Art Terms Explained: Acrylic Painting


As artists, we come upon a vast sum of terminology when investigating, looking at and speaking about our components. In this instalment of the ‘Art Terms Explained’ collection, we explain the indicating of specified typically-utilised words, phrases and conditions in the context of acrylic painting.


Acrylic Brushes

Brushes for acrylic painting occur in unique concentrations of stiffness that enable diverse stages of handle with diverse thicknesses of paint. Stiff brushes are organization and springy. Comparable to a palette knife, they are ideal suited to textured and impasto procedures utilizing hefty physique paint, as opposed to good element. They may possibly be designed of hog bristle or artificial fibres. Most oil and acrylic portray brushes could be deemed medium-texture brushes, this means they are rigid more than enough to depart an imprint in heavy bodied paints, but continue to soft sufficient for blending tactics. They give good command and a compact dimension brush is effective effectively for information. Smooth-haired brushes are properly-suited to mixing strategies. To obtain command of your marks with a smooth brush, you require to use far more fluid paints. Delicate hair brushes include watercolour brushes, sable brushes (a sort of purely natural-hair brush) and synthetic brushes.



Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is created of pigment suspended in a polymer resin. It is thinned and cleaned up with drinking water and when the water has evaporated it dries watertight. When used thickly it can resemble oil paint, when used in a fluid way it can resemble watercolour. But it also will allow many strategies that are one of a kind to it thanks to its quick-drying qualities and for the reason that it can adhere to many surfaces. It is frequently applied in what is referred to as Blended Media Portray since the paint can be employed as a collage glue.

It is available in a assortment of formats from thick to really fluid (see viscosity). There are a huge range of mediums accessible to go alongside with the paint, to modify its houses, so acrylic paint is extremely functional.

There is also a type of acrylic paint that is called MSA Acrylic. It is not incredibly frequent, but it is fantastic to be informed of it to stay away from confusion. Quite a few pioneers of acrylic portray in the 1950s employed a solvent-based mostly acrylic paint.


Acrylic Gouache

Acrylic gouache is opaque, matte acrylic paint. The opacity means it has excellent protection, the acrylic binder implies it is watertight when dry, so you can overpaint with out smearing and the matte end offers a velvety surface. Like regular acrylic, it also sticks to numerous surfaces with excellent adhesion. It is known as gouache because it has a identical seem and coverage to classic gouache, but it is distinctive due to the fact it is water-proof following it is dry and common gouache is not. The exception would be Lascaux Acrylic Gouache which is somewhat re-wettable. Acrylic gouache gives a flat, matt complete with negligible brush strokes, and is well-known for these causes with illustrators.


Acrylic gouache: soft body acrylic that dries matte

Acrylic gouache: comfortable physique acrylic that dries matt


Acrylic Ink

Acrylic Inks are created from super-high-quality pigments suspended in an acrylic emulsion as slim as drinking water. They are the most fluid of the acrylic paints, and can be quite rigorous in colour. Acrylic Inks dry to a easy, flat surface with a satin sheen.


Acrylic Markers

Fast-drying and vivid marker pens crammed with acrylic paint. They are shiny, bold and terrific for combining drawing and mark-making procedures with painting. They will adhere to most surfaces and present up brightly on coloured backgrounds.


Acrylic Spray Paint

Acrylic Spray Paints are acrylic paint in a sprayable structure. They come in metal cans, and some of them contain solvent (for these it is highly recommended to use a fume mask or spray only in nicely ventilated regions). The small tension managing procedure provided by some ranges of acrylic spray paints, enables you to management your purposes of color far more thoroughly You can equally draw high-quality traces as very well as broad strokes of colour by making use of various pressure whilst holding down the button on the major of the can. There are also drinking water-centered spray paints. These take more time to dry than solvent-primarily based paints but can be used indoors properly.


Artist Quality

Artist Quality acrylic paints may use the very same pigments as experienced paints, but in additional very affordable proportions. This is ordinarily obtained by raising the amount of money of binder in each individual color. They are still of high-top quality, and are suited to expert artists.



All paint is made from two principal substances: pigment and a binder which is a thing to hold the pigment and sort a movie when it dries. Acrylic paint is designed making use of an acrylic polymer for the binder that forms a movie just after the water has evaporated. Another word for binder is car.


Overall body

The thickness of acrylic is referred to as ‘body’. Acrylic paint has formats of unique thicknesses. The entire body of the paint can be modified by incorporating thick gels to make it thicker or drinking water or thinner mediums to make it much more fluid.


Right hand image, from top to bottom: Golden Heavy Body, Golden Open Acrylic Medium Body, Liquitex Soft Body, Golden Fluid, Golden High Flow, Daler Rowney FW Acrylic Ink, Turner Acrylic Gouache, Molotow Acrylic Marker pen, Montana Gold Spray Paint

Appropriate hand graphic, from prime to bottom: Golden Major Entire body, Golden Open up Acrylic Medium Overall body, Liquitex Comfortable Entire body, Golden Fluid, Golden Higher Flow, Daler Rowney FW Acrylic Ink, Turner Acrylic Gouache, Molotow Acrylic Marker pen, Montana Gold Spray Paint


Brush Cleaning soap

Brush soap is a type of cleanser that is specially formulated with normal oils to moisturise and cleanse brush hairs, so that your brushes hold their condition and hairs for for a longer period. Locate out extra in our report How to Clean Your Oil and Acrylic Brushes and How to Use Jackson’s Marseille Cleaning soap


Canvas Pads

Canvas sheets in the structure of a sketchpad. The canvas can be torn off from the pad as soon as the painting is entire.


Canvas Panels

A portray surface created from a sheet of primed cotton glued on to a rigid board. Artists can put together their own canvas panels or order them prepared-built.


Catalyst Applications

‘Catalyst tools’ are utensils for portray. They occur in two formats: silicone wedges or a silicone paddle on the close of a adhere. They are minimize with distinctive groove styles to make it possible for you to drag them by way of the paint and generate designs of strains.



Acrylic paint dries in two stages: evaporation which is quick and curing which can take a handful of days to a several months for a longer time based on the thickness of the paint layer. Curing is the period of time where by all the other substances in the paint film go away. There are up to 14 ingredients in acrylic paint. In addition to the pigment, polymer resin and drinking water, they can contain defoamers, anti-fungal agents, solvents that help stabilise the paint in the course of any freezing and thaw cycle, and additional. The curing period is when the paint results in being firmly adhered to the surface, the gels develop into clear and not cloudy, the paint becomes as tough as it will get, and the paint will not reabsorb h2o. Many artists are not mindful of this next part of the drying system and so they, for illustration, might varnish the portray much too soon and discover that the painting will become white and cloudy underneath the varnish for the reason that the other volatile components just can’t depart and the paint film is nonetheless absorbent and the drinking water from the varnish has been absorbed by the paint..



‘Filbert’ refers to a variety of flat brush that is rounded into an oval form at the suggestion. It is a functional staple brush for each oil and acrylic portray. Other brush shapes include things like spherical, flat, brilliant, mottler, fan and additional. See much more in our write-up Comprehending Brush Designs Names, Hair and Purposes


Procryl Synthetic Brush Fibre Close Up

Jackson’s Procryl Brushes – Obtainable in: Mottler, Dazzling, Extensive Flat, Filbert and Pointed Round



The phrase stream refers to how mobile the paint is, and how conveniently it transfers from the brush to the paper or surface. Mediums can be extra to change move.


Fluid Paints

Fluid paints are equipped in a bottle and have a texture like double product. Although they are thinner than some of the other styles of acrylic paint, this does not automatically mean they have a decreased pigment load, and even now provide superior color strength. Fluid paints flow consistently from a brush, reducing visible brush strokes in a portray. They can be poured or dripped on to the area for vivid puddles of colour, or they can be applied for extra exact procedures, this sort of as glazing.


Gesso (Acrylic Gesso)

A type of acrylic primer, that replicates the qualities of ‘traditional gesso’, a mixture of French chalk or whiting and rabbit skin glue. Good out a lot more in our article Dimension, Primer, Gesso and Ground Discussed



The application of a thin layer of translucent paint about a former layer to modify the color considerably, rather than masking above it entirely.


Significant Entire body Paints

Heavy Body paints are acrylic paints with the thickest consistency. They’re the most popular and have a buttery texture, producing them the closest to oil paints. Heavy entire body paints hold their form as they are squeezed from the tube, even so, like all other acrylics, can be produced far more fluid by mixing with drinking water. The damp paint can be squeezed out of these tubes on to your palette for mixing or even directly onto the painting floor that you are operating on for thick, expressive marks (see impasto).


Heavy body paint: medium - thick applications of paint / impasto techniques

Major entire body paint: medium – thick apps of paint/impasto strategies



A time period to describe paint that has been applied thickly, typically straight from the tube or with a medium additional to thicken it.


Interactive Acrylics

Typically, at the time dry, normal acrylic paints can not be re-wetted. However ‘Interactive Acrylics’ give a option to this. They are just like normal acrylic quick-drying artist quality paints, even so, they have a exceptional ‘unlocking formula’. This is a liquid that re-wets dried interactive acrylic and slows drying if a few drops are additional to the paint though nevertheless soaked. A Quick Medium/Fixer is applied to seal the layer of paint the moment the portray is entirely completed. This suggests the paint will no for a longer time be re-wettable.



An additive that is blended with paint in buy to extend the color or change some of its homes these kinds of as regularity, texture, transparency or flow.


Blended Media Painting

An acrylic painting approach that utilizes paints, mediums, sample producing instruments to incorporate impressions, and collaged factors.


Natural Hair Brushes

Purely natural hair brushes are produced utilizing animal hair, these kinds of as sable or squirrel. The alternate would be synthetic brushes.


Open Paints

‘Open paints’ are built to dry incredibly slowly and gradually, making it quick to paint soaked-into-damp and mix colour on the surface of your painting. They are meant to mimic oil paint as significantly as feasible, thought they are commonly gentle human body.


Palette Knife

A palette knife is a blunt device utilized for mixing or applying paint, with a adaptable metal blade. Plastic palette knives are also offered. They can also be referred to as a painting knife and can have a straight handle or an offset ‘crank’ cope with.



A pigment is finely ground colour made possibly in a laboratory or from naturally coloured rocks. When merged with the synthetic resin binder it would make acrylic paint.



Pour Portray

This refers to a painting procedure working with fluid acrylic paints or inks, generally with the addition of a pouring medium, and pouring them straight onto the painting. The flowing outcomes are abstract, though there are a range of approaches in the strategy to harness and handle the paint to accomplish various styles and effects. See our report Acrylic Pour Portray With Schmincke Pouring Medium and Inks for inspiration.



A ‘Primer’ is a surfacing materials applied to coat a area to get it all set for paint software. It is a glue that sticks well to your surface area, much better than your paint would. It functions as a intermediary involving the floor and the paint which is utilized around the top, so that your paint is effectively adhered.


Experienced Grade

You may see ‘Professional Grade’ created on the tubes of paints that are of the very best good quality. They have the optimum quality pigments and resins and the tubes will comprise the optimum ratio of pigment to binder to assure the most effective achievable general performance.


Prepared-designed Canvases

Canvas is a well known choice for an acrylic painting ground. All set-produced canvases arrive primed and stretched on to picket frames, so that the artist doesn’t want to extend or prime it themselves.




Smooth Entire body Paints

Delicate body paints are thinner than major entire body paints. They resemble yoghurt in regularity, and can simply be blended with mediums or be used on their very own with easy and responsive handling.


Keep Moist Palettes

Acrylic paints dry speedily, which means they can normally dry on your palette in advance of you have finished applying them for your painting. A ‘Stay Wet’ palette delivers a alternative to this, and consists of a tray which you pour drinking water on and then area a particular sheet above the best. The moisture stops the paint from drying and hence permits you to get the job done with your paint for for a longer time.


Scholar Grade

Acrylic paints labelled as ‘student grade’ have the cheapest pigment to binder ratio. Fillers and mediums are used to extend the pigments and insert bulk, which indicates the scholar equivalents of skilled colors are often more clear and the colors can surface less powerful. They are most suitable for inexperienced persons as perfectly as students and specialists on a budget.


Synthetic Brushes

Artificial brushes are an cost-effective and difficult-sporting alternative to Normal Hair Brushes. They are made utilizing synthetic components, as opposed to animal hair.


Tear off palettes

A type of palette in the kind of specific sheets of waxy papers glued alongside one another into a pad. You combine your colours on the best sheet, and can simply tear it absent and dispose of it later on. Tear off palettes remove the necessity to clear up a messy palette at the end of a portray session.



The measure of how a great deal light is capable to pass by way of an applied paint and interact with the surface area beneath. Transparent paints seem extra luminous on a white assist for the reason that they make it possible for a bigger proportion of gentle to strike the surface they’re laying on. Opaque paints block this reflection from happening, and can be employed to go over layers of colour underneath. Acrylic paints will be far more opaque when utilized right from the tube. The transparency of them can be enhanced with the addition of h2o.



Varnish for acrylic paintings is a distinct coating utilized on prime of a finished painting, intended to guard from scratches, give a tough area simply because acrylic is comfortable and porous, and in some cases security from the fading effects of UV light-weight. Artist excellent varnish is constantly removable. Varnish can be used to change the final sheen of a painting by picking out matt, satin or gloss. Varnish for acrylic paintings will come in a couple formats – for all of them you need to be certain the portray is thoroughly dry and healed, and that the area is no cost of dust. Spray varnish is brief and effortless to use but demands great ventilation and you want to consider treatment to get even protection. It is primarily beneficial for really textured paintings wherever varnish applied with a brush could pool in the minimal places. Varnish can also appear in a bottle or a tin to be used with a brush. Acrylic varnish can be drinking water-primarily based or solvent-centered. MSA (Mineral Spirit Acrylic) varnish gives a harder layer than drinking water-based acrylic varnish and requires to be cleaned/thinned with solvents, despite the fact that it is nonetheless acrylic based mostly.



The amount of money of thickness or fluidity a paint has – high viscosity is a thick paint and reduced viscosity is a fluid paint. In some cases named regularity. Acrylic paint is created in a selection of thicknesses which can be grouped into 4: hefty overall body, comfortable overall body, fluid, and ink. Every single has the very same total of pigment, just different amounts of thickeners. See our Dairy Scale of Paint Viscosities.



Soaked-on-soaked is a portray system in which layers of soaked paint are applied to beforehand utilized layers of paint that have not nonetheless dried and are still moist. This can be utilised for blending procedures and mixing colours right on the surface.



Further Reading through

Acrylic Painting for Newbies – What You Have to have to Get Started off

Artwork Conditions Discussed: Watercolour Portray

Artwork Terms Discussed: Oil Portray

Everything You Have to have to Know About Acrylic Painting Paper




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