Getting started with Acrylic Paints can be daunting with the plethora of options that are out there. I decided to put together some key acrylic paint supply recommendations to get you started.
First I am going to talk about some acrylic basics, then about a beginning palette of colors.
Finally, I will give you my favorites to help you begin your set of paints. Hint: I have tried a bunch and Golden are the best.
Acrylic paints are sold for both students and professionals. The student paints are less expensive. They typically have less pigment and therefore, less staying power or permanence.
They are fine for practice, but you will want to upgrade if you want to have your paintings last.
There are now acrylics with dry-time extenders that can last for up to a couple of weeks for those who want to employ more oil-type techniques.Golden Open Acrylics is a good line of acrylics that allow extended dry times.
Other than extra white, I suggest you begin with a set 2 oz tubes of various colors. A good starter set is the Blick Student studio acrylic paint set, with either 6 or 12 tubes of color.
Either that, or go right to the Golden line for the smoothest, most colorfast, purest pigments, that go on like butter and retain brush strokes. You will be so glad you did!
Blick describes these sets, “Basic Color Set of 6 — Our most popular set of the Blick Artists' Acrylics contains 6 colors in 2 oz (59 ml) tubes, including Yellow Medium Azo, Naphthol Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Mars Black, Phthalo Green, and Titanium White.
Color Set of 12 — This set contains 12 of the most popular colors in 2 oz (59 ml) tubes, including Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Yellow Oxide, Naphthol Crimson, Cadmium Orange, Phthalo Green, Yellow Medium Azo, Cadmium Red Light, Ultramarine Blue, Titanium White, and Mars Black.”
The 2 oz tubes will last for many paintings! I recommend the 12-color set, since I find it can make every color I want to use. The 6 is a little limiting in what I want, especially the browns. I like using a lot of purples and oranges, and can mix to get what I want with these.
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Characteristics and Choices
One of the characteristics of acrylic paints is the viscosity or thickness. The paints come in fluid, or heavy or medium body. With the gels that are available, I recommend buying the heavy body paints.
I started off using the student level paints, which are fluid. I could not get the intensity of color options that I wanted, nor the texture that reflects light the way I wanted.
When I treated myself to my Golden Heavy Body paints, it was an amazing transformation for both the results and for my pleasure in making them. I most often blend them with gel mediums, to get various textures and effects that I want.
Another characteristic of acrylic paints is the permanence or lightfastness. These are ratings you can find on the paint containers. The more permanence there is, the longer you can expect the colors to last.
Acrylics have higher permanence than oils and watercolors, which is one reason I love them so much. Student acrylics have low permanence, since they have diluted pigment and additives. Golden, which I recommend here, has no additives, and the pigment is really pure.
There are two different kinds of ratings for permanence or lightfastednesss; ATSM and the manufacturers themselves,
For ASTM, the ranking is from 1 highest to 3 lowest, for excellent to not sufficient permanence. For most manufacturers, the range is from AA to C, with a similar rating range from extreme to durable to fugitive, meaning the color fades.
Best Brand for Your Acrylic Paint Supplies
I like Golden Heavy Acrylic Paints products. I find them high quality, color lasting, and pigment-heavy. Pretty simple.
My best suggested starter kit is this one, :
6 -12 paint color kit in 2 oz. tubes. You will be happier if you get right into the heavy body paints, because they will give you the most flexibility for texture as well as great color and permanence. This 8 color set will give you a lot of flexibility with color. It retails for $78.49 but click here to get it from Blick Art for about $50.00.
Extra Titanium White– I suggest an extra 5 oz tube of heavy body Titanium White. You will find that the pigments are very strong, and you will use more Titanium White than any other color.
This is a way to explore by sampling three of Golden's acrylic mediums, a tool you will absolutely love using when you paint with acrylics. The Explorer Set includes
- a 2 oz (59 ml) bottle of Gloss Glazing Liquid, useful to add shine and distance to a painting.
- a 4 oz (118 ml) jar of Molding Paste, which can help create peaks and valleys and tons of texture
- a 4 oz (118 ml) jar of Regular Gel Matte. This regular gel gives some texture plus it extends the dry time for your paint.
Brushes- This link will take you to a post where I give you detailed acrylic brush information, so you can choose brushes that will give you good value and good results.
Optional: Easel – This link will take you to a post on this site where I give you information about easels. You may want one for a table top, or a semi-permanently located stand-up or one you can transport easily for plein air (outdoor) painting.
I hope you find this information enough of a breakdown to help you get started. I know you will love using acrylics, for their versatility, for their ease of use and clean-up, for the intensity of their color. Go to
and take a look around. Buy yourself a present that you will enjoy for years to come. Let me know how you decide to get started.