How to Buy Acrylic Paint

Paint consists of a binder and pigment (which gives the paint its color.) Acrylic paint is made of an acrylic polymer that is similar to latex house paint. It drys quickly and cleans up easily with soap and water.

Cheap, or student grade, paint contains very little pigment and can also contain fillers such as chalk or talc, giving it a chalky appearance. Never use this type of paint for a finished product. Instead spend a little more and purchase the better artist or professional quality paint.

Paint also comes in various thicknesses (in artist terms, butteriness or body.) Generally, heavy bodied paints show brush strokes more but provide a better coverage than lighter bodied paint. I suggest purchasing small tubes of different brands until you find a brand that suits you best.

airbrush mediumAlthough many artists will suggest it, NEVER THIN PAINT WITH WATER, use an acrylic medium instead. Think of acrylic as if it were white school glue, adding water will decrease its ability to stick.  Mediums are made of the same binder that the paint is made of, therefore your paint will retain its ability to stick to the canvas if you use it.

I use airbrush medium to create a really thin paint and matte or gloss medium if I just need to thin the paint a little. Beware, however that matte medium may give your paint color a milky appearance. You may even want to try some “fun” mediums such as iridescent or pearl.

Although you will need to experiment, resist the urge to do what I initially did – don’t buy every color you can find. You will try to put too many colors on a single painting and trust me, the results are not pleasant.

Instead, limit your palette to a few colors and then gradually add one or two. My suggested starter palette is as follows:

  • Titanium white
  • Mars black
  • Ultramarine blue
  • Cerulean blue
  • Yellow ochre
  • Burnt umber
  • Cadmium yellow medium
  • Hansa yellow light (also known as lemon yellow)
  • Burnt sienna
  • Cadmium red light
  • Alizarin crimson