What Acrylic Painting Materials Does a Beginner Need?
Acrylic is one of the most popular mediums for beginners. Why is that? Well, acrylic paint is very forgiving and is a great tool to introduce new artists to colour mixing. Some of the basic properties of acrylic paint are that it is fast drying, durable plastic paint, inexpensive, and permanent.
Art supplies come in different grades, so we recommend student grade paints for beginners. This means the paint will be more affordable and accessible. As students grow more comfortable and advanced, they can upgrade and treat themselves to some of the pricier paint brands!
Not a reader? No worries! Just watch our Essential Acrylic Painting Materials for Beginners video!
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Essential Paint Colours
One thing that many beginners do is purchase large sets of small paint colour. You DO NOT need to do this! This is a popular product gimmick that looks appealing but is NOT practical. Unless you want to paint by numbers, learning how to mix colours from a simple set of primary colours is a lot more valuable!
You may also like some fun accent colours, like gold or silver. (no need to buy a full set of metallic colours — adding silver to a colour can often achieve the same effect!)
A BIG tube of white!
Brown is a colour that can technically be mixed from your primary colours, but it can be a pain, so having a tube of brown (or burnt umber) is beneficial
Although acrylics can be thinned out and dissolved with water, it can also be mixed with many different mediums to achieve different textures, thicknesses, drying speeds, and effects! These will come in handy when you're working with more advanced techniques or even if you want to experiment.
Matte Medium/Varnish: a clear medium that's good for glazing or thinning out paints
Gloss Medium/Varnish: a glossy clear medium that can be mixed with matte medium for a satin finish
Gel Medium: a thick, clear acrylic gel that can be used as glue or thicken paint for an impasto effect
Pouring Medium: a fluid medium designed for pouring that can be an acrylic alternative to resin
Gesso: a chalky base (usually white, black, or clear) that coats raw canvases or reconditions used ones
Brush Recommendations for Acrylic Painting Beginners
Acrylic paint is permanent and will damage your brushes over time, so it's good to get an inexpensive brush set to start. DO NOT only buy small brushes! Small brushes are good for details and line art, but they don't hold a lot of paint and get damaged easily. We highly recommend starting your painting with some larger brushes and then work your way to small. You also don't need fancy brushes (like fan and angled brushes) to start painting. In fact, using basic brushes will help you learn brushwork and brush handling better, without relying on fancy specialized brushes!
Large 1" flat brush
Medium 1/2" flat brush
Large #8 round brush
Small #3 round brush
Optional: Small 1/4" flat brush, small 1/4" filbert brush
Canvas and Other Surfaces to Paint On
For beginners, we suggest starting with canvas boards because they are cheap, durable, and easy to store! Stretched canvases are a great option for larger pieces you plan to hang, but they can take up more space and the canvas can easily get damaged. Canvas paper is also a great option for practice pieces!
Luckily, you can paint on almost any surface with acrylics — paper, cardboard, wood, plastic, masonite, fabric, even rocks — feel free to get creative! If you choose paper, just make sure it's thick paper, or it will likely warp when it's wet. If you're painting on a thinner surface, first tape the edges down to a board or the table to prevent warping.
Acrylic Painting Palettes
Wax paper disposable palettes: these are the easiest to use and most practical for clean up! We recommend the ones that look like an artist palette with a hole for your thumb so they are easy to carry.
Plastic palettes: Some people prefer these ones, but they require washing. You could also let the paint dry and peel it off later!
Other alternatives for palettes: Plastic or styrofoam trays, paper plates (disposable)
Tip: You can make your own wax paper palette with a piece of cardboard, clips, and some wax paper from the dollar store!
Other Essential Painting Supplies:
Bucket for water: You can use a large yogurt container or cut the top off of a juice bottle to clean your brushes in!
An apron, smock, or old T-shirt: Acrylic paints are not easily washed off clothing! It's also easy to wipe you fingers on ;)
Paper towels or cloth rags: These are used for wiping or drying your brushes
Easel (optional): There is nothing wrong with painting flat on a table, but this can be difficult for larger canvases. We recommend starting with a table top easel, which comes in aluminum or wood!
We get asked all the time for our recommendations for art supplies, so we've put together our top affordable recommendations for beginner artists that you may purchase through Amazon. We also recommend buying used or supporting your local small business, but if you do make a purchase through these links, we will earn a small commission with no additional cost to you (for Canadian purchases only).
Interested in Art Classes?
Learning how to paint is an exciting and wonderful journey of awareness and personal expression. Art is good for our well being and mental health. It can make a great hobby for life, and it's never too late to start! If you're looking for classes, check out some of our live virtual classes — you can join in from anywhere in the world!
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Experimenting with digital painting (the medium of the future that's mess free!) could be another great option. See our recommendations in our blog Best Digital Art Tablets for Beginners.