What Is Acrylic Paint and Where Can You Use It?

What Is Acrylic Paint and Where Can You Use It?

What Is Acrylic Paint and Where Can You Use It?

What is acrylic paint? Available commercially since the 1950s, acrylic paint is the world’s most popular art medium for both professional artists and hobbyists alike. Despite many different types of other mediums having their own unique characteristics from pastels to pencils to oils, acrylic painting stands above thanks to being easy to work with, its vibrancy, and its ability to manipulate it for different consistencies.

Acrylic paint appeals due to its non-toxic and ready-to-use nature, and is extremely versatile for all kinds of surfaces including canvas, paper, wood, metal, plastic, fabric, and glass. For any budding Picasso tackling their next arts and crafts project, acrylic paint is the perfect choice, and is also the choice of Pinot & Picasso and their sip and paint classes!

What Is Acrylic Paint Made Of?

Most acrylic paints are made of three main components:

  • Pigment: These are the solids that give the paint its colour! They’re tiny particles that are suspended in the paint and aren’t affected by the surface on which the acrylic paint is being applied.
  • Binder: A binder keeps the pigment in place after the paint dries!
  • Vehicle: This refers to the party of the paint that carries the binder and pigment. For example, water-based mediums use water as their vehicle, and when combined with the binder, create an acrylic polymer emulsion!

The Science of Acrylic Paint

But how does acrylic paint actually work? Let’s dive into the science behind the acrylic paint ingredients and find out! The basic answer is that, like other watercolour paints, acrylic paint dries as a result of water evaporation. There are three steps that explain this process for acrylic paint:

  1. Application: Acrylic paint straight out of its casing has a balance of pigment, acrylic polymer emulsion, and water. The water keeps the liquidity in the acrylic paint to stop it from hardening and drying immediately.
  2. Evaporation: Once you apply your acrylic paint on various mediums of your choice, this is when the change begins! The water in the acrylic polymer emulsion evaporates once it’s exposed to the air, or absorbed into your paint surface. The acrylic polymer particles then fuse together and start to dry!
  3. Setting: A further chemical reaction then happens when the pigment of the acrylic paint is trapped in a hexagonal structure of clear polymer particles. The paint then dries into a water-resistant paint film that’s both permanent and vibrant!

What Is Acrylic Paint Used For?

There are plenty of uses for acrylic paint thanks to its incredible versatility!

For arts and crafts, acrylic paint has a smooth consistency and is suitable for all kinds of projects including wood, ceramics, glass, and canvas – and will still give you vibrant colours as your paint dries!

Have a larger indoor project? Try latex paint which is a different acrylic medium suitable for your home interior such as walls and ceilings. Vibrant colours still apply here but can take a bit longer to dry. We recommend some primer to keep its durability!

For different levels of artists, student-grade paints are cheaper but have less durability, while professional artist-grade acrylics provide better consistency as an acrylic medium. Choose what best suits you and your next artistic project!

What Is Acrylic Paint Used For? | Pinot & Picasso

Where Can You Use Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic painting is widely used on many surfaces and is extremely versatile! Most surfaces such as canvas, paper, and cardboard can all be used for acrylic paints, as well as materials such as metal and glass – although these need to be prepared beforehand.

Canvas, Paper, and Cardboard

Depending on the type of surface, you might need to prime it with some gesso before you paint! This will help the paint be applied better and appear more vibrant. Apply the gesso in multiple thin layers before you start painting, but you can just paint straight away instead if you like!


The graining and nature of the wood can be visible after just the first layer of paint (which is fine if that’s the look you’re going for). Otherwise, we recommend applying a thin layer of liquid gesso or lightly sanding the surface of the wood! Be sure to apply some varnish once you finish as well so that the bright colour of your paint doesn’t fade away!


Different surfaces like fabric don’t absorb acrylic paint as well as other surfaces as it’s not flexible enough, for example, for a t-shirt. The paint would crack after time, so we’d recommend using textile paint instead!


You’ll need to prepare the metal surface before proceeding with acrylic paint! Depending on the type of metal, you’ll need to sand the surface, or rough it up a bit if it’s too smooth for the paint to stick to. You’ll then need to seal the paint afterwards so it doesn’t get chipped. We’d recommend a metal-specific paint such as metal lacquer!


Like metal, glass needs to be prepared beforehand and then sealed so the paint doesn’t get washed off (particularly if it’s something that might go in the dishwasher)! We’d recommend glass-specific paints such as enamel paint.

Polymer Clay and Air-Dry Clay

You don’t need any preparation to start painting on clay! Thin applications of sealer are enough to protect your piece of art to prevent any chipping!

Plastic and Plaster

Preparing the surface with gesso and then sealing your acrylic paint with sealer should see your work protected from the elements, survive for a long time and maintain its vibrance!

Where Can You Use Acrylic Paint? Paint and paintbrush onto a palette | Pinot & Picasso

What Are the Different Types of Acrylic Paint?

There are different levels of acrylic mediums and it’s best to select the one with the most suitable consistency for what you intend to use it for!

Heavy Body Acrylics

Heavy body acrylics have a thick, high-viscosity texture. They’re perfect for artists who are after more texture in their work and brush strokes, which can be even more textured if using a thicker brush!

Soft Body Acrylics

As the name implies, soft body acrylics have a softer consistency, almost like soft butter or heavy cream. The application is smoother, but still vibrant, and soft body acrylics are a better choice for fluid art techniques as they’re easier to blend.

Acrylic Ink

Even more fluid than soft body acrylics is acrylic ink, which can create almost watercolour-like effects! Acrylic ink is best used with dip pens or airbrushing.

Acrylic Gouache

Acrylic gouache has the benefits of regular gouache as an opaque, matte finish, but with the added bonus of an acrylic binder!

Slow-Drying Acrylic Paints

Slow-drying acrylics have an extended open time, meaning their colour can remain usable for weeks – reducing wastage of paint – and allowing artists to work with new techniques thanks to their flexibility!

What Are the Different Types of Acrylic Paint? Tubes of Acrylic Paint | Pinot & Picasso

How to Use Acrylic Paint in Your Art

  1. Use different kinds of brushes to achieve what you want out of your art! Round, flat, right, angular, fan, detailed? The choice is yours to apply your acrylic paint!
  2. An easel and canvas are a budding artist’s best friend! While there are lots of surfaces you can paint on, the classic canvas is easy to use and perfect for beginners, and an easel angles your painting for you comfortably!
  3. Don’t forget a palette to mix your colours! A paper palette is very convenient and can be tossed once you’re finished with it.
  4. Mix up your tools with a palette knife! A palette knife can blend and mix your paint, and achieve different techniques such as lines, textures, and fan shapes.
  5. Be sure to keep plenty of water, scrap paper, and paper towels at your side while you’re painting! These items are essentials when using your acrylic paint – water to thin your paint or wash your brushes, scrap paper to check colours, and paper towels to dry your brush or even create interesting textures and patterns on your canvas!
How to Use Acrylic Paint in Your Art. Paint Brushes of different sizes | Pinot & Picasso

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Difference Between Poster Paint and Acrylic Paint?

Although they’re both water-based, there are some differences between poster and acrylic paints with different purposes! Acrylic paint dries quickly and is water-resistant, whereas poster paint isn’t as durable nor permanent, and dries more slowly.

Acrylic paint is often used for more complex artworks and crafts, offering more consistent colours, while poster paint is a budget option for school projects, is easy to clean up, and is easily washable!

What Type of Canvas Is Best for Acrylic Paint?

Linen or cotton are the main types of canvases used for acrylic painting with different textures and weights. Linen is the best option for permanence but is more expensive than cotton.

What Brush Is Best for Blending Acrylic Paint?

Using the right brush will make your blending process and artistic creation go that much smoother! We recommend flat, filbert, and mop brushes for the best blending process! Soft-bristled brushes can also be useful.

What Is the Best Thinner for Acrylic Paint?

The thinner you use depends on the outcome you want for your acrylic paint! You can use water to break down the binder, thinning the paint so it looks more like watercolour so it sinks into the surface. Or you can use an acrylic medium to minimise the need for water, and the paint can rather sit on the surface for a more glossy finish.

Book a Sip and Paint Session With Pinot & Picasso

Put all of your newfound painting knowledge to the test with a sip and paint session with Pinot & Picasso! Get set up with your canvas and easel and you’re ready to go as the best Picasso in the studio, brush in one hand and your favourite drink in the other! A sip and paint session is a great way to learn new skills while also having a great time, find your nearest studio today!

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