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To help you select the best acrylic paint we will have a look at a few factors that could influence your decision. Are you looking for cheap acrylic paint or something that offers better quality? Basic acrylic paints are easy to use and clean up and can be used by all from those just starting to the more professional artist. Acrylics can also be used on different surfaces from paper, wood, and canvas to metal. Allow us to take you on a journey to discover the best acrylic paint.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is Acrylic Paint?
- 2 Types of Acrylic Paint
- 3 Acrylic Paint Mediums
- 4 Grading of Acrylic Paints
- 5 Buying an Acrylic Paint Set
- 6 Best Acrylic Paint Brands
- 7 Best Acrylic Paints
- 8 An Overview of Basic Pros and Cons of Using Acrylic Paints
- 9 Your Basic Beginners Acrylic Paint Palette
- 10 Frequently asked Questions
What is Acrylic Paint?
This type of paint consists of pigments that are suspended in an acrylic polymer suspension. A polymer suspension is needed as the pigments will just float if added to water and begin to clump together. The suspension helps to disperse the pigments and gives the paint an even consistency. The best acrylic paint also has a variety of additives that help to produce an acrylic paint product you can purchase in stores.
Some additives include:
- Preservatives to help prevent the growth of microbes, thereby improving paint durability
- Thickeners can be added to influence the flow properties
- Surfactants that play a role in the process of drying
- Defoamers help to offset the surfactant
- Buffers like ammonia, these help with the pH of the paint
- Initiators also play a role in an effective drying process
- Stabilizers that also influence the flow properties of the paint
Types of Acrylic Paint
When it comes to the best acrylic paints the consistency is not a reflection of the quality of the paints. Professional acrylic paint can come in different formulas, and this is dependent on the application or what the artist wants out of the paint, what type of surface is going to be used, and the techniques involved. First, there are heavy body acrylic paints which is a popular choice as this type of paint is quite similar to how oil-based paints perform. They have a soft butter-like consistency and as such hold, the paintbrush strokes quite effectively.
Next, you have the soft body paints which are smoother and are better suited for mixing in mediums. A creamy consistency that is excellent for your general painting but can also be used for pouring. Acrylic paints that have a runnier consistency are known as fluid paints, these spread quite easily and are perfect for painting techniques such as pouring.
Another type of paint is acrylic ink, which has a very fluid consistency and produces vibrant colors. When the ink dries the finish has a slight smooth gloss. This is an adaptable product, as you can easily use an airbrush, a paintbrush, or even a pen. When using other types of acrylic paints, you can also thin the paint by using a thinning agent for airbrush application.
Next, the following acrylic paints mainly deal with the drying times. You know by now that acrylic paint dries quickly, however, there are what is known as specially formulated open paints. These dry slowly allowing you to apply wet-into-wet. This technique is usually only possible with oil paints, but these types of acrylic paints have this same property.
You also have the interactive acrylics, these dry just as quickly as normal acrylic paints but there is an ‘unlocking formula’. This liquid formula can re-wet the dry interactive paint, and by adding a few drops it can also reduce the drying time allowing you to blend and paint further. To ‘lock’ the paint you will use a Fast Medium Fixer, which then fixes or seals the paint.
Acrylic Gouache is next on the list. The traditional gouache is a type of opaque watercolor, while the acrylic paint has a similar appearance with a creamy consistency, it is not the same. Acrylic Gouache is an acrylic paint that includes an additive that provides a matte finish. The acrylic paint is also slightly water-resistant when it dries, which is not the case for the traditional gouache.
Finally, one of the easiest ways of using acrylic paint is to spray it. You can use these spray paints on a variety of surfaces. The spray paints, especially the solvent-based ones, should be used outside or in a ventilated area, as the paint particles and fumes can be inhaled. For this reason, working with goggles and a mask is also recommended. The water-based spray paints can be used inside, but it should still be done in a well-ventilated area using protective gear. When using a proper spray system, you can even control the amount of paint applied, therefore, you can draw finer lines or go broader if you wish.
Acrylic Paint Mediums
When using basic acrylic paints, you should be aware that there are various mediums you can add to the paint to alter the properties. You can thicken or thin the paint, alter the drying times, add texture, provide a gloss or matte finish, and many more. The mediums usually come in pastes, liquids, or gels. Additives and mediums are fairly similar, however, you have to work with precise measurements for additives, so you will need to follow the label instructions. Mediums are a little more flexible in that you can freely add them until you achieve what you are looking for, as mediums have acrylic binders. Coming up next are some examples of different types of mediums.
Gel Medium for Acrylic Paint
This type of medium comes in a paste form and is white in color. You will use a gel medium to thicken your acrylic paint. The medium is used in techniques where you wish to retain your brush strokes. The gel medium also has good adhesive qualities and can be used effectively in collage compositions. The gel mediums also have a variety of types from matte, and gloss to providing various textures.
As the name describes it provides various textures and consists out of different aggregates from natural sand to glass beads and more. You can add your sand to acrylic paint, but this might include impurities that can affect the stability of the paint in the future. You can also usually play and mix the different texture gels to achieve your own desired results.
Modeling or molding paste is great if you wish to include more facets to an art piece. Once you apply the paste which is quite thick, and build it up, it will then harden. You can then sculpt or sand it as desired. You can also embed items into the paste if you wish for added effect.
The glazing medium is perfect for blending edges, as it creates a transparent effect. Be careful when purchasing this product, as you can get glazing mediums with oils and these will not work with acrylic paint. You can also get acrylic glazing mediums in gloss as well as satin sheens.
Matte and Gloss Medium
When working with acrylic paint, it already appears to have a gloss effect, so a matte medium simply creates a more non-shiny finish when required. The gloss medium will help to enhance its natural appearance. You can also achieve a semi-gloss finish by blending the two mediums. As you can see there is quite a range of mediums you can use to paint your masterpiece with. You can also get a retarding medium, which is mostly an additive that reduces the drying time of the paint. Another additive that is used is a flow improver which thins the acrylic paint. Both of these should be used carefully and make sure you read the instructions on the label.
Grading of Acrylic Paints
Since there different types of acrylic paint, there is so much you can do with them from quick-drying to slow drying and adding mediums. However, when it comes to the quality there are two main grades for acrylic paint, professional acrylic paint or artist-grade, and student grade.
Professional Acrylic Paint
The best acrylic paint is known as professional acrylic paint, as well as artist grade. The paints contain superior quality pigments and a higher level of pigments for more vivid colors. The professional acrylic paint tubes limit the amount of binder, which provides for brighter colors and are generally more expensive. However, the drying times and other paint qualities can differ from color to color making it relatively challenging to work with.
Artist-grade paints are similar but more affordable, as they contain an increased amount of binder which helps to provide for more consistent paint qualities.
Student Grade Acrylic Paint
When it comes to student grade or acrylic paint for beginners, these paints have a lower pigment saturation. In other words, less pigment is used when combined with the acrylic polymer. This makes student grade acrylic paints cheaper. Since certain fillers are used instead it can make some colors appear chalkier. However, these paints are perfect for learning and experimenting with.
Buying an Acrylic Paint Set
If you are a professional painter, you should have a fair amount of knowledge by now when it comes to purchasing products. However, if you are a beginner it might be a bit more overwhelming with all the brands, colors, and types of acrylic paints available. Next are some factors to bear in mind when buying an acrylic paint set. As you learn and experiment with various paints you will eventually find the product you enjoy most using.
Quality of Acrylic Paints
We have already discussed the quality of an acrylic paint set, referring to the grading of acrylic paints. Why not simply purchase the better artist-grade paints? One reason is that they can be more expensive than student or cheap acrylic paint. If you are only starting out and maybe you are not sure acrylic painting is for you yet, the more affordable student quality paints are a better choice. You can always advance to artist-grade when you feel more confident with your painting skills.
Acrylic Paint Colors
Acrylic paints come in a variety of colors. The best choice would be to purchase beginner acrylic paint sets. These paint sets will provide you with the basics to get started. Again, you can always upgrade to artist quality paints, or start by mixing the two grades. Some colors are also more expensive than others, these would be the artist or professional grade paints. The colors and saturation may also be different according to the brand. Experimenting and experience will be the best way to decide which brands and paints you prefer.
Lightfastness or Permanence
This refers to how the acrylic paint holds up against exposure to light and how fast it will begin to fade. Of course, this is over about 20 years and acrylics have a better lightfastness than other paint media like oil paints, so it takes a long time. The paint label should give you information on this if it is a quality product. Some manufacturers rate their paint according to ASTM International standards. For example, a measurement of ASTM I means excellent lightfastness while ASTM III is not adequately lightfast. Others might rate theirs as A, AA, B, or C. The AA is the best lightfastness and C being the worst or known as fugitive colors. The latter should only really be used for kids’ craft projects.
Acrylic Paint Consistency
The thickness of the paint will determine what technique you want to use. Thicker paint helps to retain your brush strokes and blends well with other colors. The thinner paints can help to replicate watercolor effects. This refers to the types of paint we discussed earlier in this article.
Acrylic Paint Drying Time
Basic acrylic paints dry quickly, so you have to work quite fast to get your painting done. This is what many artists love about acrylic paints, but there can be certain techniques that require wet paint. Thankfully, there are options available to help lengthen the drying time. Certain mediums and additives can be included for this effect, but it all depends on what you want to achieve with your project.
Acrylic Tubes or Jars?
Beginners might want to start with the smaller tubes, you should find the paint does go quite far and you will be able to try out various brands without breaking the bank. Once you have found the brand and colors you prefer you can then try out a few jars. The heavier body acrylic paints come in jars as well as tubes.
Tubes are easier to carry around with you, as they are smaller. However, buying a larger jar can help to save money, as you get more paint. The fluid acrylic paints can be purchased in bottles with caps or dropper bottles that make application easier. When choosing a product, it is really up to each individual.
Best Acrylic Paint Brands
What brand of paint you decide upon is really a personal choice, however, you do get some brands that offer better products than other manufacturers. Here is a list of a few brands that are popular and offer quality products:
- Utrecht Acrylics
- Golden Artist Colors
- Blick Studios Acrylics
- Arteza Acrylic paints
- TriArt Liquid Acrylics
- Chroma Atelier Interactive Artists’ Acrylics
- Winsor & Newton Professional Acrylics
- Blickrylic Student Acrylic Paint
Best Acrylic Paints
Whenever you start something new it can be a daunting task, the same applies to acrylic painting because there are so many colors and brands out there. Basic acrylic paint is an excellent choice, as it is affordable and in return, you get vibrant colors and amazing textures. Acrylic paint for beginners is harmless, as it is water-based. Acrylic paints also dry quickly, and they become water-resistant once dry. This is great for those artists on the move and for those who enjoy doing landscapes. To make things a little easier for you, below are a few of the most popular and best acrylic paint products from painting sets for beginners to the best professional acrylic paint products. These are all easily available on Amazon and rate well with users.
Best for Beginners: ARTEZA Acrylic Paint Set with Storage Box
The Arteza Acrylic paint set is an extremely popular choice for artists looking for paint with rich pigments and an impressive selection of colors. This product is amongst the certified non-toxic acrylic paint sets that can be used by kids and adults alike.
- This acrylic paint kit features a smooth, highly pigmented colors to produce true, consistent shades.
- Ideal for canvas painting, these colors won’t fade over time.
- No need to worry about toxicity with our acrylic paints, they’re ACMI-certified.
This paint set offers adequate performance with a variety of colors at an affordable price.
Best Overall Acrylic Paint Set: LIQUITEX BASICS Acrylic Paint Set
Again, the Liquitex brand comes in with another great product. This acrylic paint set offers both quality paints at a great price. The BASICS paint set does have a lower pigmentation concentration; however, the colors remain vibrant. The 12 paints in this set are of medium to thick viscosity and are easy to use.
- Made for all artists, Basics acrylics are student-quality
- Sticks to almost any surface including canvas, paper, wood, metal, stone, etc
- Basics comes in a range of opacities, can be adjusted to use as an undertone, tint or shade
Unlike some other acrylic paint sets, Liquitex provides their paint in individual colors. You can then replenish your set without having to get a whole new one.
Best for Professionals: LIQUITEX Professional Heavy Body Acrylic Paint
The Liquitex Professional Acrylic Paint is a high pigment, thick paint that will give you a beautiful satin finish. You can get the classic beginners set that has six tubes to the professional Heavy Body set of twelve. The paints can also be blended with a variety of mediums or binders that will help improve your paint techniques.
- The acrylic paint is thick, rich, and highly pigmented
- Flexible when dry and creates a beautiful satin finish
- Contains 12 basic acrylic colors for all your possible needs
This is seen as a great artistic grade acrylic paint starter set. These paints are worth purchasing as it is a popular brand that offers bright and vibrant colors.
Best Cheap Acrylic Paint: CREATIVE JOY Acrylic Paint Set with Brushes
Just getting into painting and not wanting to spend a whole lot of money, then the Creative Joy Acrylic Paints is a good choice. At just under ten dollars, you get 12 tube paint colors and six different size soft nylon brushes. You can paint on different materials from paper to canvas, fabric, and wood.
- One dozen 12 ml (0.42 fl oz) tubes of non-toxic acrylic paint; six assorted brushes.
- Best acrylic paint set for beginners, find your creative joy through acrylic painting!
- You can use these vivid acrylic paints on paper, canvas, wood, fabric, etc.
A great starter and best cheap acrylic paint set for crafts and other hobby projects.
An Overview of Basic Pros and Cons of Using Acrylic Paints
Still not sure if acrylic painting is for you? Let us see if we can make your choice a bit clearer with a few pros and cons and see how it measures up when compared to other paint mediums.
Your Basic Beginners Acrylic Paint Palette
When purchasing acrylic paints for the first time, you do not need to get an entire acrylic paint set of 24 colors or more. You can select a handful of colors that will provide you with a base to create many more colors if you wish.
Basic acrylic paints to start with:
- Titanium white
- Cadmium yellow light
- Alizarin crimson permanent
- Ultramarine blue
- Burnt umber
More valuable colors:
- Ivory black
- Cadmium red
- Raw umber
- Yellow ochre
- Phthalo blue
Frequently asked Questions
Are Basic Acrylic Paints Waterproof?
When acrylic paint dries it becomes water-resistant but not fully waterproof. You will have to prepare your surface properly and apply a sealer for better protection.
Can You Use Acrylic paint on Wood?
Yes, acrylic paints can be used on wood and other surfaces like glass, metal, plastic, and more. When it comes to using acrylic paint on a certain surface like wood, surface preparation is important for higher-quality results.
Is Acrylic paint Non-Toxic?
Most acrylic paints are considered to be non-toxic, however, certain colors might contain heavy metals, but this should be indicated on the label.
Are Acrylic Paints Flammable?
Acrylic paint in its liquid state is not flammable. All aerosol paints should be treated with caution, as these can be flammable. When buying acrylic paints read the labels, as some paints may contain solvents which is flammable.
Can You Mix Different Paint Brands?
Yes, using different brands of acrylic paint should be fine. If you do mix differing thicknesses or sheens, or paint with additives this will, however, have an effect on the result. Another factor to take into account is quality, it is best to only mix good quality paints. Also, you should never mix water-based paint with oil-based paints.
Do Acrylic Paints Dry Quickly?
Usually, it takes about 20 to 30 minutes, but it does depend on the specific paint formula, how much paint you used, and the environment you are working in. Ultimately, it should not take longer than a day to dry thoroughly.