acrylics painted on canvas
how to paint with acrylics on canvas for beginners

The Important Things I Know Now

When you begin in a new form of art you will probably have a great deal of questions.
In the following article I will try to respond to the primary concerns that somebody just starting out with the acrylic medium might have so you can learn how to paint with acrylics on canvas for beginners.

When I first started painting, the responses consist of pointers I wish that someone would have offered me. It would have conserved me so much aggravation, a lot of wasted time, and some money.

1. What Kind of Paint?

What Type Of Acrylic Paints Should I Buy?

Acrylic paints come in a variety of brands that vary the size containers and paint consistency.

acrylic paint set

All of these types of paint can be easily mixed together, so you can buy more expensive paints as you mature in your skills and won’t have to worry about wasting your first purchases. There are different qualities of paint as well including student quality or artist quality. Artist quality paints will be more expensive, however, they will give a much better color and overall final performance of the paint. The professional paints also contain more pigment and allow more abilities to alter the look using gels. Using these heavy body acrylics will give you very smooth paints, similar to oil paints. Each manufacturer develops their own hues and they can be slightly different from brand to brand. You will want to be careful with starting a painting with one brand of paint and using a different brand for the same color on the same canvas since the hues may be a little different and can be frustrating to fix. The main point to make here is to buy the highest quality paint that you can, from brands like Liquitex, Ultrecht, or Golden. You can find all of these paint brands at

2. What Colors Should You Buy?

So what colors of paint do I need to get started?

Luckily you don’t need a wide array of colors, especially when you are just getting started. You will be able to use a base set of colors and mix them to obtain the colors you need to get the results you want.

In the beginning, it is best to buy a set of paints that contain the base colors. Basic colors are typically titanium white, ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow, pthalo green, and naphthol crimson. These are the base colors that you can use to create almost any other color you want.I highly recommend getting yourself a color wheel. This tool will be indispensable for helping you know what colors to mix to get an end result color.

3. Which Paint Brushes?

What Paint Brushes Should I Buy?

This can be a tougher question to answer since there are so many different shapes and sizes of brushes. Some brushes are cheap while others can be very expensive.

A note of caution, however. Cheap brushes, while enticing for their low price, are usually not a good choice. The flexibility of the bristles is usually not as good which will make your brushstrokes look poor. They also lose bristles as you are painting and you’ll end up with hairs throughout your art that you will have to try to pick off without damaging the brushstroke. Needless to say, if you buy cheap paintbrushes you will have to buy new ones often to replace to poor quality of the cheap brushes and, in the end, it will actually cost you more money than buying good brushes in the first place. Since acrylic paints are more corrosive than oils the synthetic brushes should be where you look rather than the natural brushes.

Now there are a number of different brush shapes, and within each shape, a variety of sizes. Which one you choose really depends on the style of painting you will be doing.
For beginners, filbert brushes tend to be the best choice since they are versatile and can create a number of different brushstrokes. The filbert brush has medium to long hairs and an oval-shaped tip. Your best bet is to purchase a few different sizes of filbert brushes to get you started.

One key thing to remember is to keep your paint brushes in good shape. It is a good idea to clean your brushes after you finish painting using some soapy water and rinsing them well afterwards.

4. Canvas

What Type of Canvas to Use?

There are a few different types of canvas that you can use, however only one type is really suited to beginners. You can either buy canvas rolls along with some stretcher bars and stretch your own canvases, or you can purchase already stretched canvas. Stretching the canvas yourself is really an advanced topic and not something that is very useful for someone learning how to paint with acrylics on canvas for beginners. Therefore, it is recommended to use stretched canvas.

With stretched canvases you can either purchase cotton fabric or linen. Linen is typically more expensive than cotton but either one would be great for a beginner to use. Make sure when you do purchase a canvas that it is primed for acrylic paint and not oil. This is something easily overlooked, but is vital to making your paints stick to the canvas.

5. What Is a Palette?

Do I need it to mix colors?

A palette is a simple board or plate where you can easily mix your paints. Remember earlier we suggested to buy a standard set of colors and mix those primary colors to get the other colors you want to use in your painting. The palette is where you will mix your paints. It can be anything, from a store bought palette similar to something Bob Ross used, or it could be as simple as a paper plate.

The amount of clean up you are willing to do in between painting sessions will really decide what type of palette you should use. If you don’t mind putting in some time, then a wood or plastic palette can work nicely. On the other hand, paper plates are an excellent solution, provided they are monotone. You don’t want to get a multicolored plate because the colors might mess with your eyes when you are trying to mix your paints. Getting a monotone plate will be best for helping with mixing.

Acrylic paints do dry rather quickly so it is recommended to only put a small amount of paint on your palette at a time. This will ensure that you don’t waste paint if it dries too fast. You can always use a small water bottle to gently spray the paint to keep it damp.

6. Other Tools

What other tools do I need?

There are a variety of other tools that can be very useful when you are learning to paint with acrylics on canvas but not all of them are absolutely necessary.

An easel can be very useful to prop up your canvas while you paint, but it is not needed for beginners. It is a good idea, however to lean the canvas against the wall or something else rather than have the canvas perfectly vertical. This will help and give you a more natural perspective while you are painting. If you don’t want to pay for a full standing easel, you can easily go for a tabletop easel, which is more affordable.

7. Cleaning

Cleaning is an important part of painting

As mentioned before with the palette and brushes, it is vital to keep your tools clean. Dried paint in paint brushes will ruin the brushes which will lead to more cost it purchasing new ones. Since acrylics do dry quickly, it is good to have a container of water nearby so when you are not using one brush you can dip it in the water for a little bit to prevent it from drying out while you use a different brush. When you are done, wash the brush with warm water and mild soap to get the paint out of the brush. Dry it gently with a rag or paper towel, being careful not to pull any of the bristles out or mess up the brush itself.

Water can easily be used to clean the wood or plastic palette as well, although if you use disposable plates that makes clean up even easier.

8. What to Wear

Is it messy?

No matter how hard you try to keep yourself clean it is easy to get paint on your clothes. For this reason, it is recommended to wear old clothes that you are not worried about damaging with paint stains. Acrylic paint is very difficult to remove from fabric, and even if the paint does come out, sometimes the pigments will still permanently discolor the clothing.

An apron is a nice option, but it does not cover the arms, which are the place most likely to get splattered with some paint. The better idea is to get an old long sleeve shirt that you can wear overtop your existing clothes. That way you don’t need to worry about changing outfits when you want to paint and can just throw on the old shirt, do some painting, then take it off and you’re all ready to go about your day.

9. Have Fun!

Just Enjoy Yourself!

No matter what, just start painting and have fun with it. It is easy to get intimidated as a beginner, but really all you need is paint and a brush to get started. So what are you waiting for? Happy Painting!


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