Painting Tips - Should I Use Watercolor or Acrylic Paint?

It isn't easy choosing your art supplies. One of the main problems is that there are so many different options out there. It also isn't easy choosing paints. If you've never painted before, which one do you choose? This article will focus on acrylics and watercolours. There are a lot of factors that set the two apart. Choosing the right one for you involves knowing all about each one and deciding which one suits your needs best.

Touching up your painting and drying time

If you want to be able to re-work your painting, you should go with acrylics. They're a lot more opaque and are much easier to manipulate. They dry very quickly and are very forgiving. It's very easy to go back and correct a mistake with acrylics, whereas it's more difficult with watercolours. Though watercolours can dry quickly when you use a hairdryer, their very nature makes it difficult to touch your painting up. If you want to be able to correct yourself as you go along, it's best to stick with acrylics.

Mixing colours

If you want to mix your colours on the canvas, watercolours are the ones to go for. They are very easy to mix and blend together very easily. Acrylics can be mixed in a similar way to watercolours, but watercolours are still the easiest to mix. However, mixing watercolours too much can result in paintings looking unclear and brown.

Painting large areas

Watercolours are great for painting large areas. If you have a large space that doesn't necessarily need a lot of detail, watercolours will cover it nicely. Mixing a tube of watercolour paint with water can make it cover a large area - at least several yards, in fact. If you want a lot of detail everywhere and want to pay attention equal attention to every part of the painting, acrylics are probably best.

Brushstrokes

With acrylics it's easy to tell where the brush has been. Painting with acrylics leaves brushstrokes on the canvas, whereas painting with watercolours doesn't leave brushstrokes. If you paint with watercolours, the result is a painting that looks a lot more fluid and organic. Some like brushstrokes to be visible in the paintings, while others don't.

Cost

If it's simply a matter of money, you should go with watercolours because they are usually cheaper. This is because they last much longer than acrylics - you can use several tubes of acrylic paint on a single painting but with watercolours you usually don't even use up a full tube. You also don't need much equipment to paint with watercolours. If you're a beginner it's a good idea to start with the basics and buy more equipment - and more expensive paints - as you get more confident with painting.

Control

Most artists would agree that acrylics are easier to control. When you paint something, the paint stays exactly where you put it. However, if you're painting with watercolours, it's more difficult to control where the paint goes. Watercolour paints tend to run and blend with each other, making paintings look less realistic. If you want clear definitions and lines, stick with acrylics. If you want your paintings to have a more ethereal, cloudy and less realistic look, go for watercolours.

Technique

Acrylics are very easy to get used to and are very often suggested to beginners because of this. Watercolours need a bit more practice to master because of their fluidity and because it isn't as easy to cover mistakes and retouch areas of your painting. With watercolours you have to be extra careful because it's easy for a single drop of water to ruin parts of your painting. Completing a watercolour painting requires a lot more skill and patience than finishing an acrylic painting.

Other factors

With acrylics you can paint on practically anything, including wood, cardboard, plastic and many more. Watercolour paints are best suited to paper, though acrylics can also be painted on to paper. Acrylics tend to have a more layered effect and dry shiny, whereas watercolours dry flat and aren't at all shiny. Watercolours usually look the same, no matter how much they cost, whereas with acrylics you get a much nicer result if you use more expensive paints.

Your choice

Ultimately it's down to you. Every painter's different and wants different things. If you like the sound of one type of paint, give it a go and see if it works for you. Acrylics are probably best for beginners who are still learning the ins and outs of painting Watercolours are best for those who like their paintings to be fluid, loose and free-flowing. Which one do you think's best for you?

Joanne Perkins is a Berkshire-based artist with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art and specialises in painting Berkshire landscapes. She is happy to accept all queries and questions. For more information about Joanne, her work and her current projects visit: http://joannesberkshirescenes.com/default.aspx

This article was published on 17 Jun 2014 and has been viewed 588 times
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