Tips and Techniques for the Acrylic Painter


Here are a few tips and techniques I have learned over the years of painting with acrylics that work for me.  Here are some of the common problems my students have struggled with:

Background Surface Prep

Sealing your wood will help you get a nice soft blend to your acrylic painting.  Sand your wood to create a nice smooth surface, seal and sand again lightly with fine sandpaper; and basecoat as directed by your pattern instructions.

Because I use a large amount of water in my painting technique. To insure the wood grain does not rise during the painting process I use DecoArt Wood Sealer.

Another trick that works for me, is to lightly sand my basecoated surface with Super Film and wipe with a damp paper towel. You’ll be surprised how much smoother your surface feels and how much easier it is to float or do linework.  I repeat this process as I work, if it feels like I’m struggling with my floating or linework. Super Film available in the shopping cart.


The following applies to decoupage of pen and pencil designs.  Spray your finished art piece with a sealer.  I spray mine with PYMII, it repels water, but other spray sealers will work.

To get an accurate fit of the art piece to a box or surface trace the lid or top on to tracing paper (something you can see through) and cut out for a pattern.  Position over your design to center and trace it on to the art piece.  Now cut out and position on the box to check for accuracy, trim if it is needed.

If you are going to decoupage on to a wood surface, make sure it is sealed with a wood sealer and allow it to dry. 

I use DecoArt Decou-page matte medium.  It also comes in gloss, but if any seeps out the edge on to the surface it leaves a gloss smudge. 

With a large enough brush to apply the decoupage quickly, apply a coat of decoupage on to the wood surface; spreading it out evenly as not to have thick puddles or too thin that it is drying immediately.   Next quickly apply an even coat to the back of the art piece, again as not to have thick puddles of the decoupage.

If you have too much of the decoupage, on the back this is when you have trouble smoothing out the bubbles under the paper.

DO NOT JUST DROP THE WHOLE PIECE ON TO THE SURFACE!  Starting at one edge position the paper accurately, holding up the opposite side with one hand and begin smoothing out the air bubbles as you are working on down.  I then lay a piece of paper towel over the whole piece and roll with a brayer or something similar.  If any of the outer edges aren’t sealed, apply a little more decoupage under them with a small brush and allow it to dry.

Most directions on the decoupage bottles say to apply another coat to the top.  In my experience, this is when it bubbles and wrinkles.  I don’t find this makes a good sealer anyway.  After it dries it can again be sprayed with PYMII or another spray sealer to protect it further.

To save yourself  a lot of frustration try this on a practice piece a couple times.
© 2016 Marlene Kreutz

Palette Paper Is Important

As an acrylic painter I have always used a wax coated palette paper. My students have come to class with a paper plate or palette paper designed for oils, this will create a problem in executing floats.  Palette paper for acrylic painters is heavily coated so it doesn’t pull the moisture out of your paint when you are in the process of painting or when you blend on the palette.

I know there are those who use a stay-wet palette, if that works for you fine.  I just find it breaks down your paint and you will have a weaker float or a painting of a lighter value than I do.

I also recommend keeping an atomizer bottle on hand with water and every so often giving your palette a spray. It keeps the paint moist without drowning it.

Pat Blending Technique

I use this technique when I want to apply color to the center area of an object such as a ball of highlight, when I’m creating a mottled background, or when I just plain have difficulty floating.

I brush water onto my background color, working the water into the basecoat color making sure to dampen a larger area then where I plan to apply the color.  I want the surface cool, but not puddles of water.  While the surface is damp, apply a dab of paint to the surface and then soften this paint into the background using a dry round sable brush. I start at the edge of the puddle of paint, softening this color into the background. Occasionally wipe the brush on a paper towel to remove the excess paint. Sable Brush Set available in the shopping cart. 

This process may need to be repeated a couple of times to build up the color or extend the color. Allow to dry between applications. 

1.  Make sure the background is damp.
2.  Apply a dab of paint with a favorite brush, but not your sable brush.
3.  Keep the sable brush dry while in use, just wiping to clean on a dry paper towel.
4.  Use the size sable brush that best fits the area.
5.  Gently pat paint, holding the brush at an angle.
6.  Wipe excess paint off occasionally on a dry paper towel.
7.  Wash brushes with a brush cleaner after finishing the project.