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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Benson

Acrylic Paint

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Acrylic paint is so versatile, it can be applied to such a variety of surfaces that it's really my go-to choice of medium. I have applied it not only to canvas, mixed media boards, and wood, but also in some of my textile art pieces and accessories I sew. For this post, I needed to explore acrylic paint as if I were introducing it to students.

My first exercise actually took place in my AVT 667 class. I used a Sargent paint set and grabbed two different paint brushes, a thicker drawing paper, some paper towels, a cup of water, and a palette knife. As I do with all my explorations, I made a series of marks, blended colors, and created a tint and tone of a color.

Once I was back in my creative home space, I explored with Liquitex Student Grade acrylic paints, matte and gloss gel medium, as well as Liquitex light modeling paste. I used mixed media paper and canvas paper to explore different techniques.

I started the first piece by activating my surfacewith water-solublee graphite pencils. I dipped the pencils into water and they glided effortlessly over my paperand createde organic shapes by twisting and turning my hand and my arm.

With a brayer, on a gelli-plate, I squirted some hot pink acrylic paint that I applied to this piece. The texture of the mixed media paper created a harder surface for the brayer to adhere all the paint to it.

So, I attempted to add the paint directly to the dry mixed media paper to see how well that would spread. Depending on the wetness of my brush, the paint spread smoothly and I was able to achieve a little texture when I wanted.

I wanted to see how the paint would move if I puddled water onto the paper, so I used a squirt bottle to add water and I put a dab of blue paint in the center.

This short (sped-up) movie shows how the student-grade Liquitex acrylic paint moves in a puddle of water. If gave the acrylic paint a watercolor effect.

Next, I wanted to try the light modeling paste with blue paint. I applied it with a palette knife and also scratched the wrong side of the paint brush through an area of the paste.

This video shows the process of mixing the paint with the paste, and adding the mixture with a palette knife.

Next, I tried both the matte and gloss gels. I first filled my gelli-plate with acrylic paint, laid a magazine page on it to transfer the paint. I created collage pieces to add to the paper with the medium.

Below, you'll see the matte medium, I created another gelli-plate print on a magazine that I cut into abstract shapes.

I wanted to try the canvas pad, so I tried another abstract and created a variety of marks using multiple brushes at different angles.

To this, I used matte medium again and attached pieces of vintage sewing patterns and fiber-filled paper. It is still a work in progress. The matte medium worked so well, it left just a slight sheen to the paper.

The next picture shows the first piece after I added texture with a micron pen. I noticed the micron pen needed a few hours to dry completely before adding another layer of matte medium.

I also created more texture using an acrylic Posca marker.

I found acrylic paint easier to work with when the brush was wet, especially on more textured surfaces. I preferred using softer brushes over more rough bristle brushes.

Age/Behavior Expectations:

I would recommend acrylic paint for Middle and High School students, as it is a more expensive paint. At this age, they should have the knowledge to limit how much paint they put on their palettes. They should also not be putting paints or tools in their mouths. Though most acrylic paints are non-toxic, it is still important that the paints are washed off the skin or not put in or near the mouth or eyes.


Create tiered projects that have the same objective, from less challenging to more challenging.

If the student is not comfortable using acrylic paint, offer an alternative means of color for the project at hand.

Ensure that the project at hand is one that is meaningful for all student participants.

Other supporting materials needed:

Alongside acrylic paint, several tools come in handy and make the creative process more fun. Here are some supporting materials I think are needed for a positive experience:

  • table covers

  • water in sturdy non-glass containers (change often)

  • variety of brushes

  • variety of paper/canvas sizes

  • matte gel medium/gloss gel medium to adhere objects to the works

  • rags

  • palette (either paper plate, disposable palette paper, palettes that can close to reuse unused paint

  • palette knife for added texture and different mark-making

  • smocks

  • make sure there is adequate time for set up and cleanup

Safety/Health Guidelines:

  • ensure all student grade paints are non-toxic

  • open windows/use a fan for ventilation in the classroom

  • do not put paints or tools near hands/mouth/eyes

  • wash the paint off the skin immediately

  • make sure any tools are marked for art purposes only, not to be used for food consumption

  • make sure that all used materials are disposed of properly

Project Ideas:

  • stained glass project using tracing paper/vellum paper

  • cubism paintings

  • creating paper mache and using acrylic paint

  • monochromatic self-portraits

  • create various colored and textured papers for use in collage

Artist Inspirations:

"The Messenger"



Hafeli, M. C. (2015). Exploring studio materials: Teaching creative art making to children. Oxford University Press. Pages: 89-109

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