For a person who is new to painting, acrylics make an ideal medium for learning. Unlike oils, which are versatile but expensive and toxic, or watercolours, which are nontoxic and inexpensive but challenging, acrylics are cheap, nontoxic -- and forgiving for a beginner. There are many projects that help beginners learn about the medium and how to paint.
To paint with acrylics, you must purchase some materials, but learning to paint does not require a huge investment. Buy titanium white, ultramarine blue, turquoise green, yellow medium azo, cadmium red light hue, medium magenta, alizarin crimson and mars black. Nearly any colour can be created by mixing these colours, though you may wish to purchase more later to save time on mixing. You can also buy browns and any colour that is striking to you; if you really like a colour, chances are good that you will use it often. You will also need brushes in several sizes; choose brushes marked "acrylics." You also need a palette and a palette knife. To save money, try using canvas paper for your beginning and practice projects rather than buying a full canvas.
One of the notable aspects of acrylic paint is that it dries very quickly. You can create a basecoat, or a single field of colour in the shape of the object that you want to paint, then shade it later. Try this with some eggs. Place an egg or two on a white tablecloth; this exercise is about value rather than colour. Observe your still life, paint in the egg shape on your canvas with light grey paint, then shade it with mixtures of black and white from your palette.
Acrylics come in bright colours, which adds to their appeal for many artists. Set out some colourful fruit, such as bananas and apples, on a table. Mix your paints, trying to imitate the colour you see as accurately as you can, then try to paint the fruit. Look carefully. Fruits vary in colour, and shadows are not always black or a darker shade of the main object. This exercise helps you learn to mix the colours you want and to observe the variety of colours on an object.
Attempt painting a subject that interests you. Some subjects are very difficult, but attempt them regardless. Try using broad, general strokes and a simple set of values. For instance, paint your subject in black and white or in sepia tones. This helps you to focus on representing what you see rather than worrying about mixing and colours. As you become more confident, add colours to your painting. If you have acrylic mediums, these can be used to make it easier to add colour to a black and white or sepia painting by making acrylic paint transparent.
- Michael's; Acrylic Basics: Artist's Studio Education; Tim Strannix; March 2011
- Favecrafts; Beginner's Guide to Acrylic Painting; Maria Nerius
- Painting Ideas and Techniques: Color Mixing Guide
- Painting Ideas and Techniques: Beginner Acrylic Painting
- Aisling.net: A Palette of Colors for Acrylic Painting