The Difference Between Watercolors and Acrylics

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Learning the differences between acrylic paint and watercolor paint can be helpful in deciding which medium to choose. Personal preference will play a role in this decision, but having some information about the qualities of each type of paint will help you to make your choice. I suggest experimenting with both.

When contemplating painting with acrylic, it is good to know it can be applied to a variety of surfaces. These include, canvas, paper, glass and plastic. It is a fast drying medium (compared to oil paint) and can be painted over when dry. When used thickly, it has an opaque quality. When thinned it can become transparent and used as a glaze. Acrylic paint can be thinned with water or a special medium available at art supply stores. Transparent overlays are not possible with acrylic, and they are with watercolor.

Watercolor paint can be less expensive than acrylic. Although there is a wide variety of watercolor paper from which to choose, paper is the only thing on which watercolor is painted. It is very important to use a good quality paper, and this is an added cost to consider. Watercolor can produce a lovely glowing painting and transparent layering is one of its assets. No other medium has this ability.

There are transparent, opaque and staining watercolors. Learning which paints have which qualities, can make painting with watercolor fun and challenging. With watercolor, the whites of the paper are saved for the planned white areas of your composition. This needs to be done at the very beginning of your painting so they can be preserved as you progress with your piece. When working with acrylics the opposite is true. The darks are applied first and the whites are added with paint at the end of the process. Watercolor will appear slightly lighter when dry, and acrylics dry darker.

Many people have a preconceived notion that watercolor is more difficult to use than acrylics and therefore shy away from this medium. I have found this not to be the case. As previously mentioned it is very helpful to understand the qualities of the various watercolors you are using. For example, you will be prepared with the awareness that Alizarin Crimson is a staining color which also provides a transparent glaze. There are many opaque watercolors also, and it is helpful to learn what they are as you begin experimenting with this medium. For more helpful hints about watercolor painting, please visit http://www.CapeCodWatercolor.com/hints-for-painters.html. I write a monthly page to help artists learning to master watercolor.



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