Learn to paint with Acrylic! Tips, tricks and application techniques | Varnika Prakash | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

Learn to paint with Acrylic! Tips, tricks and application techniques

teacher avatar Varnika Prakash, Delhi based mixed media portrait artist

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Getting to know acrylics


    • 4.

      Basic application techniques


    • 5.

      Dried swatches 1


    • 6.

      Abstract application techniques


    • 7.

      Dried swatches 2


    • 8.

      Using tools for application


    • 9.

      Dried swatches 3


    • 10.

      Project and Final thoughts


  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

Acrylic paint is a fast drying water soluble paint medium. I use them all the time, and they’re so much fun to use. You can add water to them to thin them out, add different mediums to achieve different textures and results, and work with multiple layers quickly. I find it to be a more approachable medium that offers you some benefits of both water colours as well as oil paint.

If you’ve been confused about where to start, this class might serve as a guide for you to use, in that it encourages you to open the pack of brand new acrylic paints that has just been sitting on your shelf, and try different application techniques that might help you find which techniques work for you.

I will go over different application techniques. We’ll add water to the pigment, and use it straight out of the tube, we will even use props we can find around the house, such as a sponge and a ball of foil, to create different patterns on our swatch cards.

I will show you 18 different acrylic painting application techniques, such as wet on dry, drips, creating gradients as well as using different tools for application.

These are some techniques I find myself using most. I paint a lot of portraits, and acrylic paint make it easier to work in layers quickly. I can create loads of different textures fairly quickly. Acrylic paint are cost effective, easy to clean up and there is little to no drying time!

I urge you guys to create your own swatches and paint along with me. Some of them look really beautiful and I’ve tacked them to a wall in the studio!

I hope you guys enjoy this class and that this guide helps you in your art journey.




Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Varnika Prakash

Delhi based mixed media portrait artist

Level: All Levels

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Introduction: Hi everyone. In today's class we will be going over acrylic paints as a medium. I'll be sharing with you all the little tips and tricks that I've collected over the years, just by painting and working with my own pallets and doing all the pieces that I do. it's a really really fun medium and I'm sure all of these tips would really help you If you're starting to get into acrylic paint. I will be doing lots of little swatches and we'll be going through techniques like Impasto and creating gradients and doing some splatter work, drip work How you can use them, where you can use them, be it portrait, landscape All of that fun stuff I hope you guys enjoye this class, I'm sure it will be really informative for you Especially if you're getting into acrylic paint just now and you are a beginner or someone who's been painting for a while as well I think this might be really helpful to you This is going to be a really fun and informative class and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you all. 2. Materials: Now before I get started on the swatches, I'm going to talk to you guys through all the materials I'll be using. I've got some acrylic paint here. I'm just using regular camel artist grade paint. You can get these at any art store. Even if you have the set of acrylic paint that comes in the the students set, which is about 12 main colours. That's awesome as well. I'll be using some palette knives just to show you guys how I work with palette knives, I've got some flat brushes, I've got some regular household items that I'll be using to just create texture. Show you guys how I work with these in my pieces, I've got this foil ball I've got this regular dishwashing sponge that I've torn a piece out of and some kitchen paper You just need some freshwater to clean your brushes and a dry rag for when you want to clean your brushes and dry them off. 3. Getting to know acrylics: Before we get into all the swatches that I'm gonna do which is going to be all of these. I'm going to swatch all of these and in front of you so you guys can see how I did these I want to talk a little bit about acrylic paint as a medium This is a water-soluble material which means it's, it works a lot like water paint, but it's a bit thicker in the sense that it's a bit like a mix between oil and water paint It dries really, really quickly. So you have to work really quickly and your palette will dry within 15 minutes. All the paint that you have, you just want to mix your colours right on the spot and do it. You can make any colours that you want out of your three primary colours. But I would just suggest, if you've been working with these for a while just pick out colours that you love and just go to an art store and pick out some fancy colours that you might like. I'm using an aqua green colour that the bluish teal tone or use a portrait pink or just get colours that are pre-mixed. It's gonna make your life so much easier. Also want to talk about how a lot of different mediums available in art stores that gel mediums, matte mediums, glaze mediums that are gonna give your painting a different kind of finish. This slow drying gels that you can use, which are going to help your acrylic stay wet for longer. So if there's pieces where you want to blend or create a lot of gradients. It will be really helpful. to use a slow drying gel, there's an impasto medium you can use, which you can mix with your colour to give it a bit more of a heavy body feel. There's also heavy body acrylics you can use There's Matte mediums which are going to give your acrylic a very matte effect There's also glaze effects, or gloss effects, that would just give your paintings, a bit of a glossy feel There's lots of different things available that you can use to add to your current set of acrylic paints. To start out with just get your regular set of 12 paint that you normally get and mess around with those. Once you get a hang of it, just try and mess around and get more mediums to work with. And also you want to remember that if you are working with mediums, you don't really need to add water. But it's always good to have water handy and you can clean your brush constantly. Because if you don't, Its just going to muddy up your colours. Also. You just want a general knowledge of what colours work best with each other Let here, I'm using a lot of warm tones in this one that's reds and yellows and oranges. Here you have some cool tones, That's greens and blues. Near mix of purples and pinks. Just mess around with your paint. Get a hang of it, see how they work together. And it's really, it's a lot of fun trying two different pieces with them. It's a really forgiving medium as well. If you don't like a painting, you can just paint over it. You can cover it up again and just create something on top. You can create little pieces in your sketch book as well. it just really adheres well to any kind of paper. Just make sure your paper is thick. What I mean by thick is it can handle some water because if you're using a lot of water on your piece, especially for wet on wet or dry on wet techniques. It's just going to make the paper crumble a bit. Another important Fun tip I've found is that you can make moulding paste using the, using some baby powder and glue and some acrylic gesso or just white acrylic paint, which you can use to lay on your Canvas or on your paper before you start painting to create even more depth and texture to it. I believe that recipe is is one part glue, one part baby powder, and then two parts of the acrylic paint I often use it in my paintings as well Other than that, just mess around with these tricks and tips, mess around with the paint itself, see how it works for you. It's really quick drying, so work on your speed. That's what I would advise That's it Let's get into the swatches 4. Basic application techniques: The first few application techniques we're gonna be talking about are wet on wet, dry on wet, wet on dry and dry on wet, gradients and impasto. These are some application techniques that you should just first learn to master because you're gonna be using these the most. And I'm going to swatch all of these and show you guys how to go about it. In this order. Let's get started. The first technique that we're gonna be covering today is gonna be our wet on wet technique. This is when I take clear water and I put it on my surface to make my paper wet. And then I slowly add diluted pigment to it, which is, my brush has color on it that's also been diluted with water. What this does is it allows you to let your colors blend more fluidly. This works a lot like watercolors do. If you've ever worked with watercolors, you know how you're normally, you would make the surface wet and then add pigment to it, for your first layers This is an awesome technique to use Especially for your background layers You know, stuff like that where you just want the color to be more transparent or for it to not be too dark. I recommend using this technique to use different colors and see how they blend together. You can achieve some really, some beautiful textures on the paper as well as different. You can add more depth by adding more color as I'm doing now. Now for our dry on dry technique, it's just basically taking this is how I think a lot of people work with acrylic as well. This is normally how I work with acrylic. Um, where you just take dry paint that hasn't had any water on it and you apply it straight on your paper. This allows you to make quite a lot of gradients as well. We'll talk about gradients in a little bit. But for now, an important thing to remember with this technique is acrylic paint dries a lot faster. So it might be a better idea to mix the color that you want to use on your palette before you apply it. Otherwise, you would have to work really fast for it to blend. But you can get some really bold results with this technique. So now the wet-on-dry technique is when I load my brush with pigment that is already diluted with water and I apply it straight to the surface that is dry. As you can see, this is an awesome technique, especially if you want to do overlays and create that effect where you still want the paint that's underneath to come through. It also makes it really easy to blend different colors together. And it's one of the techniques I use most especially in my portraits. If I want to add another layer of color to make it pop a bit more. Now the dry on wet technique. This is a technique I don't actually use very much because I personally find it a little bit hard to work with. But this is when you apply water to your surface and then you add dried color. I'm just using thick pigment. This I think works really well again for background tones, but you want to be careful how you work with this because if your paint, if you're not moving quickly and blending your paint out, what it does is you can be left with some big splotches of color on the side. But as you can see, this technique also leads to some really beautiful textures. Especially if you're into like abstract and contemporary stuff. You can get some really cool effects, the water makes, some really cool textures and swirls on the paper. So it's fun to play with. Gradients. Gradients are important to learn because this is something you'd want to do quite a lot in your art journey, especially if you're working with acrylics. Because any kind of backgrounds, even if you're using just one simple tone, you want to learn how to add more depth to it by making the borders darker or adding lights and darks and mixing your color as well. With acrylic, you want to be careful that you work quickly. I keep saying that, but it's important that you do so because it dries really quickly. So if you really wanted to blend smoothly and you want to get a smooth finish. You just want to apply the color and then just brush back and forth to get the result that you want. And this is now the technique that I probably use the most is impasto, I'm just taking a huge blobs of paint. You can mix colors in your palette before or after. That's okay. But I'm taking huge blobs of paint and I'm just putting it straight on the surface. And then I'm using my brush to create all these awesome textures in the pigment itself. 5. Dried swatches 1: This is how the swatches look after they've dried. As you can see, all my wet swatches have dried to look a little bit lighter, which is, how acrylic works just like watercolor Especially if you want to work on different layers. It's a really good technique to work with because it's you can use a lot of different colors and still have that sort of washy fact that watercolor creates. Other than that, I want you guys to really just practice, these techniques a lot because it's going to be one that's really gonna help you when, you're working with acrylic paints. Especially just try and experiment with how dry brush and wet brush works on a dry surface or a wet surface. Practice this creating gradients with a lot of different colors to see, to get that speed and that confidence that you need to work on it. This is all really gonna help you, especially if you're doing like landscapes or things that require that kind of background. Let me know how it goes. And I'd love to see some of these swatches that you guys do. 6. Abstract application techniques: Now we're going to cover some of the application techniques that I use most for my abstract pieces whether landscapes or otherwise. These are quite fun to do as well. The more you do them, the more you kind of get a handle on it Glazing, scumbling, dabbing, dotting splatters and drips. I'll be doing swatches of each one of them and showing you guys how it works in the next few clips The first technique I'll be covering here is drips This is one that I use most often in all of my original pieces and it's really fun to do this, just a few things you want to be cautious of doing First to make sure that the drip is going straight down. You want your surface to be in a vertical position or at least a bit slanted so gravity can do half the job. The next thing is you want to load your brush with maybe just a touch of color and a lot of water. As you can see here, I am adding the water just in the places where I want the drip to be. This is an awesome technique to use for backgrounds. It creates this really awesome washy effect. I hope you guys give it a go because I love, love, love using this technique. Up next we have splatters. I've just loaded my brush again with a lot of water and pigment. And then really just dabbing it, just dabbing the brush so it creates all these splatters. You can also use a toothbrush if you want, and then you can just hold the toothbrush in your hand and use your thumb to flick all these nice little splatters. This is quite an awesome technique, especially if you want to make things like stars. This is the one I use most is just it makes these really small splatters that you can't get any other way. Give this a go, see if you can do maybe stars or even just create an effect of there being splatters on the canvas. Now dotting, as the name suggests, is basically just using a fine brush and dotting your surface with paint. You can also do this with pens, and I believe it's called scumbling, but I could be wrong if you're doing it with ink But with paint, you just load your brush with paint here I'm doing like smaller ones as well it works best with a finer brush is with a flat brush. I find that it makes really big dots that usually don't work for the the pieces that I do, but give it a go. This technique is also awesome for doing trees Remember if you load your brush with more pigment, you can create more texture as well when you lift it, because it creates these little peaks in the paint. Try using this technique to make some really regular household items. I think that'll be fun. Dabbing similar to dotting is kind of the same thing. But now I'm using more paint, more pigment on my brush, and I'm dabbing it with a much bigger brush. Again, this is an awesome technique to use if you want to create some really textured strokes, play around with it. Try and use a lot of pigment. Even try and do it. with just some some water in your brush with the paint thinned out because that would create some more more translucent shapes This technique, I think you can again can use this as an awesome technique to use for painting trees I think, that's what I'd use it most for Here I'm using a flat brush to do it but again, art is all about messing around with what you have So try different brushes see how it works for you Next up we have scumbling This is when I apply paint directly to my surface and I kind of pull it in whatever direction that you want. not only does this create some really beautiful textures, but it also you can even blend different colors together. Again, you can use a lot of water or not whatever you guys want These are all abstraction techniques, which means you want to try and have as much fun and add as much of you in it as you can. Use these to create whatever different things you might want to create. Maybe you could do trees or paint an apple or anything you want to try. It would be fun. Last but not the least. For this section we have glazing or overlay This is when I first apply paint directly from the tube onto my surface or whether you mix it as well. It's just dry paint straight out of the tube. And next I'm gonna add a really light I'm going to thin out the paint on my brush and I'm going to overlay it on top. You want to make sure that your first layer is completely dry before you do this. (*I did not, hehe) so the bottom layer doesn't blend with the layer that you're using on top. What this does is you can create some really beautiful colors because of the translucency of the next layer. Just make sure that your first layer is dry. have a mess around with it. Use it to add some different colors on top of a piece you've already created 7. Dried swatches 2: This is what all the swatches look like now that they have dried. As you can see, all the ones where I use more water to thin out the pigment they've dried to be lighter than the ones where I haven't. Swatches like the scumbling and the dabbing technique where I tried to make peaks with my brush. Those peaks have also dried out to be proper hard peaks and looks pretty cool. I did have to redo the glazing swatch because when I was doing it, I didn't quite wait for the first layer to dry and it kind of blended out. But I couldn't record me redoing it, but that's what it looks like now that it's dried, which you can see the blue kind of a bit more, a bit more darker with the green on top. And it looks pretty nice. All these techniques are for super abstract compositions and I recommend you guys to just have a play around with this. Abstract It's just a really really fun way of finding your own voice with paint. So use all of them together or use just a few. Just make sure that you have fun with it and create your own textures. Just put them all together. I always recommend using regular household items as practice and try to make it, try to give it your own twist to make it look the way that you want it to. Just have fun with the pieces that you do. 8. Using tools for application: Once you've worked with all the other application techniques we've done, and you sort of have a hang of all of these. You should just try and experiment with all different kinds of tools that you can find around the house, see what kind of effects and textures that they make, here I'm going to show you just a few, but just you can use all kinds of things really that you can find around the house. You can create different textures using masking tape here to teach you foil, paper towel, wet sponge, dry sponge, a palette knife, and etching. All of these things I'm sure You can just find these things around the house. Just experiment with them, see what you can make and what you can create The first one I'm going to show you is a foil. And you can create really awesome looking texture. You just want to take a foil, just foil ball, just take it, crumble it up however you want. So it has all of these ridges, and then you want your color ready on your palette. Just Pemix it, dip your foil in that color. Lifting some, and then just dab it it creates these really like dry, dry effect. You can take a lot of thick paint straight on the foil, just mix, mix it using the foil ball and then just sort of dab it The great thing about it is it's always going to create some different textures depending on where you're holding it, how much paint you apply to it. And it should create these beautiful textures. you just want to dab it. And use really dry paint. Because the wetter it is, the harder it's going to be for those colors to kind of shine. Literally just do whatever you want to do with it. It's just try different ways of doing it. the ball You can open it up, make it into different colors, try and layer different colors on top. That's how I'd use foil. The next thing we're gonna do is do it with a paper towel and I've again crumbled it. sort of the same effects that we're going for that we did with the foil. Again, you want your colors pre-mixed on your palette. Just dab your paper towel in it. And then just dab it on the paper. Again, creates just these different effects. You can mix these colors. You can just pick colors straight off your palette or just out of the tube and just dab it, it creates this really nice, really nice sort of fuzzy effect that's very different from the foil in the sense it's a bit more blended in a little less rough. It's got those softer edges. The next one I'm going to show you is I'm using this sponge that I've torn from a regular dishwashing sponge that you might have at your place This is a dry sponge techniques so the sponge is completely dry. I'm just going to dip it in the paint that I've already pre-mixed on my palette. And I'm just going to dab it it creates these really like little small little textures that you really can't get from anything else. And I love, I love using this for literally anything, especially like abstract pieces. It's just, it's a great tool to work with. Again, I'm just dabbing and lifting. The next one we're going to do is wet sponge. It's going to create sort of a similar effect, but it's gonna be more it's gonna be softer Instead of dipping your sponge in water, what you want to do is mix some water onto your paint on your palette. So the paint that you're lifting on your sponge is a bit wet and the spongy would soak it in. Once you have some paint on your sponge just again just sort of dab and lift. it's going to create that same effect, but it's going to blend out your colors a bit more. Instead of making those really tiny dots that the dry sponge will do it's gonna just gonna Make everything more soft if you want to use different colors I'm just going to go ahead and use my red more and just drop it in and lift. This next one I'm going to show you is going to be how to use a palette knife now these come in all different shapes and sizes because I have a small one. I'm just going to use my small knife because the small swatch paper I have here, you can use a palette knife in all different kinds of ways. And it's really awesome to create textures that you can't get with any other tool. You can mix colors with it here I just have my same pink and red You can create all different kinds of textures. you could just place it on your paper and sort of pull. It's going to create colors that are just perfectly blended. Or you could, you could also just dab it and sort of lift to create more, just more textures. It's really awesome, especially if you're working on impasto pieces that have a lot of that. You could also use it to create sort of vertical and horizontal effects. Or just make dotting effects. Or you could just sort of blend, colors on your Canvas It doesn't matter how you use it, just sort of have fun with it and see how this works for you. You can layer different colors on top. here I'm just gonna use it to sort of swirl my colors around. So it really just creates all these different effects. Depending on how much color you have on your brush. Mess around with all of these and see what works for you and how you can make it your own Your final technique that I'm going to show you today is gonna be etching or sgraffito. I hope I'm pronouncing that right I don't normally use this technique in a lot in my pieces, but maybe it'll work for you. You can also, before I start doing it, you can also just place another color on the bottom, let it dry and then etch on it. But it really just depends on You I'm just going to show you how I do it. You just want to take thick thick paint and just place thick paint straight on a dry brush. Now once you have all this color there already, you can use the back of your brush, which I'm going to use now. Or you can use a toothpick or just a pin or anything you want to use to etch with. On top of this, you can just etch little patterns by sort of lifting color. Wherever you want to do. if you have another color underneath it. it's just going to pop out you want to do it while the paint is still wet. Just whatever you want to etch. This kind of work This kind of work you'd see a lot in pieces that are tribal inspired. I love it. It just really, maybe I'm gonna use it soon, someday, but I've never really dealt into it. Let me know if it works for you. Just mess around with all of these techniques and let me know how it goes. And if you create any fun pieces with them. 9. Dried swatches 3: There you have it. This is how I'd use just anything I can get my hands on around the house to create all these beautiful textures with different colors. It's really just acrylic is a lot of just messing around because it's so forgiving and it dries so quickly you can layer on top if you don't like how something turns out. That's what you should do. Use all of these techniques to just have fun with it. Honestly, you can use whatever tools you have on hand. Try using a cloth I remember one of my aunts once. She painted a whole tree just using bread. And I just made really beautiful textures, just a regular white bread. Just mess around with these techniques. These textures i'd normally used with. Other application techniques to go over, over a piece where I've already painted a first layer, different colors and I just mess around with it on top to create all these textures. You should use them however, you want to, create specially if you want to create abstract pieces. All of these just work really well. They work really well with trees Because you can create all these nice little effects that you wouldn't get with anything else. 10. Project and Final thoughts: These are all the different application techniques we've covered today. you guys should just messing around with these, use different colors for this video. I just use two colors for all of these, but you should try and use like three to four different colors and just have fun with it. See how they work for you. Maybe do a landscape or do an abstract work, or even try it with a portrait. Of course, there's thought and techniques that might work better for you just like there's some that work better for me. Like I tend to use a lot of impasto. I tend to use a lot of blending. Lots dabbing, splatters, drips. They're all really fun to do. But you should just try all of them on a piece and see which one fits for you and which one you enjoy doing most. The best part about art is just the freedom to sort of figure out what your art style is For the project. I really would like for you guys to try using at least five or more of these no less than 5 techniques on just one piece and see how you can bring them together. See how you can layer them so you can use different colors to create different effects. Just try and create whatever. I'm not going to limit you in terms of what you can paint. It can be a landscape, it can be an abstract piece, a portrait, just an animal, whatever you want to do. Just try and use five or more techniques. That's a little bit of a challenge, but it'd be fun to do. just try and make like a swatch card for yourself. These were really fun to do for me. And I'm just gonna keep them as a reference for me because they look so pretty together. Let me know how it goes for you. I'd love to see your projects. I love to see how these work for you. Mess around with acrylics. It's a really, really fun medium to work with. Not only that, it's just, it's I love using it because there's so much you can do. and you can work really, really quickly. Things just dry quickly. In one day you can really start work on a big painting and be done with it. And if you don't like that painting, you can just scrap it and paint all over it again. You can create textures and it gives you this really mad effect. You can use anything around the house. I hope you guys enjoyed this class. I hope I will see you again for the next one. Thank you.