Art Blog

13 Acrylic Painting Techniques All Beginners Should Try

You’ve got your acrylic paint, your work surface, and you’re really inspired to paint. But how exactly do you do get started? Here’s a guide to acrylic painting techniques for beginners that will help you begin your artistic journey. Want more? Check out our other resources for beginning acrylic painters!

Tubes of Acrylic Paint

Once you’ve assembled all of the necessary tools for acrylic painting, you’re ready for the fun part: putting paint to paper or canvas. Here, we’ll explore some easy key techniques for applying paint, mixing color, and building paintings so that you can paint like a pro in no time.

Learn more acrylic skills, for free!

Painting Flowers

In this free online video course, learn how to paint a stunning floral still life using easy acrylic painting techniques.Enroll FREE Now »

Techniques for paint application

The most basic supplies (brush, acrylic paint and paper) can be used in a variety of ways. These are some accessible techniques for applying paint to paper in a variety of styles. 

Dry brush 

Dry brush acrylic paint application

When paint is applied to canvas or work surface using a dry brush and paint undiluted by water, you’ll create a strong current of color on the page. Your lines will be uneven, as they won’t have water to soften the edges, but this can be a purposeful painterly effect. Dry brush application lends texture and movement to lines. 


acrylic paint wash with wet brush technique

You can treat acrylic somewhat like watercolor when you dilute the paint with enough water. You can use the watered down paint to apply translucent washes on your surface. However, unlike watercolor, the acrylic paint will set permanently. Mixing wash and dry brush methods can be very effective in creating a variety of textures in a single piece.


Stippling Acrylic Paint on Canvas with Large Round Brush

This method, often used in drawing, can also be used with paint (Georges Seurat’s work is a fine and famous example). Creating an assemblage of tiny dots to create imagery can be an effective way to show texture and to create a compelling scene with subtle variations in color. 


Splattering Red Acrylic Paint on Paper

Using a fairly wet brush, you can flick or splatter paint onto a work surface for an uneven splatter effect. It’s fantastic for creating an abstract landscape or a starry night or for just adding texture to a piece. Here’s more on this fun technique.


Dabbing red acrylic paint on canvas with a yellow sponge

Using a corner of a sponge or even a piece of paper towel, you can dab on accents of color. Think of it like very artistic sponge painting. Dabbing adds a lot of texture and movement to a piece. For instance, on the painting above, dabbing with a sponge perfectly captured the texture and movement of trees swaying in a light breeze. 

Palette knife

Applying Red Acrylic Paint With a Palette Knife

Applying paint with a palette knife is an instant way to make your painting “artsy.” It might seem intimidating or advanced, but it’s a technique accessible even to beginners. Simply use the palette knife to scrape up a bit of paint and apply it to your work surface. Pretend that you’re artfully spreading buttercream on a cake or even butter on bread, and you’ll get the idea pretty quickly. 


Detailed Painting of an Eye Made With Acrylics

A small, fine brush can be used to apply details, such as the whites of eyes or the glisten on the wing of a bird. In our tutorial on how to draw eyes, you’ll get a fantastic primer on detail work in acrylic, which can carry over to different subject matters. 


Techniques for building a painting 

One of the great things about these techniques for building a painting is that they will grow as your skills develop. Mastering these basic techniques is like laying a groundwork for your future painting. These techniques can become more involved complex as you advance. 


Creating an Underpainting in Red Acrylic Paint

Start your painting by creating a “sketch” of the image in paint. Often this is done in a color that contrasts with the palette you have in mind for the finished piece. You can paint over the underpainting entirely using opaque acrylic to cover any evidence of the paint below, or you can let parts of it shine through for a dimensional effect.


Glazing Painting of a Leaf in Acrylic

By incorporating matte medium into your paint, you can create luminous scenes. The technique, which is detailed in this tutorial, is simple: Mix acrylic paint with a small amount of matte medium and apply the paint in thin layers, building the color until it creates a rich, complex color. 


Painting Green Layer on Painting of Plant

Layering, which can be combined with either of the two above methods, is simply to paint in layers. This means that you’ll build the painting from the bottom up. You’ll start by painting big blocks of color, often as washes, and then adding more and more refinement as you add layers.

The technique is detailed in this post about how to paint a self portrait, but the method could be applied to paint other subject matter.

Paint in blocks of color

Painting Large Blocks of Color in Acrylic Paint

This is a fantastic method for beginners. Trace your image, separating each color or tone into separate shapes. Create a palette, and then paint in the shapes as if it were your own DIY paint by numbers piece. This is an easy method with monochromatic palettes or can be employed with a variety of colors, too. 

Color mixing techniques

Mixing acrylic colors is fairly simple: Combine colors and mix using a palette knife. But once you’ve mastered color mixing, you can explore some more creative methods. Here are just two.

Partially mix colors before painting

Red and Blue Acrylic Paint Partially Mixed with Palette Knife

Instead of fully mixing the two colors, just give them a brief mix with your palette knife. Then, use the partially mixed colors to paint. You’ll get a fascinating mingling of colors as you apply the paint to your work surface. 

Create a family of colors

Mixed Acrylic Colors on Gray Palette

Creating a family of colors or tones to work with in a painting can help you create subtle variances in your painting. Whether it’s slight varieties of skin tones or varying shades of pink, having a family of tones pre-mixed before you paint can really help streamline the process. 

Then, get creative

While there are a few tried-and-true techniques all beginners should try out, don’t limit yourself to the basics! Mix and match these methods and techniques, exploring the ways of painting that feel right to you. As you develop your skills, you’ll notice that your techniques will become refined into your own unique method of creating art. 

Learn more acrylic skills, for free!

Painting Flowers

In this free online video course, learn how to paint a stunning floral still life using easy acrylic painting techniques.Enroll FREE Now »


Linda Myro Judd

I agree also, but I think using a thin line, or adding a thin rule, to separate the items in question would work better for both parties. in terms of reading and layout for the author.


I agree


intrested in acrylic painting


Would like some tips on acrylic painting on canvass please


My acrylic paints in the tubes have gotten gummy and some are hard. What should I do?


Throw them away. After they’ve dried up, you can’t rescue them.


Yes. When they get gummy and hard, it means that they have gotten old.


bin them.


you must add oil in it but not the home one special paint oil.
i hope t helped you.


I love this thank u

Alice Jean Dreesen Smith

I am past the beginners (but not expert by all means) painting. But my comment and question is as follows, I taught myself how to paint I NEVER had any lessons in school or classes. But I have watched Ross. I adored him for years and years. I’m 67 yrs young and lost my son 5 yrs ago but before he passed I picked up a brush for the first time in my life and started painting and finished it that night. I was in awe and so was he. Then he passed the day after Mother’s Day, and I quit!!!
I have recently picked it up again because it’s good therapy putting your feelings on canvas.
BUT….my question (and your probably thinking, FINALLY) is, why can I pick up a brush one day a paint a beautiful masterpiece and a week later want to paint again and can’t configure anything???, can’t get the flow in my hands or fingers. Why is it that causes that to happen to painters ???
When I paint I have to have complete silence and absolutely no movement or distractions. Just me, my paint, my brushes, the canvas and my inner thoughts. Why is that? Is it normal? ?
Thanks so so much!


Hi Alice. I am just starting out myself and have found myself painting what I know…photos that I have taken. People always say that I should be a photographer, but I realuzed that when I take a photo, I see a painting. Perhaps you have an album (shoebox) you can go through?

Juan Sanchez

Hi Alice, I’m going to start my comment writing a little be about myself. I was born in the Dominican Republic, when I was on fifth grade i remember that my classmates always asked me to help when we had art project, they thought I was good at it. Now I am 50 years young and I’ve been painting since then. I always asked myself why i lost interest when painting? why if I feel like doing something, then I can’t do it? Over the years, I realized it was normal, but never gave up. So don’t feel bad, just find the right moment to do it and study yourself and find out what is interfering at that specific moment. Maybe you need to be in a quiet place or somewhere that you feel comfortable to performed your abilities. When I was on my teens, back home, I used to work on the streets, surrounded by a lot of people watching me, noise from all kinds of transportation going by, I guess that help me a lot on how to control myself around noise and people.
Good luck to you and I hope you find the right way to be comfortable so that way you can have good results on what you are trying to do.

rosebery red designs handpainted Art on Glass

I am same ..need
quiet to concentrate on painting.. can’t have noise talk etc


“It is a good therapy of putting your feelings on the paint.” Strongly agree!
I am going to spend some time on it too. Just start to learn. It will improve my mood and living health.

Andrew Perry

Alice, it is very normal for artists to go through dry spells, or even have a painting that does not finish the way you want it to. Mood, temperature, distractions can all affect your painting because it affects how you load your brush and how quickly or slowly you make your marks. As For Bob Ross, most oil painters don’t finish paintings in thirty minutes.


I personally don’t think it matters. i got what she ment and i love this articals!! you did a good job and thanks for the putting in the time to help beginners learn about art!! Katie. C


Thanks for the tutorial. A friend used to paint with acrylics and invited me to do so years ago. On a whim I picked up my own supplies today and am gonna’ give it a shot. Yours was one of the first Google hits when I typed in “acrylic painting techniques.” Very excited to get started!


Excellent suggestions ! I learned a lot from the specifics – Does anyone know if I could possibly locate a sample TSP-17 example to fill out ?

Vivek Singh Sagar


George E. Kennedy

a while back I tried to paint a reflection of one of my friends in a mirror. Unfortunately. the reflection in the glass mirror did not look right when I painted it with acrylic paints. I would like to contact an artist e-mail address so I could ask him or her some questions on how to do this. Thank you, George E, Kennedy.


I have a paint by numbers canvas only, what would be the best way to support it on my easel,a canvas board or a framed canvas Help


Great post.

Just one quick note: Georges Seurat’s work is pointillism, not stippling. Very closely related techniques, though.


I thought it was very easy to follow which article went with each picture

shiv sharma

Really intresting way to learn basic of painting ……so impressive


Nice article.. was useful

Daniella Tigani

This is a lovely beginners guide to acrylic painting technique that can easily be used in the classroom

joyce perron

I am a beginner in acrylics and wondered how they get that thick thick paint, three dimensional look. I LOAD my brush, but it never appears to pop out from the canvas. Is there an additive or gel that keeps the paint applied as super thick?


Wait for layers to dry then add another layer and so on.

Jans Wisniewski

Some painters I know apply crumpled paper, such as rice paper, to the surface before painting using matte or gloss medium, to get a textured surface. There are also loads of different media that can be added to or used before acrylics, in categories such as molding/modeling pastes, textures/surfaces, crackle medium, etc., by brands including Golden, Liquitex, QOR, Sennelier, Windsor & Newton, etc.
Good luck!


Wow! This article is so helpful. I’m new to acrylic painting and I learned quite a few tips that I’m sure will help me as I paint.

Jahan Mim

Thanks… these techniques will help me a lot as i am a beginner in acrylics, so thanks a lot. May Allah bless u.

Col I S Dhillon

Hi, thanks for the tips will apply once on war with canvas & wet brushes on it


I love the images just as they are, keep em’ coming! They help me to understand the article better and see want you are tying to explain!


Thanks so much for the tips… Very helpful for this beginner.

lynda Davison

For heavier acrylic texture, choose “heavy body” acrylics these have nice
creamy consistency; “Basic” acrylics have thinner consistency about like
tempra paints you use in school. Heavy body acrylics can be thinned but
the basic ones won’t give a deep color consistency

Bernard Clyde

I appreciate you not only explaining some different painting techniques but also showing us examples of them. It’s important to know these different methods in order for you to unlock the image stuck in your mind and be able to apply it canvas. I think it can be very valuable to find a painting class near you to get some more personalized training and advice.


Agreed, it took me 30 seconds to work it out.

jordan tweedy

these are really cool paintings especially the dabbing because the eye looks really real it is cool and awesome

Tyler Painting

Wow very impressive! Great to know about these painting techniques. 🙂

Zoe Toronto

Not sure if they author reads our comments, but I appreciated all the techniques that were included. I’m just getting back into painting, so I enjoyed feeling a bit more confident and inspired by all the information in this site. Thank you!

Sherry Mehem

Wow! These are some really cool painting techniques to use. Will be surely trying them out next time. Thanks for sharing!


thanks for sharing … where did you buy the easel stands? I like that it’s not huge!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Reply