Painting Tutorials

The Bare Essentials of Mixing Acrylic Paints

Are you new to the world of acrylics and would like to understand how to mix paints? Here are the bare essentials of mixing acrylic paints.

Mixing paints on a palette.

What are the bare essentials of mixing acrylics?

Acrylic paints can be fun to work with, but it’s a bit more complicated at first. That’s why it helps to begin with some bare essentials on what you need to know and processes.

Let’s go!

First: what are acrylic paints?

For those completely new to the world of acrylics, let’s begin here.

Acrylic paints are fast-drying, water-soluble paints that are water-resistant when dry. They get their name from being suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion.

Acrylic paints are frequently used for deep color projects because of their mixing capabilities (more on that in a second), and work with a wide variety of surfaces too.

What are the bare essentials of mixing acrylic paints?

There are numerous approaches to mixing acrylic paint, including:

  • Adding white to reinforce certain colors
  • Combine all the primary colors to imitate skin tone
  • Use red in order to create a deeper blue, i.e. an ocean color
  • Combine yellow and violet or green and red (complementary colors) to make brown paint in a snap

One important note about acrylic paints

They will dry up if left out!

The easiest “hack” around this is to buy some old film canisters — often available in bulk on sites like Amazon — and, once you arrive at a color you like, store some of the excess in the canister.

Then, when you want to return to your painting, you will have a baseline of that color to begin from.

The bare essentials on colors as a whole

In case you never learned in elementary school art:

  • The three primary colors are red, blue, and yellow; they are impossible to mix from a combination of other colors.
  • The three secondary colors are orange, violet, and green; those are a mix of two primary colors.
  • Tertiary colors are any colors you can mix from those primary and secondary colors.

Important: as you paint more, you will become familiar with the properties of each color and how best to mix them. (Some early-stage acrylic artists don’t even bother learning tertiary colors for this reason.)

Learning which colors to use is mostly trial and error.

What special pigments are used in acrylic paints?

There are several, including metallic/iridescent paint (which create a metallic sheen effect), glow-in-the-dark (as you would expect), interferent (appears to change colors based on lighting and angle), and fluorescent (appears to create more luminous colors).

There are also numerous mediums, gels, and additives for acrylic paint, including polymer mediums, molding paste, and pouring mediums (the latter often creates interesting effects).

The bare essentials of priming an acrylic canvas

You need to understand Support induced Discolouration (SID). That’s when impurities from the surface you are painting on leach into the acrylic paint and cause it to change colors.

With acrylic canvas, this often happens because of the wood from the stretcher bars. You can reduce SID through effective priming.

You can get a canvas that’s pre-stretched and pre-primed, but some artists believe it’s not enough for a base layer.

To prime the canvas:

There you have it — a simple three steps, and if you need an acrylic gesso, you can buy some of the top variations right at that last link.

If you have more questions about the bare essentials of painting with acrylic, feel free to contact us for more info!