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As one of the more modern mediums of art, acrylics are a hugely attractive way of doing things. With the incredible variety of paints available things can get a little confusing so we have put together a rundown of the best acrylic paints we could find. Covering all the different types of paint as well as making sure to explain all the technical terms as we go along.
In a hurry? Here are our favorites
- We think this is the best heavy body acrylic paint
- We think this is the best soft body acrylic paint
Best Acrylic Paints
There are a few different types of acrylic paint that you may want to consider. The three main groups are heavy body acrylic, soft body acrylics and fluid acrylic. The main differences between them is the consistency of the paint. This also has an effect on drying time, and the types of the techniques that can be used in painting with them. You also have the normal artist grade vs student grade split that you will see across most art supplies. This separates the best quality and often expensive products that are aimed at the professionals and enthusiasts – from the more accessible products aimed more at beginners and students.
We have done our best to cover every scenario in terms of paint type and level, so we should have you covered regardless of what you are looking for.
Heavy Body Acrylics
Heavy body acrylics are characterised by their stiff consistency. This allows the paint to hold its shape. With its ability to hold peaks and brush strokes, this type of acrylic gained popularity as an alternative for the more traditional oil paint. With the benefit of the much reduced dry time that is found in acrylics.
Golden Heavy Body Acrylic Paints
We start with the heavy body acrylic paint from Golden. In a lot of ways this is the brand that should be the default choice for anyone that is looking for an acrylic paint. With their rich history in the area Golden are really at the head of the field. You will see them appear a few more times in this rundown.
We think that their introductory set of 6 is a great place to start for anyone looking to get into heavy body acrylics. You can also choose from a wide range of colors if you are more comfortable choosing your own range.
The introductory set comes in a compact set of six 0.75 oz tubes making it perfect for both beginners and those on the go. The colors included are as follows; Benzimidazolone Yellow Medium, Mars Black, Naphthol Red Light, Permanent Green Light, Titanium White, and Ultramarine Blue.
In terms of performance, all of the colors in the Golden heavy body range perform fantastically. Carry a buttery smooth texture with the distinct bond of a heavy body paint. These are truly some of the best acrylic paints out there. Giving results that are vibrant and colorful, as well as giving the artist the versatility of the heavy body to give texture.
Blick Artists’ Acrylic Paints
It’s no secret that Blick is our go-to recommendation when it comes to arts suppliers in the US. But you should also know that they make their own top tier products in a lot of different areas. That is definitely the case with their artists’ acrylic paint.
Once again the basic set of six is a safe bet for anyone just getting started, but they offer a similarly large range of colors as Golden to be purchased individually. Each of the paints contain a wonderfully vibrant color in distinctly smooth heavy body paint. The paints also boast some other key features, lightfastness, and the ability for the paints to be thinned with water or other mediums make these paints a versatile choice that should allow you to develop. These are qualities that also mean that it is perfectly reasonable to use these paints for professional work.
All in all, we think that the blick artists’ acrylic are a great option for most people. What they lack in the name brand of some of their competition, they make up for with some really high quality acrylic paints.
Soft Body / Open Acrylics
Soft body paints as their name suggests are a somewhat less viscous acrylic paint. This level of fluidity makes it perfect for mixing. Another property that is often combined with a soft body is a more open paint. With acrylics generally being a very fast drying medium, open acrylics slow this process down up to 10-fold. This can be beneficial as it opens the opportunity to use painting techniques that require paint to remain workable. Techniques such as blending and wet-in-wet painting.
Liquitex Professional Soft Body Acrylic Paints
Our first paint in this category comes from the 65 year old paint manufacturer liquidex. Starting from 1955 they have a long history of not only creating but innovating in the acrylic paint space.
We can see all of that experience in their professional soft body acrylic paint. These paints formerly known as medium body are highly pigmented and creamy acrylics. This vibrant color and consistency makes them useful for a large range of different uses. Use for decorative arts, calligraphy, printmaking, graphic design, the only limit is your imagination.
Our favorite of these paints is the essential set of 12 colors. This has all the colors that you will need to start as well offering variety that can be unlocked as you develop. The paints also come in some really handy little squeeze bottles which makes it really easy to squirt the right about. No waste here!
The Liquitex soft body acrylics are simply a pleasure to use. Easily painted onto any surface in a smooth and even manner. With colors that are really vibrant. The wonderful mix of feature in and the soft body consistency make these paints a cult favorite, and are in the eyes of many the best acrylic paints you can get.
Golden Open Acrylic Paints
In another entry from Golden, we have their open acrylics. These are acrylics that have been made specifically to allow techniques that require a paint remains workable on the surface longer than normal acrylic paint.
In terms of colors there is of course a wide range to be purchased individually. As well as some interesting premade sets such as the two introductory sets which focus on modern colors and traditional colors respectively.
As mentioned this type of paint is designed to stay wet for longer, allowing for more traditional painting. The golden open acrylics work great in this regard, staying wet in the palette for extended periods of time, allowing you to use mixes to their fullest.
This quality makes these paints a great choice for plein air painting (painting outdoors), and even allows the use of natural fiber paint brushes.
In use these paints are in the sweet spot between oil painting and normal acrylics. Having a paint stays wet for long enough to do traditional painting techniques, as well as reducing waste. While avoiding many of the pain points of oil paints, in the chemical smell etc. Also these paints exhibit a very minimal color shift in drying.
We think the golden open acrylics are well worth the try for anyone looking for an open acrylic. It covers all the bases well, comes from a trusted brand and at a reasonable price.
Fluid acrylics are a free flowing paint. They are self leveling, meaning that paint stroke markings do not remain visible in the same manner as the over types of acrylic paint. Fluid acrylics are a versatile type of paint that allows for a wide range of painting techniques. They excel particularly when used in staining techniques such as glazing, while also performing well in high detail work.
Golden Fluid Acrylics
As promised, here we have another entry from Golden. This time it’s their fluid acrylics. These are a more fluid variant of paint that is a lot easier to work with using brushes, as well as allowing you to mix more easily.
The paints really pack a punch in the color department. Specifically designed for artists that are looking for a low viscosity paint that offers a highly pigmented and vibrant color. The Golden fluid acrylic delivers on both fronts. Being a fluid paint means that not only do colors mix evenly, but the low viscosity also allows for a more even loading of a brush. This allows for a consistent flow off of the brush with each stroke.
We think the set of 10 professional fluid acrylics is of a really good value. Offering a really good range of colors; Benzimidazolone Yellow Medium, Burnt Sienna, Carbon Black, Phthalo Blue (Green Shade), Phthalo Green (Blue Shade), Pyrrole Red, Quinacridone Magenta, Titanium White, Ultramarine Blue, and Yellow Oxide in 1 oz (30 ml) bottles. As well as the professional tag meaning that the paints are lightfast. This means that your pieces will be better able to stand the test of time, without the effect of light damage.
Overall, the Golden fluid acrylics are a great choice for those looking for a low viscosity paint. Opening up the opportunity to use wet in wet techniques, and considered by some to perform better than watercolor in mixed media scenarios. Well worth a look.
Utrecht Artists’ fluid Acrylics
Our second fluid acrylic is the artists’ fluid acrylic from Utrecht. Named after a Dutch city, this is actually the product of an American art supply store. Founded in New York, they have been making various art supplies since the late 1940’s.
The artists’ fluid acrylics are some high quality fluids acrylics, arguably some of the best acrylic paints available on the market. With their only being sold as individual bottles, this is a choice that would be better for the more experienced painter. With a little effort you have access to a huge range of colors, with some helpful color charts to show you how things will look when dry.
The paints themselves are fantastic. Being fluid acrylics means that they are self leveling, and free flowing. This allows the paint to cover a large area in an even color. This is just great for creating glazes, as the colors are also very vibrant. When dry the paint is flat, flexible and matte.
The Utrecht artists’ fluid acrylics are a high quality and highly flexible paint that deliver a lot of value. If you know the color range that you want, it is well worth the effort of buying the individual bottles to get these acrylic paints.
Student grade acrylics
While not really a type of acrylic paint in and of itself, we have separated out some student paints that we feel are worth considering. Student paints are targeted at students and beginners. Offering high quality at a more accessible price. Student grade art materials can also act as a good entry route into the products of a new brand.
Liquitex Basics Acrylic paints
Much like their professional paints their Liquitex basics acrylic paints are also of a high quality. But with the focus on price they make some changes to make the paints more economical. We think that they do a pretty great job in this, and the basics give you a great bang for the buck.
Their set of 24 colors is a great pick-up for a student, and is unsurprisingly somewhat of a best seller. It contains a great range of colors in 0.75 oz (22 ml) tubes. This is more than enough for you to get started. It also allows a little room to experiment and test with color work.
The paints themselves work great. Made with lightfast art pigment, you get a vivid paint color that will last. The paint also dries to a satin finish enhancing the look of the colors even further. The paint is also very versatile with colors mixing well, and the creamy texture allowing for good coverage of a surface.
Blick Studio Acrylics
The blick studio acrylics are a student variant of the heavy body paint that we recommended earlier. They are a great option for students or beginners as they carry over a lot of the qualities of the higher end paint, while coming in at a much more accessible price.
As you would expect these paints are built to maximise the performance for the price, with a highly pigmented paint that mixes well. The paints also provide good covering ability for those times you have larger areas to fill. The paints boast some great qualities in their lightfastness and their drying to a non-yellowing finish.
We like the set of 24 colors as a starting point. With lots of colors to try out for a low price. There are of course larger and smaller sets available depending on your needs. WIth the ability to buy individuals colors if you need a certain color.
All in all we think that the blick studio acrylics are a great option for those looking for an entry way into the world of heavy body acrylics.
Finding The Best Acrylic Paint for Beginners – Buyer’s Guide
While we’ve already shown you what we believe to be some of the best acrylic paints out there, but we also want to give you all the tools to go out and search for yourself. In this buyer’s guide we take a look at some of the key areas that can take a paint from good to great. As well as covering some terms that you may not be familiar with if you are new to acrylics, or art in general.
The first thing to look at when considering any series of paints is the range of colors that are available. Now all of the paints we have recommended have great color on the page, and with the ability to mix (particularly with the less viscous paints) you have some extra flexibility. But, the very best acrylic paint series do not limit you in the range of colors that are sold.
Make sure to look at all the colors that are sold as individual bottles or tubes. If they are in the single digits, you’d be better off staying away. If there are tens of options then you will be just fine. You never know what colors you might need down the line.
Permanence & Lightfastness
These are two terms that are easily confused, as they mean some subtly different things.
Here are the basics:
Lightfastness – This is simply a paint’s resistance to fading caused by UV light. With UV light having a degrading effect on many pigments they can fade over time. A paint with a high lightfastness rating, is a paint that is less susceptible to fading over time due to light exposure.
Standard lightfastness ratings are given as a roman numeral starting from V (poor lightfastness) and ending with I (excellent lightfastness). A paint with “excellent lightfastness” will not fade (due to uv) for over 100 years in normal display conditions.
Permeance – This is a more difficult definition as there is no standard. Permeance is a more general category that takes into account a range of factors that could affect the paints. These are atmospheric conditions, chemical stability of pigment/binder and light exposure. Hence the confusion.
As we said permeance is not standardised so each manufacturer has come up with their own criteria and rating system to rate their paints. This is hugely confusing, so for the most part we think it’s ok to ignore this parameter, unless you have some unusual display conditions for your art.
These are two words that are essentially used to describe the look of paint on a surface. Generally speaking the higher the pigmentation of the paint the more vibrant the color. Brightness is more linked to how the paint dries on the surface, be it a matte (sometimes “satin”) or a gloss finish.
These are both some very personal choices, and a little hard to really judge until you have the paint in your hands. So if they are things that are really important to you, it can be useful to read reviews and look at some of the sample pieces that people have done with the paints. If still unsure, it may also be worth buying a single color tube to test out for yourself.
We’ve already covered the key details of the different consistencies of acrylic paints, but here is a quick bullet list if you want to brush up on your knowledge.
- Heavy Body – Heavy body acrylics are a paint with a stiff butter like consistency. The paint is able to hold its shape allowing for the formation of peaks. People generally use a pallet knife when painting with a heavy body acrylic.
- Soft Body – Soft body paints are a less viscous paint. The more fluid nature of this paint allows for easier mixing of colors.
- Open – Open acrylics often have a very similar viscosity to their soft bodied cousins, with the added benefit that they have been modified to extend their drying time by up to 10x. This is useful in situations where you need a paint that remains workable on the surface, such as for the use of wet-in-wet techniques.
- Fluid – Fluid acrylics are just that. A fast and free flowing paint that is easy to paint with and easy to mix. This paint is self-leveling and therefore a great choice for covering a large surface area with an even and brush-stroke free layer of paint. The fluid nature also makes the paint great for fine details.
As a general rule acrylic paints dry more quickly the thinker (heavier the body) of the paint. They all dry pretty fast though. This is by design as the historical reason for the development of the acrylic paint was because of artists that found the very long drying time of oil paints to be an inconvenience. There is no such issue with acrylic paints.
The one exception in the paints that we have covered is the open acrylic. This is a paint that has been intentionally modified to extend the drying time. This makes it easier to use techniques which require workable paint for longer.
This has been our look at the best acrylic paints. This is a really popular modern painting medium that you may be interested in. It can be a little difficult to navigate the different types of paints that all fall under the umbrella of acrylic but hopefully we have cleared that up for you. You should note that acrylic paints do not usually come with brushes. So make sure to check out our recommendations for the best acrylic brushes. After that, you should be set to get painting!!