So there’s a lot of different ways to make art out there and we all will lean towards something over something else and/or we decide to learn and use many techniques. Whatever. It’s all cool. I personally love acrylic paints. I’ve dabbled in watercolor, I dabbled in water based oils, I’ve tried sketching and markers and colored pencils and although they’re all cool, I just LOVE love love acrylics!
Why you ask? Ok, I’ll tell you. And I’ll even tell you a few of the cons and how I’ve tackled those issues. Keep in mind this description is purposely not very technical in nature and I’m using words or phrases that can be easily understood by anyone who just wants to know a little more about acrylics paints. Plus technical bumbo jumbo isn’t really my jam. So, let’s get to it.
Ok, so what do you know about acrylics already? That their non toxic. Yup. Water based. Yup. Kids can use em. Yup. There are a ton of brands out there of them for sale. Yup.
Great we have a starting off point. Now let’s get into it more. Acrylics are water based paints, meaning they can be thinned or re-activated with water. Thinned meaning that you can put a small amount of water into them and they become more runny then they were.The consistency is more…watery. Tadah! This also diminishes the color and the coverage transparency and the permanency, so too much water is not a good thing either. We will get more into that later. Re-activation with water means that if your paint is laying out for a bit and you don’t want it to get gummy or tacky from drying out you can give it a spritz with water and it’ll be soft paint again instead of a gummy blob. Acrylics cannot be out for too long before they start getting gummy and then hard. The water evaporates into the air and leaves behind a goopy mess that will turn hard and you cannot paint with it. So some people don’t like acrylics because of this ‘time is of the essence’ part to them. And yes sometimes this is frustrating but there’s work arounds to it that are more then worth the pay off, in my opinion. We will get to that too.
You can use acrylics similar to watercolors and also use them to be similar to oils. What?! How crazy cool is that? It’s like the versatile new kid in school who seems to fit in with everyone when you can’t seem to fit in with anyone and you wear weird shoes and dye your hair weird colors, you stare at the stars and wear bright colors because their fun and funky and no one your age seems to see just how cool you are really….er, um, ok, lets get back to acrylics.
Since acrylics are water-based, just like Watercolors, you can add water to them to get similar effects to Watercolors. You can also thin them down with additives to the acrylic paints and there’s a difference in the two techniques. Which we will get into. And there’s different acrylic paints, which we will get into. Ok so lets describe what Watercolors are first; Watercolors are pigments that react with water and become the consistency of how much water you use. The more water, the more splish and splash but the less potent the color. Also Watercolors are not permanent so if you let your Watercolor art dry and then put water or a watercolor on top of it it will lift off your previous work and/or blend it with your new color because the water from your new layer re-activates the bottom layers. See, we re-used that fancy word from the beginning. I’m killing this blog post. Air five! So the BIG difference between acrylics and Watercolors is the permanency of them because acrylics have a glue binder in them that makes them stick when painted. They’re that piece of white dog/cat hair on your black as black can be pants that JUST WON’T COME OFF! Yeah. They stick. So you can paint acrylic on top of acrylic after they’ve dried and it doesn’t re-activate. So you can layerrrrr!!! Wootwoot! I love me some layering. Drool. And this is one of them main reasons I love acrylics. Layering. One, because layers can add depth and look super cool but also because as part of the creative process I mess a ton of sh&t up or just do stuff to see if I like it and if I don’t then, bip bop boop, when it’s dry I cover that mess up. Bam. Mic drop.
Okay so I mentioned there are different types of acrylic paints as well as things you can add to your acrylics to make them act and look more like watercolors. If you buy a fluid or thin acrylic you’re going to get just what the name tells you, a fluidy or a thin easy to spread permanent acrylic paint that is more water like.You can buy it like this or add a medium to it. Coming back to the point above about thinning acrylics with water; this is good and it’s also bad. Er or I don’t know. I don’t like saying it’s good or bad but it changes the properties of the paint so depending on what you’re wanting and if you’re aware of what you’re doing then you’re all good. So remember we talked about watercolor not being permanent because it doesn’t have the glue/binder in it that acrylics have to make them stick and stay. So if you decide to thin down your heavy body or even soft body acrylic with a lot of water you can, buuuut just know that you’re turning that into a watercolor because you’re breaking up that glue binder so it won’t stick and stay and with much less color oopmph because your increasing the transparency. Now, you could also thin your acrylic by adding a medium to it that is made to thin it down. It will still lessen the color oomph but keep the glue-ness to it so that it stays permanent. I’m not going to go into the different things you can add in this post, maybe those specifics will be for another one but just know that you can add to the acrylic to thin it down with permanency. You can also buy one of those fluid or high flow acrylics we talked about earlier which is basically a very thin watery acrylic but with the glue-ness already added for permanency so you don’t have to do any mixing and spell casting. Or however you mix your colors. We’re all different. Don’t judge. These fluid acrylics allow you to buy it….dun dun dun already fluid and permanent. So these fluid acrylics, self mixed or bought mixed, are yes, you guessed it, layerable.! My number one favorite reason for using acrylics. With the fluid additives or by buying fluid acrylics you can make cool watery watercolor like effects but also layer them, which, if you ask me, is pretty f&ckin cool. It’s so much easier, flexible and diverse. (You can add a fixative to watercolor surfaces to, just as the name sounds, fix it to the surface but I’m not going into that here, that’s watercolor world and it’s not my jam.)
Acrylics can be like oils. Yes I said that as well. Now if you want to have a look more like oils, which is usually that goopy built up look, think Van Gogh, you can buy heavy body acrylics which will hold the shape of the paint more. It’ll give it more structure so kinda like your modeling the paint like clay in a way. You get it. It’ll hold the shape of the paint and you can see your brush strokes or knife marks. Now to get it more like clay and goopy oil you can actually add modeling paste to your acrylics. This makes it very thick and it is like putting clay onto a surface and then modeling it on your surface and then you can paint over it. Babam! Very cool things can be made here. And just like making things out of clay, no it’s not always easy and that’s why I gave up on this. I’m lazy. I do love the look of this heavy texture though and I will most likely revisit it in the future. You can create some cool flower shapes and abstract textures that are 3D and pop off the canvas. Very cool.
Another way that acrylics can now behave like oils is because of something called Open acrylics. These acrylics come with extenders in them that well, I’m sure you’ve guessed by now but they extend the Open time, or time it takes for them to get all goopy and gross so that you have a longer time to use them. This is more like oils which take foreeeever to dry so you can go back to them like a week later (I don’t know how accurate that is for oil drying time which I feel like is months but I don’t use oils so I cannot confirm nor deny that above statement) and keep using them or mixing them with other colors on or off the canvas. So these open acrylics take more time to dry and you have more time to work with them and you buy them like that, you can also add extender medium to your acrylics to do the same thing. That way you can pick and choose which colors or layers you need more time with.
Moving on. Yes, oils can also be thinned with oil thinners and used not goopy so there’s that as well. But we’re not talking about oils we’re talking about acrylics so don’t get me off topic please.
Okay so we learned about acrylics drying out when you have them out too long and that you can spritz them with water to keep them active. Not like crazy drowning in water splashes but spritzes of water to keep them going. And one cool new thing I learned from some of Jerry’s Artarama videos on Youtube (It’s Mike not Jerry, is my fav) is to put a few drops of extender into your spray bottle water so that when you spritz your pallet a bit of extender gets on the paints as well and this slightly increases your open time for working with your paints. So it gives you just a little extra time before the paint gets goopy and you can keep adding little spritzes (little spritzes) to add more time. And, like was mentioned above, you can buy extender and mix that in your paints to allow them more time out in the air as you’re working on your painting. Adding it gives you the option of which colors you need more time to work with as opposed to open acrylics where you get the time whether you want it or not. This, and yes it all comes back to layering for me, is not as good for me because I love layering…which needs to dry before to do so; so I don’t like mixing extender to my paint because that’s too much time fore me but a light spritz in my water does wonders. If you like blending and making smoother transitions or like to go back and re-mix a color already on the canvas then you’ll love the open acrylics or adding extender to the paint itself. I mean, we can’t be friends but that’s cool if you like that. No, haha just kidding! We can only be acquaintances though. :-P.
Another neat trick I’ve been doing with my acrylics is putting them in jars with Press’N Seal over them. I saved little glass jars from these desserts at Costco. Tiramisu or something like that. I use those glass jars to mix my colors and then when I’m done for the day I put a spritz or two of my water with extender in em and then use the Press’NSeal over it to keep the air out and skippidy do dah, it’s still ready to go the next time I come back to it. I’ll give it another spritz and mix before use and it’s painting in funky town time. This trick I especially love when I’m mixing weird colors because I know I won’t be able to do the correct ratio the next time, even if I write it down and try really hard, (also see above, I’m lazy) so I can do my crazy funky cool mixes in these jars and just have them until I’m done with that painting. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way of not keeping these colors. Ok, I keep learning it because really I need more of these jars. I’ll have to go to Costco and force feed my family Tiramisu. You know to stay green and re-use jars instead of buying new ones. I’m earth conscious like that. (update, my husband bought me a bunch of glass jars with air tight lids for my bday. It was a present so I have to keep it…and I’m very happy!) There are other ways that acrylic artist use for keeping their acrylics lasting longer but this is what works for me.
So let’s do a quick recap. Things that are great about acrylics:
1. They can be layered!!!
2. They can be thinned or bought thinned to use like watercolors.
3. They can be bought heavy bodied to show marks or strokes like Oils
4. They can have extender added or bought Open to be used like Oils
5. They can be bulked up like the Hulk with modeling paste or other additives and used like clay to design or draw in
6. They can bring fun and enjoyment to any age group or talent level
And I’m not putting down a re-cap of the cons because honestly I went over them already and they aren’t even worth recapping because acrylics are awesome and that’s the point of this post and I wrote it and I can do what I want. I have also not gone into detail in this post about the many different brands of paints, quality etc. that will be for another post.
Thanks so much for reading. I hope you have gotten some beneficial info and feel inspired to go get you some acrylics and start playing and painting and having a great time. You and your family. If you want to spend time with your family that is. I usually paint alone. It’s my escape. Don’t judge, we all need an escape. No yes, of course I love my family. It’s just paintings’ my thing okay. But yeah you do you. Anyway, I’m out of here. Gonna go paint and have fun. Alone. 🙂
If you’d like to see behind the scenes studio shots or videos check out my Instagram @laurenkarpinski or Pinterest @AbstractLaurenKarpinski or my Youtube @Lauren Karpinski. They’re mostly all the same videos and pics but depending on your preferred viewing platform, you have a choice.
If you like to purchase prints, Digital Downloads or T-shirts, Journals and other print on demand items please visit my Etsy store Lauren Karpinski Art. For original art for sale stay on this website and visit my shop, laurenkarpinski.com or email me for something special.
Thanks for sharing your time with me!
Making the world a more beautiful place, one brushstroke at a time.
P.S. If @Jerrysartarama, @Costco or @Press’NSeal are happy in any way that I’ve totally given them amazing street cred, then yeah sure, you could definitely twist my arm into giving you some ad space on my site. Just sayin’. 🙂
P.P.S Please note this post contains affiliate links that may give me small commissions on purchases when clicked through, at no additional cost to you ever! Thanks for supporting my site and Art.