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Thursday, January 21, 2016


Quick Tips for Using Acrylic Paints

Acrylics are extremely versatile, fast-drying paints, and can be used straight from the tube like oils or thinned with water or a medium and used like watercolors

Acrylic paints dry fast. Protect brushes from drying with paint in them by placing them in water (if you’re taking a break) or cleaning them by rinsing them in water (especially when you’re all done).

All acrylic products are compatible.

Acrylic medium makes a great glue/decoupage for adhering papers for collage.

Some acrylic paints darken as they dry.

You can clean acrylic paint off of your hands with soap and water.

Acrylic paint sticks to itself, so insert a clean sheet of paper between paintings (or better yet, avoid stacking them, altogether).

Always have a damp rag, or paper towel nearby while painting, it's handy to clean off one color when using another.

As you paint, keep a misting bottle of water nearby to help keep paint on your palette moist.

If you find your paint is too thick, you can thin acrylic paint with either water or acrylic medium.

Using a palette knife is usually the easiest way to mix acrylic paints.

Reusable glass and high-density plastic make good palettes because acrylic paint doesn’t cling to them this makes clean up very easy.

Keeping Acrylic Paints Workable

Because acrylics dry so fast, squeeze only a little paint out of a tube at a time. 

If you're using a 'normal' plastic palette invest in a spray bottle so you can spray a fine mist over the paint regularly to keep it moist, and thus usable.

Stay wet palettes - where the paint sits on a sheet of waxed paper that is placed on top of a damp piece of water color paper.  Or you can buy one at the art store. 

 Freezer paper also works well as a pallet, just tape it down on a piece of hardboard, cardboard of other firm surface.  

Opaque or Transparent Colors

If applied thickly – either straight from the tube or with very little water added – or if mixed with a little
titanium white, all acrylic colors can be opaque. 

If diluted, they can be used like watercolors or for airbrushing.

Acrylic vs Watercolor Washes

When an acrylic wash dries, it is permanent and unlike a water color wash it can be over painted without fear of disturbing the existing wash.  The colors of subsequent washes mix optically with the earlier ones. 

Think Thin When Thinking Glazes

If you want transparen
t glazes, these should be built up in thin layers, so the colors beneath show through.  

Acrylics are extremely versatile, fast drying paints and can be used straight from the tube like oils or thinned with water, or a medium and used like water colors.

How much water of medium to mix with acrylic paints

You can mix in as much acrylic medium (glazing, texture paste, etc) as you like because it's got the acrylic resin in it that acts as the 'glue' that makes the paint 'stick'.

If you're new to glazing, I recommend taking a small container and mixing some paint with 50 percent water (judge it by volume), then mixing the two together thoroughly, to get a feel for just how much water to use.

Improve Flow Without Losing Color

To increase the flow of a color with minimal loss of color strength, use flow-improve
medium rather than just water.


Because acrylics dry rapidly, you need to work fast if you wish to
blend colors.

I will sometimes spray the back of a canvas to dampen it, helps with the flow, if you spray the front you have to be careful to not get it too wet, as then the paint might run or be too thin

Hard Edges

Masking tape can be put onto and removed from dried acrylic paint without damaging an existing layer. 

This makes it easy to produce a hard or sharp edge. 

Make sure the edges of the tape are stuck down firmly and don't paint too thickly on the edges, otherwise you won't get a clean line when you lift it.

Washing-up Liquid with Masking Fluid

Masking tape or frisket can be used with acrylics washes, as well as with watercolors. 

Be sure it's completely dry before you paint over it, and don't paint too thickly over it or you'll have to scratch away the paint to get to the masking fluid. 

Masking fluid will work on paper and canvas, but do try it out first before using it in a painting to get a feel for it. 

Once masking fluid has dried in a brush, it's nearly impossible to remove. Dipping a brush into some liquid soap first makes it easier to wash masking fluid out of a brush.

Using Acrylic Paint as a Glue for Collage

Provided it's used fairly thickly and the item to be stuck isn't too heavy, acrylic paint will work as a glue in a collage.

Simply apply some to the surface, like you would glue.


Start by checking that you're using an opaque color, not a transparent one.   It should say on the tube.

Flat color is easier to achieve with opaque colors than transparent ones.

You can also mix a little of a strongly opaque color, such as titanium white or titanium buff, with the transparent color to produce a color that will spread more evenly. 

If the resulting color isn't intense enough, wait until it's dry and then glaze over with the transparent color.

Another technique to try is to blend the paint by going over it with a very large, soft brush, before it's completely dry.

If the paint is drying faster than you can blend it, try using a larger brush or wetting the canvas first (either with a brush or with a spray bottle) before you paint.


I always say there are no mistakes when you are painting with acrylics  

Simply use Gesso or Titanium White to paint over the area you are not happy with  (sometimes, the whole painting)

Gesso will even cover over black felt pen.

Either apply it thickly, or add a second layer once the first has dried.

If the paint is still wet, scrape off as much as you can with a painting knife. 

A piece of stiff cardboard or an old credit card will also do the job.   

Sometimes I end up in the shower washing off the paint, it has led to some very interesting backgrounds, when it all doesn't wash off.

Smooth down the remaining paint, leave it to dry, then paint white over this.

If there is any unwanted texture, sand down the area gently, wipe off any dust with a damp cloth, let it dry, then paint it with white.  *Do check to make sure you are indeed using titanium white and not zinc white, which is more transparent.


If the cap of a paint tube breaks or cracks, you need to reseal the tube so the paint doesn't dry out. 

I've fortunately only had it happen a few times.

 I fold up a small piece of plastic wrap (clingfilm) into several layers, then put this over the top of the tube instead of the cap, and keep it in place with a small elastic band.

Next time you finish a tube of paint, clean the cap and then store it for possible use as a replacement in the future.

I've lost or cracked the screw rims of the several tube tops; the  content will soften up when inverted in a glass of water, (sometimes it takes days).  

I use nut crackers or pliers to open stubborn tube caps, but if the tube begins to twist, hot water always loosens stuck caps i seconds.  Just plop the tubes head down in a cup of water.  After the cap is off clean the rim and the cap, and rub some Vaseline around the rim and cap.


If a brush seems totally ruined and the hairs out of shape, wash the brush again, then dip the bristles in some linseed oil and reshape it.

Now dip the oiled and shaped brush into water-soluble glue (I use Elmers glue) and let it dry for a couple of weeks (bristles facing up!). 

As the the glue is water soluble you can wash it off in warm water, no soap needed. Much useful life restored to the brush.

If the bristles of a hog hair brush are a little 'wild,' a way to shape them is to leave them damp (with a little soap) and wrap the bristles in toilet tissue, shaping the hairs. 

Leave them dry overnight and remove the tissue. The bristles tend to hold together.

To straighten out the bristles on brushes, use a tiny amount of Vaseline.  

It works like a dream but better on small brushes than larger ones where it is hard to wash out the Vaseline when you want to use it.

Tissue paper works very well for unbending your benders.

Wash your brushes out well with soap and warmish water.

Leave them wet and lay them onto some tissue paper.

Roll the paper around the end.  Wrap the end as tightly as possible (on completion of the wrapping make sure the paper is we, not drippy or soggy)

Stand them upright and leave them to dry for a day or so.

Takes a bit of trial and error to get the technique right, but it works every time once you get the hang of it.

 Blot your Brushes

Keep a piece of paper towel or cloth next to your water jar and get into the habit of wiping your brushes on it every time you use them.

This prevents water drops running down the ferrule and onto your painting, making blotches.

Always have a damp rag in your hand to clean brush in between colors and to catch any drips


when painting over a pencil drawing spray lightly with hair spray so it doesn't streak or you can purchase a fixative spray at the art store.


  1. Thank you Joyce for all your wonderful Tips. I have so much to learn and, having said that, learn something new everyday. Appreciate your information & gorgeous paintings. Cheers. :)

    1. Thanks Jo My friend Gail who inspired me (I told her she was nagging) me to do this for years, is very happy for me, but not as happy as I am, it is really inspiring for me to work with different people and also gives me more challenges and keeps me looking for more and different ideas

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