- Keeping Acrylic Paints Workable: Because acrylics dry so fast, squeeze only a little paint out of a tube. If you’re using a ‘normal’ plastic palette invest in a spray bottle so you can spray a fine mist over the paint regularly to keep it moist. ‘Stay-wet’ palettes – where the paint sits on a sheet of wax paper place on top of a damp piece of watercolour paper – eliminate the need to do this.
- Blot your Brushes: Keep a piece of paper towel or cloth next to your water jar and get into the habit of wiping your brushes on it after you rinse them. This prevents water drops running down the ferrule and onto your painting, making blotches.
- Opaque or Transparent: If applied thickly – either straight from the tube or with very little water added – or if mixed with a little white, all acrylic colours can be opaque. If diluted with lots of water, or extender, they can be used like watercolour paint and to create similar effects.
- Acrylic ‘Watercolour’ Washes: When an acrylic wash dries, it’s permanent and, unlike a watercolour wash, is insoluble and can be over-painted without fear of disturbing the existing wash. The colours of subsequent washes mix optically with the earlier ones, so a yellow wash over a blue wash will create green.
- Think Thin When Thinking Glazes: If you want transparent glazes, these should be built up in thin layers; a heavy layer will produce a glossy surface. Do not add white as this will make the glaze opaque. Acrylic glaze medium can help to create a more transparent effect.
- Improve Flow Without Losing Colour: Acrylic colours loose their colour strength the more you dilute with water. To increase the flow of a colour with minimal loss of colour strength, use a flow-improver medium rather than water.
- Blending Acrylic Paints: Because acrylics dry rapidly, you need to work fast if you wish to blend colours. If you’re working on paper, dampening the paper will increase your working time.
- Hard Edges: Masking tape can be put onto and removed from dried acrylic paint without damaging an existing layer. This makes it easy to produce a hard or sharp edge. Make sure the edges of the tape are stuck down firmly and don’t paint too thickly on the edges, otherwise you won’t get a clean line when you lift it. Paint along the edge of the tape and not up to it as this may drive paint underneath the tape.
- Washing-up Liquid with Masking Fluid: Masking fluid can be used on acrylic paintings just as you do with watercolour. Once masking fluid has dried in a brush, it’s nearly impossible to remove. Dipping a brush into some washing-up liquid before using the masking fluid makes it easier to wash masking fluid out of a brush.
- Using Acrylic Paint as a Glue for Collage: Provided it’s used fairly thickly and the item to be stuck isn’t too heavy, acrylic paint will work as a glue in a collage. Acrylic glaze medium is a much stronger ‘glue’ and will dry to strong, clear and flexible finish. This is a great idea if you wish to create multi-media paintings
Gesso is an acrylic based and therefore waterproof when dry, but is great for creating very smooth surfaces on mdf boards card and watercolour paper. It can be applied with a brush, a palette knife if you want a little texture, or even with a roller.
If you use the traditional wet on wet techniques you have to be aware of puddling because the surface is not absorbent, but the effects you can create if you work quickly can be wonderful. Working wet on dry also requires a slight change in application. Because the paint is not absorbed, but sits on the surface, floating a wet layer of paint has to be done when the first layer is completely dry, and I mean completely dry. It also has to be done quickly and with one stroke. Sweeping the brush backwards and forwards will cause the two layers of paint to mix.
The great advantage of using a gesso ground is that paint can be removed easily with clean water and a cloth without staining. So it is possible with a fine brush and clear water to remove fine lines of paint revealing the white gesso ground, which is great for fine detail.
It is well worth having go with a gesso ground, but be prepared to adapt your technique to a none absorbent surface. Finished works do need to be displayed under class to stop damage to the surface.
This video is Part 2 in my series of video’s on How to Draw a Face. In this video I concentrate on showing teachers how to use light and shade to create a 3D portrait. Teachers in Primary School should be able to use these ideas with children from Year 3 (ages 7 and 8) upwards who should be capable of using light and shade to produce a tonal drawing. I hope you find it useful and would appreciate feedback, especially from teachers.
I have just uploaded to Youtube this video Part 1: How to Draw a Face – Proportion. It is intended for teachers in PrimarySchools who are responsible for delivering art lessons. I have tried to show how to engage children by getting them to measure their own faces before they start drawing. Hopefully, the video will prove useful, I’d appreciate your feedback.