting is complete and there are no further changes to be done, you can Varnish the Painting. Varnish is a thin protective coating over the finished painting to protect it from dust and also from de coloring.
Varnishing makes the colors look richer and more vibrant because it adds a semi-reflective sheen to the entire painting. The satin and gloss varnishes add that extra wow factor to your painting particularly with dark color

Enjoy your Time!

One of the main challenge for beginners is that the painting doesn't come out like exactly what you had in mind. Our imagination and the final work is sometime quite different but do not get discouraged. 

Keep painting and remember the main thing in painting, the enjoyment is in the journey, not the destination! Love each step of it, even the errors, since they teach you a good deal.

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