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Getting Started with Acrylic Paints

Lesson 3 of 13

Mixed & Layered Acrylic Paints

Mary Jane Begin

Getting Started with Acrylic Paints

Mary Jane Begin

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Lesson Info

3. Mixed & Layered Acrylic Paints

Lesson Info

Mixed & Layered Acrylic Paints

What I did here was, I also tested what the color looks like when you mix white. And white is a really important color to have in your palette because it creates opacity and it creates light, it lightens the color up. So I added, because you can't see white on a white piece of paper, and this is actually an illustration board. So, if you add white to a color, you can see here, this is titanium white with cobalt blue, it creates a density that's very much like gouache, you cannot really see through that patch of color. So it's the combination of a little bit of the thickness of the paint, and the fact that there's titanium white mixed in. When I added a lot of water to the pigment and thinned it out, it becomes more transparent, a little bit more like watercolor. Same thing here, I have Q crimson with a lot of white, so it's a patch, a thick piece of color that you can't see through. And then the same combination, but add a lot of water, it thins out the color. They have two different k...

ind of sensibilities. The white of the page kinda adds to that color, and do the same thing with cad yellow and Chinese white, excuse me, titanium white. I say Chinese white because that's the color in watercolor, but in acrylics it's called titanium, because it's from a different source. So you can start to see that like watercolor, the acrylics can be used like watercolor. They have very thin, transparent ways of being. But acrylics are also meant to go very thickly, so I'll show you both those things in demo. The other thing I wanted to show you is that you can either layer a color, which means I put a patch of this blue and let it dry, and then put a patch of yellow on top of it. That's cad yellow and phthalo blue. The color that results in between is what you see in the middle here, all these different colors. And what I wanted you to see is the original colors, the two colors, and then the color they made. There's a kind of vibrancy level that's higher with the layered color, just a little bit more than when you mix a color on a palette. And what I mean by that, and I'll just shift this over so you can see. I've got a palette under here. Gonna shift it a little bit. And this is a glass palette that I'm using here. I'm gonna grab a piece of paper. Let's see. This is actually a watercolor block, and I'll talk more about this later, why a block is really helpful and important. But I'm gonna use that to demonstrate what I mean by mixed, versus layered. So I'm gonna grab one of my brushes. I'm gonna grab one of my favorite brushes, which is a square-tip brush with soft bristles, and I'm going to choose, perhaps, something that will make a really lovely purple. I'll grab my cobalt blue, which is a purpley blue, and then I'm going to grab a, I do love the naphthol crimson. The crimsons, the rose colors, are very pinkish, and they're just yummy. So what I'm going to do is show you, if you're mixing a color on your palette, I would use a brush that's, we want to stir the color up and we want to use a brush that's not, maybe, the best brush in your repertoire. So I'm just gonna use a mixing brush. I'm gonna add a little bit of water, and one of the things that I need desperately, all the time, my security blanket, which is a paper towel for blotting. And I do recommend you have paper towels or some kind of surface to blot your brushes with, because that's how you'll know if they're clean or not. If you don't blot your brush, you tend to drag whatever color is on there that you didn't get out completely into the next color, the mixing, and that makes neutralized color, and tends to make colors brown and gray. So if I mix the red and the blue, and I make a kind of yummy, purpley tone, this is known as mixture, literally mixing it on the palette. So I'm just mixing that up now, and then I'm gonna use my big brush to show what it looks like. With acrylic paints, you cannot leave them sitting with acrylic color on it. You can leave a watercolor brush for longer. You can still always wash the paint out. Acrylic pts are made with a binder of plastic, and so the plastic dries really fast. That's both a benefit, 'cause you can layer quickly, but it's a negative in the sense that it dries so fast that it will dry on a brush and ruin it, so that's a really sad thing when you're using really good brushes. So I'm just gonna take this color, mix a little more of it, and this is mixing on the paint. That was like a Tibetan ♪ Ding ♪ Okay. And you can see, it's kind of a neutral-ish purple. It's a dry brush. I'm trying not to add too much water to it. With the technique I'm using, too, is dry brush, means I'm not using a lot of water, and not using any medium. So now I'm gonna do it layered. And I'm actually gonna use a different brush to do that. I'm gonna use what's called a, this is actually called not a round tip, this is a filbert, which has a very round tip, and I'm going to put blue down. I have to let it dry, and I'm gonna put the red on top of it. And let's just see if the color looks different. It should. And the difference between layer and mixing is simply that when you're mixing the color on the surface of that palette, you are making it more homogenous, which just means the particles of the pigment are more evenly distributed than if you put a chunk of color down like this, you let it dry, and then you put the red on top of it. They're sort of separate. They're separately doing their own thing, and so that creates just a little bit more intensity or vibrancy of color. They're both good ways to make color, it's just good to know the difference between the two. So we'll let that dry, and then we'll go back to, put this aside just for a second. It doesn't take but a minute, not even, for this to dry. It's drying very, very quickly. But I'm just gonna show you down here, these are the mixed versions of the color. And you can kind of see, there's just a little bit more energy here, here, and here. Also, I wanna point out to you, this surface is illustration board. It's super smooth, and when I painted these, I used a different kind of brush. I didn't use a soft brush like this, or a soft brush like this, I used what's called a stiff bristle brush. I'll talk more about brushes after, but what I wanted you just to pay attention to is it's so stiff, it creates a stroke that you can really see with acrylic paint. So, you especially see it in a burnt sienna, you see the stroke of the brush. Now, it's neither better nor worse than not seeing stroke, but you need to know what's gonna do that. And stiff bristle brushes will definitely allow you to see the stoke of the paintbrush. Now, let's pull this back. I think it's almost dry. It looks dry to me. So the difference between watercolor and acrylics is that that color is not going to move when I go back to try to wake it up. It's not going anywhere. I can't move that off the surface. That is sealed, it's plastic. Now, the blue that you're seeing there is just from the brush, but this color is solid. So when you're painting with acrylics, you can create this illusion of it looking like a watercolor, but unlike watercolor, you cannot mush it around. I can't make that do much of anything. It's still a little wet. Oh, look at that. I can pick up a little, 'cause it's still a little bit damp, but look at this little edge here. It's sealed onto the surface. It's not dry yet. (laughs) So I'm just gonna add a little more color to it, we'll let it dry a little bit longer to make sure that it is solidly dry before I put another layer of the red on top of it, to compare the two. But what I do want you to see is that you can't move this color, because what's happening is the acrylic is sealing and adhering to any surface that you paint on, whether it's gessoed or paper or what have you. So that is a really different functionality than watercolor, or oils, which is very malleable and moveable. And so some people love that, and some people do not like it. So the only way to know is to test it. And I encourage even getting a small set of acrylics, even a little kit with even 10 colors, or eight colors, and testing to see what you feel about the acrylics and the way it functions. You can know until you try it. So just gonna put this aside for a moment, and what I want to show you while that's drying is I want to demonstrate a few things, and talk about a few of the materials and other tools that you have to use before we get to the brushes. So when I try to mix colors for my acrylic paints, I like to have more than one palette. We only have one to show you here, 'cause there's only so much surface, but I like to have a lot of palettes, and for acrylic paints, I don't like to use plastic, because if you're mixing plastic paint on a plastic surface, what's gonna happen? What do you think? They're not gonna come together. They're just gonna smear around. They're gonna smear around, but then when that acrylic dries, it's plastic on plastic, and then they adhere to each other, and cleaning that palette is a nightmare. So I've seen students with plastic palettes, I'm like oh, my god. Glass, and this tray over here that's holding all my brushes I'll put here. This is just a metal tray that you can use for oils, you can use for acrylics. It's coated in a sort of ceramic coating. It's not expensive, just like a piece of glass, it's not a super expensive thing. But because it's made of something that's ceramic, or something that's glass, you can use hot, soapy water and wash this palette, and scrape all the color right off. So I really recommend either this kind of metal tray palette, or the glass. And you can buy any of these things. All these materials are available from Blick, but you can also, for the glass palette, I just go to the hardware store, and I buy scraps of glass, leftover glass pieces, and then I tape the edges with kind of, usually duct tape or some kind of really firm tape so I don't cut my hands. But I usually have maybe five, six, seven different palettes so that I can have variation, and if I run out of space, I can put another palette down and start mixing it. So that's kind of an important piece for me. So the other thing I wanna talk about, and this has to do with the weight of the color, and the way that it functions. So I have here what's called soft body, and I have heavy body acrylics. And when you use these, you might be like well, why would I have one over the other? And it's basically, let me pull this back here. We're still waiting for, it's almost dry. The difference between the two is that the soft body is thinner and a little more transparent, and a heavy body is meant for more impasto painting, it's meant for kind of a use that's thicker. You can actually see it when I squeeze out the color. Look, it almost held on to the edge of this rim here, because it's very thick, it's very dense. It's literally weighty. Now, I wanna show you a little trick. If you squeeze out too much paint in your tubes. Watercolor, acrylics, oils, you can squeeze the sides and pull that color back in. And the reason that's important is, sometimes you're like oh, I've got all this paint right here. Now I can't put the cap back on, and I don't need that color. Squeezing it back in saves it, so that's just a little tip. So this is the heavy body, which means it's really thick. It's meant to be used impasto style. Not pasta, impasto, just means thick. And you can see, as I pour this soft body, it's literally more liquidy. And again, the binder is plastic, but they're slightly different. So I'm gonna use, this time, a stiff bristle brush. I'm gonna use a medium-sized one. And I'm gonna show you these are, I believe, the same color. This is the Q crimson, and this is the naphthol crimson. The soft body is a naphthol crimson. So it's a similar color, but not the same. I also want you to see the stroke of the brush. Now, this is the soft body. So the soft body, it's just a little more transparent, easy to move around. I can thin it out with a little water. It's movable and malleable for a little bit of time, but it's gonna dry really, really quickly. So this is meant to be used more thinly, particularly for glazes, and I'll show you that in a little bit, but that is the soft body paint. The heavy body, and most of these colors here are heavy body, is really ideal for thick impasto painting. But watch how, if I lay this down, look at the weight of that color. I mean, it's almost jelly-like. And I don't know if this is visible, I hope it is. It's really a different kind of physical quality to the paint than the soft body. And you might discover that, (groans), I don't like the heavy body. It's too thick, it's too textural. Or say, oh my gosh, I love this. So the thing is, with the heavy body it takes a little longer to dry, because it's lying down a little thicker. I'm gonna throw some blue right on top of this. You get something that's more akin to the way oils function, and you can see that I'm kinda mixing this right on the surface, and I can because that paint is sitting on the surface of this paper. Again, this is a hot press block. So that's kind of a cool effect, and you can't do it as well with a soft body because it's thinner. Now, I'm just gonna drag a little bit of this color on top. We're basically making a very similar purple to that. And this is a heavy body on top of the soft body. I would recommend, there's a philosophy about thick over lean, whether you're painting with oils you're painting with acrylics. It doesn't really apply to watercolor, because watercolor never really gets thick, but thick over lean means you start with thinner layers of color, and you build up to your thickest layers on top. And the reason why, particularly oils, but acrylics as well, you don't wanna paint a thin layer of a color that's thick and hasn't dried yet. Because if the color is thick on the surface and it hasn't dried and you throw a color on top of that, a glaze of paint, that thick color underneath that hasn't dried will crack, and cracking isn't fun, and cracking isn't desirable, typically. So, always remember thick over lean, or thick over thin. So I think that's dry enough. It's dry to the touch, so what I'm gonna do is I'm going to go back to this color and see what it looks like to layer my blue. And I'm gonna try to make about the same value of color. Oh, wrong color. Red, just grab the red. And again, this is mixed, and this will be layered. I'll thin it out so it's closer to the color, but you can probably see, just from this application, same two colors as here, but this color has a lot more vibrancy. Even if I pull some of that red off, it's still got a lot more energy to the color. So what you'll find with acrylics in particular, is that layering the color makes a much more beautiful, vibrant color than mixing on the palette. With watercolors, it's a subtle difference. I think with acrylics, it's much more noticeable. And we can try it. See, this is still wet over here here. This is the more impasto style, that's the heavy body. It's really thick, it's not dry. It's taking longer to dry. This dries immediately, and again, it shouldn't move. See if I can get it. Yeah, it's not going anywhere. That's the color from my brush. So, once you apply a layer of acrylic on a surface, unlike watercolor, you cannot lift it off. You can bury it, which means you can make colors on top that are opaque and make it so you can't see what's underneath, but you can't subtract the color. It's called subtractive color, you can't life it off the surface like other media, like oils and watercolor. So that's just some different type. The heavy body versus the soft body. Another thing that I think I'd like to show you is, well a couple things. I wanna talk about saving colors. Acrylics dry so fast, and these will dry very quickly, so if you wanna save color. You say I've got this palette and I wanna save my colors, that's when you would use your cups. And the cups are basically used for a couple things. One is to mix a larger quantity of color than you could possibly fit on your palette, like a big quantity, fill this thing with a color. The other thing is, if you wanna save a color, you mix it, you can put Saran Wrap or some kind of plastic wrap or a Ziploc bag, and seal the dryness, keep it from getting dried out, and keep it moist. And you can save acrylics much longer that way, than if you leave it to the open air. They'll dry, and they turn into a hard plastic cake, and you cannot reactive them, unlike watercolor. So that is the challenge with acrylics. But you can save them in the cups or the tool to do that. A cup, Ziploc bag, or Saran Wrap, that kinda thing.

Class Description

Are you interested in working with acrylic paints but not sure how to get started? In this course artist and illustrator, Mary Jane Begin will introduce you to the world of acrylic paints. This class is perfect for beginners looking to learn the basics of the medium in order to begin a painting practice. By the end of this course you will be equipped with the know-how to pick up a brush and start experimenting with acrylics!

In this class you’ll learn:

  • All about acrylic paints and how they work
  • Which brushes and papers to use with those paints
  • How to begin making simple marks and shapes to familiarize yourself with the medium 

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anshu priya

Very thorough . perfect for someone who wants to start painting with Acrylics.


Nota review but a suggestion. Use a table knife to remove paper from bloc. No curling of edges.