understanding acrylic painting medium

Acrylic Painting – Understanding the medium


The acrylic medium is another absolutely lovely painting medium, paintings done in this medium look beautiful and vibrant. They look very bright and vivid. These are opaque in comparison to the watercolor which are transparent in nature. These look like both the oil and watercolor.

Painting with acrylic colors is quite different than painting with water colors. These colors are water based, like watercolor, but become water resistant after drying. So you cannot lift the color off the paper like you can while working with watercolors.

These paints unlike oil and watercolor dry very fast. This is both the advantage and disadvantage of the acrylic medium. If you wish to blend the layers then you have to work very fast. Because once it is dried the color cannot be blended with the successive layers.  It is this property that makes it difficult to work because even the colors on the palette end up being dried up even before you have completed your artwork. But on the other hand, this property of acrylic paints allows you to work fast and allows you to put successive layers of color in quick succession. This cannot be done in mediums such as oil (which takes a considerable time to dry).

Using Acrylic Paints

Different ways in which acrylic paints can be used:

  • Wet on dry

wet paint on dried acrylic paint

  • Wet on wet – Acrylic paints blend beautifully while they are wet

Acrylic paints blend beautifully

  • Impasto – Acrylic paints are great for a thick application (impasto technique) of paint and for creating a textured effect.  Here thick paint is applied:


  • Can give the effect of watercolors when mixed with more water.

 Effect of watercolors

Because of the opacity of the paint, you can go from darker to lighter hues unlike watercolors or visa – verse.

These come in two forms – in small glass containers and tubes. Both are good but for the paintings, the artist quality acrylic paints are better. This is because it is easier to maintain the desired consistency of paint that comes out of the tube as it is initially thicker.

Acrylic paints are also safer to use, unlike the oil paints. This is due to the kind of mediums used in oil paintings like turpentine and other materials which release harsh and smelly fumes.

In the next post, we learn how to create a beautiful painting using acrylic colors.

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