In this lesson I will teach you how to start painting with acrylics. You don't need a lot of time or money to learn to paint. Yet, adding it to your life will give you countless benefits! In this short lesson you will already make some serious progress. Watch the video below and then read on for a little more information about each art supply, so you know how to use them.
Art Supplies You Need
To begin painting you need just five basic supplies. That's it!
Continue reading to learn more about what they are, what they are used for, and what to look for based on your needs.
Paint brushes are a necessary tool for acrylic painters, but they don't have to be expensive. You can still paint quality art with inexpensive brushes. When looking for a brush, I check the quality of the brush by taking my finger, pulling back on the bristles (the hairy part at the end of the brush) and letting go. If it quickly reshapes itself and no hairs come out, it will work.
Soft hair brushes give you a smooth look, and course hairs are best for texture. Short handled brushes are used for table work, long handles for painting on an easel. To begin painting, you'll need a basic assortment of brushes like those seen the photo above.
Acrylic painting doesn't have to be expensive. But, not every acrylic paint is the same, so I am willing to pay a little more for quality acrylic paints because it WILL affect my work. When looking for acrylic paints, you first want to buy paint that is labeled "acrylic". Don't buy tempera paint, which is usually placed in the same area as acrylics, because it does not behave the same. It dries dull, cracks, and doesn't layer or mix well.
For a good quality acrylic paint, you want to look for a paint with no separation of liquid and color in the tube. Cheap paints skimp on pigment (the color particles). You'll want to look for rich color, as well.
Acrylics are the most versatile paint out there. They can be used like watercolor, or even oil paints. They are available in several consistencies, liquid, creamy (regular), or heavy body (thicker), and numerous sheens and transparencies. The variety that's available is inspiring, but can be confusing at first. To keep it simple, I recommend starting with a basic set of heavy body or regular acrylics.
Canvases are the traditional surfaces to paint on with acrylics (but not the only surfaces). They are a canvas material stretched over and attached to a wood frame or backing. When purchasing a canvas, look for one that's primed, or that is already white as those are ready to be painted on. Even though canvases are traditional, I tend to use the flat canvas panels, because they are cheaper, take up less space, and are easier to frame. However, if you like to leave your art "unframed", the large side canvases look best.
If you're wanting to paint on paper, or in an art journal, watercolor paper that is 140lbs or heavier is best. Acrylics will soak into the paper, like they do for watercolor, so you can get gesso and paint a layer over the paper, let it dry, and then begin painting with acrylics to get the paper surface to behave more like canvas.
Acrylic Painting Palette
One of the most frequent questions I get about acrylic painting is "How do you keep your paints from drying out?" (Acrylic paints tend to dry quickly out in the open). My answer, I use the Sta Wet Palette. Finding a palette that always keeps my paints wet has been my favorite discovery when it comes to painting supplies. Before, I'd go to great lengths using spray bottles, searching for shade, and shielding my palette from the wind in a constant fight to keep my acrylics from drying out. Not anymore.
The Sta Wet Palette is a special, yet simple, palette made just for acrylic painters. It's a wet sponge with a paper liner in a plastic container. You close the lid and your paints will stay wet for weeks. While you paint, even in the wind, the paint stays wet. I love it, and can't recommend it enough!
If you want to save money, don't just use a plate, grab a flat plastic container with a lid, fold paper towels to fit inside (a thick layer), get them wet, then add a layer of wet copy paper on top. Close it with the lid when you're not using it. It's a simple solution that will help keep your paints wet for longer, and save you some money in the process.
A watercolor pencil is my favorite tool for sketching. Why? Because you can simply add water to mistakes and dab them away with a paper towel! No leftover marks. No ruining your surface with an eraser! I recommend using a watercolor pencil whenever you need to sketch a composition before painting.
If you struggle with drawing however, graphite paper is an option that will help you immensely. You can simply print my reference photos and traceables from my workshops, put the graphite paper in between your surface and the traceable, and follow the lines. No, it's not cheating. Tracing is a amazing method to help you learn to draw that lets you focus more on painting!
If you haven't gotten your art supplies yet, this is the first step in being able to paint with acrylics. I understand that shopping for art supplies can be overwhelming (there are so many options). So, I've made a list of my favorites here (they're also what I recommend in each of my workshops and tutorials) so you can have them shipped right to you. You can also use what you have, or get what fits your budget.
Way to go!
You just completed your first lesson. High five!
If you'd like, introduce yourself in the comments and let us know what you're looking forward to painting.
This has come at the perfect time as I am transitioning from watercolour and gouache. Although I have dabbled with acrylic on watercolour paper, working on canvas is new and it felt daunting to begin with. I've done a few painting studies and feel ready to really explore painting on canvas. Your video and blog post listing all the relevant elements like purchasing the right paints (I bought a set recently which I'm going to return as they aren't of good quality) and brushes, etc will help me enormously. Thank you!
2/18/2019 10:31:47 am
I'm so glad this video helped you. have fun. painting!
11/1/2019 09:22:10 pm
I have only painted about 8 paintings all under instruction of a teacher in what we call paint and sip classed. I don't know if you have heard about them, but they just have you follow what they are doing no real information on supples or colors. I am ready to try painting on my own, but need more in depth informatin. So this has already helped.
11/1/2019 09:54:24 pm
Great! I'm glad this art lesson helped you. There are a lot of tutorials here for you to choose from. Have fun painting!
11/21/2019 05:57:43 am
Ashley - I discovered you this past Summer on YouTube and painted a couple of your ocean scapes. I am generally a pour painter and went back to that, but recently came across your Christmas tutorials. I have painted your beautiful Christmas trees with ease due to your clear instruction. I decided to become a Patreon and I want to say Thank You so much for your videos and tutorials. You have changed my art life.
11/25/2019 05:17:17 pm
I'm so glad you found me and thank you for letting me be your art teacher.
2/18/2021 08:24:05 am
I am so glad you mentioned your site on the Blick Creative Group site. Just what I needed!
3/9/2022 04:08:32 pm
I just lost my husband and need to try something "out of the box" and think this might be it. Thank you for this great 1st lesson. Looking forward to the 2nd class
1/14/2023 06:40:15 am
Love Ashley's lessons. She is amazing.
1/26/2023 04:05:50 pm
Hi Ashley,I am totally new to Painting and thought it may be a fun thing to do.Being in my 70’s, I enjoy learning a new craft
2/4/2023 09:23:30 am
I have been painting in acrylics for several years but can't quite do water or waves yet. Hoping this will help.
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