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What Are Acrylic Paints?

As an artist approaches a blank canvas to create the next masterpiece, he or she must choose the best medium to accomplish the desired look. Acrylic is a relatively new paint, created from pigment suspend in acrylic polymer emulsion, that has become very popular for creating new works of art and even as a paint to be used around the home.

Acrylics were first available for commercial use in the 1950’s. Soon, the process gained popularity as a new pigment for artists. By the 1960’s, the paint was being used on the canvasses of artists everywhere with great success.

Acrylics are still popular today because the medium:

  • Dries quickly
  • Water soluble
  • Unaffected by water after it is dry
  • Even sheen
  • Does not need a primer

One of the best things about acrylics is its ability to dry quickly. When painting a house, this is a big plus. But for artists, it’s even more appreciated. Because acrylic dries quickly, a painting is less likely to be ruined if the piece is accidentally bumped during the drying process. Thus, artists can complete a painting and have it ready for framing in a shorter amount of time, preserving their hard work for years to come.

Since acrylics are water soluble, artists appreciate the ability to add water to affect the tint or consistency of the paint. Even though water has been added to the initial process, it will still dry totally and not be marred by water after it is finished and totally dry.

Artists (and housepainters) may prefer acrylics because of its even sheen. Since paint is a pigment, some mediums exhibit differently due to the changes in the surface being painted or the thickness of the paint. With acrylics, no extra dull spots will be seen, nor will extra bright spots be visible. Acrylics offer the same level of luster throughout the painting.
One of the best aspects of acrylic is the ability to adhere to any surface. In other words, it does not need a primer coat of another substance to stick and adhere to the surface. Regardless of the composition of the object being colored, acrylic will do the job and dry fast.

For example, if an artist wants to paint a glass vase, acrylics are a great solution. The paint will stick, dry fast, and resist smearing if it meets water from a drippy flower. Thus, it is also less hassle when painting on a canvas. Simply stretch the canvas, sketch out the desired masterpiece and apply the acrylic paint.

Unfortunately, acrylic also has its drawbacks:

  • Dries too quickly
  • Even sheen
  • Not affect by water after drying

As you can see, acrylics are a catch 22. For the same reasons that it acrylics are a wonderful paint media, they can also be the bane of a serious artist, depending on the project at hand.

Sometimes, it can be a problem if the paint dries too quickly. Basically, the artist has to get it right the first time, because there is little chance to alter the result. Also, an even sheen is not always the desired effect of an artistic piece. For instance, in a nature scene, a rippling river usually has a brighter appearance than the surrounding banks.

Of course, when the paint dries, the only alternative is to try and cover it up, if a change needs to be made; then, that affects the texture of the area in comparison to the neighboring paint.

As with any media, acrylics have both beneficial and undesirable qualities, depending on the object being painted. But, acrylics are still a popular choice for artists and home painters alike. In its historically short existence, acrylic has change the way many artists do business, professionally and creatively.

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