Acrylic Painting

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!

Acrylic painting for beginners

Photos via CakeSpy unless otherwise noted

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 

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. 

Wash with Acrylic Paint

Washing

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.

Stippled trees in Acrylic

 

Autumn woods via Craftsy member christine6622173

Stippling 

This is a method used in drawing which 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. 

Flicking Acrylic Paint

Flicking 

Using a fairly wet brush, you can flick 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. 

Sponge dabbing in Acrylic

Fall tree scape via Craftsy member tricia.415425570

Dabbing 

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. 

Detail Work Painting in Acrylic

Photo via Craftsy blogger Sara Barnes

Detailing 

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. 

Palette knife art in acrylic

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. 

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. 

Underpainting in Acrylic

Underpainting via Craftsy instructor Micah Ganske

Underpainting

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 in Acrylics

Photo via Craftsy blogger Sara Barnes

Glazing

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. 

Layered acrylic paint

Photo via Craftsy blogger Sara Barnes

Layering

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.

Blocks of color

Flower painting via Craftsy member tricia.415425570

Paint in blocks of color

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. 

Mixing Acrylic Paint Colors

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 Mixed Acrylic Paint

Partially mix colors before painting

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. 

A Family in Colors

Create a family of colors

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 »

71 Comments

Mr Uku

I love reading your articles, but I wish you’d stop putting the pictures above the sub-heading and text associated with each image. It’s really confusing trying to keep track of which image goes with which bit of text.

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Afsheen

I so agree

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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.

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Don

Another option is to put the image between the title and the description.

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Maplelime

I agree

Robbo

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!

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Jenn Cap

I agree as well, I kept looking at the photo below the readings instead

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sam

+1

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Vivek Singh Sagar

A+

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kelly

yeah, confused by pic/text placement as well.

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Denise

Agreed :-/

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Joan

Good point and I completely agree. It’s confusing until you figure it out; a problem easily rectified though. Hope they take your comment to heart

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Tim

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

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Gurneet

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.

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ieva

Agree, it is very confusing! But nice article otherwise, thank you 🙂

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Leah D Clary

If you notice on some of the text related to it’s images is a description as to where to look. Example: [If you look at the image below} or {Images shown below}
I found this to be very effective as i continue to read and having had little or no confusion.

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Annette

I agree! It’s very confusing!

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Aplog

agreed!

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AJAY RAIKAR

intrested in acrylic painting

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anon anon

Still having trouble with password in trying to join.

Would really like to talk to person by phone.

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dawn

Would like some tips on acrylic painting on canvass please

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REChew

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

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ickenchay

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

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Gurneet

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

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doddy

bin them.

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abcd

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

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The worst things to DIY | For the Love of the Home

[…] a thing or two for the brush strokes not to be visible or avoiding crossing over barrier lines. Beginner painters will be up on the ladder, stroking the brush with magnificent grace and when the job is done they […]

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Starr

I love this thank u

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Marianne

Just trying to be supportive: I like the pictures showing up first. That way I see immediately what is being described and the words are like a caption which usually appears UNDER a picture.

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Des

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

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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!
Thankfully;
Alice

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MJ

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?

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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.

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rosebery red designs handpainted Art on Glass

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

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Linda

“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.

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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.

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Choti

its a very good idea

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katie

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

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Arts Challenge 2 | Tess Philips's Blog

[…] that the complimentary colours would suit my tree better. I also looked at the article “13 Acrylic Painting Techniques All Beginners Should Try”  which I found very useful before beginning my acrylic […]

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Borg

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!

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LUCIEN DALLAS

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 ?

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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.

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Tony

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

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Rebecca

Great post.

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

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shiv sharma

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

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TKS KOYA

Nice article.. was useful

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Daniella Tigani

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

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najam ali

helo guyz,,
best wall painting idea

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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?

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Im

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

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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!

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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.

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Col I S Dhillon

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

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My Skyrim Painting – The Art of Living

[…] techniques were found from 13 Must-Know Acrylic Painting Techniques for Beginners and Bob Ross. Now, I understand that the medium Bob Ross paints with is oil. Therefore, I knew and […]

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Ginger

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

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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

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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.

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jordan tweedy

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

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Tyler Painting

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

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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!

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Liz

I noticed you use Liquitex Basics, would you say that’s a good paint to use for beginners as well as more experienced artists?

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Acrylics Activated

I, too, was confused by the picture being above the text. Normally, you read about a technique, then are shown a picture of it below. I was confused and now, I have to read it again to make sure I understood it. It’s a very good article, just a difficult format to follow.

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Sherry Mehem

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

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