can you use acrylic paint on paper

Acrylic Paint on Paper – Best Paper for Acrylic Paints

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There are many art forms available today, but acrylic painting is one of the more popular choices. The reason it is so popular is that the paint can be applied to a variety of surfaces and it is easy to use and keep clean. Acrylic paint is also versatile in that you can create effects similar to that of oil paints and watercolors by either thinning it or mixing it with various mediums. Acrylic painting on paper is the perfect surface on which to display your acrylic paint projects. However, there are different types of paper and a few things you need to consider before purchasing acrylic paper.



What to Look For in Acrylic Paper

Paper for acrylic paints should be able to withstand quite a few things, as certain techniques can cause damage if used on incorrect or too thin paper. The acrylic paper must be tough and able to handle scraping, heavy paints, glazing amongst many other techniques. When looking for paper for acrylic paints they must preferably be made from linen pulp or cotton, as these produce more durable paper.

Paper made from wood is not as tough and may contain acids that could affect the paint. To know what you are buying always check the label where it should state if it is linen, cotton, or if it is acid-free. Most of us know that acrylic paint dries quickly and goes hard, so you need to make sure you choose the correct paper to prevent things like cracking or other problems.

acrylic painting on paper


Heavy Weight Acrylic Paper

Since paper for acrylic paint must be durable, you should always first consider heavyweight paper options. If you are going to use a fair amount of water or other technique, the paper for acrylic paints should not warp or buckle. To avoid these problems, choose paper that is no less than 300 GSM (grams per square meter) or 140 lbs. (pounds per ream). The greater the number the thicker and weightier the paper will be. The weightier the paper, the sturdier it will be and easier to mount onto a board or easel.


Acid-Free Acrylic Paper

To improve the longevity of paper, it should be acid-free or have a neutral pH level. Any acids within the paper can cause yellowing over time and the paper could also become brittle. Paper that is not acid-free is generally low cost, for example, brown paper and copy paper. When purchasing acrylic paper, you should take note of the product which should indicate that it is acid-free.


Acrylic Paper Textures

When it comes to using acrylic paints on paper, the paper surface should not be smooth, oily, or have a gloss appearance. The acrylic paper needs a bit of texture for better absorption, so look out for the different types of rougher paper. Specific paper made for acrylic is the best choice, however, you can also still use watercolor and fine-art paper. Cold-pressed watercolor paper usually has a rougher texture, while hot-pressed paper tends to have a smoother surface. What choice you make all depends on what technique you want to use. Remember to always use thicker paper, as you do not want the paint to bleed through or warp the paper.

Some would recommend that beginners rather start with canvas or wood when using acrylic paints. Acrylic paints do tend to sink into the paper which makes blending difficult. Canvas provides brighter colors, and you can apply more paint layers.

To help you decide on acrylic paper on paint, here are a few pros and cons:


  • More affordable than canvas or wood
  • Paper can be stored more easily
  • Paper is easier to transport
  • Great way to test out new techniques


  • Choosing the correct weight is important
  • The heavier weighted paper does cost more
  • If you purchase the wrong paper it could cost you money and time
  • When painting outdoors you still need a few extra items like tape or a board

Paper Color

Depending on what you want to achieve, the paper color can play a role in your final art piece. Painting the surface entirely will not make any difference, however, if you are not planning to paint the entire surface, the background will show up. So, the paper color does play a noteworthy role.



Types of Paper for Acrylic Paint

Even though acrylic paint is flexible and can be painted on different surfaces, paper is sometimes the easiest and more affordable option. What type of paper for acrylic paint should you use? There are many choices available, let us see what options there are.


Acrylic Paper

We start with actual acrylic paper that has been specifically manufactured for acrylic paints. Some brands that offer acrylic painting pads include Canson, Strathmore, and Royal & Langnickel amongst others. This type of paper for acrylic paints is tough, acid-free, and will hold the acrylic paint well. You can get acrylic paper in pads as well as sheets and is much thicker than other types of paper. For example, the paper from Canson has a weight of 185 lbs. (400gsm) and is thicker than your average card stock. Some acrylic paper can have different textures like a canvas texture, or cold-pressed watercolor texture.

The acrylic paper is fairly priced and should not deteriorate or wrinkle as more inferior paper would. You might have to check to see where you can get the paper, but most can be purchased on Amazon. Acrylic paper is favored by many artists and should be something to consider if you wish to delve into acrylic painting.

paper for acrylic paint


Watercolor Paper, Heavyweight

Watercolor paper is extremely absorbent but is created not to bleed through, so you do not need to do any preparation like adding a layer of primer or gesso. The texture is also acceptable and handles acrylic paints well. You will have to consider using a weightier paper, which should improve how the acrylic paints perform.


Using Cardboard

Cardboard is an extremely cheap option when using acrylic paints. Cardboard is typically easy to find and use as long as it does not have any surface distortions. If you do decide to try cardboard out, we recommend you apply a layer of gesso on both sides of the board. This will make the cardboard sturdier and help you to use your acrylic paints more efficiently.


Synthetic Paper

There are so many synthetic materials available today, and paper is no exception. Your normal paper is usually made out of natural fibers, while the synthetic paper consists of polypropylene. This does make this type of paper more resistant to things like tearing or wrinkling, however, it is not that absorbent. The synthetic paper has a neutral pH, so the paper should last quite a long time without any deterioration. The one major drawback is the price, which might be more costly when compared to other paper options.

acrylic paper


Traditional Drawing Paper

Can you use acrylic paint on paper? This type of paper is also referred to as cartridge paper and is the paper used mostly for pen and pencils. This kind of paper is not ideal when using acrylic paints. However, if you want to try drawing paper out, it is best to choose heavyweight paper from 185 lbs. or 400 gsm. If you do choose a lighter paper, this will then need to be primed before painting with acrylic paints.



Preparing Paper for Acrylic Paint

Acrylic painting on paper does sometimes require a little preparation. However, it mostly depends on what you wish to accomplish with your art piece. There is nothing wrong with painting directly onto good-quality and acid-free paper, as acrylic paints will not affect the paper fibers as oil paints do. The absorbency is the main problem when trying to apply smooth blends, you might want to consider laying down two coats of gesso before you start.

When using paper that is not acid-free, applying gesso on paper to the front and back is necessary before you begin painting. You can also consider a clear sealer or other media to prime the paper surface, all of which should be available online or at your local arts and craft store. You can always test out the paper first to see what happens if you are not sure before you begin your final art piece. Gesso is a mixture of animal glue binder, chalk, and a white pigment, there is also a clear gesso and black color option available.

paper for acrylic paints



Tips on Preventing Paper Warping

You might have just finished your painting masterpiece only to watch it dry and begin to warp or turn up at the edges. So, how can you prevent this? But to know for sure before you begin your final art piece, it might be best to test out things first.

  • Using paper that is at least 140lb. or higher, 300 lb. should be most effective
  • Apply gesso or some other medium before you start painting might help to prevent warping
  • Flattening the paper after painting could be helpful. Some towels and silicone release paper in-between might help to prevent the paint from sticking to any surface
  • When using loose pages, tape the edges to your board using painters’ tape and leave until everything has dried. You might need to leave a margin around the paper in case the tape sticks too much
  • There is also the option of soaking and stretching the paper

The best option, in the end, is to find a good quality acrylic paper that is resistant to warping even if you have to pay a little extra.

acrylic paint on paper



Frequently asked Questions


Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Paper?

Yes, just make sure it is a high-quality paper that is acid-free you should be able to paint directly onto it without preparing the surface.


Why Use Gesso on Paper?

Gesso on paper acts as a primer and helps prevent the absorption of paint and also provides a surface for smoother application and can even provide texture for acrylic paints. Gesso is usually used on lightweight paper and paper that is not acid-free.


What Type of Paper is Best for Acrylic Paints?

A sturdier and thicker paper of high quality that is acid-free works best, try not to go below 140lb. There are also high-quality acrylic paper products available, specifically manufactured for acrylic paints.


Can You Use Cardstock for Acrylic Painting?

Yes, cardstock should be fine to use with acrylic paints. Acrylic paints dry quickly, so if you find it does so even faster, you can apply some acrylic medium before you paint. This will help to increase the time you have to paint.


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