Acrylic Paint 101

We will be doing a variety of acrylic paintings for my spring class.  Only parents can decide if their child is old enough to paint with acrylics.  You should read my article about safety here.  I recommend that children always wear gloves while using acrylic paint.  If you do not feel like your child is ready for acrylics then you can use tempera paint for the projects we will be using acrylic for.

I know parents are intimidated by the thought of using professional paint, but don’t be.  Acrylic paints are simple to use.  They are also beautiful and long lasting.  There are two types of professional paints: oil and acrylic.  Oil paints are oil based whereas acrylic paints are water based.  Oil takes much longer to dry – sometimes days or weeks depending on how thickly it was applied.  Acrylic paints take less than 24 hours to dry.  Also, oil paints are thinned down with turpentine, which is dangerous for children.  Acrylics are thinned down with water.  Acrylic paint is better all around for young children.

There are 3 levels of acrylic paint.  Level 1 is for beginners, level 2 is for intermediate and level three is for professionals.  The biggest difference is that level 1 acrylics are thinner and don’t go as far.  However, they are cheaper.  I recommend level 1 for young children because having to mix in water to thin down more concentrated paint is just one more step for young kids that do not have a lot of patience.  I do not think level 1 paint colors are as pretty though so if you are hoping to hang this child’s piece of artwork on the wall then you may want to buy level 2 or level 3 paints.  My favorite brand of level 1 paint is Liquitex’s “Basic” brand.  My all-time favorite brand of acrylic paint is Golden, but they only make professional paint.  They are also pretty expensive. 

You can buy acrylic paint at Michael’s, Roberts, Hobby Lobby and many other craft stores.  There are also many online art suppliers.  Some of my favorites are Dick Blick, Artists and Craftsman, Reuels and Cheap Joes.

Painting with acrylics is easy.  There are a few things you should know.  You can paint on anything: paper, canvas, art board, wood, cardboard, fabric...  I will be posting about canvas, paper and canvas panels in the next week.  Also, the only thing you need when painting with acrylic paint is water, paintbrushes and a paper towel.  If acrylic paint is left on a paintbrush it will dry and ruin the brush.  So always rinse the brush in your water or keep it in the water if it is not in use.  Also, acrylic paint is similar to watercolor in that you mix it with water to thin it out and make it more transparent.  If you want it thick and opaque than do not add water.  Though paint and water is all you need, suppliers such as Golden and Luiqitex also make acrylic mediums and additives that can be a lot of fun.  They have a wide variety of mediums that you can mix into the paint to change the consistency or texture or slow down the drying process, or make the paint crackle and much more.  I will introduce students to 2 acrylic mediums in the spring class: molding paste and light molding paste.  I will be posting about these in the next few days.  There are many fun things that kids can do with the acrylic mediums.  They are very fun for experimentation.  

Before I sign off I wanted to answer a question.... one of my readers recently asked me how many days a week the class will be.  I will be breaking up the weekly lessons into 4 posts and I will post them Monday through Thursday.  On Fridays I will be posting any pictures that I receive during the week from readers following along at home.  You can choose to do the projects whenever you want to but I will be posting them Monday through Thursday.  


  1. I absolutely loved your show on Studio 5!! We went and picked up our canvases today and our family is going to do the molding paste artwork for family night next week. You were very inspiring and I loved your philosophy about children and art. You are incredibly talented, thank you so much for all the useful information here on your blog about products. I have a 5 year old and a 2 year old and we are anxiously awaiting more fun ideas from your spring online art classes. Also, your summer exhibition night looks SO AWESOME!! I would love to do that for my kids and some neighbors. Maybe sometime in the future. Thank you, thank you!

  2. I just found out about your online art class over at Welcome to our Wonderland where she had posted she is going to be participating. My older daughter just turned 4 and I think this will be great. I am just not sure if we can swing the craft supplies right now. Will have to talk to hubby in the morning. Hoping to see if I can get some others interested in this course in our small area and maybe do an exhibition at our local library or something. Thank you for being willing to share your great class for free.

  3. am so excited to gather supplies....one question....for acrylics, how many colours do we need - buy a set, or several colours on their own?
    thanks so much...!

  4. As far as buying acrylic paint I recommend starting with a set to give you as many colors as possible for less money than buying them individually. I recommend buying the liquitex "basics" started set pictured on this post. Thanks Laura!


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