Guide to Acrylics


Written by Hannah Clark


Acrylics are a modern medium with great versatility. Essentially a plastic, it still has the advantages of traditional media but with not so many disadvantages. Acrylics are touch dry within 20 minutes, resistant to ageing and have remarkable colour brilliance. They accept a wide variety of additional mediums to create a variety of different finishes and are applicable to many different types of surfaces. Not all artists enjoy them, feeling they are too modern or dry too quickly, which can be damaging to brushes and palettes.


It’s advisable to buy all your acrylic products from the same manufacturer as each uses a different chemical makeup. Colour changes, curdling and binding problems may occur otherwise. At Lovelys we stock the acrylics brands Winsor and Newton artists and Galeria, Pebeo, Montana Gold and Sennelier Abstract.


Acrylics come in tubes, jars, tubs, inks and aerosols. Tube colour viscosity tends to be thicker than that of a jar, but again, it can vary from brand to brand. Acrylics can be thinned with water to reach the desired fluidity and can be thinned enough to replicate watercolours, but they have a less translucent finish and more permanence. With all acrylics, it is vital you keep them in air tight containers.


Due to the fact that certain pigments don’t mix as readily with the resin binder that is in acrylics, the colour palette of acrylics is limited in comparison with the choice available in watercolours and oils. However, acrylics can be applied to many surfaces, including wood, metal, concrete etc as long as it is oil-free and not water repellent. Some surfaces may need to be primed first with water-based emulsion, acrylic primer or gesso before application to create a less porous and fine textured surface. Acrylic can even be used on heavyweight watercolour paper. With canvases and board, make sure it has been primed using a non-oiled based primer.


Acrylics are a great ‘starter’ paint for beginner artists, though there are many professionals that create fantastic artwork with them too. As with most paints, student quality is available, which is bright, cheap and cheerful. The pigments used in student acrylics are a lesser quality, using ‘hues’ of pigments, which have less permanence and brightness of artist quality pigment used in artist quality. What can affect acrylics are the darkening of colours when drying, which is more prevalent in student quality paint. Most dry with a satin finish. There are no good or bad brands as it depends on what you wish to achieve.


A unique quality of acrylics is that they can come in fluorescent, iridescent, high-gloss, metallic and even glow in the dark qualities- excellent for ‘craft’ projects or to give a unique look to your artwork.


More can be achieved with the many different mediums that are on the market, but I will explain further in a separate mediums guide, as well as suitable brushes.


For further help, you can talk to us in store or by phone and email.


Or read these excellent books: Glyn Macey's World of Acrylics: How to Paint Sea, Sky, Land and Life

Acrylics Unleased by Glyn Macey