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Get to Know Acrylic Paints

Updated: Feb 8, 2022

Welcome to my blog! Today I’ll be sharing tips and tricks to help you get to know your acrylic paints, brushes, and more. I’ve also included a glossary at the end.

What to know about acrylic paint

Acrylic paint is a gorgeous material to work with and has a thick texture that makes painting a lot of fun. The paint is fast-drying, so once it is out of its tube or container, it will start to harden. When it is fully dry, the paint can no longer be used. You can mix water with your paints to slow their drying time. There are typically two types of paints, Student and Artist/Professional. If you are a beginner, I recommend buying the Student paints, which can come in a starter kit that has a good selection of colours. If you are more advanced, I suggest buying Artist or Professional paints, either in a kit or individual tubes. There are plenty of brands out there, but from my experience, I enjoy using Golden and Liquitex the best.

Golden acrylic paints
Golden acrylic paints

How to preserve your paints

It is important to preserve your paints so that you can use them for as long as possible, and to avoid them hardening and throwing them out. When you pour out paint or mix colours together, it’s common to have some left over. You can save the paint in a small mason jar, mixed with a slow-drying medium called retarder. Or, you could use a palette knife and scoop the paint in tin foil and wrap it up, also mixed with retarder. Make sure to label which colour is inside the tinfoil, since once you fold it up you won’t see the paint.


There are two main types of brushes, synthetic and natural. Synthetic brushes are more common, and are often softer and made of nylon and/or polyester. Natural brushes are thicker and traditionally are made from hog hair. Both brushes come in different shapes and sizes. The most common brushes are round, flat and angled. The number on the handle represents the size of the brush. I’ve included my personal favourite brushes in the photo below, most of which are the brand called Princeton.

Variety of acrylic paint brushes
Variety of acrylic brushes

How to take care of your brushes

Wash your brushes with warm water and soap after each painting session. If you leave the acrylic paint on your brush for too long, the paint will harden and will ruin your brush! You can also buy paintbrush conditioners and cleaners, which are specially designed to preserve your brushes and keep them soft and clean. I use the cleaner called The Masters, as seen in the photo below.


Canvases are the most commonly used surface to paint on. There are plenty of sizes to choose from, and different thicknesses. Canvases have a wooden frame on the back, which supports the canvas and makes it easy to hang. Natural canvas is beige, but pre-made canvases are often painted white. There are also canvas boards, which are very similar but have a solid board to support them at the back.


Palettes are used for mixing and holding your wet paint. They come in many different designs and sizes and can be made from plastic, metal, glass or wood. I use a metal palette the most, which is flat and has lots of room and is easy to clean. The plastic pallets are great for smaller projects, and I use them if I’m travelling or going to a class. Glass palettes I recommend for more experienced artists, and are great for larger paintings, but I do not recommend them for transportation.

Palette knives

These are for mixing paints on your palette. These “knives” aren’t sharp and are typically made of plastic and metal. Their ends can be rounded, flat, or diagonal, each giving a different effect for mixing paint. Artists use palette knives instead of their brushes to mix paint, because the palette knives are easier to clean, and they don’t absorb as much paint as brushes do, causing less wasted paint.

palette knives, each different shapes and sizes
My palette knives

Other helpful mediums

There are other mediums (also sometimes called media or materials), that can be helpful for adding more variety to your acrylics. The most common mediums are gels, glazes and additives. Each one changes the acrylics in a different way. For example, extra heavy gel gloss thickens the paint, making it more sculptural. When it drys it is transparent, so the original paint colour is visible, and since it’s a gloss, it has a beautiful shiny effect. Each medium will have a clear description on its container, with directions and how it’s best used. There are many brands that make different mediums, but my favourite brand is Golden.

Golden brand acrylic mediums


  • Canvas: a surface to paint on, typically with a wooden back frame. Canvases are usually white and made of cotton.

  • Canvas board: a thing board that is white and can be painted on.

  • Palette: a surface to hold and mix your paints. They can be made of plastic, metal, glass or wood, and come in different sizes.

  • Palette knife: a non-sharp knife that is used for mixing and scooping paint. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be made of plastic or metal.

  • Easel: is used to hold a canvas and makes it easier to see your painting. There are table-top easels, folding easels and large stand-up easels.

  • Mediums: are used for thickening paints, adding textures, slowing drying time and more. There is a variety of mediums that do different things, so make sure to always read the labels.

  • Retarder: an additive used to slow the drying time of acrylics.

  • Hanging wire: a wire attached to the back of the canvas to easily hang the artwork Most canvases do not come with a hanging wire, so the artist must attach it on their own.

  • Varnish: applied to a painting once it's finished. Varnish is clear and protects the painting from UV rays, dust, and other potential damage.

That's it for now! I'd love to hear your thoughts below in the comment section and feel free to check out my new Youtube channel! To stay in touch, sign up below for my artist newsletter. Thank you for reading, I'm so glad you're here.

Much love,

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