Acrylics for Watercolor Painting

Acrylics for Watercolor Painting
For centuries, watercolor painting has been done with - you guessed it! - watercolors! Watercolor paints are usually purchased in very small tubes or sometimes in cakes such as you see in a child's paint set. That is because they can be moistened down again and again to be used until they are entirely used up. My watercolor palette has dry paints from many years past which are just waiting to jump into action when I am ready to enjoy them again.

You will find an article I wrote on how to begin a watercolor project by making a good drawing to work from by clicking here: "Diving Into Watercolors - The Drawing". Unless you are an accomplished watercolorist, this article would be good to review. Of course, accomplished artists are usually the first to want to read new information, hoping to maybe pick up a new hint or trick.

Now down to the nitty gritty ... how on earth and why on earth would you bother to use acrylic paints for a watercolor painting? Well, I'll tell you why I use them in addition to my watercolors. Traditional watercolors are almost identical in hue, chroma and value to traditional oil colors. This means that you can mix the same colors you do when working in oils and get the same familiar tones. BUT!! Acrylics in bottles are readily available at any craft supply store, hobby store, art supply store and even some home supply and general stores (like WalMart). They come in hundreds of beautiful colors - any color in the rainbow and beyond. And they are are very affordable, usually running at about $1 a bottle. Most crafty people will have them in their painting stash already.

Actually using the acrylics is a little different from using watercolor paints, but I love the effects you can get.

Just put out a very small amount of acrylic onto a slightly damp paper towel. Usiing a watercolor bursh, pick up a little bit if acrylic and put onto your mixing palette. Dilute the paint just as you would watercolors, being sure that the color is distributed evenly through the brush. This is very important. If the color is not mixed well with the water and even in the brush, you will get a streaky effect. Apply the paint just as you would water colots.

A big difference you will notice is that the acrylics will dry much faster than watercolors. You should not depend on being able to blend colors or tones together as easily as with wet watercolor paint. A better strategy is to use layering of colors. For instance, you may want to create green tones using darker shading, perhaps, where leaves peek from under the petals of some flowers. Instead of using a darker green, you might layer washes of blue alternating with washes of different yellows. For the shaded areas, you can add in layers of browns, greys and darker greens. The colors you will create this way are truly lovely. This approach will work with watercolors as well, but you must wait for layers to dry. You can layer acrylics very quickly.

Another characteristic of the acrylics is that they will grab the paper and will not be as prone to washing out when applying subsequent layers. I find that I prefer, for blending purposes, to dampen the paper as you would with watercolors and apply your acrylics quickly while keeping the paper damp. You can then pick up other tones or shading and blend into the previous colors as you work. This works great since you will not get as much bleeding into wet areas using acrylics.

All in all, each type of paint has pros and cons. But they also each achieve their own beautiful effects. The results with watercolors and acrylics will not be identical, but acrylics do have many, many easy to use colors that give ease of use and soft, delicate tones that are difficult to duplicate otherwise.

Try it ... you'll like it!!

Below you will find links to two books which will give more ideas and help with your watercolor painting.

Please swing by our forums and check out the current discussions. You can feel free to comment and/or ask your own questions.

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Happy Painting!
Paula Devore
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