6 Simple Acrylic Painting Techniques Beginners Should Know

The Aspiring Artist

If you are just starting out in acrylic painting, you might look at other peoples works of art and get a little intimidated. I am here to ease the tension. There are a few simple acrylic painting techniques beginners need to learn to create some stunning art work in a short amount of time. These simple techniques are so easy children can be taught how to utilize them.

Blending and WashingBlending

I use blending and washing to create backgrounds in paintings very often. Washing is the use of thinner paint to create a transparent color on the canvas or painting surface. It works well to create the right colors and feel of a blue sky or water. Even clouds can be worked in using washing. There are many ways to use a wash, but I would like to keep things simple here.

Blending colors on the canvas can create some nice transitions for a night sky or sky in general. I often use a large 2” brush to work several colors onto a canvas to create a background to build from. This technique can help to create a light source or just lay the general feel of a painting

You don’t need to spend a lot of time doing these techniques and you don’t need to be very detailed. Just use the to lay some color down and give yourself a “ground” to work from. Having a nice mix of colors and/or hues in the background is a subtle way to bring energy to your painting.

Painting in Layers

This is not so much a way to use a brush or work paint specifically, but more a general method of painting. Starting with the objects and scenery that are further away and working forward is a simple concept. However, it is easy to forget this.

The problem that arises if this technique is not used becomes very evident the moment you do not use it. If I were to start by painting a tree or two in the foreground first, and then try to paint the scene behind those trees the effort and care that would need to be taken is not worth the headache.

Acrylic paint is thick enough and opaque enough that when you paint over things that are already on the canvas it just lies on top. If the paint in the background is not fully dry however, you may get some bleed through. So, make sure the last layer is dry enough before you start the next.

Using this method, you can build some very intricate scenes in a short time. Just focus on working in one plane at a time and moving forward to the next. It sounds simple but if you don’t pay attention, you might be kicking yourself when you jump ahead too far.

Dabbing/Stippling

StipplingStippling is the use of small dots to create an image or pattern. This can be very useful when painting recurring patterns that would otherwise take for ever to paint every detail. One of the fastest ways to create things like leaves and trees as well as several other things is to use stippling.

An easy way to stipple is to use a dabbing technique. Using a brush, sponge or cloth “dabbing” or pressing paint onto the canvas rather than spreading it on can create patterns and texture very quickly.stippling

The pattern will differ based on the tool you use to apply the paint. The way that you push a brush into the canvas and how much pressure you use will change the effect just as much as changing brushes. Some experimentation is likely required but you will quickly find the pattern you are looking for.

This technique can create images that appear to have a tremendous amount of detail in a matter of minutes. It works very well when painting nature scenes. Groups of trees, grass, snow, dirt and rocks have repeating patterns that emerge with ease if this method is used.

Dry Brushing

Dry brushing is the use of a dry brush loaded with paint to spread a thicker layer of paint onto the canvas. It differs from washing and blending in that it does not smooth out and the brush lines remain. This technique can be used to set your background or to add texture to objects.

The paint will retain the brush strokes and create lines of texture. These lines or ridges leave actual shadows which can bring real texture and structure to your painting. I have used this trick to create bark on a tree that jumps out, and snow drifts that look like you could jump in.

Dry brushing

Spatter

Spattering, is just like it sounds. You flick wet paint off the brush onto the painting surface. This creates little dots randomly spaced out ranging from teeny tiny to large if you so choose.

Typically, the paint is thinned so it flows better, and the brush is tapped against another brush or solid surface or the artist uses his/her hands and fingers to flick the bristles of the brush. The brush can also be flicked like whip to throw the paint off the brush.Painting Stars

The effects created by spattering can be used for several things. Spattering can be used to fill a sky with stars or create falling snow. This is another method of painting details quickly rather than dabbing every single dot.

It can make for some very interesting patterns and you could do a painting entirely out of spatter if you wanted. Only your imagination will limit you here. I suggest searching for some images of Spatter Painting to see what some people have done. I really like some silhouettes that have been done using spatter.

Detailing

Detailing is exactly that. Using a fine point brush and painting in the details of an image. This is great if you are good at it and want to create a whole painting using detail. However, it is time-consuming and the average person may not have that kind of skill.

Fear not, detailing can still be used to add highlights, shadows and little things that will make your painting pop. You Detailingdon’t need to be Leonardo da Vinci to utilize detail. A lot of simple paintings are stunning and have only small details.

It is not necessarily the amount of detail that will bring your painting to life, but where and how it is used. A bit of light on the edge of a tree, a shadow line on a rock, or a well-defined branch could be all it takes to tie everything together.

Bring It All Together

Now know what these techniques are and even how to do them is only part of the equation. Knowing when and where to use them could be what makes your painting something people drool over. This can be hard to figure out, but with practice and a few mistakes here and there you will get it.

An effective way to learn these techniques and when to use them is to follow a tutorial or go to an evening learn to paint night. Following along with someone a couple of times will show you how and where to put these pieces of the puzzle together.

When most people look at a painting they think that the artist took a very long time and exhausted a lot of effort into the final work. And that may be true, but if you can learn these simple techniques and get proficient at them, you can create the same effect in people’s minds in less than an hour.

I hope this brought you some enlightenment and gave you some confidence to begin. Feel free to read some of my other posts or follow one of the tutorials to get a further understanding of how easy acrylic painting can be.

Did this help you? Was I able to inspire you to pick up a brush? If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you.

Thank you,
Jason

18 Comments on “6 Simple Acrylic Painting Techniques Beginners Should Know”

  1. This is a good article, one that gave me some more insight into painting. I’ll probably share this with some friends to let them know.

  2. I’ve always painted with acrylic ever since I was a little kid and love that medium! After suffering a spinal cord injury when I was 13 I learned to paint with my mouth & I still use acrylic. Wonderful site!

    1. Wow Angie. That is so amazing. I think I would like to see some of your work. Please feel free to come back and post a picture or email me your art. I would love to share it with people.
      Thanks for your comments.
      Jason

  3. I painted a lot in high school and acrylic was always my favorite paint to use. I loved how thick it was and if I made a mistake it was easy to cover up. It’s funny because as I read your article I thought of Bob Ross and BOOM! there he appeared at the bottom of your post! lol. I watch him a lot on Netflix when I’m tucked in for the evening. His voice (and all the animals) are so relaxing. Thank you for all the useful info!

    1. Thanks for your comments Jennifer, Maybe you should get back into painting again. This is a good place to start. Did you click on the link to Bob Ross? It was a post I did a little while ago to give a salute to him. It is a fun read!
      Cheers
      Jason

      1. I’m thinking about taking a class actually now, lol (as well as reference all the info here). And yes, that post about Bob made me laugh…”just got to beat the devil out of it!” haha. Thanks!

        1. Makes me laugh every time. Classes are good. I have several articles here that may be of use to you. Maybe check them out before you jump into a class. you may find everything here. I will be posting regular tutorials on simple paintings for beginners to follow. I am also working on setting up some videos to further the instruction. Thanks again. Hope to see you back here.
          Jason

  4. Wonderful article! I keep thinking I need to try my hand at painting. I live in a tiny town with not much to do so I keep trying to find new hobbies to keep me busy. I attempted handstands for a couple of months, got a ukulele and just told my guy that I should get a paint set. Since Ive never painted before it did seem daunting but this article helps so much!

    1. Nicole,
      Thanks for the comments, You should have a read of the previous post of mine. It is the first in series of tutorials for simple paintings that any one can do to get started in painting. Guess what? All the techniques in this post are used in the tutorial. I hope to have videos to go with the tutorials soon. Come back and hook yourself up with the tools and let me help you get started.
      Jason

  5. Hi Jason,

    Very nice article and extensive as well. I was fascinated with painting when I was a kid but I guess I kinda lost touch of it. Your article definitely sparked my interest again in painting.

    Just a thought, though, if you could put short video clips as a walkthrough of the different techniques you mentioned above, it will be waayy more helpful especially for beginners like me. Though I realize that’s a lot work but just thought I’d suggest. No pressure though. Hehehe.

    Cheers!

  6. This is great information. I always pick up painting but then give up on it shortly after. I’ll have to try out your techniques.

  7. Hi there

    I did enjoy reading this article – I like how you broke it down into small step and then summarised it. I do art lessons with a few kids. I think this would be a great article to read, to get them into acrylics. I will have to bookmark your site for future lessons – I’m always looking for content to use. thanks

    1. Thank you, Have a read of my other posts as well. I have some other tutorials and tips. I will continue adding them as well. Send me some pictures of any projects that your kids do. I would love to share them with others.
      Thanks
      Jason

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