Traditional art: Acrylics I

Traditional art: Acrylics I

Today we are going to talk about a technique that, although I do not master it well, I think it is interesting to talk about it.


Acrylics (or latex) are plasticized paints that dry very quickly. They are soluble in water, yes, but once they dry, they are resistant to it. The first acrylic paints date back to the 1950s and developed in parallel in both Italy and the United States.

If you’re looking for bright colors and don’t have time to wait while the paint dries, acrylics are what you’re looking for.

As I have said, it is not a technique that I master well, since I began to use it a little seriously during my second year of illustration. And, since then, I think I will have painted with them a few more times. It’s not like I dislike it, but I think I need more practice, so I have several test exercises lying around, but few fully finished pieces.


You can find acrylic paint in two formats: in a bottle and in a tube. I’ve tried both and honestly, I prefer the tube. I control more the amounts of paint that I spend to make mixtures and they are easier to transport. However, I found a perfect solution for acrylic paints in bottles: I bought some small bottles with very fine spouts and I use them as little bottles. Thus, I can also control the quantities I use, they are more comfortable to transport and, being transparent, if I see that I am running out, I take the original bottle and fill the small one. It’s quite handy, really.

Not having used that many acrylics, I have only tried two brands:

  • Garvi: These are the ones that the ESDIP school provided me. This set does not have many colors, but you can create the ones you need by making the necessary mixtures. You really don’t need many more shades than these to make all the mixes you want.
  • Art Creation: I got these tube acrylics because, having so little class time, I didn’t want to waste it mixing and then losing the mix because, remember, acrylic dries very quickly. In this case there are quite a few colors that simplified my work a bit when mixing.

As an important note, I have to say, when you mix, don’t do it on a surface that you like, because it’s practically impossible to remove the goops once they dry. I recommended to use disposable plates, but, in my case, I have a palette where I only make acrylic mixtures. And, as you can see, it’s disgusting.

You can also use a ceramic, glass or porcelain palette. For me, in my case, it’s not worth it, because I’m very clumsy and I’m sure I’d break it with the second use.

The brushes I use are the same as the watercolor ones: synthetic with different heads, but the ones I use the most are the round ones. Be careful, they are the same as the watercolor ones, but they are not the same. As I will explain later in another post, I have the brushes separated according to the technique that I am going to use. Thus, I have practically the same collection of brushes for watercolors, another for acrylics and another for inks. And this why? Well, acrylics are plastic paints that, as soon as it dries, becomes very rigid. If you don’t clean them well, the bristles of the brushes can harden. Yes, it is true that they can be softened again with hot water or turpentine, but it is advisable to use different brushes for each technique. Mainly because each one needs more thorough care than others. It’s okay if you use the same ones, but if so, make sure that the brushes are not contaminated (for example, they have a little watercolor or ink between the bristles or, as I mentioned, there is some acrylic that can cause the bristles stick together).

Another somewhat strange (but useful) recommendation that I can give you is to be careful with the clothes you wear when painting with acrylics. Just as you do when you paint the walls of a house, the same thing happens with acrylic: wear clothes that, if they get stained, nothing will happen.

I learned this the hard way. I wore a t-shirt that I really like… and I stained it with white acrylic… And now I have a burgundy t-shirt with a little white stain that doesn’t even come out…

Regarding the paper, for the tests I use the watercolor paper, but when I want to do a whole job, I use the Guarro brand 300 g/m² cotton paper.

If you allow me, I will tell you that Guarro is a great brand of paper. All my sketchbooks have been Guarro for over 10 years. It is a very good brand. Really. I highly recommend it.

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