3 Things That Acrylics Do Better Than Watercolors

Morning Glories, by Lucinda Howe, Acrylic, 14x11"

Acrylics paints are very versatile and can be used with techniques borrowed from other media.  If you want use acrylics like watercolors, look for acrylics with low viscosity such as fluids, airbrush paints, or acrylic inks.  Since these paints have a high concentration of pigments, they can be diluted with a lot of water to simulate watercolor effects.  These techniques can be used on any absorbent supports like paper, illustration board, or claybord, and can be combined with graphite, watercolor crayons, and wax resists.

The best part is that acrylics will do some things that watercolors don’t do well:

  1. Acrylics can be layered without lifting the paint below. Watercolors are made with a binder that can be dissolved again after the paint dries.  This allows lifting color on purpose, but it also can cause muddiness when wet paint mixes with an earlier layer.  Because acrylics are not re-souble when dry, subsequent layers don’t lift and allow you to create transparent overlapping layers.
  2. Acrylics dry with truer value.  Watercolors dry lighter than they look when wet, so it is hard to judge when the value is right.  Acrylics don’t lighten as much, allowing you to created brilliant colors and emphatic darks.
  3. Acrylics don’t have to be framed under glass.  Yay!!  Because the paints aren’t water soluble when dry, you have more options for framing.  For example, this morning glory painting has been painted on Arches watercolor paper.  Then the paper was bonded to Ampersand gessobord with matte medium.  It will be finished with a spray varnish and framed without glass.

    If you would like to learn more about using acrylics like watercolor, you’re invited to sign up for my next class on acrylic techniques starting February 23.  Click here for more information.

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