Acrylic paints have been used for many years now, but they have not been around as long as your watercolor and oil paints. When they did arrive on the scene around the 1930s, the painting medium became extremely popular because it is so versatile and easy to work with. Let us take a quick look to see what acrylic paint is all about.
What Is Acrylic Paint?
Acrylic paint consists of a color pigment that lays suspended within an acrylic polymer emulsion. These pigments can either be natural or synthetic and do not dissolve; hence, they are suspended within the mixture. The acrylic polymer is the binder that helps to keep the pigment in place on the surface. Water is what then carries everything or acts as the vehicle for the pigment and binder. After the paint has been applied to the chosen surface, the water then evaporates, leaving behind the pigment color.
However, once dry, it becomes permanent and forms a polymer or a type of colored plastic film over the surface, which is then difficult to remove. Acrylic paints cannot be reactivated as with other mediums, which makes them popular for layering techniques. Acrylic paints can be made to resemble watercolor and oil painting techniques, as you can dilute it or add various mediums or gels to modify it. One of the popular benefits of using acrylic paints is that it is very forgiving. You can make a mistake, and once it has dried, you can fix the mistake by simply painting over the area. This is due to the paint’s opaque nature.
Acrylic paint is also cheaper than most other mediums, dries quicker, and is extremely easy to use when compared to oil and watercolor paints, which is why many beginner artists love it. Acrylic paints can also be used to paint on different surfaces from canvas to wood and even glass. The paint usually has no fumes or odor, is not flammable, and comes in a variety of colors. The paint becomes water-resistant when dry and may also become darker as the paint dries. Acrylic paints and acrylic painting ideas are popular amongst professionals as well as beginners, and even children.
What Is Needed to Begin Acrylic Painting?
To get started with your cool acrylic painting ideas, you will need to get a few supplies beforehand. Some painting ideas do have added tools or materials, so you will have to decide on an idea before you begin. Your basic supplies should include the following.
There are various paint options available, all differing in quality and price. You have the best quality acrylic paints, also known as professional or artist-quality paints. These usually have excellent pigment quality that offers the most vibrant colors.
You can also buy an entire paint set that has a variety of colors, some can contain only a few colors, while others can come in sets of over 40 colors. If you are familiar with color theory and mixing, then you only really need a few colors, preferably all your primary colors should do. You can also get the paints in larger as well as smaller paint tubes or jars.
The most used tool for painting is your paintbrush, these come in many different sizes as well as shapes. Larger brushes can be used to cover bigger or background areas, while the smaller and finer brushes are more for details. A brush can also be made from natural hair or synthetic materials. You can also get brushes that contain both. Synthetic brushes tend to be a more popular choice, as they hold up much better when using acrylics than the other options. Synthetic brushes are also more affordable.
When painting with acrylics, it is always best to clean your brushes while they are still wet. Getting dried acrylic paint out of your brush will be difficult, time-consuming and it can damage your brush. Simply use a little soap and some water to clean the brushes while you are busy.
Other Essential Materials Needed for Acrylic Painting
You will also need a palette or other mixing surface for your paints, although sometimes you can also mix paints directly on the canvas itself. However, that might be a more advanced technique. You will also then need your canvas or item to paint, as acrylic paints are so versatile it could be many other types of surfaces as well.
You can use it to tape off a border and block off the various areas you do not want the paint to get on. The next item you need is a cup or cups of water to clean your brushes. Paper toweling or a clean rag, also for cleaning your brushes. Many of the sets you can get provide all you need for painting.
General Painting Ideas for Beginners
When painting for the first time, it can be a bit intimidating. Where do you begin? What should you Paint? However, once you start and gain some experience, painting with acrylics will become fun, yet relaxing. The best way to start is to use a simple color palette and idea that does not have a lot of blending or mixing involved. You can, of course, create a painting that has a variety of shades, colors, depth, and textures. However, it is best to start with more simple ideas and gain experience first. Here are a few more ideas for painting with acrylics.
Some Common Painting Techniques
Generally, there are many painting techniques you can use to create wonderful acrylic art pieces. Some of them are easy to do, while others are more advanced. Below are a few techniques you might want to consider when working on your acrylic painting ideas.
You Can Use Various Acrylic Mediums
Once you gain an understanding of acrylic paints, you will discover that they can be used to create various effects. These mediums and additives must be used correctly, so always read up on how to use them before you begin painting. Some of the various mediums are as follows:
Choose Abstract Over Realism
You might want to go for that beautiful landscape painting but getting that realistic photo look is something for a more advanced artist. Trying something more abstract is easier as you can add your creative flair to the mix without causing any problems.
Focus More on Fun Patterns
Detailed painting ideas can be frustrating and difficult for a beginner, so to gain a little more confidence, try using different shapes and patterns on a larger surface first. Get familiar with how acrylic paints work and blend, and then you can move on to more detailed work.
Workshops and Tutorials
You can teach yourself how to paint with the many online tutorials available. There are many fun and easy acrylic painting ideas. Watching these tutorials is a simple way for increasing your confidence and knowledge of painting with acrylics. There is also the option of going to workshops, where you can ask questions and have the teacher right there to show you what to do.
Why You Should Try Acrylic Painting Ideas
Painting is not only fun, but it also has certain health benefits, specifically reducing stress. You can paint as a hobby as it is a great way to switch off and be in the moment, away from everyday stressors. Painting is a way you can express yourself; it does not have to be a masterpiece; it can simply be a creative outlet. However, if you continue, you can easily build your self-confidence.
Painting can help with problems like depression, anxiety, and other terminal illnesses. Also, it can be a way for people to express themselves if they have been abused by helping to foster mental wellbeing. Painting can also help the aged, helping to prevent dementia and other age-related illnesses as it keeps the brain active, and you have to pay attention to what you are doing. So, the brain is continually building new neural pathways. Painting helps to boost creativity, which can lead to more innovative thinking and better problem-solving skills. Even if you make mistakes, you are learning and developing some amazing new skills.
Acrylic Painting Ideas for Beginners
There are many acrylic painting ideas for beginners. Some of these ideas can easily be done by anybody, including children and those with no artistic background. Other painting ideas will need a bit more experience but can be just as easy to achieve. We hope these acrylic painting ideas will inspire you to go and paint a masterpiece of your own.
Geometric Acrylic Paintings
Geometric shapes are easy to do and do not require any special skills, so it is great for beginners and kids to do. All you need is your canvas, acrylic paint, and masking tape. The tape helps you to create your shapes by masking off areas and helps you to paint straight lines.
This means you can leave the white space the masking tape leaves once removed or paint your shape, allow it to dry, and then cover to paint another shape so that there are no spaces. The easiest shapes for this are your rectangles, squares, and triangles.
Of course, you can also simply draw any shape and paint these in as well. Creating a color block for these geometric shapes is a great idea. This means taking colors that are complementary to each other and using them side-by-side to create contrast. You can even paint images with geometric shapes, for example, you can use geometric forms to create most animal shapes.
Blending a Colorful Background
A blank canvas can be intimidating, where should you start and what should you paint? A way to overcome these problems is to lay down a background color. You can stick to a single base color to create a blended background. This means using two colors that blend into each other, which then creates another color. You can use different colors to set different scenes, for example, red, orange, or yellow for sunsets or shades of blues for the ocean or sky.
This means you cannot let the paint dry before adding more paint, and you must work fast as the paint will dry quickly. To keep your paints from drying, you can try misting them on the canvas with water. You can also add a slow dry medium, or you can invest in some open acrylics, which are designed to dry more slowly. The easiest idea is to lay a couple of blobs of different color paint on a flat surface and blend using a palette knife or even an old credit card.
There are different ways you can blend your paints, one would be your horizontal or vertical blends, and you could also try a circular blend, where the colors go from light to dark as you make the circle bigger. You can then leave your canvas as is, or an easy way to add something more is to paint in silhouettes. These could be trees, mountains, animals, flowers, or even a city skyline. You could also paint words or quotes over the colorful painted background. Ocean scenes are of the easier backgrounds to blend, onto which you can paint fish or coral. To a background, you can also add contour or line drawings of bodies, hands, or flowers.
Retro Style Paintings
Retro is something that looks into the past for inspiration, mostly from the 60s and 70s. Popular colors then included green, mustard, orange, gold, and yellow. Also, pinks, blues, browns, and purples. Most of these colors were bold and bright. This is a particular style, which takes into account various elements like color, shapes, and how it makes you feel.
This is one of the best acrylic painting ideas for beginners. You can include geometric shapes into this category, however, there are more ideas than just playing with different shapes. Abstract art is not something that can be defined and is based on what the individual feels. You could also paint a single canvas or include multiple canvas pieces that work together. You can also try using a black background with splashes of color.
This is a more unrestricted way of painting as you can use multiple techniques, add textures, shapes, different colors, or materials like gold leaf flakes. The whole process is open to interpretation and you should have lots of fun simply creating and expressing yourself.
As mentioned, you can get acrylic mediums or gels that already contain materials that provide texture like sand or beads. This is a fun and easy way to add more dimension to your painting, for example, a beach landscape. Adding a sand texture can bring the composition to life. A simple way to add texture would be to use your brush and splatter or spray your paint onto the canvas. This is a fun method the kids can do as well.
One of the techniques is known as Impasto, where thick layers are used to create something that almost has a three-dimensional look. You can use a brush or something like a piece of cardboard to create various effects. You can also mix your paints on a palette or plate or place them directly onto the canvas surface. Texture painting can help to create things like fur, grass, and water amongst others.
Acrylic paint is versatile in this aspect as you can layer the paint wet-on-wet, and it can be applied over dry. You can also create thin washes with more water and apply several layers, which can help to add depth as well as texture and subtle color changes. Applying layers also helps to create even coverage over your canvas. This technique is often used but can be helpful when painting more realistic type artwork. Do not forget to gesso your canvas before you begin painting.
Differently Shaped or Sized Canvas Ideas
Acrylic paints are well-liked because you can use them on different surfaces besides canvas. You can paint on glass, wood, plastic, metal, and other surfaces. Your easy acrylic painting ideas do not have to be limited to a flat canvass. You can create beautiful glass art, paint pillows, shoes, paper bookmarks, pre-cut wood slices, and more.
You can go small or large, and even try out different shapes. Why not try a round, heart-shaped, or triangle shape canvas for your next acrylic painting idea? Another idea that has become extremely popular recently is to paint rocks or pebbles. This is a fun idea for the entire family.
Using a Limited Color Palette
There are numerous color options available, all of which you can use to paint with. However, the simplest color palette includes basic paint colors, black and white. You can do some amazing paintings with only these two paint colors. However, keeping it limited, you can include your basic primary colors. These can be used to create many other colors without having to carry around a huge set of paints.
When painting and using a limited color palette, this can also help to simplify the mixing of colors and to gain a better understanding of how to mix colors to achieve balance and harmony. You also have more influence over things like color temperatures and values.
You will also need to play with lighting when it comes to water so that you can create a realistic look. You can add in umbrellas or puddles, which helps to show up the rain. You can use gray and white tones throughout or add a little color if the sun is peeking out.
Using Unique Painting Tools
Your paintbrush is versatile in itself when painting with acrylics as there are many different sizes and types available. Then you have your palette knife to paint with. However, many other options are available, each one creating a different effect. A simple acrylic painting idea for beginners can be cotton swabs. These can be used as single cotton swabs or in a bundle to create effects. These include creating trees, flowers, clouds, hearts or simply using them to paint any picture. This is great fun for kids to try out. Sponges can also be used to create some wonderful clouds.
You can use an old credit card to create some unique effects, or you can purchase sponge paint dabbers to paint with. Some items you can use around the house include a fork, or why not see what celery can do? You will need an entire “bunch” of celery, cut off close to the end, making sure it is evenly cut. This can be used as a stamp that should create impressions of something close to roses. Maybe even try using a piece of a cut celery stick. Other tools or methods of painting can include using the following:
Galaxy Painting Ideas
The galaxy painting is one of the cool acrylic painting ideas everyone can do. The two main steps include painting the background and then adding in your planets. You can also use various tools for this idea like a paintbrush, toothbrush, and sponges. Also, various techniques can be used, for example, splattering the paint to create small stars. Blues, purples, and red colors are popular, and of course, your black and white paint colors. This is the perfect idea for a kid’s bedroom.
This is an easy acrylic painting idea that produces some amazing effects. All you need is a canvas, paint, and string, although you might also need some floetrol for increased coverage. The technique usually produces beautiful flower- or feather-like effects.
Cool Acrylic Painting Ideas
The kids will love this easy acrylic painting idea, why not try using glow-in-the-dark acrylic paint. Some ideas for this can include painting the moon, which will glow in the dark. You can also use this idea and add it to your galaxy paintings. Otherwise, you can use it in most paintings from animals to glowing sunsets and flowers. How about glow-in-the-dark rock painting?
These are the same as any other painting, you can make it as simple or as detailed as you like. The painted background and animal silhouette are some of the easier options. You can choose to do something whimsical, abstract, or try your hand at creating a realistic look. Consider stencils or paint by number, which is not just for kids. Sketching animals can take time and requires patience, but it can be done by beginners.
Painting flowers can be as easy as using cotton buds or bubble wrap to make hydrangeas. You can even use the splatter technique to create fields of flowers. Roses, sunflowers, and lavender can be some of the easier flowers to paint as there are various ways you can do them.
There are many painting ideas when it comes to landscapes from waterfalls to deserts, mountains, forests, oceans, or moonlit landscapes. Again, you can use simple techniques to the more advanced techniques. You can bring in blending and various other techniques we have already discussed. For example, take a tree or forest line silhouette in the background.
This method of painting with acrylics has become extremely popular over the years. Most probably because it is relatively easy to do and fun as well. You can easily mix and match various colors to paint some stunning artwork. This is a fluid painting method, where you pour the acrylic paints onto the canvas. The paint is then moved around to cover the surface, creating marble-type effects, each pattern mostly unpredictable.
The results are a smooth and glossy finish. There are various techniques including puddle painting, where the paint is placed in “puddles” all over the canvas and then blended to create your effect. There is also drip painting, where the paint is allowed to drip down onto the canvas. This can easily be done by both old and young, the beginner, and the more advanced artist. Everyone can make beautiful art pieces with this method of painting.
We have mentioned splatter painting, another easy acrylic painting idea. This can be used for a variety of painting ideas. Add it to your landscapes or other painted images, or simply go abstract and make the splattered paint the focus of your painting. Go small with a toothbrush or try a larger canvas where you will most probably have to paint outside or cover surrounding areas so the paint will not get onto anything. Mask or tape areas off to form a pattern with the splatter technique. This is another idea that anybody can try without much expertise being involved.
Bubble Painting Technique
This is one of those cool acrylic painting ideas both kids and adults can try. You simply combine your paint with some dish detergent in cups. You then mix with a straw, then blow into the straw to generate the bubbles.
Portrait and Still Life Paintings
Portraits can be difficult to do and maybe something you can try once you have gained more experience. However, you can attempt a minimal look, or choose to paint a section of the person that brings out simple features. For example, the eyes, which are the most expressive to paint. You can also print out an image on good quality paper, similar in size to your painting. You can then transfer the image to your canvas, which you can then trace and fill in all the details.
Still, life paintings are also popular and often used in teaching how to understand forms, color, composition, and texture. You can easily choose anything at home as a still life painting from fruit to cups, jugs, bowls, a glass of water, or wine.
Cartoon Style Paintings
This can be done on all types of surfaces from canvas to sneakers, rocks, and t-shirts. There are a lot of characters you can choose from, including your action figures as well your Disney characters.
This is quite popular as a rock painting idea. You can create different patterns, and mandalas. You can even create some elaborate designs by simply applying dots. Besides painting on rocks, there are other acrylic painting ideas for beginners, for example, you can create cards, canvas art, make coasters, or liven up a glass jar.
Road Painting Ideas
These types of paintings can be quite effective as you usually have to paint a road that travels into the distance. You could also paint a road that travels through a forest, mountains, or even a city.
The seasons, you can paint some amazing scenery with acrylic paints. Autumn is a beautiful and colorful time of the year when the leaves turn all shades of yellow, red, and orange. You can easily paint a leaf by using an actual leaf from the garden. Paint one side of the leaf and then place it onto your canvas paint side down and then lift off.
You can then paint in the details with a brush. White winter scenes with snow are also a popular idea. Spring and summer with lots of colors and beach or tropical scenes. Why not create a canvas with all four seasons, for example, a tree that goes through all seasons with flowers, green leaves, autumn leaves, and no leaves?
This acrylic painting idea can be quite mesmerizing as you gaze out onto a beautiful scene from a window. Hopefully, you are painting from reality and not just a photo. There are two methods, the first being painting a scene that looks out the window.
Surrealism Acrylic Paintings
This form of art is dream-like, and usually has some form of symbolism and ideas that use bizarre combinations in a composition. For example, you can try combining an inanimate object with living things. Paint dolphins swimming in the sky, or place ordinary everyday utensils within a landscape scene. The ideas are limitless, and you are free to create unique images that defy reality.
Les Voix Intériueres (1884-85) by Didier Mazuru; Didier Mazuru, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Take a look at our easy acrylic painting ideas webstory here!
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Acrylic Painting Ideas Are There?
Acrylic paints are extremely versatile as they can be used like watercolors or oil paints. You can also paint on many different surfaces like canvas, glass, wood, plastic, and many others. There are also many techniques available for painting, so your ideas are boundless.
What Acrylic Painting Technique Is the Most Used?
Many painting techniques are used frequently, however, layering paints are often used when painting with acrylics. Applying thin layers of paint, letting them dry, and painting more layers to create depth and color contrasts.
Are There Easy Acrylic Painting Ideas?
Yes, there are easy acrylic painting ideas and more advanced techniques and ideas. Some Ideas can be done by everyone including children. For example, splattering a canvas surface, using a toothbrush. Acrylic paints can contain certain toxins, so they might not be the best option for really young kids. Also, acrylics dry fast, which can make them difficult to work with. However, with the products available today, it is easy to use and clean, and you only need a few materials to get started.
Should You Wet Your Brush Before Painting With Acrylics?
While you are painting, it is best to keep brushes in water to prevent the paint from drying out. You can keep the brushes in a container with a little water, making sure the bristles are in the water, while the ferrule and handle are not submerged. You can use another cup of water to clean the acrylic brushes when changing paint colors.
Can You Mix Water With Acrylic Paint?
You can combine acrylic paint with some water to thin it as it is a water-based medium. However, it is advisable to not mix in more than 50 percent water. You can also add an acrylic medium to thin your paints. While we are on the subject of mixing, you should never mix oil paint with acrylic paints on your palette; however, you can paint oil over acrylics on the canvas, but not acrylics over oils.
Can you paint acrylic on plain paper?
You can paint acrylics on surfaces such as thick paper, canvas, or wood. For beginners I would recommend either canvas or wood, but since you mentioned paper, I will discuss it here so that you know what to expect if you paint with acrylics on paper.
What is the easiest thing to paint for beginners?
18 Easy Things to Paint.
Watercolor Watermelon. Fruits are great starting points for beginner artists. ... .
Gouache Teacups. Teacups are a good lesson in symmetry and perspective. ... .
Coffee Penguin. ... .
Basil Leaves. ... .
Watercolor Fashion Sketches. ... .
Pop Art. ... .
Simple Landscapes. ... .
The Night Sky..
What is an easy thing to paint?
Sunsets. Sunsets are one of the easiest and best things to paint as a beginner. There isn't anything complicated to it but you will have to learn how to paint gradients if you want that perfect look. However, painting sunsets is a great way to experiment with colors while creating beautiful masterpieces.