The Top 4 Reasons I Use Acrylic Paint
by Courtney Hatcher
As an artist the materials you choose to use will be one of the most important choices that you make when creating a piece of art.
The materials you use to bring your vision to life will determine how your creation will actually look.
The choices in this modern age are endless! You are only limited by your own imagination. Sometimes there is such a wide range of materials to pick from that it becomes difficult to make up your mind! Do I paint on Canvas? Board? Paper? Fabric? Should I use brushes? Palette knives? My fingers? Should I even paint at all? Maybe I should draw. With pencil? Ink? Chalk? Should I work in black and white or color?
There are unlimited choices. But the materials you choose will ultimately affect the final outcome of your work.
Every artist has their own preferences, materials that flow better for you than others. I like to experiment with whatever materials I can get my hands on! But my go to material, the one I enjoy working with the most is Acrylic Paint. It works for me. Me and Acrylic Paint, we vibe.
Clearly, I could ramble on and on about art supplies forever. But, I won't! I'll jump right to my point.
The Top 4 Reasons I Use Acrylic Paint...
1) Price: Cheaper That Oils
2) Quick Dry Time
3) Versatile Options
4) Clean Up: Easy & Environmentally Friendly(ish)
1) Price: Cheaper Than Oils
As an artist I want to use the highest quality paint that I can, but yikes! it can get expensive. A little 2 oz. tube of artist quality paint can cost between 10 and 20+ dollars! I know, crazy. Sometimes I have heart palpitations just thinking about it. But what's an artist to do?
Personally, I like to use either Liquitex or Golden brand acrylics. I like the high quality of the paint and they are easy to find at art supply stores and online, especially where I live. For example, my favorite purple color, Dioxazine Purple, is roughly $12 a tube for acrylic but $17 a tube for oil. And let me tell you, five dollars a tube adds up! Since I do not believe that oil paints are of a higher quality than acrylics I can't justify paying more when the finished product is of equal caliber.
In any given painting I use at least a dozen different tubes of paint. While I don't use up the whole tube for each painting that still gets price-y when it comes time to replace all those colors.
In a perfect world price wouldn't be a consideration when it came to creating art. But the world we live in happens to be a beautifully imperfect place. Which is a good thing, too, otherwise what inspiration would I find to make art about? Anyway...
On top of acrylic paint being inherently less expensive than oils you don't have to add a bunch of chemical type liquids to them. Acrylic's good to go!
So not only am I saving on the paint itself, I'm saving by not having to buy mineral spirits, varnish, linseed oil, turpentine or any other additive. Don't get me wrong, oil paint can produce some truly spectacular images. Especially if a focus of your art is blending. I'm just happy that my aesthetic and the style I have developed is best supported by acrylics.
Price Is Important!
While I would never sacrifice quality in the materials that I use or the art that I create, price is definitely something that has to be considered when purchasing materials.
2) Quick Dry Time
Acrylic paints dry quickly! Turbo speed!
My art is a lot about layers, conceptually and literally. I layer color after color until I create an image that has depth. So many layers you feel like you could get lost in the image.
I like to work quickly, I don't want to wait for paint to dry before I can add another layer. The sooner one layer dries the sooner I can begin on the next layer of my artwork.
Other painting media, oils in particular, can take hours, days, even weeks to fully dry. Whereas acrylics take, at most, an hour or so. I know it works for some artists, but I can't wait days to put the next layer into my piece. If I wait too long my creative brain has already moved on to the next project.
The materials keep me focused on the piece that's in front of me. Allows the colors and textures, in the moment, to influence the piece.
Working quickly I don't have the time to over-think my choices or to second guess myself. I can allow myself to be spontaneous and to make split-second decisions right then and there. I exercise my ability to improvise and problem solve in order to get the layer finished before the paint dries.
It's liberating and completely therapeutic.
In between layers I can take the time to step back and contemplate the theme and the ideas I meticulously brainstormed before I started painting. I find areas that don't work, that will need more attention with the next layer of paint.
More often than not I discover that I've pushed my theme further than I ever would have if I tried too hard to control every brushstroke. By allowing myself to be spontaneous I tap into wells of creativity inside of myself that make me who I am as an artist.
I can find spontaneity with other materials. I've had fabulous outcomes with pastels, mixed media collage, colored pencils, ink and oil paints. But nothing is quite like acrylic paint. I like the acrylics because they don't give me a choice.
They insist on living in the moment.
A quick dry time makes storage and clean up so much easier.
I don't have a traditional studio right now. I dedicate a portion of a room to my art. But I still share the majority of my space with other people and pets. The almost non-existent wait for acrylics to dry means that I don't have to leave wet paintings out for days (or weeks!) where a person, or a pet, can schmear it everywhere.
All I have to do is wait an hour(ish), so by the time I clean up the rest of my painting space, I can bubble wrap the piece and put it safely into storage.
In the past I thought I would try my hand at oil paints. Using them was a pleasant experience and I love the pieces that came out of that experimentation.
However, a 9"x12" piece took over a week to dry to the touch. I was working out of my living room at the time and being used to acrylics drying lickety-split I left the piece unsupervised to dry and my cat stepped in it and tracked it everywhere!
Luckily, by the time I found all her little footprints the paint was still wet enough to clean. So it worked out. But living with other people and animals makes it difficult for me to leave a wet painting out to dry. Not to mention every time anyone walked by it they had bright red paint permanently attached to their clothes! I still hear about that! One of my favorite sweaters officially became a painting sweater after my foray into oils.
3) Versatile Options
Acrylic paint is incredibly versatile.
It doesn't require you to add anything to it to get beautiful imagery. Squeeze it right out of the tube and slap it on the canvas! If that's not your style there are tons of other options.
The easiest thing to add to acrylic paint to change up the texture, or the look in general, is water. Just plain ol' H2O. So simple!
Just by adding water to the paint you can create thin washes of color. You can even extend the drying time a tad, if you need to. By adding water to acrylic paint you can essentially create watercolors.
There are tons of products out there that you can buy to mix with acrylic paints to create different textures or techniques.
Mediums can extend the life of the paint and make each tube go much further. You can get them in matte or glossy finishes. *side note: Acrylic mediums are a great substitute for glue. They dry clear and the hold is super strong. A gel medium can give your painting a thicker texture. A liquid medium can be used to thin out the paint to make blending smoother and to keep the paint wet for a longer period of time.
Acrylic mediums can also be used to create acrylic lifts, which are great for collage and mixed media. Basically, you paint the medium on top of a printed photograph and when it dries you soak it in water and then wipe the paper off the acrylic. The image will have adhered to the acrylic and you now have a transparent image that can be added to your artwork.
There are so many products out there that work with acrylic paint it could take an artist years to experiment with all of them.
4) Clean Up: Easy & Environmentally Friendly(ish)
People say you can wash acrylic paint down the drain, but remember we're trying to be environmentally friendly. So avoid dumping/rinsing wet acrylic paint directly into the drain. A little is unavoidable. That's why I say friendly(ish). But for the most part acrylics can be disposed of without using the sink.
When acrylic paint dries it is safe to throw away. Another reason quick dry time is a plus!
I'm no scientist, so I'm not gonna get too technical here, but it is my understanding that when acrylics dry the synthetic polymer that they are made from solidifies and encases any of the bad chemicals (like cadmium) and helps keep them from seeping into the groundwater. Which is why you should wait for the paint to dry before throwing it away.
Once the little bit (if any) of left over paint on your palette has dried you can peel it right off and toss it. Or you can use those acrylic peelings in a mixed media project. I like to keep an extra canvas on hand to use any left over paint so I'm not wasting that liquid gold!
If you work with brushes and have a water cup on hand for cleaning during a painting session you can avoid putting that down the drain as well. Just set it aside and let it evaporate (cover it partially and put it somewhere safe if you're afraid of a pet or a child drinking it!). That way the water will evaporate leaving only the paint residue behind to be safely thrown away. If you can't wait for it to evaporate that way, you can soak it up with a towel (or paper towels) and put the towel somewhere safe where it can dry and then be thrown away.
Brushes are easy clean up too. All you need is soap and water. Use your water cup to get most of the paint out of the brush, then wipe it as best you can on your towel. That way you are putting as little paint as possible into the drain. Work a little soap into the bristles and rinse until clean.
Simple clean up that, as far as art supplies go, is pretty easy on the environment.
There you have it, The Top 4 Reasons I Use Acrylic Paint
Acrylic is the media that suits me the best. It satisfies my budget, simplifies my time with quick clean up, meshes well with my personal work habits and tests my spontaneity.
With art every choice is subjective. Every artist is different. It's a limitless world of possibilities. To each their own. What media and materials do you make your own?
General Disclaimer: All information provided on this website is intended for informational and entertainment use only. Information contained in this website is not intended to be advice. By accessing, viewing or using this website you are agreeing that I am not liable or responsible for your business or personal results, or any other results that you may have as a result of information presented to you through this website. You accept and agree that you are solely responsible for your results and that I provide no express or implied guarantees or promises to you.
Courtney Hatcher is an abstract artist from Flint, Michigan.
©Courtney Hatcher All Rights Reserved.
General Disclaimer: All information provided on this website is intended for informational and entertainment use only. Information contained in this website is not intended to be advice. By accessing, viewing or using this website you are agreeing that I am not liable or responsible for your business or personal results, or any other results that you may have as a result of information presented to you through this website. You accept and agree that you are solely responsible for your results and that I provide no express or implied guarantees or promises to you. This blog is about the process and inspiration of the artist, Courtney Hatcher. I reserve the right to change the focus or content of this blog at any time.