Acrylic paint

Acrylic paint

Acrylic paint is fast-drying paint containing pigment suspended in an polymer emulsion. Acrylic paints can be diluted with water, but become water-resistant when dry. Depending on how much the paint is diluted (with water) or modified with acrylic gels, mediums, or pastes, the finished acrylic painting can resemble a watercolor or an oil painting, or have its own unique characteristics not attainable with the other media.


Acrylics were first made commercially available in the 1950s. These were mineral spirit-based paints called Magna [Terry Fenton [ online essay] about Kenneth Noland, and acrylic paint, accessed April 30th, 2007] offered by Bocour Artist Colors. Water-based acrylic paints were subsequently sold as "latex" house paints, although acrylic dispersion uses no latex derived from a rubber tree. Interior "latex" house paints tend to be a combination of binder (sometimes acrylic, vinyl, pva and others), filler, pigment and water. Exterior "latex" house paints may also be a "co-polymer" blend, but the very best exterior water-based paints are 100% acrylic. Soon after the water-based acrylic binders were introduced as house paints, artists (the first of whom were Mexican muralists) and companies alike began to explore the potential of the new binders. Water soluble artist quality acrylic paints became commercially available in the early 1960s, offered by Liquitex.


Acrylic artist paints may be thinned with water and used as washes in the manner of watercolor paints, but the washes are not re-hydratable once dry. For this reason, acrylics do not lend themselves to color lifting techniques as do gum arabic based watercolor paints.Acrylic paints can be used in high gloss or matte finishes. As with oils, pigment amounts and particle size can alter the paint sheen. Likewise, matting agents can be added to dull the finish. Topcoats or varnishes may also be applied to alter sheen.

When dry, acrylic paint is generally non-removable. Water or mild solvents do not re-solubilize it, although isopropyl alcohol can lift some fresh paint films off. Toluene and acetone can remove paint films, but they do not lift paint stains very well and are not selective. The use of a solvent to remove paint will result in removal of all of the paint layers, acrylic gesso, etc.

Only a proper, artist-grade acrylic gesso should be used to prime canvas in preparation for painting with acrylic. It is important to avoid adding non-stable or non-archival elements to the gesso upon application. Acrylic will not form a stable paint film if it has been thinned with more than 30% water content. However, the viscosity of acrylic can successfully be reduced by using suitable extenders that maintain the integrity of the paint film. There are retarders to prolong drying and workability time and a flow release to increase color blending ability.

Painters and acrylic

Prior to the 20th century, artists mixed their own paints to increase the longevity of the artwork and achieve desired pigment load, viscosity, and to control the use of fillers, if any. While suitable mediums and raw pigments are available for the individual production of acrylic paint, due to the fast drying time, hand mixing may not be practical.

Acrylic painters modify the appearance, hardness, flexibility, texture, and other characteristics of the paint surface using acrylic mediums. Watercolor and oil painters also use various mediums, but the range of acrylic mediums is much greater. Acrylics have the ability to bond to many different surfaces, and mediums can be used to adjust their binding characteristics. They can also be used to build thick layers of paint: gel and molding paste mediums are sometimes used to create paintings with relief features that are literally sculptural.

Acrylic paints are the most commonly used in grattage.

Differences between acrylic and oil paint

The main difference between acrylics and oil paints is the inherent drying time. Oils allow for more time to blend colors and apply even glazes over underpaintings. This slow drying aspect of oil can be seen as an advantage for certain techniques, but in other regards it impedes the artist trying to work quickly. The fast evaporation of water from the acrylic paint film can be slowed with the use of acrylic retarders. Retarders are generally glycol or glycerin-based additives. In the case of acrylic paints, the addition of a retarder slows the evaporation rate of the water, and allows for more water to be added and the paint workable, until the retarder has left the film and the paint layer is dry.

Oil paints tend to require the addition of a toxic solvent, such as mineral spirits or turpentine to thin the paints and clean up tools, though relatively recently water soluble oil paints have been developed for artist use. Secondly, oil paint films become increasing yellow and brittle, and will lose their flexibility in a few decades. Thirdly, the rules of "fat over lean" must be employed to ensure the paint films are durable.

Oil paint is able to absorb more pigment than acrylic because linseed oil has a smaller molecule than does acrylic. Oil has a different refractive index than do acrylic dispersions. This changes how light interacts with the paint films.

Due to acrylic's more flexible nature and more consistent drying time between colors, the painter does not have to follow the "fat over lean" rule of oil painting, where more medium must be applied to each layer to avoid cracking. While canvas needs to be properly primed and gessoed before painting with oil, acrylic can be safely applied to raw canvas. The rapid drying of the paint tends to discourage the blending of color and use of wet-in-wet technique unique to oil painting. While acrylic retarders can slow drying time to several hours, it remains a relatively fast-drying medium, and the addition of too much acrylic retarder can prevent the paint from ever drying properly.

Although the permanency of acrylics is sometimes debated by conservators, they appear more stable than oil paints. Whereas oil paints normally turn yellow as they age/dry(oxidize)—and require a removable protective layer of varnish—acrylic paints, at least in the 50 years since their invention, have not yellowed, cracked, or altered.

Another difference between oil and acrylic paints is the versatility offered by acrylic paints - acrylic is very useful in mixed media, allowing use of pastel (oil & chalk), charcoal, pen, etc on top of the dried acrylic painted surface. Mixing other bodies into the acrylic is possible - sand, rice, even pasta may be incorporated in the artwork. Mixing artist or student quality acrylic paint with household acrylic emulsions is possible, allowing the use of pre-mixed tints straight from the tube or tin, so presenting the painter with a vast color range at his disposal.

Some popular manufacturers of artist acrylics

Subsidiaries of Col Art include Winsor & Newton (Finity, Galeria), Liquitex, and Lefranc & Bourgeois acrylics. Daler-Rowney (Cryla and System 3 ) is another English manufacturer of acrylic paint.

In the United States, manufacturers of artist acrylic paints include Golden Artist Colors, based in New Berlin, New York, Liquitex, Nova Color Artists Acrylic Paint and Daniel Smith Artists' Materials. These offer a full range of professional paints and mediums. M. Graham, based in Oregon, also produces a limited range of professional-quality acrylics.

Grumbacher Academy Acrylics, also manufactured in the United States Leeds, Massachusetts, offer a 24 color collegiate grade line with matching mediums.

ee also

*Leonard Bocour
*Sam Golden
*Golden Artist Colors
*Magna paint
*Nova Color Artists Acrylic Paint
*Da Vinci Paint Company
*Delta Creative Inc
*Daniel Smith Artists' Materials
*Oil paint
*Acrylic painting techniques
* Grumbacher Academy Acrylics []


External links

* [ General acrylic painting essay]
* [ Finding Color Inspiration from Paint.]
* [ National Acrylic Painter's Association]
* [ discussion of solvents for magna paint] , accessed April 30, 2007

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • acrylic paint — water soluble paint made from pigments dispersed in an acrylic resin (Art) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • acrylic paint — noun used especially by artists • Syn: ↑acrylic • Hypernyms: ↑paint, ↑pigment …   Useful english dictionary

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  • Nova Color Artists Acrylic Paint — was first manufactured in Culver City, California in 1965 shortly after the commercial introduction of acrylic polymer resin for paint production. Mexican immigrant Carlos Amparan developed a line of brilliantly colored fine art acrylic paint… …   Wikipedia

  • Acrylic painting techniques — are different styles of manipulating and working with polymer based acrylic paints. Acrylics differ from oil paints in that they have shorter drying times (as little as 10 minutes) and are soluble in water. These types of paint eliminate the need …   Wikipedia

  • Acrylic — A*cryl ic, a. 1. (Chem.) Of or containing acryl, the hypothetical radical of which acrolein is the hydride; as, acrylic acid. The characteristic residue in an acrylic compound is the carbonyl group attached directly to an ethylenic carbon. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Acrylic — may refer to: * chemical compounds that contain the acryl group derived from acrylic acid * Acrylic fiber, a synthetic polymer fiber that contains at least 85% acrylonitrile * Acrylic paint, fast drying paint containing pigment suspended in an… …   Wikipedia

  • acrylic color — n. a color or paint made by mixing pigments in a solution of acrylic resin: also acrylic paint * * * …   Universalium

  • acrylic color — n. a color or paint made by mixing pigments in a solution of acrylic resin: also acrylic paint …   English World dictionary

  • acrylic — ► ADJECTIVE ▪ of or relating to polymers of acrylic acid, an organic acid used in making synthetic resins. ► NOUN ▪ acrylic paint or textile fabric. ORIGIN from Latin acer pungent + oleum oil …   English terms dictionary

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