Are you feeling creative and want to start painting? It can be hard to pick which medium to use, but acrylic paint is great for both beginners and professionals. It comes in a wide range of colors, is easy to work with, quick-drying, and can be used in a variety of ways. Plus, you can use acrylic paint on many surfaces, like canvas, fabric, ceramics, metal, or wood, making it versatile.
To help you pick the right acrylic paint, we put together a list of the 10 best ones you can buy online. Our top choice is Craft Smart's Acrylic Paint Set Value Pack, which comes with 16 foundational, artist-grade paints. As you go through the rest of the products on our list, you can also read through the helpful buying guide, which was reviewed by a painter, for more tips and information.
Susan has a Master of Fine Arts in Oil Painting, has been a glassblower since 1998, and is a former drawing professor. Her "painted drawings" are oil on paper and employ cartoon imagery to explore issues, ironies, and paradoxes in modern societies, often inspired by urban life in Tokyo. She has participated in juried exhibitions in the US and Japan.
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When choosing the right acrylic paint for beginners, you have to keep in mind the type, viscosity, permanence, colors, sizes, and packaging.
If you are a beginner to painting, you may be stuck between choosing craft, student, and artist quality paint. Each kind of paint has its pros and cons, with one of the major differences being quality and cost of the paint.
Craft acrylic paints are as versatile as higher quality paints at a fraction of the cost. However, they contain a lower percentage of pigment and are bulked with fillers that weaken the color's strength.
Craft acrylic paints are excellent for those getting started with painting and experimenting with new techniques, as they come in many pre-mixed colors. They are also great for kids, as the decreased amount of pigment makes the paints easier to clean up.
If you want a little more pigment load, you can opt for student-grade acrylic paints. They are generally made by brands that create artist-quality paint too, like Arteza and Liquitex. With these paints, mixing custom colors will be much easier compared to craft acrylic paints.
If you want to make professional quality paintings with the richest pigment and smoothest consistency, look for artist-quality paints. These are much easier to blend, use, and layer. They come in a wide range of colors and use fine pigment for the most vibrant colors. There's no reason you can't start with these even if you're a beginner!
I would recommend artist-quality paints for everyone who plans to mix colors. They aren't much more expensive than student-quality ones, but they use more single-pigment options. With student paints, you have more that are hues.
A hue is often not a single pigment. Your hue could have two or three pigments in it. So instead of blending a single red and yellow, you could actually be mixing three yellows and two reds! So the results will be less predictable, and you might waste paint getting the color you want.
However, if you plan to use your paints right from the tube or jar without mixing, student or craft paints might work just fine.
You should also pay attention to the paint’s viscosity and consistency. Viscosity is thickness, or how resistant the paint is to spreading. This can tell you how long it will take it to dry and can affect the quality of your work, too. You can choose between heavy body, fluid, or soft body acrylic paints.
Heavy body paints are the creamiest and thickest. These are great if you want to make your brush strokes more apparent or if you want your painting to have a bit more texture. You can also thin these paints out by adding a bit of water or acrylic medium, making them smoother overall.
If you want something thinner without having to add medium, you can opt for fluid acrylics. Fluid acrylics have a more water-like consistency. These are great for detailing, for pouring, or to help you achieve a watercolor effect.
But if you want something in the middle, opt for soft body or medium body paints, which are not as heavy and thick as heavy body paints. These cannot hold texture, but they are great for layering, covering up mistakes, or quickly altering something.
It's easy to thin out a heavy-body paint with water or acrylic medium, but it's not as easy to make a fluid acrylic thicker. In my experience, craft paints tend to be more fluid, while artist's paints tend to be soft- or heavy-body.
You should definitely consider the type of project you'll be doing because trying to paint wooden furniture is very different than painting a masterpiece on paper or a design on canvas shoes. Paint that has a consistency that doesn't suit your method and surface can be incredibly frustrating to work with, even if you can get the right results in the long run.
It is also essential to check on your paint’s permanence, or lightfastness. This pertains to how intense the color will remain over time. A paint’s lightfastness will tell you how resistant it is to fading once exposed to light or humidity.
To find out how permanent your paint is, you can refer to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Permanence Standard or the typical manufacturer standard. The ASTM’s standards are as follows: ATSM I means excellent lightfastness, ATSM II means very good lightfastness, and ATSM III means not lightfast.
However, not all acrylic paints list the ASTM Permanence Standard. Instead, you can look for the typical manufacturer standard. For this standard, **** or AA means extremely permanent colors, *** or A means durable colors, ** or B means moderately durable colors, and * or C means fugitive colors that are not very lightfast.
These ratings will vary by color, and the tubes from a set may have differing levels of lightfastness. For instance, some colors like purples and special colors are more likely to be fugitive.
If you’re painting to experiment or just for fun, these ratings might not be high on your priority list. But as you get more advanced or if you want to keep your paintings in their original condition over time, you should definitely consider the paint’s permanence.
Unfortunately, there's nothing you can add to a fugitive color to make it more permanent, and some pigments are just naturally weaker. But artists love some of those colors, like alizarin crimson and purples. So paint makers try to develop hues using different pigments that have the same properties and colors.
If there's a color you love but it's not very lightfast, and that's important for your work, you can try looking at paints that have the word 'permanent' or 'hue' in their name and see if they're more lightfast.
Acrylic paint also comes with different finishes, such as satin or matte. You should pick this depending on your personal preference and the type of look you're going for. Ones with a matte finish dry up flat with less sheen to it. Meanwhile, satin acrylic paints have a silky finish with a sheen or shine when they dry up.
You can also add different painting mediums to change the finish, like gloss medium or matte medium.
Acrylic paint comes in many different colors, and choosing the ones you need can be overwhelming, especially as a beginner.
When you’re just starting to experiment and learn more about acrylic paint, you don’t have to have a complete set of colors; you can start with six to 10 basic colors. These will be enough for you to produce new colors by mixing. You can start familiarizing yourself with how to mix colors and buy more paint accordingly.
Acrylic paints can also vary in size and packaging. You can opt for small acrylic paints in tubes while exploring colors. These are handy and can quickly be brought outdoors for plein air painting. Once you’ve figured out which colors you need most, you can get jars for bigger projects and paintings.
You can also invest in larger amounts of white, which you’ll use a lot in mixing, or colors you may use as a ground. This means covering the whole surface with a solid color before you start painting. You may want to paint on a black ground, so a jar of black would be better.
If you have a specific painting in mind, you can buy colors and shades you’ll be needing and using the most.
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Acrylic Paint Set Value Pack
Best Acrylic Paint Set for Craft Projects
Winsor & Newton
Galeria Acrylic Paint
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Crafts 4 All
All Acrylic Paint Set
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Academy Acrylics Color 6 Set｜C1026
Best Set of Basic, Lightfast Colors for Mixing
Basics 48 Tube Acrylic Paint Set
Best Big Set of Student Grade Paint
Acrylic Paint And Mediums Set
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Artist Quality Acrylic Paint Set
Best Big Jar of White for Mixing
Acrylic Paint in Assorted Colors
Best Individually Sold Craft Paints
Heavy Body Acrylic Introductory Set｜074
Best Professional Quality Acrylic Paint Set
Acrylic Pouring Paint Set
Best Pouring Acrylic Paint Set
This set of 16 acrylic paints offers a solid color palette for beginning artists. These colors can be further mixed into unique shades and used on many kinds of surfaces, such as canvas, paper, and fabric. The paint dries down to a matte finish and is fast-drying and non-toxic.
There were a few reviewers who said the paints were too thin and watery compared to others, requiring several coats of paint to create a vibrant color. Still, a lot of them thought it was a great starter kit. They loved that the paints are easy to use and mix. Reviewers also loved that the set comes with a lot of colors.
With this set from Windsor & Newton, you get 10 basic colors that will help you learn about mixing acrylic paint. They are highly pigmented and can be used on a variety of different surfaces. You can also easily mix them to create more shades. They have a medium body consistency and a satin finish.
Some reviewers noted that, while these paints had great consistency, they were not as pigmented as professional-grade paints. But, reviewers still loved how much paint came in each tube. Some said the set is great for both beginners and students.
The comprehensive set comes with a range of 24 colors and three paintbrushes, making it easy to start painting immediately. They have a thick, heavy body consistency and dry down to a satin finish. These paints can also be used on many different surfaces, including wood, ceramic, glass, and fabric.
Some reviewers noted that some of the paint tubes arrived already dried up, and a few reviewers noted that the paints were too thin and didn't have as much pigment as expected. Aside from that, buyers appreciated that these are beginner and kid-friendly. They said the colors are easy to blend.
This set of acrylic paint comes in six basic colors, allowing for a large variety of colors to be mixed from them. They are highly pigmented, and all have an ASTM permanence rating of I, which means excellent lightfastness. Plus, they are heavy-bodied, making them great for creating texture in your paintings.
One reviewer found it odd that this basic color kit did not come with black, but that's because you mix the colors to get black. They thought the paints had great texture, consistency, and pigment load. Both self-proclaimed professional artists and beginners mentioned how easy these paints were to use.
If you want something you can layer with, go for these medium body student-grade acrylic paints from Liquitex. The set comes with 48 bright and pigmented shades that are great to have in your collection. They are quick-drying and will work with a lot of surfaces. They're great for practicing color mixing as well.
Some reviewers mentioned that they received one or two tubes in their set dried up, or they were missing certain colors. But, most reviewers were pleased with the consistency and how easy they were to work with. They also liked that the set came with 48 colors, allowing them to experiment more.
This kit from Artist's Loft is great for anyone who wants to experiment with texture in their paintings. This set comes with two finish-altering mediums, iridescent and glossy, one modeling paste, and one slow drying medium. This, in combination with the 18 colors, offers beginners a variety of ways to experiment with acrylics.
The biggest disappointment to reviewers is the fact there are no instructions on how to use the mediums included with the kit. You may want to find some online tutorials. Most loved how this set offered them ways to experiment with texture and color. They found it a great tool for learning new techniques.
This 16-ounce container from Sargent Art contains artist-grade, soft-bodied, highly pigmented white paint. It's ideal for mixing with other colors or pairing with acrylic medium that changes its finish. In addition to white, you can get any other color you use frequently in this range.
Many reviewers were surprised by how thin the consistency of this paint is, finding it not ideal for their projects involving texture. But those who did need the thin viscosity were happy with how pigmented this paint is, especially when layered. Some also said that the paint layered well on top of itself.
Apple Barrel's acrylic colors can be bought individually. This is great if you want to build your own set or only want specific colors. It comes in over 100 colors, as well as matte, satin, and gloss finishes. Since it has a soft to liquidy consistency, it's great for basecoats and for stenciling.
A couple of buyers noted that the bottle leaked paint. Others thought it was too thin. But the vast majority of reviewers loved that the colors available were vibrant and pigmented. Some also said that they preferred the thin consistency since it was easy to blend and mix.
This introductory set of heavy bodied paints is ideal for projects involving texture. These paints are extremely pigmented, come in Excellent or Very Good lightfastness, and contain no fillers that alter finish. This makes it so that there is almost no difference in the paint's color whether it's wet or dry.
Some reviewers found the caps to be tricky to put on and take off, making the process a little messy. But when it comes to the paint itself, reviewers are amazed by the quality and consistency of this product. They used this product to both layer up on texture and to opaquely apply color in a single, clean stroke.
One popular acrylic painting technique is pouring, which creates ripple-like effects across your canvas. This set contains regular acrylic paint pre-mixed with a paint medium that retains the vibrancy of the colors while thinning out the texture. It comes in 28 colors, including metallics and neons, and extras of black and white.
Although a few found them thin, the paints overall were praised by reviewers as being rich and vibrant, pouring across their canvases with ease. Many liked how, due to the many color options, they could open the box and immediately create a visually compelling piece.
In addition to reviewing our buying guide, Susan has also answered some commonly asked questions about acrylic paints.
"Absolutely!" Susan says. "Canvas is fabric! You can paint directly, or thin it with water and use an airbrush to apply it. However, if you paint thickly on clothing, it will crack as the fabric moves. In that case, it's recommended to use a fabric medium or other method to prepare your fabric first. This site has a detailed explanation.
If your plan is to paint on fabric that won't need to bend after it dries, then you can get away with painting directly with no prepping or other mediums."
Susan says, "I would worry less about toxicity or allergic reactions than I would how fast it dries. Once it dries, it becomes like a plastic film you have to peel off your skin; it won't just wash off. It starts to dry really quickly, too. So unless you plan to scratch yourself raw or wait for your skin cells to shed and be replaced with a new layer, I'd avoid it!
If you happened to get some on you and it's dried, you can try baby oil and rubbing alcohol, or either Goo Gone or Goof Off paint remover if it's really stubborn."
How about trying some mixed-media work? There are other ways you can get creative, like with markers, watercolor, or colored pencils, too.
Ready to take your paints to the next level? Check out Amazon's list of Best Selling Art Paints to see what other products are out there!
No. 1: Craft Smart ｜Acrylic Paint Set Value Pack
No. 2: Winsor & Newton｜Galeria Acrylic Paint
No. 3: Crafts 4 All ｜All Acrylic Paint Set
No. 4: Grumbacher｜Academy Acrylics Color 6 Set｜C1026
No. 5: Liquitex｜Basics 48 Tube Acrylic Paint Set
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