Introduction to Acrylic Paints
Acrylic paint is pigment bound in a synthetic resin. Its development was spurred on by a group of Artists, working in Latin America in the 1920’s, who required a paint that would dry quickly and be resistant to changing weather conditions in order to paint their exterior murals.
Over the following 30 years or so, work was carried out in commercial laboratories on plastic resins and polymerization – the combining of two identical molecules to produce one large molecule which greatly increases the strength of the substance – to create the ideal Acrylic resin. Artists and scientists worked closely together to perfect the paint and, in the mid-1950’s, an American company, Permanent Pigments, launched the first commercially produced, water-based Acrylic Paint – Liquitex Soft Body.
Acrylic paint has continued to be developed and, today, a good Acrylic will have a high pigment content, a flexible yet very strong binder and a range of associated mediums that extend its versatility. The major benefit of all acrylics is the quick and uniform drying time which not only allows the artist to work quickly and enable artwork to be transported within a short time of being worked on but means that all layers dry at the same time into a flexible film so the paint will not crack even when rolled and stored for a long period. All Acrylic Paint is water-based and can be thinned with water but, once dry, is water-proof. As a result, it makes for a perfect paint for craft and children’s projects as well as an Artist’s medium. As with Oil and Watercolour, there are Artists’ and student ranges which will both be pigment-based and, in addition, there are also many forms of craft acrylic which will be dye-based with not quite as robust and versatile a binder as the Acrylics for painting will have. It can be used straight from the tube, thinned with water or mediums, mixed with texture mediums for sculptural effects, made to take on a glossy or matt finish, be thinned for use with an airbrush, painted onto wood, air-dried clay, fabric and paper and used in collage for both its colour and adhesive qualities.
Artist's Acrylic Paint
As expected, all Artists’ Acrylic Paint contains the highest quality pigments available but will have subtle differences in formula making one better for impasto work, one better for intensity of colour, one better for creating washes and so on. The choice of Acrylic Paint is really down to the preferences of the artist and it is always best to experiment with a few ranges to see what best suits your style and techniques.
Student Acrylic Paint
Student Acrylic Paints are based on inexpensive pigments to achieve one low set price across all the colours. Where an alternative pigment is used in a colour, it will be referred to as a hue or will simply not appear within the range. Therefore, student ranges will typically have far less colours, be less bright, less resilient or light-fast and will have greater colour shift from wet to dry. But they remain a great way to discover what Acrylic can do inexpensively.
Craft Acrylic Paint
There are numerous different craft acrylics on the market. These will be dye-based and usually come in ready-mixed colours so will not behave like true pigments when mixed together. But, as they usually come in large ranges of interesting colours, mixing may not be necessary at all. As with all Acrylics, they can be used on paper, wood, air-dried clay, papier-maché, canvas, non-porous surfaces and some special formulations can be used on fabrics and metals.