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Acrylic Painting Techniques and Tips: From Painting Wood to Fabric

Acrylic painting is a popular medium used by artists due to its versatility and affordability. Acrylic paints dry quickly and can be used on a variety of surfaces, making them ideal for both beginners and experienced artists. There are various acrylic paint techniques that can be used to create different effects and textures with acrylic paints.

One of the most basic techniques in acrylic painting is layering. This involves applying thin layers of paint on top of each other to create depth and dimension. Another popular technique is blending, which involves mixing two or more colors together to create a smooth transition between them. Dry brushing is another technique that can be used to create texture and add highlights to a painting.

Acrylic paint can also be used on fabric! It’s best to use an additive like fabric medium if you are going to apply Acrylic paint to fabric. Acrylic paint can also be applied to wood! I’ll show you more about this later in the post.

Acrylic painting techniques

Understanding Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints are a popular choice for artists due to their versatility and quick-drying properties. They are water-soluble and can be applied to a variety of surfaces, including canvas, paper, wood, and even metal. Let’s talk about the properties of acrylic paints and how they differ from other types of paint.

Properties of Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints are made up of pigment suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion. They are water-soluble, which means that they can be thinned with water and easily cleaned up with soap and water. Once dry, acrylic paints are permanent and water-resistant.

One of the unique properties of acrylic paints is their ability to be layered. Unlike oil paints, which require a long drying time between layers, acrylic paints can be layered quickly, allowing you to complete projects quicker! Also like I said a few paragraphs ago, acrylic paints can be mixed with a variety of mediums, such as gels or pastes, to create different textures and effects.

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Acrylic Paint medium products:

  • Liquitex BASICS Matte Fluid Medium– Improves the flow of color for blending and can be mixed with Acrylic colors for an extra matte finish.
  • Gloss Pouring Effects Medium– This glossy liquid acrylic pouring medium improves the consistency and flow of paints when doing pouring technique applications. It increases the shine of acrylic paints when doing pour projects.
  • FolkArt Crackle Medium– If you are looking to add a realistic cracked and weathered look to your arts and crafts projects this will help! The crackling effect shows through after the acrylic paint has dried.
  • Pouring Masters Fabric Medium– This fabric medium improves the adhesion of acrylic paint to fabric and also adds flexibility to them.
  • Winsor & Newton Acrylic Glazing Medium– This medium gives maximum transparency and brilliant, with flowing color and it allows the acrylic paint to dry to a completely clear flexible film with a high gloss finish.
  • Handy Art Medium Acrylic Pain Gesso White– Gesso is normally applied as an undercoating or primer before using acrylic paint.

Differences from Other Paints

Acrylic paints differ from other types of paint, such as oil or watercolor, in several ways. Unlike oil paints, which require solvents for cleanup, acrylic paints can be cleaned up with soap and water. Also, acrylic paints dry quickly, while oil paints can take days or even weeks to fully dry.

Acrylic paints also differ from watercolor paints in that they are opaque, while watercolors are transparent. This allows for greater control over the painting process, as mistakes can be easily corrected by painting over them.

Basic Acrylic Painting Techniques

Dry Brushing

Dry brushing is a technique where the brush is loaded with paint, and most of it is removed from the brush by wiping it off on a paper towel. The brush is then lightly dragged over the surface, creating a textured effect. This technique is great for creating the illusion of texture, such as wood grain or fur.


Washing is a technique where the paint is thinned down with water and then applied to the surface. This creates a translucent effect, allowing the layers underneath to show through. This technique is great for creating a soft, blended effect. It can also be called paint washing.

applying tan wash or paint wash to pine wood


Glazing is a technique where a layer of transparent paint is applied over a dried layer of paint. This creates a rich, deep color that is perfect for creating shadows and depth. This technique is great for creating a luminous effect. The medium can be mixed with any color or used as a clear glaze.


Splattering is a technique where paint is flicked onto the surface using a brush or toothbrush. This creates a random, speckled effect that is great for creating a starry sky or a textured background. It’s also used to create a more modern and abstract art.

Fabric Painting

Did you know that acrylic paint can be used on fabric? Make sure to mix it with a fabric medium for extra flexibility and durability. See more about acrylic paint on fabric here.

close up of painted fabric on outdoor cushion with Rustoleum

Acrylic paint on Wood

Acrylic paint can be used on wood. That being said, the wood needs to be prepared with a primer product or Gesso before the acrylic paint is applied. You can see a dresser makeover I created by applying Acrylic paint on wood here.

acrylic paint on wood

Advanced Acrylic Painting Techniques


Stippling is a technique where small dots of paint are applied to create texture and depth. This technique can be used to create a variety of effects, from subtle shading to bold, graphic designs. To achieve the best results, it is important to use a small brush with firm bristles and to vary the size and spacing of the dots.


Scumbling is a technique where layers of thin, translucent paint are applied in a random or haphazard manner to create a textured, organic effect. This technique can be used to create a variety of effects, from soft, atmospheric backgrounds to bold, expressive brushstrokes. To achieve the best results, it is important to use a light touch and to vary the direction and pressure of the brushstrokes.

Palette Knife Painting

Palette knife painting is a technique where paint is applied with a palette knife instead of a brush. This technique can be used to create a variety of effects, from thick, impasto textures to smooth, blended surfaces. It is important to use a flexible palette knife and to experiment with different techniques, such as dragging, scraping, and blending.

When it comes to palette knife painting, think Bob Ross. I can’t think of this technique without thinking of good old Bob dragging his knife to make a few “happy trees.”

Mixing Acrylic Paints

Mixing acrylic paints allows you to create new colors, shades, tones, and tints that are not available straight out of the tube. In this section, we will cover three basic techniques for mixing acrylic paints: creating shades, creating tints, and creating tones.

Creating Shades

Shades are created by adding black to a color. This technique is used to darken a color without changing its hue. To create a shade, start with a small amount of the base color and gradually add black until the desired shade is achieved. It is essential to add black in small increments to avoid over-darkening the color.

In the furniture painting world, some might use a dark wax product on top of paint to achieve this. In the acrylic painting world, it’s black paint.

Creating Tints

Tints are created by adding white to a color. This technique is used to lighten a color without changing its hue. To create a tint, start with a small amount of the base color and gradually add white until the desired tint is achieved. It is essential to add white in small increments to avoid over-lightening the color.

Creating Tones

Tones are created by adding both black and white to a color. This technique is used to change the intensity of a color while maintaining its hue. To create a tone, start with a small amount of the base color and gradually add both black and white until the desired tone is achieved. It is essential to add black and white in small increments to avoid over-darkening or over-lightening the color.

Maintaining Acrylic Paints

How to clean brushes after using acrylic paint

Here are some tips for cleaning your paint brushes:

  • Rinse the brush in water immediately after use to remove excess paint.
  • Use soap and water to clean the brush thoroughly, making sure to remove all paint from the bristles.
  • Avoid using hot water, as it can damage the bristles.
  • Use a brush cleaner specifically designed for acrylic paints for tough stains.
  • Dry the brush completely before storing it.

Preserving Paints

Acrylic paints can dry out quickly, so it’s important to take steps to preserve them. Here are some tips for preserving acrylic paints:

  • Store paints in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
  • Keep the lids tightly closed to prevent air from entering the container.
  • If the paint has started to dry out, add a small amount of water to revive it.
  • Use a spray bottle to mist the surface of the paint to keep it moist while working.
  • Consider transferring paint to smaller containers to reduce the amount of air in the container.

How to get Acrylic paint off of wood

There are several ways to remove acrylic paint from wood, depending on the severity of the stain and the type of wood. Here are a few methods you can try:

  1. Soap and water: If the paint is still wet, you can try to remove it with soap and water. Simply mix a few drops of dish soap with warm water and use a cloth or sponge to gently scrub the affected area. Rinse with clean water and dry with a towel.
  2. Rubbing alcohol: If the paint has dried, you can try rubbing alcohol. Apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to a clean cloth and gently rub the paint stain. Be sure to test the alcohol on a small, inconspicuous area of the wood first to make sure it doesn’t damage the finish.
  3. Vinegar: Another option to remove paint from wood is to use vinegar. Apply a warm vinegar solution the solution with a clean cloth and let sit for 15 minutes. Use a plastic paint scraper to safely remove the acrylic paint.
  4. Sandpaper: If the paint stain is particularly stubborn, you may need to use sandpaper to remove it. Use a fine-grit sandpaper and sand gently in the direction of the wood grain. Be careful not to sand too hard, as this can damage the wood.
  5. If all else fails, use a paint stripper product. QCS Stripwell is a good non toxic stripper product that seems less damaging to the wood than other harsh chemical strippers.

Remember to always test any cleaning method on a small, inconspicuous area of the wood first to make sure it doesn’t cause damage.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Preventing Cracking

Acrylic paints can be prone to cracking if not handled properly. To prevent cracking, let me share a few tips;

First, avoid applying too thick of a layer of paint. A thick layer can dry unevenly, leading to cracks. Second, make sure the surface you are painting on is clean and dry. Any moisture or debris can cause the paint to crack as it dries. Third, consider using a flexible medium or varnish to help the paint move with the surface and prevent cracking.

Avoiding Underbinding

Underbinding is another common issue that can occur with acrylic paints. This happens when the paint does not adhere properly to the surface, leading to flaking or peeling. To avoid underbinding, make sure the surface is properly prepared before painting. This may involve sanding, cleaning, or priming the surface. Additionally, consider using a paint with better adhesive properties or a bonding agent to help the paint stick to the surface.

I hope I’ve shared enough information on acrylic painting to help guide your next paint project!

As always, drop me a note below with any questions.


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