Lesson 14: Explorations with Acrylics
How To Paint With Acrylics
When learning how to paint with acrylics the most important thing is to first understand the properties of the colors (pigments) you have chosen to use. As you learned in Lesson 12 Color Theory Basics the most important factor as to how your paint will perform is dependent upon whether or not it is an opaque color. Opaque Acrylic paints will cover a surface better and avoid streaky transparent colors. Then you’ve got to make sure you have a nice surface to paint on. You can check out my Painting on Masonite video if you are looking for a cheap and easy way to have multiple canvases available at all times.
I received a few questions on twitter regarding the fact that I don’t use a paint knife, but instead use my brush to mix my colors on my palette. Instead of trying to explain with words my technique for mixing colors I thought it would just be easier to show so I made this short video.
Once your brush is fully loaded it’s time to paint. When painting with acrylics it’s important to use a lot of paint and kind of glide it onto the surface. If you’ve got a heavy hand you’ve got to lighten up a bit and just let the paint slowly flow off the brush. You can see in the video above when I was pushing harder this actually caused the paint to be more transparent (even though Im using opaque colors) so I went over the stroke again with a lighter stroke and this actually worked better.
When you are painting with acrylics (or oils for that matter) you are going to need to pay attention to two different types of edges which you will see in your subject. These two edges are soft (blended) , and hard. The easiest place to see this is in paintings done of tapestries. In this painting by Carvaggio we can see how he used both soft (blended) values with hard edges.
Look at the dark shadows and how they are crisp and hard, and then look at the large sections of fabric that slowly gradate from light to dark. These are the two types of marks you want to focus on creating. Always ask yourself when painting a shadow, “does this shadow have a hard edge, or a soft edge?” Does the light slowly gradate from light to dark, or is there a hard cast shadow cutting across/behind the object?
For the next assignment you will be creating paintings of the four different shapes found in nature. These are the cube, the cylinder, the cone, and the sphere. These forms can be used in conjunction with one another to create a multitude of different objects and creatures as you learned in Lesson 8 Drawing Form. Now you will be painting them. The process works best if you have some nice white objects that you can set up with a light. But I understand that most people don’t have access to these so I’ve given you the four different shapes from which to paint below. Your brush shouldn’t shade each form the same. For instance, while working on the cube think about making long flat marks. When painting the sphere you can act as if your brush is following the form which it is painting. When Painting the cylinder the strokes will be small little crescents. You will draw a basic sketch with a dark color first, and then plop down large areas of where your highlights and mid tones will be. The last step is to blend it all. There’s a few ways to do this. They are called the “dry brush blending” and “wet into wet” (alla prima) techniques.
With dry brush blending you wipe your brush with a rag after you’ve applied a color. It doesn’t need to be free of all paint, just DON’T put it in your water first to clean it. You want the brush to be dry. After you’ve applied two different values beside each other you can use the dry brush to mix the two values together, this could also create a third middle tone. Watch the video below to see how dry brush blending works with acrylics.
Using black and white acrylic paint you will paint each of the four forms to the best of your ability. You can use the following images as your source material. Take a look at a previous students work if you need inspiration.