How to Learn Brush Strokes for Acrylic Paint

Learning brush strokes requires more practice than talent.
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Acrylic paint offers versatility to the artist. It can be highly viscous for thick, impasto textures, or you can water it down for the delicate effect of a wash. Paintbrushes of different sizes and shapes add even more possibilities to the broad range of effects. These choices can overwhelm the beginning painter. It helps to think of talent not as the ability to paint, but the ability to come up with ideas. How you handle the paint boils down to simple, learned skills. Like any skill, learning brushstrokes happens through patience and practice.

Things You'll Need

  • Acrylic Paint
  • Smock
  • Paintbrushes Of Various Sizes And Shapes
  • Pallette
  • Heavy Paper

Choose a brush that suits your personality. If you like a lot of control, start with a small, round brush from size three to six. If you prefer serendipity and experiments, begin with a larger paintbrush of any shape.

Load your paintbrush by touching the bristles to the middle of the dollop of paint on your pallet, then drag out from the center with light pressure. Flip the brush over and repeat on the other side. Continue to do this until the paint is consistent about two-thirds up the length of the bristles. You may need to moisten with water during this process to improve the flow of the paint.

Paint lines, shapes, and textures with this paintbrush until you know it like you know your best friend. See what it does when you add more water, less water. See what happens when you use more pressure, less pressure or varied pressure across one stroke. Try painting with two colors on the same brush. Avoid painting specific things like a face or a flower until you understand how the brush works.

Make notes when you find strokes you like. Practice them until you can repeat the effect without concentrating.

Choose a simple object for your first painting. A ball or a box work well. As you work, notice which brushstrokes best serve flat surfaces, curved spaces, textures or other features of the object.

Continue painting with your first paintbrush until you feel ready to take on a new one. Then, repeat the previous strokes with a brush of different size or shape. You will find that flat and chiseled brushes can create much straighter lines than round ones if turned on their sides. Filberts and rounds work well for soft effects. Each paintbrush has its own personality. The best way to learn different brushstrokes is to take the time to get to know them individually.


  • Start simply. If you begin by expecting a masterpiece, you are likely to frustrate yourself. Get to know the brush and the paint before trying to create a complicated painting.

    Avoid comparing your early paintings to those of practiced friends or famous artists. Instead, compare your own paintings to each other and note your progress.


  • Acrylic paint is permanent and usually will not wash out of clothing or furniture. Take care to protect these from spills.