Acrylic paint, developed in the mid-20th century, has become a favorite medium for many artists due to its versatility and ease of use.
It emerged as a practical alternative to traditional oil and watercolor painting, offering unique characteristics that appealed to modern painters.
The popularity of acrylic paint continues to grow as artists discover the myriad of techniques and styles that can be achieved with this adaptable medium.
This article aims to explore acrylic paint pros and cons, providing a comprehensive understanding of its advantages and disadvantages.
By doing so, it aims to assist artists and enthusiasts in making informed decisions when choosing their preferred medium for artistic expression. So, let’s dive into the pros and cons of acrylic paint.
Composition of Acrylic Paint
Acrylic paint is composed of a combination of pigments and acrylic polymer emulsion.
Acrylic Polymer Binder
The acrylic polymer binder serves as the vehicle for the pigments, suspending and binding them together.
This binder also provides the paint with its unique properties, such as flexibility, water solubility, and quick-drying time.
When the paint dries, the water in the emulsion evaporates, leaving behind a durable and flexible film that adheres to the painting surface.
The pigments used in acrylic paint are finely ground particles that provide color and opacity.
These pigments can be derived from various sources, including natural minerals, synthetic compounds, and organic materials.
The quality and concentration of pigments in acrylic paint can vary depending on the grade (student, artist, or professional) and brand, ultimately affecting the paint’s vibrancy, colorfastness, and longevity.
Acrylic Paint Pros and Cons
Now that you understand the composition of acrylic paint let’s discuss its pros and cons.
Pros of Acrylic Paint
1. Fast Drying Time
Acrylic paint’s fast drying time provides artists with the ability to create complex, layered compositions in a shorter amount of time.
This advantage is particularly appealing to those working on tight deadlines, participating in live painting events, or producing artwork for commercial purposes.
The rapid drying time allows artists to apply subsequent layers without having to wait for extended periods, as is the case with oil paint.
This characteristic makes acrylic paint a popular choice among artists who require efficiency in their creative process.
Furthermore, the fast drying time enables artists to explore various techniques that take advantage of this property.
For instance, the “alla prima” or wet-on-wet painting method allows artists to complete an entire piece in one sitting while the paint is still wet, enabling smooth blending and seamless color transitions.
Another technique is “glazing,” where thin layers of transparent paint are applied on top of each other, creating depth and luminosity in the artwork.
Acrylic paint’s quick drying time facilitates the efficient execution of these techniques, as each layer dries rapidly, allowing the artist to build up successive layers without delay.
Additionally, this feature helps artists avoid issues such as unintentional smudging or blending that can occur with slower-drying paint types.
2. Water-soluble and Easy to Clean
The water-solubility of acrylic paint is a significant advantage for artists who prefer a simple and eco-friendly cleanup process.
This property eliminates the need for harsh chemicals and solvents typically required for cleaning oil-based paints.
With acrylics, artists can quickly and easily rinse their brushes and tools with water, effectively removing most of the paint residue.
If needed, a mild soap can be used for more thorough cleaning, further reducing the environmental impact of the cleanup process.
The ease of cleaning also extends to accidental spills or splatters on surfaces, clothing, and skin.
While it is essential to clean up acrylic paint spills promptly to prevent permanent staining, the water-soluble nature of acrylic paint makes it less challenging to manage compared to oil or other non-water-based paints.
This ease of cleaning minimizes the risk of damage to clothing, studio equipment, and workspaces, making acrylic paint a more user-friendly choice for artists of all skill levels.
Moreover, the ability to clean up with just water reduces the risk of skin irritation or allergic reactions associated with exposure to solvents, making acrylic paint colors for skin tone safer options for many artists.
3. Wide Range of Colors and Finishes
Acrylic paint offers a vast array of colors and finishes, giving artists the freedom to express their creativity and achieve the desired effects in their artwork.
The extensive color selection available in acrylic paint allows artists to find the perfect hue for their project, as well as experiment with new and unique shades.
Color Mixing and Blending
One of the strengths of acrylic paint is its ability to mix and blend colors seamlessly.
This characteristic enables artists to create an endless variety of shades, tints, and tones by combining different colors.
The paint’s fast-drying nature also facilitates the layering of colors without the risk of muddying or unintentional blending, ensuring that the desired color mixtures and effects are preserved.
Additionally, artists can control the opacity and transparency of acrylic paint by adding water or acrylic mediums, providing even more possibilities for color exploration and manipulation.
Availability of Different Sheens (Matte, Gloss, etc.)
Acrylic paint comes in various finishes, such as matte, gloss, and satin, offering artists the flexibility to achieve different visual effects in their work.
Read also: Matte vs satin
The availability of different sheens allows artists to select the finish that best suits their creative vision, whether they prefer a matte surface for a more subdued look or a glossy finish for a vibrant, reflective appearance.
Furthermore, artists can modify the sheen of acrylic paint by using specific acrylic mediums or varnishes, providing even more control over the final appearance of their artwork.
This range of finishes adds another dimension to the versatility of acrylic paint, making it a popular choice for artists seeking creative freedom and customization in their medium.
4. Versatile painting techniques
Acrylic paint’s unique properties enable artists to explore a variety of techniques to create a wide range of effects in their artwork.
One of the advantages of acrylic paint is its ability to mimic other paint types, such as watercolor or oil paint.
This versatility allows artists to experiment with different techniques and styles, making acrylic paint a valuable medium for creative expression.
One popular technique for mimicking watercolor is mixing acrylic paint with water to create a transparent, fluid consistency that resembles watercolor paint.
These acrylic painting techniques are particularly useful for creating washes and glazes, as well as achieving soft, delicate color transitions.
Acrylic paint can also be used to create oil-like effects, such as impasto, which involves applying thick layers of paint to create texture and dimensionality.
Acrylics can be applied thickly without the risk of cracking or yellowing over time, as is often the case with oil paints.
This makes it an ideal medium for artists who wish to create highly textured, tactile artwork.
Another unique technique specific to acrylics is glazing. Glazing involves applying thin, transparent layers of paint on top of each other to create depth and luminosity in the artwork.
Acrylic paint’s quick drying time allows artists to build up successive layers without delay, making it easier to achieve the desired effect.
5. Water resistance when dry
Acrylic paint’s water resistance is a significant advantage for artists, as it offers protection against humidity and moisture, which can cause other paint types to deteriorate over time.
Acrylics are also resistant to water damage, making them an ideal choice for outdoor murals, public art installations, and artworks that may be exposed to water or high humidity levels.
To create water-resistant artworks with acrylics, several techniques can be employed.
- Firstly, artists can use a waterproof varnish or sealer to protect their artworks against moisture and humidity. Applying multiple coats of varnish can provide additional protection and improve the longevity of the artwork.
- Another technique is to mix acrylic paint with a waterproofing medium, such as acrylic polymer emulsion. This method involves mixing the paint and medium in a 1:1 ratio to create a water-resistant layer that can be applied to various surfaces. This technique is particularly useful for creating outdoor artwork, as it offers increased protection against water damage and other environmental factors.
- Additionally, artists can use a spray fixative or a fixative brush-on to protect their artworks from moisture damage. These fixatives work by forming a protective layer on top of the artwork, preventing moisture from penetrating the paint layer.
6. Suitable for various surfaces
Acrylic paint’s versatility extends beyond its ability to create a wide range of effects and styles.
It is also a suitable medium for painting on various surfaces, including canvas, wood, paper, phone case, shrinky dinks and more.
This characteristic makes acrylic paint a popular choice among artists working on different projects, from traditional canvas paintings to mixed media works and experimental pieces.
One of the advantages of using acrylic paint on different surfaces is its ability to adhere well without requiring extensive surface preparation.
However, some surfaces, such as concrete, may require a degree of preparation and priming to achieve the desired results. Here is how to use acrylic paint on concrete.
Read also: how to remove acrylic paint from concrete
For example, when painting on wood, it is essential to sand the surface to remove any bumps or roughness that may affect the adhesion of the paint.
The wood can also be primed with a specific wood primer to enhance the paint’s adhesion and prevent moisture damage.
When painting acrylic paint on a phone case or canvas, it is essential to consider the quality and texture of the canvas.
A high-quality canvas or case will provide a smooth and even surface, allowing the paint to adhere evenly and prevent the paint from bleeding or feathering.
Additionally, priming the canvas with a gesso primer can enhance the surface’s absorbency and prevent the paint from seeping through the fibers.
When painting acrylic paint on sketch paper, it is crucial to consider the thickness and texture of the paper. Thicker paper is ideal for painting with acrylics as it can withstand the paint’s weight and texture.
Additionally, rougher paper textures can add a unique character and texture to the artwork.
Related Post: Can Acrylic Paint Be Used on Glass
7. Lower toxicity compared to oil paints
Is acrylic paint toxic? One of the significant advantages of acrylic paint is its lower toxicity compared to traditional oil paints.
Acrylics are water-based, making them easier to handle and clean up with water, unlike oil paints that require the use of harsh solvents such as turpentine and mineral spirits.
These solvents are known to be harmful to human health and the environment, and prolonged exposure to them can cause respiratory issues, headaches, and skin irritation.
However, it is essential to note that acrylic paints can still pose some health risks, especially when used improperly or without proper ventilation.
Some pigments used in modern acrylic paints contain toxic chemicals such as cadmium, cobalt, and lead, which can be hazardous when inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
Therefore, it is crucial to take the necessary health and safety precautions when working with modern or traditional acrylic paints; wear protective clothing, gloves, and work in a well-ventilated area.
Proper ventilation is crucial when using acrylic paints, as the fumes released during painting can cause respiratory issues when inhaled in large quantities.
Working in a space with good air circulation and ventilation is recommended, such as a room with open windows or a ventilation system.
If working in a confined space, it is essential to use a respirator or mask to protect the lungs from the fumes.
Looking for safer paints? Here are some eco friendly paints for artists to choose from.
8. Compatibility with different acrylic mediums
Acrylic paint’s compatibility with various mediums is another advantage that artists appreciate.
Mediums are liquid additives that modify the properties of acrylic paint, allowing artists to achieve different effects and textures in their artwork.
Some of the commonly used mediums for acrylic paint include gel, paste, and liquid mediums.
Gel mediums are thick, transparent gels that can be added to acrylic paint to create texture, thickness, and body.
Gel mediums are available in various finishes, such as matte, gloss, and satin, and can be used to create impasto effects, extend paint volume, and increase transparency.
Paste mediums are thicker than gel mediums and are used to create heavily textured surfaces.
Paste mediums are ideal for creating 3D effects, creating a rough surface for painting, or building up an area of a painting to add dimensionality.
Liquid mediums are thin and have a more fluid consistency compared to gel and paste mediums.
They are used to extend the drying time of acrylic paint, improve flow and transparency, and create various effects, such as glazing, pouring, or staining.
Liquid mediums are available in various finishes, such as matte, gloss, and satin, and can be mixed with acrylic paint in any proportion to create the desired effect.
Techniques for using various mediums include mixing them directly with acrylic paint or applying them separately as a layer on top of the paint.
Artists can also combine different mediums to create unique textures and effects, experiment with the application process, or use tools such as brushes, knives, or sponges to create different patterns and finishes.
The ability to mix and experiment with different mediums is another advantage of acrylic paint, providing artists with the flexibility to achieve their creative vision and explore new techniques and styles.
9. Ability to mimic other paint types
Acrylic paint’s ability to mimic other paint types is another advantage that makes it a popular choice for artists.
One way to simulate watercolor effects is to dilute acrylic paint with water, creating a transparent and fluid consistency that resembles traditional watercolor paint.
This technique is useful for creating washes and glazes, as well as achieving soft, delicate color transitions.
Acrylic paint can also be used to achieve oil-like texture and appearance, such as with impasto painting, which involves applying thick layers of paint to create texture and dimensionality.
The versatility of acrylic paint in mimicking other paint types offers artists the freedom to experiment with various styles and techniques, creating unique and visually striking artwork.
10. Less prone to yellowing
Acrylic paint is less prone to yellowing compared to other traditional paint types such as oil paint.
This advantage makes it an ideal medium for artists who require color stability and longevity in their artwork.
Acrylics contain a synthetic binder, which does not contain any oil or other substances that can cause discoloration or yellowing over time.
Factors that can contribute to yellowing of acrylic paint over time include exposure to ultraviolet light, pollution, high temperatures, and high humidity levels.
To prevent yellowing, it is recommended to use high-quality, artist-grade acrylic paints that are formulated to resist discoloration.
Additionally, using a UV-resistant varnish or fixative can provide additional protection against yellowing caused by exposure to sunlight.
Proper storage of artwork, including keeping it away from direct sunlight and maintaining stable environmental conditions, can also help prevent yellowing over time.
11. Available in various grades
Acrylic paint is available in various grades, including student, professional and artist grade paint.
When choosing between these grades, several factors should be considered, such as the quality and concentration of pigments, the vibrancy and longevity of the paint, and the price.
Student-grade acrylics are generally less expensive and contain a lower concentration of pigments, making them suitable for beginners or those on a budget.
These paints may also have a shorter lifespan due to their lower quality, making them less suitable for artwork intended to last for long periods.
Artist-grade acrylics are of higher quality, containing a higher concentration of pigments and offering better color vibrancy and longevity.
These paints may also have a wider range of colors and finishes, offering artists more flexibility and options for creative expression.
Professional-grade acrylics are the highest quality and are often used by experienced artists and in professional settings.
These paints are of the highest quality, with the highest concentration of pigments and superior color vibrancy and longevity. However, they can be more expensive than other grades.
12. Durable and less prone to cracking
Acrylic paint is known for its durability and ability to withstand the test of time, making it a popular choice among artists seeking longevity in their artwork.
Unlike watercolors or oil, acrylic paint is less prone to cracking and flaking, especially when applied correctly.
Acrylic paint’s unique properties, such as its flexibility and water resistance, help to prevent cracking and ensure that the paint adheres firmly to the painting surface.
However, to ensure maximum durability, artists should take additional steps to prevent cracking, such as using a high-quality painting surface, avoiding over-thinning acrylic paint, and applying the paint in thin, even layers.
Are you have a problem with your acrylic cracks? Here is how to keep acrylic paint from cracking.
13. Bright and vivid colors
Acrylic paint is known for its bright and vibrant colors, which are made possible by the high-quality pigments used in the paint.
These pigments are finely ground particles that provide color and opacity to the paint.
Acrylic paint offers a wide range of pigments, including natural minerals, synthetic compounds, and organic materials, allowing artists to create vivid and saturated hues that are not possible with other paint types.
The quality and concentration of pigments in acrylic paint can vary depending on the grade and brand, affecting the paint’s vibrancy, colorfastness, and longevity.
Professional-grade paints typically contain a higher concentration of pigments, providing more intense and durable colors that retain their vibrancy over time.
In addition to using high-quality pigments, artists can also use various techniques to enhance the brightness and vividness of their artworks.
Layering colors, applying thin glazes, and using complementary colors to create contrast are just a few examples of techniques that can be used to create more vibrant and dynamic acrylic paintings.
14. Can be thinned with just water
One of the significant advantages of acrylic paint is its ability to be thinned with just water, making it a more convenient and eco-friendly option compared to other paint types that require harsh solvents.
Water-based thinning allows artists to adjust the paint’s consistency, making it easier to achieve the desired effect and creating a more fluid and versatile painting medium.
The process of thinning with water also enables artists to create transparent washes and glazes, making it easier to achieve subtle color variations and luminosity in their artwork.
Tips for successful water-based thinning include using distilled water, adding water gradually to avoid over-thinning, and testing the consistency on a separate surface before applying it to the final artwork.
Controlling the paint consistency allows artists to achieve their desired results while exploring new techniques and styles with acrylic paint.
15. Lower odor compared to oil paints
Acrylic paint has lower odor compared to oil paints, making it a safer and more comfortable option for artists who are sensitive to strong smells. But can you eat acrylic paint? Find out.
The lack of strong fumes makes it easier to work with acrylics for extended periods without the risk of health issues such as headaches, dizziness, or respiratory problems that can arise from inhaling the harsh chemicals in oil paints.
Proper ventilation is still necessary when using acrylics to ensure good air circulation and to prevent the buildup of harmful airborne particles in the studio or workspace.
Using a fan or opening windows can help improve air quality and reduce the risk of exposure to harmful fumes.
Overall, the lower odor of acrylic paint adds to its user-friendly qualities and makes it a more accessible medium for artists who prioritize health and safety in their creative process.
16. Can be used with wet-in-wet techniques
Acrylic paint has the advantage of being suitable for a variety of techniques, including wet-in-wet painting.
This technique involves applying wet paint onto a wet surface, allowing the colors to blend and mix in unique ways.
Here are some benefits and challenges of wet-in-wet painting with acrylics, as well as tips for mastering this technique:
- Wet-in-wet painting can create beautiful, natural-looking gradients and textures that can be difficult to achieve with other painting techniques.
- This technique allows for fast and efficient painting, as the artist can work on large areas quickly and blend colors as they go.
- Wet-in-wet painting can create dynamic and spontaneous effects that add depth and interest to the artwork.
- Wet-in-wet painting can be challenging to control, especially for beginners. It requires a certain level of skill and experience to create the desired effects without over blending or creating mud.
- The paint can dry quickly, which means the artist must work efficiently to blend the colors before they dry and lose their ability to mix.
- Wet-in-wet painting can also cause the paint to lift off the surface or create unintended effects if the surface is too wet or the paint is too thin.
17. No need for harsh solvents or paint thinners
Acrylic paint is a water-based medium, which means that artists do not need harsh solvents or paint thinners to achieve their desired consistency.
Instead, artists can use water to dilute the paint and control its thickness, making acrylic paint a safer and more eco-friendly option compared to oil and other solvent-based paints.
This property also eliminates the need for specialized cleaning solutions or solvents, reducing the environmental impact of the paint and minimizing the risk of exposure to harmful chemicals.
However, artists should take care not to pour excess paint down the sink or drain, as this can cause clogs and other plumbing issues.
Additionally, unused paint should be stored in airtight containers to prevent drying or spoilage, ensuring that the paint remains usable for future projects.
18. Can be used in combination with other paint mediums
Acrylic paint can be used in combination with other mediums to create mixed media artwork, opening up a world of possibilities for creative expression.
Mixed media refers to the use of various materials and techniques in a single artwork, allowing artists to explore unique textures, colors, and compositions.
Acrylics can be combined with a range of other materials, such as charcoal, ink, pastels, and collage elements, providing endless options for experimentation and creativity.
One popular technique for combining acrylics with other materials is collage. Acrylic paint can be used as a medium for adhering various papers, fabrics, and other materials to a surface, creating a layered, textured effect in the artwork.
The versatility of acrylic paint allows artists to incorporate multiple layers and textures, creating a cohesive and visually dynamic artwork.
Another technique for using acrylics in combination with other mediums is to mix the paint with other materials, such as sand, glass beads, or fiber, to create a unique texture or surface.
This technique can add depth and dimensionality to the artwork, providing a tactile and visually interesting effect.
19. More affordable than oil paints
Acrylic paint is an excellent cost-effective alternative to oil paints. In fact, it is generally 30-50% cheaper than oil paints, with a lower cost per volume.
For instance, a 120 ml tube of acrylic paint costs around $8-$12, whereas an equivalent-quality oil paint tube can cost up to $20 or more.
Even high-end professional-grade acrylic paints tend to be more affordable than equivalent-quality oil paints.
For example, a 120 ml tube of artist-grade acrylic paint may cost around $20-$30, while a tube of comparable-quality oil paint can cost over $50.
But it’s not just the lower initial cost that makes acrylic paints more affordable. The water-soluble nature of acrylic paints eliminates the need for harsh solvents, thinners, or turpentine, which can be costly and require special disposal considerations.
Additionally, the fact that acrylic paints dry quickly can reduce the need for additional materials, such as retarding agents or drying mediums, which can also help save money.
Related Read: What Can I Paint on With Acrylic Paint
Cons of Acrylic Paint
1. Fast drying time as a challenge
One of the significant drawbacks of acrylic paint is its fast drying time, which can pose challenges for some artists.
This property may be problematic for beginners or artists who prefer to work slowly or methodically.
The rapid drying time can make it difficult to blend colors or achieve smooth transitions, particularly when working on larger compositions.
However, there are strategies that artists can use to overcome these challenges, such as working with a retarder or a floetrol alternative to slow down the drying process.
2. Detail and blending limitations
While acrylic paint is a versatile medium, it has limitations when it comes to creating fine details and blending.
Compared to oil painting, acrylics can be more challenging to blend seamlessly, particularly when working with thicker paint layers.
Artists may need to use additional techniques, such as glazing or scumbling, to achieve the desired effects.
Additionally, achieving fine details can be challenging due to the quick drying time of the paint.
3. Color shifts during drying
Another potential challenge with acrylic paint is the color shifts that can occur during the drying process.
The wet color of the paint may appear different from the dry color, which can pose challenges when matching colors or achieving specific hues.
To compensate for color shifts, artists may need to work with a limited palette, test colors before applying them, and adjust their techniques accordingly.
4. Difficulty in creating smooth gradients
Acrylic paint can be challenging to use when attempting to create smooth gradients, particularly with thicker paint layers.
This limitation is due to the quick drying time of the paint, which can make it difficult to blend colors seamlessly.
Artists may need to experiment with different techniques, such as wet-on-wet blending, to achieve smoother transitions.
Read Also: Can You Layer Acrylic Paint
5. Archival and longevity concerns
Acrylic paint is a relatively new medium, so its archival qualities and longevity are still being studied.
Compared to oil paint, acrylics may be more prone to cracking and fading.
Proper storage and display techniques can help prolong the lifespan of acrylic artwork, such as using UV-protected glass or acrylic sheets.
6. Limited working time
The fast-drying time of acrylic paint can also be a challenge for artists who prefer to work with wet-in-wet techniques or enjoy a more extended working time.
While some acrylic mediums can extend the working time of the paint, artists must work quickly to achieve their desired effects before the acrylic paint dries.
7. Paint skin formation and waste
Acrylic paint can form a skin on the surface of the palette, which can lead to waste and make it difficult to mix colors properly.
Proper palette care and storage, such as covering the palette with a damp cloth or transferring leftover paint to airtight containers, can help minimize waste.
8. Cracking in thicker paint layers
Acrylic paint can be prone to cracking, especially when applied in thicker layers due to the paint film’s inflexibility when dry.
To minimize cracking, artists can experiment with flexible painting surfaces or apply thinner layers of paint.
When sealing acrylic paint on shoes and other surfaces, consider using a suitable sealant specifically designed for the materials to enhance durability and longevity.
Read More: Can You Sand Acrylic?
In conclusion, I believe that acrylic paint is a versatile and adaptable medium that offers a range of benefits for artists of all skill levels.
Its fast-drying time, water-solubility, and wide range of colors and finishes make it a popular choice for various painting techniques and styles.
Additionally, its lower toxicity and affordability compared to oil paint make it a more accessible and eco-friendly option.
While it has its limitations, such as the challenges with blending and color shifts during drying, these can be overcome with the right techniques and strategies.
Overall, I encourage you to experiment with acrylic paint and discover the unique possibilities and creative expressions it offers.