15 Easy Acrylic Painting Techniques for Beginners

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When I turned 48, I decided it was finally time to pursue my lifelong dream to learn how to paint. I had always wanted to learn. I always loved drawing, photography and crafting but they never satisfied the itch to paint.

A local artist, Jeremy Doss, decided to start teaching Oil Painting and I jumped at the chance. I remember telling him, “If I really suck at this just tell me and I’ll leave.” He laughed and said, “If I can teach a pigeon-toed man to dance, I can teach you to paint.” I was hooked.

So You Think You Can’t Paint?

Painted by Someone with Natural Talent

Anyone can paint. Most people think you have to be born with natural talent. Granted, that is helpful, but not completely necessary. It may come easier for them, that’s all. A concert violinist doesn’t just pick up a violin and play Carnegie Hall the next day. There are thousands of hours of practice in between. The same is true for painting. Once you know the right notes, you practice, practice, practice and voila, you’re an artist.

I started my Art Education with Oils. I do love Oil Painting, but I don’t love the waiting. Oils can take weeks to cure. I’m an instant gratification kind of person, nobody’s got time for that.

Give Acrylics A Chance

7 Mile Beach, very Water Toney

So, I decided to give Acrylics a try. They are the new kids on the block, having been developed in the 1940s. Acrylics have the flexibility of acting like Watercolors or Oils, depending on how you use them. They do dry fast, sometimes too fast. (There are ways to slow it down, but don’t worry about that now.) They come in the same colors I love in my palette. I started out using Jeremy’s palette of colors and over time developed my own. You’ll do the same. I realized, after months of hating the horrible colors in my paintings, that I just hate earth tones. I’m more water tones. (I’m not sure that’s a thing, but it should be)

So, I am going to show you 15 of the most common techniques used in Acrylic Painting. Mix and match these techniques to create anything your heart desires. I have some quick paintings you can practice with already. I’ll be adding the rest shortly. I’ve included some YouTube Videos to help clarify, as well. Don’t forget to practice, practice, practice!

In case you missed my post, All the Tools You Need to Start Acrylic Painting, check it out. There is a Printable Checklist that goes along with it if you have subscribed to my email list. When you are finished meet me back here. (Cue Jeopardy Theme Song)

Acrylic Techniques

These techniques were used to Paint a Beautiful Galaxy

A Beautiful Galaxy

1. Dabbing – Dabbing is exactly as it sounds. Take a bristle brush or a sponge, either a natural one or the kind you do your dishes with, dip it into the paint and dab it around the canvas. This technique is good for leaves and bushes and places where you need some texture. Dabbing Video

2. Stippling – Stippling is very similar to Dabbing. It is the process of taking a thin brush and making dots or specks in places you need more shading or texture. When you use various colors, you can even create a picture with it. The style known as Pointillism is based on stippling. Stippling Video

3. Splatter – This is the most fun technique in my opinion. Great for making stars and fireflies. Cinnamon, the Art Sherpa’s, video shows it better than anyone I know.

4. Drybrush – As it implies, you dip the brush in paint then wipe it off on a paper towel leaving just a hint of paint. Then you brush it in places where you want just a touch of color. Drybrush Video

These techniques were used to create an Abstract Acrylic Ocean

5. one stroke – you dip your brush or palette knife into 2 different colors and let them mix naturally on the canvas. One Stroke Video

6. texture/impasto – using your palette knife, lay on the paint like spackle. leaving chunks and texture and great effects Impasto Video

7. Palette knife – the palette knife makes great edges., tree trunks, branches, fence posts and anything that needs a more precise look. It’s also great for making abstract paintings. Palette Knife video

These techniques were used to make Candles in the Night

Candles in the Night

8. Layering – The beauty of Acrylics is that you can add layers on top of layers to create depth and effects that mimic Oil paintings. You work from back to front. In this case the glow around the candles came first and the details and highlights are last. Layers Video

9. Glazing – like layering, but using a thinner, translucent coat of paint. This changes the tone or value of your colors and allows the colors underneath to shine through. Glazing Video

10. Detailing – adding in the details to create a more realistic painting versus abstract Detailing Video FYI Chuck Black is amazing and has all the videos and techniques you could ever want. That’s how I painted these Candles in the first place.

11. Blending/Scumbling – Acrylics are tougher to blend than oils as they dry quicker. But if you do it while they are still damp, you can achieve some excellent results. Scumbling uses the brushes you have that have seen better days. I generally refer to them as my squidgy brushes. Do not throw them away! They make awesome leaves and grass. Blending Video

These techniques were used to make Hamlin Beach, lake ontario

Hamlin Beach, Lake Ontario

12. Wash – a thin layer of paint mixed with a lot of water to add a wash of color to your background. An excellent way to remove the glaring white of your canvas and set the tone. Wash Video

13. Underpainting – After your Wash is done, you use a Q-tip to draw in your highlights (by removing the paint) and outline your objects. You also use a darker color to map out your shadows Underpainting Video

14. Color blocking – The first step generally where you cover your canvas with paint. This is where you can get your painting mapped out and make your mistakes. Think of it like coloring in your painting so you know where to add details. And it’s totally okay to color outside the lines. Blocking In Video

15. Monochrome – It is a painting with only one or two colors. You wipe away paint to create highlights in your picture. Monochromes are good for practicing because you have fewer colors to keep track of. Monochrome Video

Every painting you do will involve at least one of these techniques unless someone comes up with something new. Do not be afraid to make mistakes! How else are you supposed to learn? The beauty of Acrylics is that if you don’t like something you can just paint over it and start again. Now get out there and start painting!

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