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What are Acrylic Paints? A Small Introduction

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

Before you even start with the pouring technique, you should first familiarise yourself with the necessary materials so that you don't waste too much money unnecessarily later.

For this reason, I would like to use this article to give you a brief introduction to the world of acrylic colours and let you get to know this material better.

Acrylic Paints

What are acrylic paints?

Acrylic paints are fast-drying water-based paints made of pigments suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion (for this reason they are also called dispersion colours).

The main components of acrylic paint are:

  1. Granular pigments, that give the colour to the paint;

  2. a binder, which is plastic based and is responsible for keeping the pigments together after the drying process through a thin plastic film;

  3. a solvent (water) that combined with the binder forms a polymer emulsion responsible for the creation of the thin film after water evaporation/absorption.

The most important advantages offered by acrylic paint are:

  1. They are versatile and can be used in different mix-media techniques;

  2. They have a very good colouring-quality,

  3. They dry quickly,

  4. They are water-resistant when dry

  5. The possibility to change some of these properties by adding various mediums (f.e. it is possible retard the drying time, to thicken or thin the paint)

  6. Usable on different material such as paper, glass, canvas, plastic, wood, etc.

  7. Less toxicity than oil paints

  8. Cheaper than oil-paints.

How were acrylic paints discovered? A short history

The origin of acrylic paint has to be linked to the invention of the acrylic resin by the German Otto Röhm in 1940. At the beginning this resin was used principally for home paint but then the artists Leonard Bocour and Sam Golden (who went on to be a founder of Golden Artist Colors Inc.) managed to develope a solution of spirit-based paint by the brand name “Magna” between 1946 and 1949, that became the basis of modern acrylic paints.

Starting from this followed about 20 years of studies and trials to redefine and improve the paints. During 1960s more and more artists understood the versatility and ease of use for this new paint supply, that had a soft-body and more fluid consistency that the one we know today .

The first artists to use acrylic paint as an art supply were Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros (known as Mexican Muralists), some abstract expressionists such as Helen Frankenthaler and Louis Morris, who could achieve similar results to the one obtained with watercolours, Mark Rothko for his mix-media technique with oil paints, charcoal and pigments, or Andy Warhol for his Campbell’s Soup Cans.

More recently acrylic paint has become very popular due to the rediscovery of the acrylic pouring technique.

How many types of acrylic paints exist?

Acrylic paints can be categorised according to their type and consistency.

Categorisation by type

In this case, a distinction is made between normal acrylic colours and effect acrylic colours.

The former are those based on normal pigments such as yellow, red, orange, blue, green, violet, black or white.

The latter are colours that can reproduce a special effect because they are mainly produced with special pigments. These include

Categorisation based on their consistency

In commerce there are many varieties of acrylic paints.

Heavy body acrylic paints,

Very thick consistency and mostly used for impasto or heavier paint applications. Examples of Heavy Body Acrylics are Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylics, Golden Heavy Body Acrylics, Amsterdam Expert Acrylics.

Liquid acrylic paints, soft-body acrylic paints or high-flow acrylic paints

They have a lower viscosity and same degree of pigmentation as the Heavy Body acrylics. They are mostly used for watercolour techniques, airbrush application, or when smooth coverage is desired. Fluid acrylics can be thickened for impasto work or to thinned for glazing applications. Examples of fluid acrylics Amsterdam Acrylics, Lukascryl Studio, Liquitex Soft Body and Golden Fluid acrylics.

How can be acrylic paints washed away from clothes or other surfaces?

Here some useful pieces of advice to wash away acrylic paints from our clothes or other surfaces:

I hope I could help you to get to know better our beloved acrylic paints.

Thank you for reading. If you like the post, feel free to leave a like, a comment and don’t forget to follow my blog and share the content on your social media.

Have a colourful and creative day! 



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