Acrylic Supplies

Once A Village, by Cheryl ONote: Beginning acrylic painters should choose just one type of acrylic to purchase, either the golden fluid or the heavy body tube acrylics, but not both. (However, intermediate students may decide to mix fluid acrylics and thicker tube acrylics for different effects.)

The main difference between the 2 types of acrylics is, the fluid acrylic thins easily with water, and the heavy bodied acrylic is made to resist thinning with water. The fluid acrylic in my opinion is more versatile. It can make effects identical to watercolour, or be used as it comes out of the bottle to make a painting that looks like a smooth surfaced oil painting.

Most beginners will find the fluid acrylic paint easier to work with. The heavy bodied paint is used for paintings where physical texture is wanted – thickly textured paintings.

In either type, please only buy artist quality not student quality paint. Student quality will frustrate you in how they behave in mixtures and slow down the learning curve. Unfortunately, manufacturers often do not put the words “student grade” on the tube or bottle. Example: “Basics” from Liquitex brand is a student grade paint. Do not buy those. If unsure, ask the staff at the art store to show you artist quality paint.

Golden Fluid Acrylic Paint

I enjoy the brilliant colours and flow of this type of paint. It is ideal for smoothly finished, realistic paintings. It can also be thinned with water or one of the acrylic mediums to make effects that are identical to watercolour. Addition of the Golden “Glazing Liquid” for slowing the drying time helps in making smooth gradations. This paint can also be used in a free flowing (less realistic) style.

Here are the recommended starter pigments:

Essential Paints (4 oz. bottles)

  • Hansa Yellow Medium
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Phthalo Blue (green shade)
  • Phthalo Green (yellow shade)
  • Quinacridone Red
  • Quinacridone Crimson
  • Burnt Sienna (Brown)
  • White [Liquidex white gesso recommended.]

Optional Paints

  • Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold [This is a wonderful colour that thins to yellow.]
  • Pyrrole Orange
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Titanium White Heavy Bodied (in tube – will give you better coverage than gesso when needed)

Mediums (Optional)

  • Golden Glazing Liquid – slows drying time, your choice of satin or gloss finish

Thicker Tube Acrylic Paints

For those who prefer to use a heavy-bodied acrylic paint, I recommend starting right in at artist quality. You will benefit from experiencing the richer pigment load of artist quality right from the first. The following is a list of Liquitex Artist Quality (not Basics) paint. (The Golden brand tube acrylics are also an excellent product, you could price compare.) The 2 oz tubes will get you started. [Update April 2016 – Curry’s staff was mentioning that they have a tube acrylic called “Amsterdam” that is a good price point and good for pigment load as well as permanent.] NOTE: Look for the words “Heavy Body” on the tube if you want the very thick texture. Here is the recommended list:

Essential Paints (2 oz. bottles)

  • Titanium White (buy more white)
  • Hansa Yellow Medium PY 73
  • Ultramarine Blue PB 29
  • Phthalo Blue (green shade) PB15
  • Phthalo Green (yellow shade) PG 7
  • Acra Crimson Red PV 19
  • Naphthol Crimson Red PR170 F5RK
  • Burnt Sienna PR101

Recommended Frequently-Used Paints

  • Yellow Ochre PY 43
  • Orange – Any bright orange
  • Alizarin Crimson Hue, Permanent PR 206 (good for portraits)

Mediums (Very Optional)

  • Golden Glazing Liquid [Slows drying time, your choice of satin or gloss finish. I like the way this medium improves the flow of the thicker paint from the brush.]

Other Supplies for Both Types of Acrylic


The new Synthetic brushes are excellent buys. A medium size round (Size 10), 2 small 1.5 cm square, a 2.5 cm. (that’s 1 inch) square, plus one small triangular painting knife are all that are essential. NOTE: Acrylic paint is hard on brushes, never use expensive sable brushes with it, and don’t ever let the paint dry on your brush.

Paper and Canvas

The most cost effective way to buy good quality paper is by the sheet. Ask the staff, the sheets are tucked away in drawers. I recommend an acid free (not Ph Neutral) 140 lb. with a `Cold Pressed’ surface. Canson is a good brand for watercolour paper (but not their all-purpose papers). Buy 2 sheets 140 lb. cold press for starters, or their paper in pads is also good. I frequently recommend what size of support (paper or canvas) to bring on the first week in the art course write up. You have choices. Acrylics can also be used on canvas, both prestretched canvas and canvas from the roll (get the pre-gessoed type). The canvas sheets can easily be cut with scissors to a smaller size when needed. If you are using watercolour paper or canvas sheets, also buy a light weight corrugated plastic board to tape your paper or canvas sheet onto. Cut the board to a couple of inches larger than your paper or canvas sheet size. This makes it easier to paint and to transport. Art supply stores sell these. Prestretched canvas is also fine, and much easier to hang because they do not require expensive framing. Note: the cheapest brands of canvas pad can be unpleasant to paint on – too slippery a surface.

Miscellaneous Supplies

Any white palette (I use wax paper over a piece of white cardboard), 1 sheet of graphite paper, soft pencil (4B), HB pencil, pencil sharpener, sticky tac or hold-it (better than a kneadable easer), ball point pen, large plastic container for water, shop towels (see note below), small piece of hand soap, 3 ring binder for notes, masking or painter’s tape, 12″ ruler, scissors, and photos for reference (inspiration!). If you are using fluid acrylics for a ‘wet and wild’ technique on watercolour paper, you may want to check out “How to Prestretch Watercolour Paper”. However, we don’t usually go to that bother since taping onto a board is a lot easier.

About Paper Towels

I used to be concerned about the amount of paper towels that are used during painting, until one of my students showed me some blue shop towels that come on rolls from a hardware store. These are much more absorbent, and can be rinsed out at the end of the painting session and reused multiple times before throwing them away. Much better for the environment, and more pleasant to work with than paper towels.