Everything to Know Before You Buy Acrylic Painting Supplies

How to Spend Your Money Wisely

Multicolored acryic paints and palette

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Acrylics are a type of paint made with a synthetic resin as the medium to bind the pigment—the same pigment as used in oil paints. They may tend to darken as they dry, unlike oils. But acrylics have the advantage of drying faster than oil paints, as it can take days or even weeks for oils to dry, depending on the humidity and temperature. Acrylics are also water soluble for easier cleanup, as oils require mineral spirits or turpentine, and cheaper than oils.

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints are available in both student and professional-grade paints. It's better to buy quality primary colors and perhaps secondary colors than a whole range of cheap colors. Student colors are more likely to lose their color over time. Purchase small amounts to ensure you like the brand's quality before buying large quantities of colors. Some manufacturers make specialty acrylics such as iridescent, fluorescent, and glitter as well.

Acrylic Mediums

Mediums are added to acrylics to change the paint's consistency (to make it thicker so it shows brush marks or thinner for washes) and finish (matte or gloss), to slow drying time, to add texture, and to avoid over-thinning. If you add too much water to acrylic paint, there will be insufficient binder to hold the pigment together and you end up with uneven paint.


Acrylic paint can be used in thin washes or applied thickly. Use soft sable brushes or the cheaper synthetic alternatives for washes where you don't want brush marks to show. Use polyester brushes designed specifically for acrylics for thicker paint. Try brushes with both long and short handles to see which you prefer. Different brush head shapes create different effects, so a variety pack can help you get started. Always remember to clean your brushes promptly, as dried paint in the brush head can ruin the brush. Quality artist brushes are not inexpensive but will last many years with proper care. Having a palette knife can help in mixing your colors, and a stylus will allow you to make fine sharp dots and points.

Acrylic Palettes

Wooden or plastic palettes can be used for acrylics, but it's difficult to get all the dried paint off. Disposable palettes—pads of paper where you tear off the top sheet and throw it away—solve this problem. If you find the paint dries out too fast, try a palette designed to keep the paint wet: the paint sits on a sheet of parchment paper placed on top of a damp piece of watercolor paper or sponge, to keep the paint from drying out as quickly as it would on a dry palette.


Varnish protects finished paintings from dirt and pollution in the atmosphere. The varnish used on paintings is removable, so the painting can be cleaned if the varnish itself becomes dirty. Varnish is available in gloss or matte finish. You can mix the two to get your preferred level of gloss. Ensure that your painting is thoroughly dry before you varnish it.