Acrylics are the preferred paint of many artists because they are easy to use, quick to dry and very versatile. They are great for beginners because they don't require a lot of complicated techniques to use them effectively. They can be used in loads of different ways to create loads of different styles. They're also relatively cheap and very durable. They may seem like the perfect paint, but you should still know a bit about them before you go ahead and start using them. As with any type of paint, the more you know about it, the more you'll gain from using it.
If you're particular about what your painting's going to look like, it's important to choose acrylic paints that have the right viscosity. There are two main types: soft body acrylic paint and heavy body acrylic paint. Soft body acrylic paint has a medium viscosity, while heavy body acrylic paint has a high viscosity. If you want your painting to be flat, fluid and smooth, go for soft body / medium viscosity paint. If you want your painting to be thick, layered and clumpy, go for heavy body / high viscosity paint.
Acrylics dry very fast, but you can get around this by only squirting a little bit of paint from the tube at a time. Also, add paint to your palette as and when you need it. To prevent your paints from drying out on the palette, get a bottle of water and spray a light mist over the paint. Instead of a palette, you can use a sheet of damp watercolour paper with a separate sheet of wax paper on top of it. If you want to blend paint, you'll have to work quickly before the paint dries out.
The thickness of acrylic paints can be changed in many ways. If you want them to be completely opaque, simply apply the paint directly from the tube with very little or no water at all added. The thicker the paint, the more texture your painting will have. If you want them to look more like watercolours, simply dilute them. Also bear in mind that acrylics look lighter when first applied and darker once they've dried.
One of the best qualities of acrylic paints is that they're very permanent. In other words, once they dry, they stay that way. They're also insoluble, so they won't be affected by any water. This is great if you want build up several layers of paint. Just wait for the paint to dry, then paint right over the pre-existing layer. Newer layers mix optically with older ones beneath them - you get a blend of colour without the two colours physically mixing and potentially making a mess.
Cleaning and blotting your paintbrushes
Cleaning your paintbrushes regularly is a must. To clean them, simply rinse them in warm water, rub them gently in soap, then rinse them in warm water again. Make sure you remove all of the paint from all parts of the paintbrush. Blotting your brushes is also important. All you have to do is have a paper towel or and old rag and wipe your brushes after rinsing them. This removes excess water, which can lead to water stains on the canvas, and prevents water from running down the ferrule and on to the painting.
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