Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional painter, it’s always a good idea to figure out what brand of paint works best for your needs. When it comes to acrylic pigments, however, the choices can be daunting. Not only are there many companies to choose from, but with descriptions like “heavy body” and “high flow,” how will you know what to choose? To demystify the process, we’ve identified what all these terms mean and what’s the ideal acrylic paint brand for your skills.
Before getting started, however, it's worth understanding what acrylic paint is. This popular type of paint is made from pigments suspended in acrylic polymer. Water soluble when wet, they become water-resistant when dry. This is what makes it different than oil paint, where pigments are suspended in oil. They're extremely versatile and can resemble watercolors, gouache, and even oil paints depending on how they're used.
Available in a wide range of price points, acrylics are used by beginners and professional artists. Their versatility makes them the perfect choice for everything from crafts to fine art canvases. So whether you are just getting started or are a creative looking for new materials, we're broken down the best acrylic paint brands on the market today.
How to Pick the Best Acrylic Paint for Your Artistic Practice
When determining the acrylic paint that you’ll use, there are several key factors to consider: quality, permanence, viscosity, and hue. Here's a quick rundown of how they affect the medium.
Many art supplies—including acrylic paints—come in two grades: professional (or artist) and student quality. The professional version of an acrylic paint brand is going to be the superior product; there will be more color offerings available, and the pigments will be more saturated and look better once applied.
So, why wouldn’t you opt for artist-grade supplies? One big reason is that they’re more expensive than the student version. If you’re just starting out with acrylic paint and aren’t sure if you’ll continue, then it might be worth it to test the waters with student-grade paints. Once you’re sure that you love acrylics, upgrade to the professional version.
Permanence, also known as lightfastness, is how much the color of a paint will fade over time after it’s exposed to light. “Over time” doesn’t mean a week—we’re talking about 20 years. Generally, acrylic paints have higher permanence ratings than other types of media, so they’re likely to stay the same hue for a long time. Paints of low permanence are called fugitive colors, and you should generally avoid them unless you have a specific use for them.
ASTM International, a global standards development organization, classifies acrylic paint based on its permanence. A rating of “ASTM I” means that it has “Excellent Lightfastness.” Similarly, a manufacturer might rate their paints AA, A, and so on. In this case, AA is the best. (This information is available on the packaging.)
Acrylic paint is known for its variety of uses, so it’s important to figure out what kind of consistency will work best for you. Are you going for traditional painting on canvas, or are you trying to mimic watercolor techniques? Depending on your intended use, you’ll have to pick paint accordingly. Called viscosity, this aspect refers to the thickness of the paint. Heavy body acrylics are similar in flow to oil paint, while fluid acrylics are thinner and can be used for staining or airbrushing.
Here’s the most fun part of selecting acrylic paint—picking out the color! If you’re a beginner painter, we recommend going with the basics and limiting yourself to 10 colors or so. That way, you won’t be overwhelmed when learning the ins and outs of the medium. But, the more you're comfortable with acrylics, take note of what colors different brands are offering—some feature iridescent and fluorescent colors.
Don't be overwhelmed by picking the correct acrylic paint. Here are 14 of the best acrylic paint brands for all levels of artist.
Winsor & Newton Artist’s Acrylic
Acrylic painting beginners can rely on this 10-tube set for both its excellent quality and affordability. The pigments have a smooth consistency that’s akin to oil paint. “We have worked hard to create a good buttery consistency for quick and easy coverage,” the company says, “while making sure that the brush marks you want remain.”
Liquitex BASICS Acrylic (Set of 24)
Developed as a high quality student line of paints, Liquitex BASICS is another heavy-body acrylic that will keep its shape and strokes as you paint. This makes it ideal for traditional painting, impasto, and mixed media. The BASICS line includes 72 colors and uniform pricing, with the manufacturer stating that it has a “good pigment load.”
Blick Studio Acrylics
As the largest and oldest art supplier in the United States, it should come as no surprise that Blick also has a line of quality acrylics. Their student-grade Blick Studio Acrylic is a great value for beginners and is available in a wide range of hues and tube sizes. Artists can choose from 60 highly pigmented colors—including metallics and fluorescents—that have a buttery, oil-paint-like texture.
Golden Heavy Body Acrylic Paint (Set of 6)
As the name implies, Golden Heavy Body Acrylics is another luscious, thick acrylic paint. This set is great for those who have worked with acrylics before. It includes small tubes of Benzimidazolone Yellow Medium, Mars Black, Naphthol Red Light, Permanent Green Light, Titanium White, and Ultramarine Blue so you can get a sense of how they work before investing heavily. They’ve got a slightly higher price tag, but according to some reviewers, they have “better coverage and stronger, richer colors” that are “well worth the extra cost per ounce.”
Golden Fluid Acrylics (Set of 8)
While Golden Heavy Body has a thick viscosity, their Fluid series is all about flexibility. Its thinner consistency is great for spraying, staining, or using a watercolor approach to acrylics. The pigment load is similar to Golden Heavy Body acrylics, but Golden Fluid Acrylics allow artists to create work with even brushstrokes.
Utrecht Artists' Acrylic
Known for its brilliant color, longevity, and rich texture, Utrecht acrylic paint has an outstanding reputation. Now part of Blick, Utrecht was started over 50 years ago in Brooklyn and was one of the first companies to develop artists' acrylics. These professional quality paints are available in tubes, jars, and gallons individually or in sets like Portrait, Landscape, and Color Theory. There are also eight cadmium-free colors for artists looking for safer alternatives to traditional cadmium paints.
Sennelier Abstract Acrylics (Set of 5)
The first thing you’ll probably notice about the heavy-body Abstract paint packs is their packaging. Housed in a squeezable pouch, they’re designed to easily dispense the paint; a transparent “window” also tells you how much is left. And, moreover, this inexpensive packaging also helps bring down the cost of these highly pigmented acrylics. To add to the creative possibilities, their set of Metallic Acrylics also comes with different tips for the pouches, allowing for a wide range of applications.
Chroma Atelier Interactive Artists' Acrylic (Set of 7)
Some acrylics have a lightning-fast drying time, but not Chroma Atelier Interactive Artists’ Acrylics. This set features pigments that “stay open longer,” meaning they retain wetness and malleability. For en plein air painting, this gives you the ease of acrylic with the characteristics of oil—something that’s valuable when you’re working directly from life.
Holbein Mat Acrylic Paints
Available in 36 vibrant colors, Holbein Mat Acrylics are unique in that they all dry to a smooth, matte finish. Interestingly, they can be used either on their own as a medium or a colored ground or gesso. Intensely pigmented, they leave a toothy paint surface that is ideal if you want to incorporate drawing into the finished artwork.
M. Graham 6-Color Acrylic Paint Set
If you’re looking for a set of acrylics that are like watercolors, give M. Graham a try. “The major quality is pigment load,” one reviewer writes, “you can dilute these with water and use them like watercolors on watercolor paper while retaining a rich vibrant color…They are unbelievably beautiful and useful colors.”
Lascaux Artist Acrylic Paints
Lascaux acrylic paints are designed to mimic the texture and consistency of oil paints but without the hassle. Each tube features an intensely pigmented color with lightfastness that is impervious to aging. Available in 54 hues, this professional-grade paint is also weather-resistant, which makes it a nice choice for outdoor projects.
Winsor & Newton Professional Acrylics
Winsor & Newton's Professional Acrylics are not only known for their high-quality pigments, but they also include a transparent binder that means the color you see wet, is what you'll see dry. Whether you are upping your game from their student-grade paints or just love the brand, their starter set of 12 tubes is a great way to experiment with brilliant paints.
Holbein Acrylic Gouache
This unique paint differs from traditional gouache in that it's acrylic-based instead of water-based. Unlike traditional gouache, acrylic gouache is waterproof when dry and artists don't need to add any water—it can be used straight from the tube. A sort of hybrid between acrylics and watercolors, these paints allow for layering in vivid color. Holbein Acrylic Gouache not only has excellent lightfastness but is fast-drying and opaque—even on dark surfaces.
Liquitex Professional Soft Body Acrylic (Set of 6)
Smooth and creamy yet fluid, the Liquitex Soft Body Acrylics are great for pouring, printmaking, and conventional painting. With this viscosity, you’ll want to buy these paints for mixed media work, decorative art, scrapbooking, or even airbrushing. Avoid them for impasto or highly textured pieces.
Once you've got your paints ready, there are a few other accessories that you'll want to have on hand before you get started on your artwork. While not all of them are necessary, these painting accessories are definitely worth picking up as you continue to grow into your creativity.
Acrylic mediums are a wonderful way to extend the range of your paint. Want to transform your acrylic into a heavy body paint? Gel medium can do that for you and allow you to produce visible brushstrokes on the canvas or work with palette knives. Or, you can do the opposite. Get an acrylic medium that will thin out your paint, which is perfect for creating layers. There are even mediums that will allow you to play with texture, so get creative.
While you can get away without using a paint palette—aluminum foil or a piece of plexiglass also work—they really come in handy when mixing colors. Paint palettes come in all varieties, from the traditional shape to ones with covers to keep your paints wet for longer.
Of course, we can forget a paintbrush. Brushes come in all shapes and sizes, so you'll want to consider the project you are working on before making a purchase. Much like paints themselves, brushes also have a variable price point depending on whether you want student-grade or artist-grade brushes.
Online Acrylic Painting Courses
Whether you're just starting out or a pro, there's always something new to learn about acrylic paint. Try one of these online classes from My Modern Met Academy, Creative Live, and Skillshare!
- Dappled Light: Learn Abstract Painting with Acrylics
- Dream Your Own Abstract Acrylic Floral Painting
- Acrylic Landscapes: Imagining Mountains as Polygons
- Getting Started with Acrylic Paints
- Modern Acrylic Painting: Explore Techniques to Create On-Trend Art
- Acrylic Painting: Brushwork for Beginners
- Let's Play with Acrylic Paint! -Tools and Materials
- How To Create A Realistic Galaxy Painting, With Acrylics
- Palette Knife Acrylic Painting: Make Your Portrait Step-by-Step
This article has been edited and updated.
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