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Acrylic paint is a popular medium for artists due to its range of colors, drying time, and ease of clean-up.
Acrylic paint is great for creating designs on tons of different surfaces, from canvas to ceramics.
It’s an exciting medium to work with because of its versatility.
However, when it comes to acrylic paints and pigments, the choices can be intimidating, and whether you paint for fun or professionally it’s important to understand what brand of paint works best for your needs.
It’s hard to figure out where to start when shopping for acrylic paint so let's start with the first two product grades you’ll encounter - artist/professional quality and student quality.
What’s the difference?
Well, artist-quality acrylic paints typically have a higher concentration of pigment, smoother consistency, and better lightfastness (a measure of how well they resist fading).
Unfortunately, most artist-quality acrylics are expensive.
Student quality acrylics are designed for painting beginners. They’re great for learning and practicing new techniques. If you’re new to painting with acrylics, it might be a good idea to start with student-grade acrylic paint.
Now that you’ve decided between artist quality and student quality, there are several other key factors to consider: permanence, viscosity, hue, tube/jar, and drying time.
To help the process, we’ve broken down each term for you and how they affect the medium.
Permanence, or lightfastness, is how much the color of paint will fade over time after it’s exposed to light. Acrylic paints have high permanence ratings compared to other mediums, so they’re likely to stay the same hue for a long time.
Unless you have a specific need, you should try to avoid paints with low permanence or fugitive colors.
Viscosity refers to the thickness of the paint.
As mentioned earlier, acrylic paint has a variety of uses. It’s important to know what your goal is and what consistency will work for that goal.
Depending on your use, you’ll have to pick your paint accordingly.
Heavy body acrylics are similar to oil-based paint.
Fluid acrylics are thinner and can be used in conjunction with watercolors or for a watercolor feel.
This is where things get fun - picking out the color! If you’re a beginner try to limit yourself to only a few colors - this way you won't be overwhelmed when learning the ins and outs of the medium.
As you become more comfortable, you can start paying attention to different brand offerings. Some other fluorescents or iridescent colors are fun to work with.
Different viscosities are stored differently.
Heavy body acrylics come in either tubes or jars. The difference is, tubes are small and portable, however, a jar has more paint and could be considered cost-efficient depending on your needs.
They also have different consistencies: paints from tubes are paste-like, while paints from jars are still thick but will flatten out when on the palette.
Don’t know where to start? If you’re buying your first acrylic paints, start with tubes.
A little goes a long way and you want to keep your options open so you can experiment with brands and colors freely.
Once you know which brands and colors you enjoy using, go for the jars!
A huge hassle in painting is the dry time. Is it too fast? Is it too slow?
A lot of painters prefer acrylics because they dry so quickly, however, sometimes, the paint dries out on the brush or palette before you’re even done.
Also, if you want to mix paints or create a blending effect, it’s easier to use paint with a slower drying time.
Blick Studio Acrylic Paint is some of the best paint for beginners.
It’s a great combination of price and performance, Blick Studio Acrylic Paint is a great value for students and beginner artists.
The paint features 60 vibrant colors with high pigment concentration. Their high pigmentation assures a strong color power. The paints have a smooth and creamy texture, it’s not too thick or runny. The texture holds brush and palette marks when it dries.
Blick Studio Acrylics contain pigments that are ground using a steel three-roll mill. This means that the texture and colors stay consistent tube to tube. Blick Studio Acrylic Paint blends easily both on the palette and canvas.
These acrylics dry matte and to a permanent, lightfast paint that is flexible when dry. These paints are non-yellowing and non-resoluble.
They retain their vibrancy even when dried on canvas.
However, they are not heavy body paints, meaning that they will not cover as well as more traditional acrylic paints. It’s best used on non-oily mediums like paper, canvas, cardboard, fabric, etc.
These paints can be used for a wide variety of techniques and mixed-media applications.
Arteza is another popular acrylic paint brand that offers several different types of acrylic paints.
This is a great beginning paint for anything who is looking to learn, however, it’s also a great addition for more experienced painters.
They offer pouring acrylics, iridescent, and metallic acrylics. The Arteza Acrylic paints have 60 unique colors that are highly pigmented and perfect for creating a variety of color schemes ranging from warm tones to cool.
The viscosity is thick and smooth, it’s good for creating texture with a palette knife or adding details with a paintbrush.
They come in tubes that are labeled with the color name, pigment information, lightfastness, and transparency level. The squeezable tubes make the paint easily mixable without using more paint than you need. These tubes come with twistable caps that will tightly seal your paints to maintain their quality while they’re not in use.
The Arteza Acrylic Premium Artist Paint can paint on practically any smooth surface; it's suitable for canvas, wood, rocks, glass, and paper.
These artist-qualified paints have a smooth consistency and can be used on a variety of bases. These acrylic colors are water-based, so you can easily clean your workspace with a bit of soap and warm water.
M Graham & Co. was founded 25 years ago by 2 artists. It came about a time where artists were beginning to voice concerns about the health effects of toxins in their art materials.
The 2 wanted to create a fine art supply company that would provide artists with safe, high-quality, solvent-free colors. The company created hand-crafted small-batch paints made with historic natural bases like walnut oil and honey.
These colors are made with pure acrylic emulsion and are free from extenders and adulterants.
These paints are made from solid resins, meaning you get the highest concentration of pigment for vibrant colors.
The paint's viscosity is smooth and creamy - similar to oil paints. They have a thick, creamy, and buildable texture with less odor than other acrylic paints.
Graham & Co Acrylics are formulated to be re-wet to allow longer periods to work with the paint and are permanent, inter-mixable, and compatible with all other acrylic colors and mediums.
M Graham & Co. Acrylics are a great option for experienced artists.
Golden paints are great quality, but a little pricier than other acrylic paints.
They have a large selection of paints that are easy to use, vibrant colors, and are professional quality. They are great for more experienced painters who have used acrylics before.
Golden Heavy Body Artists Acrylics is known for its thick, buttery consistency. It is good at retaining brushstrokes, palette knife marks, and stands up on your canvas - all this is wonderful for color blending.
The thick and creamy paint is perfect for experimentation and mixed media projects and creates similar effects as oil paints. These acrylics are both permanent and lightfast. They dry quickly for easy layering, and even a little bit of paint has good coverage.
Golden Heavy Body Artists Acrylics do not add any fillers, toners, or dyes to their paints, so you get a smooth stroke every time. However, this also means that some paints will have different finishes.
There are dozens of unique colors to choose from with containers ranging from tubes to jars.
Each color comes in different shades and brightness for variety.
Sax True Flow Heavy Body Acrylic Paint is ideal for students and beginner artists due to its affordable price point.
Sax True Flow Heavy Body is a versatile paint with an unlimited range of projects. They are good for layering and blending. They blend easily on both palettes and canvas. It’s highly pigmented with many vibrant colors to choose from. This formula is quick-drying. It’s permanent and has a matte finish.
These acrylics have a fluid consistency that is great for pouring making it ideal if you’re a teacher.
These student-grade paints however don’t cover as well as more traditional acrylics.
Liquitex Heavy Body Artist Acrylic Paint was developed for both art students and professional artists at a great price. Liquitex paints are heavy body acrylics that are easily blendable, with a buttery consistency.
These paints were made by grounding tiny ceramic beads. This process gives the paint brightness, color development, and strength. It’s useful for adding undertones, tints, or shade.
However, with these great benefits, there’s a strong odor.
Liquitex Heavy Body Artist Acrylic Paint has a satin finish. They’re non-yellowing and UV resistant when dry. These paints are on the expensive side, the colors are bright, permanent, and provide good coverage.
Liquitex Heavy Body Artist Acrylic paint is made with high pigment loads, which produce rich, brilliant, permanent color.
They come in tubes of 93 colors and are inter-mixable with color matches across ranges. They’re professional- quality, with a thick, smooth, and creamy consistency.
Their thick viscosity is great for traditional art techniques, using brushes or knives, as well as for more experimental arts. It also takes longer to dry than other acrylics.
Although they’re professional-quality, they come in different palettes that are targeted toward the student, beginner, or professional.
Picking the right acrylic paint for you is hard, but all you need to do is asking yourself 3 questions:
For example, if you’re a teacher who needs acrylic paint for young students, your budget may not be very high, you’ll probably want to buy it in bulk, and the paint will need to be easily cleanable - so you’ll want to go for a student grade paint like Sax True Flow Heavy Body Acrylic Paint which is pourable. Perfect for a teacher working with young students.
If you’re an incredibly experienced painter, you may want to opt for a professional-grade paint like M. Graham & Co. Acrylics.
If you’re still unsure about what paints work for you, buy acrylics in small quantities. This way you’ll have the opportunity to try it out on the medium you’re working on to see how it works for you.