When it comes to selecting the best acrylic paint, there are a few factors that need to be considered. This can either be based on your needs or budget, or both. For example, would a cheap acrylic paint suffice or are you looking for high-quality paint? To start your acrylic paint journey, basic acrylic paints can fulfill most needs, are easy to use, and can be easily cleaned. Adding to the versatility of acrylic paints is the fact that they can be used on several different mediums. We will help you find the best acrylic paints – regardless of your skill level.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Makes Acrylic Paint Different?
- 2 Different Types of Acrylic Paint
- 3 Applying Acrylic Paints
- 4 Acrylic Paint Mediums
- 5 Grading Acrylic Paints
- 6 Buying an Acrylic Paint Set
- 7 Best Acrylic Paint Brands
- 8 Best Acrylic Paints
- 9 An Overview of Basic Pros and Cons of Using Acrylic Paints
- 10 Your Basic Beginners Acrylic Paint Palette
- 11 Frequently Asked Questions
What Makes Acrylic Paint Different?
Whether you are looking at buying professional acrylic paint or acrylic paint for beginners, the basic make up is the same. Basic acrylic paints are made up of pigments that have been suspended within acrylic polymer suspension. This polymer suspension prevents the pigments from just floating in the water and clumping together. It also gives acrylic paint sets an even consistency by dispersing the pigments. There is also a wide range of additives that can assist in producing products using basic acrylic paints.
These additives can include:
- Preservatives preventing microbe growth that improves the durability of the paint.
- Thickeners to improve paint flow.
- Surfactants that can facilitate the drying process.
- Defoamers to offset the effect of the surfactant.
- Buffers to assist with the paint’s pH – consider trying ammonia.
- Initiators to ensure an effective drying process.
- Stabilizers to improve the flow of the paint.
Different Types of Acrylic Paint
Selecting the best acrylic paints is about more than the consistency – which is surprisingly not a reflection of the paint’s quality. Professional acrylic paints have been made using different formulas, each of which has been determined by what it is going to be used for, the acrylic painting technique, and the medium being used.
Heavy body acrylic paints
To start with, the most popular choice is the heavy body acrylic paints as it performs similarly to oil-based paints. Their consistency is butter-like, making it easier to hold the paintbrush strokes effectively.
Soft body paints
The next option on our list is soft body paints as they are smoother and can be mixed into mediums. The cream-like consistency is great for general painting and can be used for pouring. Acrylic paints with a runny consistency are often referred to as fluid paints as they are easily spread and perfect for various painting techniques, including pouring.
Another great acrylic paint option is acrylic ink. As the term ink implies, this acrylic paint has a fluid-like consistency. The color it produces is also a lot more vibrant than the other basic acrylic paints. This ink dries to have a glossy, smooth finish. It is an adaptable product that can even be used with an airbrush, paintbrush, or pen. If you would like to apply other acrylic paints sing an airbrush, you can do so by thinning out the paint using a thinning agent.
The drying time of acrylic paints
The next thing to consider is the various drying times of acrylic paints. While they are known to be quick-drying, there are versions referred to as specially formula open paints that are slow drying. This lets you paint wet into wet which is usually only achievable with oil bases paints, however, these acrylic paints have been found to possess similar properties.
Interactive acrylics are another creative option that dries like normal acrylic but can be activated to become “re-wet” using an unlocking formula. This formula can also be added to basic acrylic paints to slow down the drying process, giving you some extra creative time. If you are happy with the color result, you will need to lock the paint using a Fast Medium Fixer.
If you are looking to achieve a matt finish, the Acrylic Gouache is worth looking into. Traditionally, gouache is an opaque, watercolor-type paint, however, Acrylic Gouache has a creamy consistency and is not the same. This type of professional acrylic paint contains an additive that is responsible for the matt finish. It is also a bit water-resistant, unlike traditional gouache.
Applying Acrylic Paints
We have mentioned it before, but airbrushing is one of the easier and more effective ways you can apply acrylic paint. The sprayer makes it easy to coat your medium, regardless of its shape and texture. When using spray paints, work in a well-ventilated area, and always wear protective gear like a mask and goggles. Paint fumes and particles can easily be inhaled which can cause a wide range of health-related issues.
Of course, water-based spray paints can be uses indoors, but once again please ensure the area is well ventilated and properly protected from paint splatter. Another benefit of spraying acrylic paints is the control that you have. You can control the direction and flow of the paint, making it easier to paint lines and designs.
Acrylic Paint Mediums
When it comes to using basic acrylic paints, various mediums can be used to change the properties of the paint. From altering drying times to thickening and thinning the paints to adding texture and giving it a matt or gloss finish. In most cases, these mediums will come in gel, pastes, or liquids.
While mediums and additives are similar, additives require precise measurements, and you will need to follow the provided instructions. Mediums on the other hand are more flexible and can be added until you achieve the desired effect. Let us look at the different mediums available.
Gel mediums come in paste form and not gel as implied by the name. It is white and can be used to thicken your paint, which is essential for retaining your brush stroke if that is the look that you are going for. It also functions as a great adhesive and can be used to create collages. It is also available in different varieties ranging from matt to gloss and can be used to add textures.
Texture gels are self-explanatory; they provide texture. It is made up of glass beads, natural sand, and a whole lot more. You can add sand to your acrylic paint mixture, but the impurities in it can affect the paint’s stability. It is an opportunity to get creative and experiment to achieve your desired effect.
This paste allows you to mold shapes and textures into your art piece to give it a three-dimensional look. You simply apply the thick paste to the area and build onto it before it finally hardens. This paste can be sculpted or used to embed items into your artwork.
Glazing mediums are perfect for blending edges using a transparent effect. You need to pay careful attention to the glazing medium that you buy, as oil-based versions will not work well with acrylic paints. Try and find gloss or satin sheen glazing mediums.
Matte and Gloss Medium
Acrylic paints generally have a shiny, glossy finish to them, so using a matt medium will reduce the gloss effect and create a matt finish. A gloss medium can also be added to help enhance the natural appearance of the artwork. To achieve a semi-gloss finish, try blending gloss and matte mediums.
You can even slow down the drying process by using a retarding medium if you need more time to play with the textures and colors, and if the paint is too thick, you can always thin it out. Whatever you decide to add to your acrylic paint set, always make sure that you read the instructions first. There is a wide range of mediums available when it comes to creating your artistic masterpiece.
Grading Acrylic Paints
With different kinds of acrylic paints available, the opportunities of what you can do with them are almost limitless. You can manipulate the drying time to adding mediums to get the desired effect, but when it comes to grading the quality of acrylic paints, the two main types are professional acrylic paint or artist-grade acrylic paint.
Professional Acrylic Paint
When it is also referred to as artist grade and contains high-quality pigments which provide more vibrant and vivid color options. The tubes of professional acrylic paints limit the amount of binder that can be added, resulting in brighter colors. This also means it more expensive than beginner acrylic paint sets. These colors can be challenging as the paint quality and dry times can differ from color to color.
If you are looking for a more affordable option, look into artist-grade paints as they provide similar quality but contain more binder which results in more consistent paint quality.
Student Grade Acrylic Paint
Acrylic paint for beginners, or student grade paint, contains fewer pigments, which essentially means that less pigment has been added to the acrylic polymer. This makes it more cost-effective. This grade of acrylic paint is often found to be chalkier as a result of the fillers, but it makes it easier to handle when you are just starting.
Buying an Acrylic Paint Set
If you are a professional painter, you will know about the different aspects of consideration when it comes to buying paint products. However, if you are a beginner, there is a clear knowledge gap that needs to be addressed to prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed, which is why you will end up looking for the best cheap acrylic paint. Here are some aspects to considered and look out for when it comes to buying a beginner acrylic paint set.
Quality of Acrylic Paints
As already discussed, there are different quality acrylic paints on the market. Different grades of acrylic paint will affect the quality, which may leave you wondering why you should not just invest in professional acrylic paint sets instead of beginner acrylic paint sets.
Well, if you have only just started, these paints are a lot more complex than you may have initially thought. Student grade options are more affordable and easier to use, making them the perfect starter kit. As you advance and become more confident with your painting skills, you can slowly progress to the more advanced, professional-grade versions of acrylic paint.
Acrylic Paint Colors
When it comes to acrylic paints, you can get them in a wide variety of colors. We recommend investing in a beginner acrylic paint set when you are getting started as they contain all of the basics. You can upgrade as you progress on your artistic journey. It is also important to remember that some color options are more expensive than others, so do your research beforehand. You can always mix colors and grades to achieve your desired effect.
Experimenting with different brands is also a great way to figure out which paints best suit your needs.
Permanence or Lightfastness
This refers to how long it will take color to fade and how it will respond to light exposure. In most cases, the color should last 20 years and are more lightfast than other mediums that include oil-based paints. The label on your paint tube should give you a better idea of the quality of paint you are about to buy or have bought. In most cases, manufacturers rate their paints based on ASTM International standards.
A rating of ASTM I can be considered a seal of excellence while ASTM III is not sufficiently or adequately lightfast by any means. Other manufactures may rate their products using A, AA, B, or C – with A being the best available option and C offering poor quality. C-rated paints should be used for kid’s art projects as the quality does not necessarily matter.
Acrylic Paint Consistency
Your painting technique will determine the thickness of your acrylic paint. Thicker paints are great for blending and preserving brush strokes, while thinner paints can create a watercolor-like effect. This ties in with one of our previous sections that looked at the different types of acrylic paints available.
Acrylic Paint Drying Time
Your basic acrylic paints generally dry quickly, so you need to be fast when it comes to producing your work. It is one of the things many artists enjoy about using acrylic paints, although various techniques require the paint to have a delayed trying time. Luckily, some mediums and additives can be used to facilitate this process. This will all depend on what you are going to create and achieve with your artwork.
Acrylic Tubes or Jars?
Acrylic paint tubes are more effective and can last a lot longer than you would assume. Try different brands and mediums first before investing in an acrylic paint jar as this will prevent you from wasting your money on unsuitable options. Once you have determined your favorite brands and colors, you can look into buying paint jars.
Acrylic paint tubes are also easier to carry around, but you may find that jars work out cheaper in the long run once you have determined your acrylic paint preferences. If you are looking to try fluid acrylic paints, you will find that they usually come in bottles with caps or droppers to make them easier to use. When it comes to acrylic paints, it all about your preferences.
Best Acrylic Paint Brands
As we have already mentioned, at the end of the day, the paint you use will be based on your preferences. However, certain brands are renowned for creating quality products.
Popular high-quality acrylic paint brands include:
- Utrecht Acrylics
- Chroma Atelier Interactive Artists’ Acrylics
- Golden Artist Colors
- Arteza Acrylic paints
- Blickrylic Student Acrylic Paint
- Blick Studios Acrylics
- Winsor & Newton Professional Acrylics
- TriArt Liquid Acrylics
Best Acrylic Paints
Starting a new hobby – or anything new for that matter – can be overwhelming at first. Painting with acrylic is no different. There are so many brands, paint varieties, colors, and mediums available that you may be left stunned initially. However, in the same breath, the opportunity that arises when it comes to using acrylic paints are endless and offer a great return on investment once you get the hang of things. Beginner acrylic paints are generally water-based and harmless. They are also quick drying and water-resistant, the ideal option for artists on the move or in the great outdoors.
To help simplify the process for you, we have compiled a list of the best high-quality acrylic paint sets that range from professional to beginner-appropriate products. These options are available on Amazon and have received rave reviews.
Best Professional Acrylic Paint: LIQUITEX Professional Acrylics
Liquitex Professional Acrylic Paints are thicker than most acrylic paints and are rich in pigment. This allows for a satin finish. The beginner sets consist of 6 acrylic paint tubes while the professional Heavy Body set comes with twelve acrylic paint tubes. You can also blend these paints with binders or mediums to assist you in improving your painting techniques.
This option is a great starter set when venturing into using artist-grade acrylic paints. This popular brand offers vibrant, bright colors and is worth investing in.
Best Budget-Friendly Acrylic Paint: CREATIVE JOY
If you are looking into trying acrylic painting but not too keen on breaking the bank to do so, the Creative Joy Acrylic Paints are one of the better options. They are one of the best cheap acrylic paints and cost less than $10 and come with 12 paint tubes and size different sized brushes. It is also perfect for painting on materials ranging from paper to fabrics and even wood.
This is the perfect starter kit and most cost-effective option when it comes to arts and crafts projects.
Best Painting Sets for Beginners: ARTEZA
Another popular choice is Arteza Acrylic’s paint set. It provides artists with several different colors and is rich in pigments. It is also non-toxic making it ideal for children and adults alike.
When it comes to high-quality paints, a wide range of colors, and affordability, look no further. Arteza offers some of the best painting sets for beginners.
Best All-Rounder Acrylic Paint Set: LIQUITEX BASICS
Another Liquitex product makes it onto our list. This paint set provides high-quality paints at a budget-friendly price. While the BASIC set has a lower concentration of pigment but still delivers vibrant colors. The set contains 12 paints with medium viscosity and is easy to use.
Liquitex paints are available individually, unlike the other sets. This means that you can easily replenish used colors without having to buy a new set.
An Overview of Basic Pros and Cons of Using Acrylic Paints
If you are still not convinced that you want to take on acrylic painting, we have come up with a list to help you make an informed decision. We will compare acrylic paints to other paint options to see how they measure up to the competition.
Your Basic Beginners Acrylic Paint Palette
It is important to remember that when you buy acrylic paints for the first time, you do not need to buy an over-the-top set. Start by choosing a handful of colors that can be blended if necessary. Once you have gotten used to using them, you can expand your horizons.
Basic acrylic paints for beginners:
- Titanium white
- Burnt umber
- Cadmium yellow light
- Ultramarine blue
- Alizarin crimson permanent
- More expensive colors:
- Ivory black
- Raw umber
- Cadmium red
- Phthalo blue
- Yellow ochre
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Acrylic Paints Water-Resistant?
Acrylic paints are water-resistant once they have dried, however, they will never be fully waterproof. Surface preparation is key, and we recommend using a sealer to preserve the quality of your paint.
Can You Paint Wood with Acrylic Paint?
Yes, acrylic paint can be used to paint most surfaces – including wood – as they are quite versatile. The most important aspect of surface painting is surface preparation. Ensure that you follow the preparation instructions to achieve the desired result.
Are Acrylic Paints Toxic?
Generally, acrylic paints are non-toxic, but some colors can contain heavy metals. The label will indicate this, so always read the product label beforehand.
Can Acrylic Paints be Flammable?
Most acrylic paints are not flammable in their liquid form, however, it is still important to exercise caution when using acrylic paints. Always read the label of your paint to determine whether or not it contains flammable substances.
Can You Blend or Mix Multiple Paint Brands?
Yes, mixing different brands should be okay. However, if you try to mix paints with different viscosities, finishes, or additives, the result may not have the desired effect. Do not try missing oil-based paints with water-based paints. And always remember, mixing high-quality paints is always advised.
How Quickly do Acrylic Paints Dry?
In most cases, acrylic paints take 20 to 30 minutes to dry, however, this all depends on the formula used by your chosen brand. Additional drying factors include the amount of paint used and your working environment. Worst case scenario, it can take a day, but never more than that.
In 2005, Charlene completed her Wellness Diplomas in Therapeutic Aromatherapy and Reflexology from the International School of Reflexology and Meridian Therapy. She worked for a company offering corporate wellness programs for a couple of years, before opening up her own therapy practice. It was in 2015 that a friend, who was a digital marketer, asked her to join her company as a content creator, and this is where she found her excitement for writing.
Since joining the content writing world, she has gained a lot of experience over the years writing on a diverse selection of topics, from beauty, health, wellness, travel, and more. Due to various circumstances, she had to close her therapy practice and is now a full-time freelance writer. Being a creative person, she could not pass up the opportunity to contribute to the Art in Context team, where is was in her element, writing about a variety of art and craft topics. Contributing articles for over three years now, her knowledge in this area has grown, and she has gotten to explore her creativity and improve her research and writing skills.
Charlene Lewis has been working for artincontext.org since the relaunch in 2020. She is an experienced writer and mainly focuses on the topics of color theory, painting and drawing.
Cite this Article
Charlene, Lewis, “Best Acrylic Paint – Complete Guide for Finding your Matching Acrylics.” Art in Context. March 18, 2021. URL: https://artincontext.org/best-acrylic-paint/
Lewis, C. (2021, 18 March). Best Acrylic Paint – Complete Guide for Finding your Matching Acrylics. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/best-acrylic-paint/