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Readers Respond: What Tips Do You Have for Acrylic Painting?

Responses: 19

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What tips do you have for someone learning to paint with acrylics? What do you wish you'd know when you first started acrylic painting? Share your favorite acrylic painting tips with us here.

Keep paint wet

I used to only use oils (even though I've only been painting for a short time) due to the fast drying time of acrylics. Putting the paint into mini Dixie cups is the only solution I've found that works for me. You can mix with slow-drying medium or spritz with water.
—Guest Guest

Removing Acrylic

Acrylic splashes from door handles, floor, fingers etc., can be removed by rubbing with a little with cheap nail varnish remover. It works on stiffened brushes too!
—Guest Annie

Drybrushing

Using a flat no. 4 (3/16") brush, try blending in paint (not too much paint) without any water whatsoever. Use same brush every time, it's hard on them, but provides a unique look.
—Guest JÖL

Thin Paint Acrylic Films

If you are using acrylic on a primed surface, and diluting it with large amounts of water, STOP. The paint film may become "underbound" and flake off: the water disappears, and there is not enough medium to hold it on. Instead, consider a switching to a thin formulation, like Golden's fluid, or Liquitex's "ink" line of acrylic, instead of thick tube paints. If you really want to thin it down into a watercolor like wash, you can use airbrush medium. It's about as thin as water, yet it is a super thin form of acrylic medium. Despite what it is called, it is not just for airbrushing, you can use it as an alternative to water. The exception is a porous medium like unsized paper, where the acrylic can penetrate and bind with the support. Unlike oils, acrylics are safe to use on unprimed canvas, and since unprimed canvas is porous, you can dilute with water too, as the paint will enter and bind into the fabric.
—Edsmiley

Straight Line Cheat

The green tape used for household painting sticks well and does not lift paint when used on already painted surfaces. I'm a rookie but I got good results using the 1/4" roll for sharp edges.
—Guest Terri

MDF or Masonite instead of Canvas

Doing lots of practice working on my skills, I go through so many canvas boards. Although not very expensive I'm always on the look out for options and that's when I happened upon MDF or Masonite from the hardware store. Buy a 3mm board, get them to cut it to your required size (another bonus if you buy ready-made frames) and put on a couple coats of gesso. The finish is wonderful to work on and it works out about half the price.
—Guest Shelly Willingham

Palette

I buy a metal baking pan with a plastic lid. I put damp paper towel with wax paper on top of that and then my paints. The tight lid keeps paints fresh and is good for traveling.
—Guest Karyl

Acrylic Palette

When using acrylic paint I use ceramic palettes;once the paint has dried you only need to soak it and the paint comes off completely. I also store mixed colours in tiny jam-jars (the ones familiar at hotel breakfast tables.....my local supermarket sells them).
—dasdave

Wet Rags

Have wet rags close by to clean up any spills or mistakes to beat drying time. They are good to wipe brushes on.
—Guest Helena Haidner

Another Free Palette

I have many different palettes. My latest is a disused phone book. I paint fast & rip the pages out when they are messy & start a new page often!
—Guest Loma

Biscuit Container Palette

There's no better palette than the plastic from biscuit containers or small cake containers. This is because it is divided into lots of separate compartments and also each compartment has a floor in grids. This means that when mixing and shading, you have the two shades at opposite sides of a compartment and as you drag them towards each other, the grids divide them naturally up into a number of shades. This is also very good with dye-based mediums.
—Guest Thomas Kent

To Give Added Shine and Extend the Paint

I use PVA glue and mix it with the acrylic paint it also gives a texture finish if needed. It's also cheap to buy from a supermarket in 500ml containers. It makes the paint go much further and does not affect the drying time, but to much will alter your colour tint.
—iddy666

Stop Acrylic Paint Drying Too Fast

I soak kitchen towels in water, then put these on an old plate. Then I use ordinary kitchen greaseproof paper over the top of this, as a palette. This helps stop the paint from drying out too fast. I also wrap clingfilm over the plate if I am interrupted. Another tip is to spray the paint often with water.
—Guest Basil

Available Cheap Palettes

I use egg cartons for my paint. I cut them in half if using less paints than egg carton size. If interrupted when painting, I have the lid available to pop down keeping my paint moist until my return.
—hra2

Disposable Palette

The plastic disposable trays from TV dinners work well for painting. I place the paint in each section and they never mix by mistake.
—Guest bglazier

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