How to Paint on Canvas With Acrylics

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When you've dreamed of being a great painter, you've probably thought you'd work with oils. However, acrylic paints have many merits that oils don't. Oils take a long time to dry, whereas acrylics take a very short time to dry and allowing for the next painting procedure sooner. Acrylic paints clean up with water and have no toxic smells. Oils require turpentine to clean brushes and equipment, which smells up your work place.

Prepare your canvas with a product called gesso. It is a primer for canvases and is used with acrylics and oils. This first step will assure that your canvas has a smooth working surface for your acrylic paints to adhere to. Paint the gesso over the entire canvas with a wide brush or sponge brush. Allow it to thoroughly dry.

Squeeze only a small portion of the paint you are using onto the pallet. Acrylics dry quickly, and the paint can be unusable within a short amount of time. Small spray water bottles can be purchased to spray both on your painting and on the paints on your pallet. The water will keep them moist longer.

Decide if your painting will have a transparent or opaque appearance. You can give the illusion of a watercolor painting on your canvas by thinning your paints with water. By using the paint directly from the tube you will finish with an opaque appearance.

Increase the fluidity by adding medium to your paint. Medium is a clear synthetic substance that thins the acrylic paint, allowing it to stay wet longer than water. This will give you more time to work with the paint on your canvas before it dries.

Finish your canvas painting with a varnish. There are specific varnishes made for acrylic artwork. The varnish will protect your canvas painting, but will also bring out a vibrancy in the colors that wasn't there before.

Things You'll Need

  • Canvas
  • Acrylic Paints
  • Brushes
  • Pallet


  • Acrylic paints can also be thinned with water and used to airbrush on your canvas. Use masking tape to form hard edges on your canvas painting. It will not damage the primer or any underlying paint.