Are you feeling creative and want to start painting? It can be hard to pick which medium to use, but acrylic paint is great for both beginners and professionals. It comes in a wide range of colors, is easy to work with, quick-drying, and can be used in a variety of ways. Plus, you can use acrylic paint on many surfaces, like canvas, fabric, ceramics, metal, or wood, making it versatile.
To help you pick the right acrylic paint, we put together a list of the 10 best ones you can buy online. Our top choice is Craft Smart's Acrylic Paint Set Value Pack, which comes with 16 foundational, artist-grade paints. As you go through the rest of the products on our list, you can also read through the helpful buying guide, which was reviewed by a painter, for more tips and information.
When choosing the right acrylic paint for beginners, you have to keep in mind the type, viscosity, permanence, colors, sizes, and packaging.
If you are a beginner to painting, you may be stuck between choosing craft, student, and artist quality paint. Each kind of paint has its pros and cons, with one of the major differences being quality and cost of the paint.
Craft acrylic paints are as versatile as higher quality paints at a fraction of the cost. However, they contain a lower percentage of pigment and are bulked with fillers that weaken the color's strength.
Craft acrylic paints are excellent for those getting started with painting and experimenting with new techniques, as they come in many pre-mixed colors. They are also great for kids, as the decreased amount of pigment makes the paints easier to clean up.
If you want a little more pigment load, you can opt for student-grade acrylic paints. They are generally made by brands that create artist-quality paint too, like Arteza and Liquitex. With these paints, mixing custom colors will be much easier compared to craft acrylic paints.
If you want to make professional quality paintings with the richest pigment and smoothest consistency, look for artist-quality paints. These are much easier to blend, use, and layer. They come in a wide range of colors and use fine pigment for the most vibrant colors. There's no reason you can't start with these even if you're a beginner!
I would recommend artist-quality paints for everyone who plans to mix colors. They aren't much more expensive than student-quality ones, but they use more single-pigment options. With student paints, you have more that are hues.
A hue is often not a single pigment. Your hue could have two or three pigments in it. So instead of blending a single red and yellow, you could actually be mixing three yellows and two reds! So the results will be less predictable, and you might waste paint getting the color you want.
However, if you plan to use your paints right from the tube or jar without mixing, student or craft paints might work just fine.
You should also pay attention to the paint’s viscosity and consistency. Viscosity is thickness, or how resistant the paint is to spreading. This can tell you how long it will take it to dry and can affect the quality of your work, too. You can choose between heavy body, fluid, or soft body acrylic paints.
Heavy body paints are the creamiest and thickest. These are great if you want to make your brush strokes more apparent or if you want your painting to have a bit more texture. You can also thin these paints out by adding a bit of water or acrylic medium, making them smoother overall.
If you want something thinner without having to add medium, you can opt for fluid acrylics. Fluid acrylics have a more water-like consistency. These are great for detailing, for pouring, or to help you achieve a watercolor effect.
But if you want something in the middle, opt for soft body or medium body paints, which are not as heavy and thick as heavy body paints. These cannot hold texture, but they are great for layering, covering up mistakes, or quickly altering something.
It's easy to thin out a heavy-body paint with water or acrylic medium, but it's not as easy to make a fluid acrylic thicker. In my experience, craft paints tend to be more fluid, while artist's paints tend to be soft- or heavy-body.
You should definitely consider the type of project you'll be doing because trying to paint wooden furniture is very different than painting a masterpiece on paper or a design on canvas shoes. Paint that has a consistency that doesn't suit your method and surface can be incredibly frustrating to work with, even if you can get the right results in the long run.
It is also essential to check on your paint’s permanence, or lightfastness. This pertains to how intense the color will remain over time. A paint’s lightfastness will tell you how resistant it is to fading once exposed to light or humidity.
To find out how permanent your paint is, you can refer to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Permanence Standard or the typical manufacturer standard. The ASTM’s standards are as follows: ATSM I means excellent lightfastness, ATSM II means very good lightfastness, and ATSM III means not lightfast.
However, not all acrylic paints list the ASTM Permanence Standard. Instead, you can look for the typical manufacturer standard. For this standard, **** or AA means extremely permanent colors, *** or A means durable colors, ** or B means moderately durable colors, and * or C means fugitive colors that are not very lightfast.
These ratings will vary by color, and the tubes from a set may have differing levels of lightfastness. For instance, some colors like purples and special colors are more likely to be fugitive.
If you’re painting to experiment or just for fun, these ratings might not be high on your priority list. But as you get more advanced or if you want to keep your paintings in their original condition over time, you should definitely consider the paint’s permanence.
Unfortunately, there's nothing you can add to a fugitive color to make it more permanent, and some pigments are just naturally weaker. But artists love some of those colors, like alizarin crimson and purples. So paint makers try to develop hues using different pigments that have the same properties and colors.
If there's a color you love but it's not very lightfast, and that's important for your work, you can try looking at paints that have the word 'permanent' or 'hue' in their name and see if they're more lightfast.
Acrylic paint also comes with different finishes, such as satin or matte. You should pick this depending on your personal preference and the type of look you're going for. Ones with a matte finish dry up flat with less sheen to it. Meanwhile, satin acrylic paints have a silky finish with a sheen or shine when they dry up.
You can also add different painting mediums to change the finish, like gloss medium or matte medium.
Acrylic paint comes in many different colors, and choosing the ones you need can be overwhelming, especially as a beginner.
When you’re just starting to experiment and learn more about acrylic paint, you don’t have to have a complete set of colors; you can start with six to 10 basic colors. These will be enough for you to produce new colors by mixing. You can start familiarizing yourself with how to mix colors and buy more paint accordingly.
Acrylic paints can also vary in size and packaging. You can opt for small acrylic paints in tubes while exploring colors. These are handy and can quickly be brought outdoors for plein air painting. Once you’ve figured out which colors you need most, you can get jars for bigger projects and paintings.
You can also invest in larger amounts of white, which you’ll use a lot in mixing, or colors you may use as a ground. This means covering the whole surface with a solid color before you start painting. You may want to paint on a black ground, so a jar of black would be better.
If you have a specific painting in mind, you can buy colors and shades you’ll be needing and using the most.
We put together this list with beginners' needs in mind, so we made sure to include different types, colors, and sizes that will help spark your creativity. We made our choices based on the points listed in the buying guide below, as well as reviewer comments when available. We hope you find the right paints for you!
*Please note that these products were chosen after extensive research by mybest writers. The choices are not necessarily affiliated with or recommended by Susan Lucier-Ogawa unless explicitly stated so.
Winsor & Newton
Crafts 4 All
Acrylic Paint Set Value Pack
Galeria Acrylic Paint
All Acrylic Paint Set
Academy Acrylics Color 6 Set
Basics 48 Tube Acrylic Paint Set
Acrylic Paint and Mediums Set
Acrylic Paint, White
Acrylic Paint in Assorted Colors
Heavy Body Acrylic Introductory Set
Acrylic Pouring Paint Set
Best Acrylic Paint Set for Craft Projects
Best Acrylic Paint Set for Taking an Art Class
Best Set of Paint Tubes and Brushes
Best Set of Basic, Lightfast Colors for Mixing
Best Big Set of Student Grade Paint
Best for Experimenting With Acrylic Paint Mediums
Best Big Jar of White for Mixing
Best Individually Sold Craft Paints
Best Professional Quality Acrylic Paint Set
Best Pouring Acrylic Paint Set
|Viscosity||Fluid||Medium body||Heavy body||Heavy body||Heavy body||Soft body||Soft body||Varies from fluid to soft body||Heavy body||Fluid|
|Lightfastness||Not provided||Varies by color; ASTM LF I or II||Not provided||ASTM I||Varies from good to excellent||Not provided||Not provided||Not provided||Varies; ASTM LF I or II||Not provided|
|Finish||Matte||Satin||Satin||Not provided||Satin||Matte, glossy||Matte||Matte, satin or gloss||Semigloss||Semigloss|
|Size||2 fl oz.||2 fl. oz.||0.4 fl. oz.||3 fl. oz.||0.74 fl. oz.||0.7 fl. oz.||16 fl. oz.||2 fl. oz.||0.75 fl. oz.||2 fl. oz.|
|Size||2 fl oz.|
|Lightfastness||Varies by color; ASTM LF I or II|
|Size||2 fl. oz.|
|Size||0.4 fl. oz.|
|Size||3 fl. oz.|
|Lightfastness||Varies from good to excellent|
|Size||0.74 fl. oz.|
|Size||0.7 fl. oz.|
|Size||16 fl. oz.|
|Viscosity||Varies from fluid to soft body|
|Finish||Matte, satin or gloss|
|Size||2 fl. oz.|
|Lightfastness||Varies; ASTM LF I or II|
|Size||0.75 fl. oz.|
|Size||2 fl. oz.|
In addition to reviewing our buying guide, Susan has also answered some commonly asked questions about acrylic paints.
"Absolutely!" Susan says. "Canvas is fabric! You can paint directly, or thin it with water and use an airbrush to apply it. However, if you paint thickly on clothing, it will crack as the fabric moves. In that case, it's recommended to use a fabric medium or other method to prepare your fabric first. This site has a detailed explanation.
If your plan is to paint on fabric that won't need to bend after it dries, then you can get away with painting directly with no prepping or other mediums."
Susan says, "I would worry less about toxicity or allergic reactions than I would how fast it dries. Once it dries, it becomes like a plastic film you have to peel off your skin; it won't just wash off. It starts to dry really quickly, too. So unless you plan to scratch yourself raw or wait for your skin cells to shed and be replaced with a new layer, I'd avoid it!
If you happened to get some on you and it's dried, you can try baby oil and rubbing alcohol, or either Goo Gone or Goof Off paint remover if it's really stubborn."
How about trying some mixed-media work? There are other ways you can get creative, like with markers, watercolor, or colored pencils, too.
Ready to take your paints to the next level? Check out Amazon's list of Best Selling Art Paints to see what other products are out there!
This expert reviewed the contents of the buying guide for accuracy and provided factual corrections when necessary, as well as extra tips and advice. They did not participate in the product selection process, nor are they affiliated with any of our choices unless explicitly stated so.
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