Painting: Acrylic Basics: Master the art of painting in acrylic

Painting: Acrylic Basics: Master the art of painting in acrylic

by Janice Robertson

Paperback(Revised ed.)

Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, August 28


Learn everything you need to know to get started with acrylic painting.
From rendering light and shadow to creating realism through depth and texture, aspiring artists will discover the basics of acrylic painting through engaging, inspirational lessons and useful artist's tips. Beginning artists will find helpful information about selecting the right paintbrushes, supports, and paints to get started in acrylic painting. Additionally, artists will discover practical tips for using basic and special acrylic painting techniques to render textures, suggest dimension, and create effects.
Featuring the artwork of Janice Robertson, Acrylic Basics includes a variety of easy-to-follow, step-by-step projects that are approachable for the beginning artist, including dynamic landscapes, colorful still life, and sweeping vistas.
Designed for beginners, the How to Draw & Paint series offers an easy-to-follow guide that introduces artists to basic tools and materials and includes simple step-by-step lessons for a variety of projects suitable for the aspiring artist. With comprehensive instruction, plenty of artist tips and tricks, and beautiful artwork to inspire, Acrylic Basics is the perfect resource for any aspiring acrylic painter.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633227910
Publisher: Foster, Walter Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 05/07/2019
Series: How to Draw & Paint Series
Edition description: Revised ed.
Pages: 40
Product dimensions: 10.50(w) x 14.00(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Janice Robertson has received many awards, including three bronze medals in the Federation of Canadian Artists 2000 Signature Members show, the Margaret and William Foley Award at the 2001 Adirondacks National Exhibition of Watercolors in New York, and the Foreign Award in the 2004 Houston Watercolor Society exhibition. Janice holds senior Signature membership in the Federation of Canadian Artists, Landscape Artists International, the Northwest Watercolor Society, and Artists for Conservation. She is a contributing author to Walter Foster's The Art of Painting in Acrylic.

Read an Excerpt



Painting is fun, frustrating, exhilarating, tedious, absorbing, and transformative. Feel free to experiment with the tools and materials presented here, and choose the ones that you are most comfortable with.


There are two types of acrylic paint — fluid and heavy body. Fluid is liquefied and can be poured, while heavy body is the consistency of toothpaste. One is not better than the other, and the choice comes down to the artist's preference. The examples in this book use heavy-body paint.

There are vast differences in the prices of different brands of acrylic paint. You generally get what you pay for. There are "artist-quality" paints and "student-quality" paints. With cheap paint, the colors can be garish and the pigments are extended with fillers, which can dilute the intensity and cause a dull, muddy look.


Brushes come in different degrees of softness versus stiffness, and it's good to experiment with different types when starting out. Select the ones that you feel most comfortable with, and make sure you use synthetic brushes, as their strong filaments can withstand the caustic nature of acrylic paint.


A palette holds your paint and gives you an area for mixing. There are many palette options available — metal, plastic, paper, or glass. You can also use a white plate, a piece of glass with white paper under it, or a baking tray.


Mediums are products that can be added to paint to extend it or enhance the way the paint behaves. Depending on the medium, they can increase gloss, flow, or transparency and increase or decrease drying time. For the projects in this book, try using slow-drying and glazing mediums.

Palette Knives

The blade of a palette knife can either be flush with the handle or slightly bent away. The blade tapers to a rounded tip, and its edges are long and straight. Use a palette knife to mix paints on your palette by scooping and spreading the paint repeatedly. You can also use a palette knife to apply and spread oil primer across a canvas.


A finished acrylic painting needs to be varnished, both to protect the artwork and to give the painting an even amount of sheen. Varnishing makes your painting look more polished. Varnish comes in a spray or as a paint-on product. It also comes in many degrees of shine, from high gloss to matte. Be sure to varnish your paintings in a well-ventilated area, as the fumes can be toxic.

Painting Knives

Generally diamond- or trowel-shaped with a pointed tip, blades come in a variety of sizes and proportions. You can apply the paint thickly or scrape it across the surface for thin, irregular marks.

Additional Supplies

Water Bucket for cleaning brushes. Acrylics make the water very dirty — a bigger bucket means fewer water changes

Small Spray Bottle to keep paint from drying on the palette

Paper Towels & Tissues for cleanup

Apron to protect clothing, as acrylic is extremely difficult to remove

Chalk to sketch an initial drawing before you begin painting



A basic knowledge of color and color relationships is essential in learning how to paint. One of the easiest ways to approach color is by seeing it on a "color wheel which is a visual organization of color hues around a circle. Seeing the colors organized in this fashion is helpful for color mixing and choosing color schemes.

Color Wheel

The color wheel helps us see relationships between primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. Primary colors are blue, red, and yellow. We can create a multitude of other colors by combining blue, red, and yellow in various proportions, but we can't create the three primaries by mixing other colors. Secondary colors include orange, green, and violet. You can create these colors by combining two primaries. Red and yellow make orange, blue and red make violet, and yellow and blue make green. Tertiary colors are created by mixing each primary color with its neighboring secondary color. These colors include red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet.


Complements sit opposite each other on the color wheel. For example, red sits opposite green, blue sits opposite orange, and yellow sits opposite purple. These colors are considered opposites in their hues and yield the maximum amount of color contrast possible. When complements are mixed together, they form a dull gray, brown, or neutral color.


Neutral colors are browns and grays, both of which contain all three primary colors in varying proportions. Neutral colors are often dulled with white or black. Artists also use the word "neutralize" to describe the act of dulling a color by adding its complement.

Color Temperature

Color temperature refers to the feeling one gets when viewing a color or set of colors. Generally, yellows, oranges, and reds are considered warm, whereas greens, blues, and purples are considered cool. When used within a work of art, warm colors seem to advance toward the viewer, and cool colors appear to recede into the distance. This dynamic is important to remember when suggesting depth or creating an area of focus.

Color & Value

Within each hue, you can achieve a range of values — from dark shades to light tints. However, each hue has a value relative to others on the color wheel. For example, yellow is the lightest color and violet is the darkest. To see this clearly, photograph or scan a color wheel, and use computer-editing software to view it in grayscale. It is also very helpful to create a grayscale chart of all the paints in your palette so you know how their values relate to one another.




Using one main color in a painting allows you to really focus on the overall mood of the composition, as well as the values and texture.

Start by painting your entire canvas with phthalo blue thinned with water. Once the canvas is dry, use white chalk to draw in the basic shapes. Then go over the chalk lines with phthalo blue paint.


Glazing liquid, or any other slow-drying medium, will keep acrylic paint wet a bit longer so that you can blend different colors together more easily.

For the closest island, mix phthalo blue with black to create a very dark blue.

For the background islands, add a bit of titanium white to phthalo blue to make a lighter value. Continue to add a little bit of medium to the paint mix, and use a brush that is damp, but not dripping. For the most distant island, add even more white to the phthalo blue. You will find that a little bit of white goes a long way.


This liquid additive increases the fluidity of paint by breaking the surface tension. Unlike plain water, glazing medium helps preserve the strength of a paint color.

Apply a second layer to the islands. For the sky, start at the lowest part, using mostly white and a tiny bit of phthalo blue. Using crosshatching brushstrokes, gradually add more blue as you work your way up. Build up a couple of layers until you are happy with the sky.


Add shading and texture to your work with crosshatching — layers of parallel lines placed over each other. Crosshatching creates texture in the sky, which contrasts nicely with the solid shapes of the islands


When you paint around the trees, you can use the background color to help shape and define the trees. This is called "negative painting."

To complete the composition, paint light lines in the water with white and a tiny bit of phthalo blue. Put one more layer on the lightest area of the sky. Add a tiny bit of white to your darkest island mix, and use this to paint a few highlights along the top edge of the island.




An underpainting adds emotion and depth to any composition. By layering paint, you also create more texture, making the painting more interesting and attractive to the eye.

Cover a 12" x 12" square canvas with two layers of Mars black. Once dry, use chalk to draw in the general shapes. Cover the chalk lines with cadmium yellow dark and titanium white for the flowers; ultramarine blue and white for the background, vase, and leaves; and pyrrole red for the apple.


The underpainting color greatly affects the appearance of the later layers of color. In the example at right, the flower has been painted over magenta (left) for a warmer temperature, and light blue (right) for a cooler temperature.

Block in the shapes using the following mixes: cadmium yellow dark with a little white for the flowers; phthalo blue and cadmium yellow dark for the leaves; pyrrole red and cadmium yellow dark for the orange part of the apple; and cadmium yellow dark with a little phthalo blue for the green part of the apple.


Choosing the right brush for the right task makes a difference in your painting experience. For broad, even strokes, try a wash brush. For short, chunky strokes, try a bright brush.

Continue blocking in your base colors by painting the vase and shadow with ultramarine blue and white. Use mostly white with a little ultramarine blue for the tablecloth

Paint the background ultramarine blue and white. Add medium to the paint to keep it flowing smoothly

Define the flower petals with an outline of pyrrole red. Then block in each petal with a combination of cadmium yellow dark and pyrrole red. Next add lighter values of yellow to the front flower, using cadmium yellow dark and a little white. Define the leaves with different combinations of phthalo blue and cadmium yellow dark.


You can adjust the intensity of the blue in the background by varying the amount of white you add to it.

To paint the apple, use slow-drying medium to keep the individual colors wet. Use combinations of cadmium yellow dark, pyrrole red, and phthalo blue. For the dark center, use phthalo blue and pyrrole red.


Apply color next to another color that is still wet. Blend the two by lightly stroking over the area where they meet. Use your brush to soften the edge, producing a smooth transition.

Using the same colors, apply another layer to the background and the shadow of the vase. Paint the vase with ultramarine blue and white — more white for the lighter areas. For the apple stem, mix ultramarine blue, pyrrole red, and a bit of cadmium yellow dark. Paint a second layer on the darker areas of the leaves, using phthalo blue and cadmium yellow dark, and a little pyrrole red.

Emphasizing Highlights

Punctuate the highlights in your painting by layering thick applications of paint over the highlighted areas.

Toned Canvas

Painting the canvas with an overall color first removes the stark white of the canvas, which can feel intimidating, and provides a color that will peek through in small areas that have not been completely colored by the final painting, which unifies the piece.


Any areas of the painting that look unfinished can be painted over with more layers. Don't be afraid to layer. It will create more texture and make your composition more interesting.

Go over the vase one more time to make the patterns show. Paint in the shadow of the apple stem with ultramarine blue mixed with a little pyrrole red and cadmium yellow dark. Go over the tablecloth with a second layer of white mixed with a little ultramarine blue. Finish painting the leaves with a combination of phthalo blue, cadmium yellow dark, and white.



You'll notice that the finished painting is not an exact replica of the reference photo. Artistic license allows you to put your own spin on a painting.

Prepare a 12" x 16" canvas with a layer of quinacridone red. Once the paint is dry, draw in the main shapes of the rooster loosely with chalk. Try to fill the entire canvas.


To ensure your shapes are accurate, turn the painting and the reference photo upside down. You can also look at your painting in a mirror.

Once you are satisfied with your drawing, go over the chalk lines with phthalo blue.

When the paint is dry, you can use a damp tissue or towel to wipe off the chalk lines.

Next block in the basic colors: red with a little yellow for the head, blue for the dark feathers, blue and red for the middle-value feathers, and yellow with a little red for the golden neck feathers and legs.

Start on the next layer of background color. Using a mixture of blue, yellow, and white, apply the paint with a small flat brush.

Finish painting the background. Then start working on the shadow underneath the rooster, using a little less white with the blue and yellow background mix.

Use white paint to add details in the tail feathers and on the feet. Use yellow and white for the lightest feathers on the neck and back and a mixture of blue and red under the chest and in the dark areas of the head.

Paint a second layer on the background using the background mix, but add a bit more yellow and white.


Use thin, long strokes to create the feather texture.

Apply one more layer in some areas of the background to make the green a little softer. Add a second layer to the shadow as well, using blue, yellow, and a tiny bit of white and red. To finish, add a thin coat of yellow over the feet and a small circle of black with a tiny white dot for the eye.



In nature, colors seem to become weaker and more subdued as objects recede into the distance. This is an important detail to keep in mind when painting a landscape

Start by painting your canvas with quinacridone nickel azo gold thinned with a little water. When the canvas is dry, draw in the main shapes with chalk. Then go over the chalk lines with ultramarine blue. Notice that the top line of the distant mountain starts a little lower than the highest point of the foreground rocks.

Use blue, thinned with a bit of water and glazing medium, to paint the darker areas and to add the foliage on the trees.

Using a mix of blue and gold with a little glazing medium, add another layer to darken and define the foliage on the trees.


A glaze is a transparent layer of paint applied over another color. Shown above is ultramarine blue (left) and lemon yellow (right) over a mix of permanent rose and Naples yellow.

Use short, multidirectional brushstrokes to create texture.

For the sky, use a combination of blue and white. Start at the top, painting around the trees.

Finish the first layer of sky. Apply a second layer of paint to the trees, using the foliage mix with a tiny bit of white to make the paint more opaque. Add a second layer to the sky, and then paint the distant hill with a cool blue-green mix of blue with a little yellow and white.


In nature, objects become cooler and lighter in hue as they recede into the distance. This phenomenon is called "atmospheric perspective."

Next paint the background trees with cool mixes to make them look more distant. Use the distant hill mix to paint the closest background trees. Then dab on short strokes of the distant trees mix to suggest trees on the distant hill. For the foreground tree details, use blue with more yellow and a little white to make a warmer green. With a small round brush, paint the dark, thick lines on the rocks with a mix of gold, red, and blue.

Continue working on the rocks, and paint a second layer of white in the snow.


While the paint is still wet, paint in a little white in some areas — this technique is called painting "wet-into-wet." The white paint will pick up some of the color underneath it, adding depth and texture to the snow.


To establish some interesting color in the rocks, use various combinations of white with red, blue, and yellow to paint around the dark lines.

To complete the painting, add one more layer of white on the snowy areas, and use blue, red, and yellow mixed with glazing fluid to deepen the color on the rocks.


Excerpted from "Painting Acrylic Basics"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc..
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Tools & Materials, 2,
Color Basics, 4,
Monochromatic Painting, 6,
Creating an Underpainting, 12,
Using Artistic License, 20,
Capturing Nature, 26,
Creating Mood, 34,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews