Acrylic Techniques on Canvas

by H. Maria Perry Google
Artists employ different techniques when painting on canvas with acrylics.

Artists employ different techniques when painting on canvas with acrylics.

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Acrylic paints are versatile but they dry faster than oils, so the artist must work quickly when blending colors on canvas. Acrylics can be diluted with water, so an artist can get good coverage on canvas using flat blocks of color or by building layers. Acrylic paints can be used on both primed and raw canvas. A primed canvas has been coated with a primer, such as gesso. A raw canvas has not been primed and will allow the texture of the cloth to show through thin layers of paint.

Flat Painting

Flat painting with acrylics is a simple method of laying down smooth layers of color. The artist layers two or three coats of the same color after the first layer dries to build up a smooth, solid surface of paint. Flat painting works well in pictures with large blocks of color divided by strong, smooth lines. The result is a painting that has a glossy, poster-like quality.


Spattering acrylic paint onto a smooth, dry background image creates an interesting image. Thin the acrylic paint with water. Load a stiff flat bristle brush with paint and flick the brush toward the canvas with quick movements of your wrist. Alternatively, flick the brush bristles with the tip of your finger to fling the paint specks onto the canvas. Layered spatters will create a texture effect on smooth gradients.


Scraping creates visually interesting patterns and textures. Apply an undercoat of thick paint using a pallet knife to produce ridges and valleys. After the area is dry, apply another color of paint on the surface of the ridges by scraping the paint across the surface. The paint can be scraped across the dry paint using a pallet knife or an thin piece of plastic or cardboard.


The sgraffito technique is the removal of wet surface paint to reveal the dry color beneath. Apply a thick coat of contrasting paint over dry paint on the canvas. Use a pallet knife, an ice pick, a chopstick or a toothpick to scrape away the wet paint to reveal the dry paint underneath. Acrylic paints dry quickly so add acrylic medium to achieve a thicker application and slow drying time when attempting sgraffito.

About the Author

H. Maria Perry (Bascom) has been a writer and blogger since 2008. She is a contributing editor to "Pink Panther Magazine," as well as a professional photographer, visual artist and poet. Bascom holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from Morehead State University and a J.D. from the University of Louisville.

Photo Credits

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