Art Terms Explained: Acrylic Painting


As artists, we come upon a extensive volume of terminology whilst researching, looking at and talking about our elements. In this instalment of the ‘Art Phrases Explained’ sequence, we make clear the this means of sure frequently-employed words and phrases, phrases and phrases in the context of acrylic portray.


Acrylic Brushes

Brushes for acrylic portray occur in distinctive levels of stiffness that allow distinct amounts of command with various thicknesses of paint. Stiff brushes are agency and springy. Identical to a palette knife, they are best suited to textured and impasto methods employing large overall body paint, as opposed to great depth. They may possibly be made of hog bristle or artificial fibres. Most oil and acrylic portray brushes could be regarded medium-texture brushes, meaning they are rigid enough to leave an imprint in heavy bodied paints, but still delicate ample for mixing methods. They give good handle and a little dimensions brush is effective very well for particulars. Tender-haired brushes are effectively-suited to blending approaches. To accomplish management of your marks with a smooth brush, you have to have to use a lot more fluid paints. Smooth hair brushes incorporate watercolour brushes, sable brushes (a type of pure-hair brush) and artificial brushes.



Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is built of pigment suspended in a polymer resin. It is thinned and cleaned up with water and when the water has evaporated it dries water-proof. When utilised thickly it can resemble oil paint, when used in a fluid fashion it can resemble watercolour. But it also enables lots of methods that are exceptional to it many thanks to its quickly-drying properties and mainly because it can adhere to several surfaces. It is typically applied in what is identified as Mixed Media Painting since the paint can be utilized as a collage glue.

It is accessible in a variety of formats from thick to extremely fluid (see viscosity). There are a extensive assortment of mediums obtainable to go along with the paint, to modify its properties, so acrylic paint is quite multipurpose.

There is also a type of acrylic paint that is referred to as MSA Acrylic. It is not really widespread, but it is great to be conscious of it to steer clear of confusion. A lot of pioneers of acrylic painting in the 1950s utilised a solvent-primarily based acrylic paint.


Acrylic Gouache

Acrylic gouache is opaque, matte acrylic paint. The opacity implies it has great coverage, the acrylic binder means it is water resistant when dry, so you can overpaint with out smearing and the matte end presents a velvety surface. Like regular acrylic, it also sticks to several surfaces with good adhesion. It is known as gouache mainly because it has a equivalent glimpse and coverage to common gouache, but it is various due to the fact it is water-resistant soon after it is dry and common gouache is not. The exception would be Lascaux Acrylic Gouache which is fairly re-wettable. Acrylic gouache offers a flat, matt end with nominal brush strokes, and is preferred for these motives with illustrators.


Acrylic gouache: soft body acrylic that dries matte

Acrylic gouache: comfortable overall body acrylic that dries matt


Acrylic Ink

Acrylic Inks are created from tremendous-great pigments suspended in an acrylic emulsion as skinny as drinking water. They are the most fluid of the acrylic paints, and can be really intensive in colour. Acrylic Inks dry to a sleek, flat surface area with a satin sheen.


Acrylic Markers

Rapid-drying and vibrant marker pens loaded with acrylic paint. They are dazzling, bold and excellent for combining drawing and mark-producing techniques with painting. They will adhere to most surfaces and demonstrate up brightly on coloured backgrounds.


Acrylic Spray Paint

Acrylic Spray Paints are acrylic paint in a sprayable format. They come in metal cans, and some of them consist of solvent (for these it is recommended to wear a fume mask or spray only in perfectly ventilated areas). The low stress managing method provided by some ranges of acrylic spray paints, enables you to control your purposes of color a lot more carefully You can each attract wonderful traces as perfectly as broad strokes of colour by making use of different force although holding down the button on the best of the can. There are also drinking water-primarily based spray paints. These take lengthier to dry than solvent-based mostly paints but can be utilized indoors properly.


Artist Grade

Artist Grade acrylic paints might use the very same pigments as skilled paints, but in much more reasonably priced proportions. This is generally reached by rising the sum of binder in each and every color. They are continue to of higher-good quality, and are suited to qualified artists.



All paint is manufactured from two principal elements: pigment and a binder which is some thing to hold the pigment and form a movie when it dries. Acrylic paint is made applying an acrylic polymer for the binder that forms a film immediately after the h2o has evaporated. An additional word for binder is motor vehicle.


Overall body

The thickness of acrylic is referred to as ‘body’. Acrylic paint has formats of different thicknesses. The system of the paint can be modified by adding thick gels to make it thicker or drinking water or thinner mediums to make it 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

Correct hand image, from major to bottom: Golden Heavy System, Golden Open up Acrylic Medium System, Liquitex Soft System, Golden Fluid, Golden Large Flow, Daler Rowney FW Acrylic Ink, Turner Acrylic Gouache, Molotow Acrylic Marker pen, Montana Gold Spray Paint


Brush Cleaning soap

Brush soap is a variety of cleanser that is primarily formulated with pure oils to moisturise and cleanse brush hairs, so that your brushes maintain their condition and hairs for lengthier. Obtain out much more in our posting 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 once the portray is complete.


Canvas Panels

A portray surface area produced from a sheet of primed cotton glued on to a rigid board. Artists can get ready their personal canvas panels or buy them all set-made.


Catalyst Resources

‘Catalyst tools’ are utensils for portray. They occur in two formats: silicone wedges or a silicone paddle on the end of a adhere. They are reduce with various groove styles to allow you to drag them by the paint and create patterns of lines.



Acrylic paint dries in two stages: evaporation which is speedy and curing which will take a couple of times to a several months extended relying on the thickness of the paint layer. Curing is the period the place all the other elements in the paint film go away. There are up to 14 substances in acrylic paint. Aside from the pigment, polymer resin and water, they can include defoamers, anti-fungal agents, solvents that support stabilise the paint throughout any freezing and thaw cycle, and extra. The curing period is when the paint turns into firmly adhered to the surface area, the gels grow to be apparent and not cloudy, the paint turns into as hard as it will get, and the paint will not reabsorb water. Several artists are not knowledgeable of this second aspect of the drying approach and so they, for instance, may varnish the painting way too shortly and find that the portray turns into white and cloudy underneath the varnish due to the fact the other unstable elements just can’t go away and the paint movie is continue to absorbent and the h2o from the varnish has been absorbed by the paint..



‘Filbert’ refers to a type of flat brush that is rounded into an oval condition at the tip. It is a multipurpose staple brush for both oil and acrylic portray. Other brush shapes include things like round, flat, vibrant, mottler, enthusiast and additional. See a lot more in our post Being familiar with Brush Styles Names, Hair and Programs


Procryl Synthetic Brush Fibre Close Up

Jackson’s Procryl Brushes – Readily available in: Mottler, Vibrant, Extensive Flat, Filbert and Pointed Round



The term movement refers to how cell the paint is, and how conveniently it transfers from the brush to the paper or surface. Mediums can be added to alter circulation.


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 forms of acrylic paint, this doesn’t necessarily signify they have a reduced pigment load, and nonetheless present large colour toughness. Fluid paints flow continually from a brush, reducing noticeable brush strokes in a painting. They can be poured or dripped on to the surface for vivid puddles of colour, or they can be made use of for additional exact techniques, such as glazing.


Gesso (Acrylic Gesso)

A style of acrylic primer, that replicates the characteristics of ‘traditional gesso’, a mixture of French chalk or whiting and rabbit pores and skin glue. Good out a lot more in our report Measurement, Primer, Gesso and Floor Stated



The software of a thin layer of translucent paint above a former layer to modify the colour fairly, fairly than covering over it entirely.


Hefty Physique Paints

Heavy Overall body paints are acrylic paints with the thickest regularity. They are the most well-known and have a buttery texture, producing them the closest to oil paints. Significant system paints maintain their condition as they are squeezed from the tube, on the other hand, like all other acrylics, can be created much 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 immediately on to the portray area that you are performing on for thick, expressive marks (see impasto).


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

Weighty physique paint: medium – thick programs of paint/impasto strategies



A expression to describe paint that has been applied thickly, frequently straight from the tube or with a medium added to thicken it.


Interactive Acrylics

Commonly, at the time dry, common acrylic paints can not be re-wetted. Even so ‘Interactive Acrylics’ present a option to this. They are just like regular acrylic speedy-drying artist excellent paints, on the other hand, they contain a one of a kind ‘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 continue to moist. A Speedy Medium/Fixer is applied to seal the layer of paint as soon as the painting is absolutely completed. This suggests the paint will no for a longer period be re-wettable.



An additive that is combined with paint in order to extend the color or alter some of its houses this kind of as regularity, texture, transparency or stream.


Mixed Media Portray

An acrylic portray system that employs paints, mediums, pattern producing instruments to increase impressions, and collaged things.


Natural Hair Brushes

Purely natural hair brushes are manufactured using animal hair, this sort of as sable or squirrel. The substitute would be artificial brushes.


Open up Paints

‘Open paints’ are developed to dry pretty slowly, producing it effortless to paint moist-into-soaked and mix color on the area of your portray. They are intended to mimic oil paint as a lot as attainable, assumed they are typically comfortable body.


Palette Knife

A palette knife is a blunt tool utilized for mixing or making use of paint, with a adaptable metal blade. Plastic palette knives are also accessible. They can also be named a portray knife and can have a straight tackle or an offset ‘crank’ handle.



A pigment is finely ground colour created either in a laboratory or from the natural way coloured rocks. When merged with the artificial resin binder it will make acrylic paint.



Pour Portray

This refers to a portray strategy utilizing fluid acrylic paints or inks, generally with the addition of a pouring medium, and pouring them immediately onto the portray. The flowing results are summary, despite the fact that there are a variety of solutions in the approach to harness and control the paint to attain various styles and consequences. See our short article Acrylic Pour Portray With Schmincke Pouring Medium and Inks for inspiration.



A ‘Primer’ is a surfacing content made use of to coat a surface area to get it all set for paint software. It is a glue that sticks nicely to your surface area, greater than your paint would. It acts as a middleman in between the surface and the paint which is applied above the top rated, so that your paint is properly adhered.


Expert Grade

You may perhaps see ‘Professional Grade’ prepared on the tubes of paints that are of the best good quality. They have the best quality pigments and resins and the tubes will include the optimum ratio of pigment to binder to guarantee the best feasible efficiency.


All set-designed Canvases

Canvas is a popular option for an acrylic portray ground. Ready-produced canvases arrive primed and stretched on to picket frames, so that the artist doesn’t need to stretch or key it by themselves.




Smooth Physique Paints

Smooth body paints are thinner than heavy entire body paints. They resemble yoghurt in regularity, and can conveniently be blended with mediums or be applied on their very own with easy and responsive dealing with.


Stay Damp Palettes

Acrylic paints dry immediately, meaning they can generally dry on your palette ahead of you have concluded using them for your painting. A ‘Stay Wet’ palette delivers a resolution to this, and consists of a tray which you pour h2o on and then location a particular sheet above the prime. The dampness stops the paint from drying and hence permits you to work with your paint for lengthier.


Scholar Grade

Acrylic paints labelled as ‘student grade’ have the most affordable pigment to binder ratio. Fillers and mediums are made use of to lengthen the pigments and increase bulk, which usually means the pupil equivalents of professional colours are usually a lot more transparent and the colors can appear much less powerful. They are most ideal for newcomers as effectively as college students and specialists on a price range.


Synthetic Brushes

Synthetic brushes are an economical and challenging-putting on alternate to Organic Hair Brushes. They are manufactured making use of synthetic materials, as opposed to animal hair.


Tear off palettes

A style of palette in the sort of personal sheets of waxy papers glued together into a pad. You combine your colors on the major sheet, and can simply tear it absent and dispose of it afterwards. Tear off palettes take away the requirement to clear up a messy palette at the end of a portray session.



The measure of how a lot gentle is capable to move via an used paint and interact with the surface area beneath. Transparent paints surface additional luminous on a white aid because they let a larger proportion of light to strike the area they’re laying on. Opaque paints block this reflection from happening, and can be made use of to go over levels of colour underneath. Acrylic paints will be much more opaque when applied right from the tube. The transparency of them can be amplified with the addition of drinking water.



Varnish for acrylic paintings is a apparent coating applied on leading of a concluded painting, designed to protect from scratches, give a tough surface for the reason that acrylic is tender and porous, and in some conditions safety from the fading results of UV mild. Artist high-quality varnish is always removable. Varnish can be used to change the final sheen of a painting by picking matt, satin or gloss. Varnish for acrylic paintings arrives in a number of formats – for all of them you have to have to ensure the painting is absolutely dry and treated, and that the surface area is cost-free of dust. Spray varnish is quick and effortless to use but requires good air flow and you need to have to consider treatment to get even coverage. It is primarily practical for highly textured paintings exactly where varnish applied with a brush may pool in the low spots. Varnish can also come in a bottle or a tin to be used with a brush. Acrylic varnish can be drinking water-centered or solvent-dependent. MSA (Mineral Spirit Acrylic) varnish gives a harder layer than water-centered acrylic varnish and demands to be cleaned/thinned with solvents, despite the fact that it is still acrylic based mostly.



The sum of thickness or fluidity a paint has – superior viscosity is a thick paint and small viscosity is a fluid paint. Sometimes named regularity. Acrylic paint is built in a vary of thicknesses which can be grouped into four: significant physique, tender system, fluid, and ink. Each and every has the very same quantity of pigment, just diverse quantities of thickeners. See our Dairy Scale of Paint Viscosities.



Wet-on-moist is a portray approach in which layers of damp paint are applied to formerly utilized levels of paint that have not nevertheless dried and are continue to soaked. This can be applied for blending tactics and mixing colours immediately on the surface area.



Even further Reading through

Acrylic Painting for Novices – What You Have to have to Get Started

Artwork Phrases Stated: Watercolour Portray

Art Phrases Spelled out: Oil Portray

Every little thing You Require to Know About Acrylic Portray Paper




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