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How to Paint in Acrylics

Gallery Art | Art Reviews and Guides |  How to Paint in Acrylics

How to paint


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CMKY Primary Process Colors and Painting

CMKY Primary Process Colors and Painting

Using Just The Primary Colours You can Create all Colours.



I only ever use the three primary colours when I paint. These colours are magenta, cyan and yellow. Magenta is a type of red and cyan is a type of blue. The paints I use exactly match the colours of ink you find in a CM-K-Y printer. This type of primary colour is called process. "Windsor and Newton" and "Daler Rowney" both make process primaries, in acrylic paints.

Pure Colour


The power of using these "pure" colours is that it gives me an almost mathematical control over my work. While I don’t actually measure out paint, it's far easier to work out what is needed in a paint mix if I start from absolute values. The normal paint colours you can buy are already mixed for you, but knowing exactly where they lay on the colour wheel is difficult. This makes getting an exact opposite to a colour hard and trying to balance a painting complicated. By using these colours and starting from scratch you get a level of control over the colour that is hard to achieve any other way.


Create your own Black


You cannot make process primaries by mixing other colours together. But from with them and white all other colours can be made. The three colours are the pure points on a colour triangle. So If we mix magenta and yellow you have an orange, mix in a little cyan and it darkens to a brown. Mix cyan and yellow and you get a green adding in magenta darkens it. The power of this is that process primaries also have the benefit of keeping a painting vibrant.

Adding black to a colour dulls the colour as well as darkening it. But there is no need to use a real black, as you can darken the hue buy mixing all the paint together, or adding more of an opposite colour(so if you have a purple, add more yellow and it darkens). If all the paints are mixed in exact amounts a black could be made. But since hand mixing is always slightly random you will find that a true black is never made. This is what keeps your painting alive.

Primaries are not just for kids


Many of us haven’t used these base colours since childhood. But I urge every painter to go and play with it, exploring how it works for themselves. With your adult mind you may well re-learn things you forgot a long time ago and discover things you never knew.

Some general advice about acrylic painting.

Some general advice about acrylic painting.

Acrylic Painting.
Some general advice about acrylic painting.


Just few of the techniques and general information about painting on canvas with acrylics. By Artist Samuel Durkin

His work can be seen Here.


Painted onto canvas, either board or stretched, acrylic paintings can resemble oil paintings. The techniques used though differ in a number of ways. Acrylic paint is water based and non toxic. It is safe to use in a confined area as does not need the use of solvent thinning agents. This is perfect for a home with children and those who wish to work in a small room. It was my main reason I choose for using it, but now I have mastered it I wouldn't use anything else.
Drying time

Acrylic paints dry extremely quickly. Within moments of them going on the canvas if the weather is hot. where as oil paints take over a day to be touch dry. This is both an advantage and disadvantage. The fast drying time can make it hard to mix the paint on the canvas as one part of the canvas is dry before you have covered the whole thing. This has lead to a my frantic painting style. It does however have the advantage of allowing the artist to work in layers and not have to wait a whole day to do so.

Opaque and translucent.


Opaque paint covers whats below it entirely, translucent paint does not (like watercolour). Acrylic paint has the ability to do both. This is achieved by the amount of water (or mixing agent) that the paint has with it. It is the artists skill in knowing how much water to add for the effect needed. I use a separate small canvas to test brush stokes out to find the effect before placing the brush onto the real painting. Remember as the paint dries on the pallet it becomes increasingly opaque.

Dry brush effects.


This technique is used by having an extremely small amount of paint on the brush. Add paint to the brush then wipe some of it off on a small canvas or cloth before applying it to the main painting. It can be hard to master, but the effect makes the acrylic paint act a little like pastels which builds up the colour.

Dark to Light


Most of us learn to draw with pencils. This teaches us to work from light to dark, shading in the dark areas and leaving the white paper. A canvas comes white, but you get a far better effect by painting the canvas in a neutral tone. half way between the dark and light.

Then paint in the general dark areas of the painting, use a large brush to do this as you don't need to worry too much about accuracy at this point. leave it to dry for 5 mins. Then start building up lighter shades. Going from dark to light.


A life time to master.


Both oil and acrylic paints take a life time to master. I have painted in acrylics all my life, I started as soon as I was old enough to hold a brush. I still learn new things about the way the paint moves everyday and this is what makes using real paint such a joy.

The techniques you develop should become yours. You can take lessons from someone else, but you should always try and develop you own style. The paint always has new things to teach you.

I find painting abstracts can be a great way to practice paint techniques and explore the medium.

If you look closely at my work you may be able to spot where I have used some these techniques.
I hope you'll be inspired to make some art of your own.

Video of How to paint a landscape on canvas in acrylic paint.

Buy Canvas and paint for Acrylic Painting

Buy Canvas and paint for Acrylic Painting

Reeves 16" x 12" Gallery Canvas Triple Pack
Reeves - 5 X 75 ml Acrylic Standard Colours

Acrylic Painting Techniques Book

Acrylic Painting Techniques Book

Acrylic Revolution: New Tricks and Techniques for Working with the World's Most Versatile Medium
"Acrylic Revolution" will show readers everything they need to know to be successful in their acrylic painting projects. With over 101 of the most popular, interesting, and indispensable tricks for working with acrylic - each with its own step-by-step demonstration - there is literally page after age of acrylic instruction and inspiration for readers to discover. A gallery of finished art at the back of the book will show readers how to combine different tricks to use in their artwork offering them real-life applications for acrylic techniques.

Acrylic Painting Techniques Book

Acrylic Painting Techniques Book

The Encyclopedia of Acrylic Techniques: A Unique A-Z Directory of Acrylic Techniques with Step-by-step Guidance on Their Use
Full of practical advice with step by step examples an invaluable supplement to art classes.

Gallery Art | Art Reviews and Guides |  How to Paint in Acrylics