How to Work With Liquid Acrylic

by Alyssa Ideboen
Learn the benefits of mixing and working with acrylic paint.

Learn the benefits of mixing and working with acrylic paint.

art and stuff image by Kavita from

Acrylic ranges in viscosity from a thin, watercolor-like substance to a thickness considerably more substantial and similar to thick oil paint. Adding water and mixing hues together changes the dynamics of this medium, which allows artists to use it in a number of applications. Working with liquid acrylic paint lets users express their creative talents through different techniques. Discover the methods on how to make acrylic paint useful in your next project. Master the basic process of mixing and applying the paint to a canvas or other art surface.

Items you will need

  • Stretched canvas
  • Gesso
  • Plastic container
  • Painting knife
  • Wide, flat brush
  • Paper
  • Graphite transfer paper
  • Painting palette
  • Bristol board
  • Sponge
  • Easel
  • Matte or glossy spray varnish
Step 1

Prepare your canvas by placing a stretched, raw canvas on a flat work surface. Pour a small quantity of gesso in a plastic container. Gesso is a substance that primes an art surface for paint. It dries hard and stiff, and it allows the acrylic to dry on top instead of sinking into the surface of the canvas. If the gesso seems thick, add some water and blend it with a painting knife.

Step 2

Load a wide, flat brush with the gesso mixture. Paint a thin layer over the entire surface of the canvas. Leave no open spots. Allow the gesso to dry on the canvas for 24 hours.

Step 3

Create a composition using pencil on a sheet of paper that matches the size of your canvas. Place the drawing on top of the smooth side of graphite transfer paper. Put the rough side against your prepared canvas. Redraw the outline of your composition over the graphite paper to transfer it to the canvas.

Step 4

Mix your acrylic paint by squeezing a small amount of two or more hues together on a painting palette with a painting knife. Combine the colors together to create a new hue. Once you have the color you want, add a small amount of water to the paint to thin it. The more water you add to the paint, the lighter the hue becomes on the canvas. Use the water sparingly until you have achieved the color you desire.

Step 5

Use bristol board, which is a cardboard with a smooth surface, or thick paper to practice acrylic application methods to see which one will work the best for your composition. A flat wash over a surface is used by lightly applying a thin coat of acrylic paint over a surface. An impasto effect allows artists to create a three-dimensional effect by applying thick acrylic paint to a surface with a painting knife. Sponging gives a surface a mottled, somewhat dimensional surface, while scraping or sgraffito involves laying acrylic on an art surface and then scraping the wet paint off with a knife to reveal a lighter hue.

Step 6

Place your canvas on an easel near a strong source of light. Work in layers, applying the paint in sections. Go slowly to avoid making mistakes. Use small amounts of color, building up hues to darker areas to give the illusion of shadow or depth, while you keep some areas of your composition light with less areas to indicate brightness or highlights.

Step 7

Let your acrylic composition dry for 48 hours. Protect the paint by spraying a matte or glossy varnish over the surface of your artwork. Allow the varnish to dry for another 24 hours before moving the piece.

Tips & Warnings

  • Work in a well-ventilated area to avoid chemical inhalation.
  • Take frequent breaks as you draw and paint to prevent wrist strain.
  • Cover your paint with plastic wrap when not in use; acrylic paint dries quickly.
  • Work in moderate temperatures; rooms with extreme heat or cold changes the effectiveness and workability of the acrylic.
  • Acrylic paint can stain if left on a surface too long. Cover your work area with plastic wrap or newspaper to prevent splatters and spills from damaging floors and carpets.


Photo Credits