For a long time, acrylic paints were viewed as the ‘poorer relative’ of oils and watercolours. But its popularity among contemporary artists has grown in leaps and bounds and acrylic paint stands on its own merits in any art supplies discussion as a legitimate and stunning medium for artists of all levels.
Compared to its long-standing counterparts, acrylic paint has a relatively recent history, dating back to the 1960s. But its versatility, vibrancy and stability have created much buzz in the art world and it is earning a reputation in studios and art schools across the world.
Which Famous artists used acrylics?
If you have fallen in love with acrylic paints then you are in good company. Celebrated artists such as David Hockney and Mark Rothko have gained renown by experimenting with this medium.
- David Hockney started his art career in the 1960s and loved representing the people and places around him. “To me, painting is picture making. I am not that interested in painting that doesn’t depict the visible world. I mean, it might be perfectly good art, it just doesn’t interest me that much.” –David Hockney. The fast-drying attribute of acrylic paints suited his technique of painting large areas of flat colour and then adding details.
- Abstract expressionist artist, Mark Rothko, started painting with acrylics on paper in his later years after his doctor warned him to quit painting in oils in the 1960s after an aneurysm.
- Helen Frankenthaler, known for her soak-stain painting technique, switched to acrylic paints in 1962 as they gave her more control and she realised she could create sharper, more defined edges, greater colour saturation and areas of more opacity.
- Pop artists, Roy Liechtenstein and Andy Warhol, proudly join this hall of fame of acrylic artists.
What are the advantages of acrylic paints?
Because acrylic is made from plastic, its quality has improved as plastic manufacturing has become more refined.
Here are just a few reasons acrylic paints are so popular among artists:
- Bright, bold saturated hues
- Water-soluble and water-resistant once dry
- Fast drying, allowing any artist to add layers quickly
- Durable – acrylics are light-fast and won’t crack, peel or yellow over time
- Can be painted on any surface that is oil or wax-free
- Less toxic than oil paint
- Acrylic brushes cleaned with soap and water
- Can be mixed with different mediums and is ideal in mixed media art projects
- Can be thinned with water
Tips for painting with acrylics
- Know what you want to paint as the layers dry quickly.
- The more time spent repainting the same areas, the less responsive your acrylics will become.
- To create more opaque transparent colours – just add titanium white to the acrylic paints on your palette.
- If you want a more watercolour effect, just add water to your paint.
- Blend colours to expand your colour palette, but do so carefully. If you blend acrylic colours too quickly you will create bubbles.
- Use synthetic brushes and create more textures by painting wide strokes.
- Experiment with a palette knife to add more texture
- Create swatches of colour as some acrylic colours darken as they dry.
- Limit the amount of paint you add to your palette as they dry and harden quickly.
- To preserve the acrylic paints on your palette for a few hours, mist with water and cover with an air-tight bag and the paint should stay usable for a short while
Whether you choose bottles or tubes, the vibrant hues of acrylic paints and their user-friendly, versatile characteristics make them top of the list when it comes to purchasing art supplies.