Acrylic paint is a versatile and vibrant medium with which you can create paintings of any style. But before you can create beautiful paintings, you’ll have to learn how to use acrylic paint. Read on to learn how to use different acrylic paint materials, methods and more.
If you’ve never used acrylic paint before, it might seem like an intimidating medium to master. But as you’ll see in this post, it’s anything but — in fact, it’s one of the more accessible methods of painting for beginners. Supplies are minimal and the method is quite easy when you break it down.
Let’s explore the wonderful world of acrylic painting so you can get started creating your own art.
Assemble your materials:
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What do you need to get started with acrylic paint? Actually, not a whole lot. Here are some of the things you’ll need.
Acrylic paint comes in a dizzying array of colors and textures. Which kind is right for you? In general, you’ll find two different types of acrylic paint:
- Fluid, which is thinner and will drip out of the tube
- Heavy body or high viscosity, which is more like the texture and thickness of soft of butter.
One is not better than the other; it simply depends on what type of look you are going for. If you ultimately want to move on to thick, Van Gogh-style creations, go with the heavy body style. If you want to create fluid, dreamy landscapes, try out the fluid kind.
In terms of colors, for a beginner, it’s good to start out basic with tubes of red, blue, yellow, black, and white paint. Between these colors, you can mix any color, from skin tones to nature scenes.
Not only is choosing minimal colors the most cost-effective way to get started with acrylic paint, but it will help you learn how to mix colors so that you can attain your desired hue and can understand the role that each color plays in mixtures.
You’ll need some brushes appropriate for acrylic paint before you get started. Acrylic brushes are typically longer and sturdier than watercolor brushes, and needfully so, as they are often pressed harder into the work surface while painting.
To get started, stay fairly minimal: one large and one small round brush, and maybe one large and one small flat brush, should be a perfect starting point.
You need a surface to mix different colors of paint. Paper is too absorbent, and your paint will stick to it. You want a non-stick surface. You can use palette paper, a professional palette, or even a porcelain plate.
A palette knife
A palette knife is an inexpensive and invaluable tool for working with acrylic paint. It will help you mix paint colors in the most efficient way. You can use the knife not only for mixing colors but to apply paint to a surface, too — this lends particularly painterly effect to your pieces.
You can, technically, mix colors with your brush. But you may find that paint gets embedded in the brush and ultimately gets wasted and not mixed properly. Plus, the vigorous mixing motion can damage the bristles, so it’s not suggested that you use a brush to mix colors as a rule.
A work surface
What type of surface would you like to paint on? If you’d like to ultimately paint on canvas, canvas paper is a great beginning medium that is inexpensive and has a texture similar to stretched canvas. Board, wood, and bristol board are all great choices, too.
Depending on your work surface, you might find it easier to set up your surface on an easel. An easel is not appropriate for paper or more flexible work surfaces, though.
Have a cup of water at the ready for cleaning your brush and watering down the paint if needed. If you’re using a drinking cup, designate this as a paint-only cup from now on.
Scrap paper is fantastic to have on hand to wipe away excess paint from your brush or test out paint quality. It can be as simple as a sheet of blank printer paper.
Assemble your work station:
By having your work station set up properly, you’ll make the painting process far easier.
Set up your palette
Once you have your supplies ready, you can set up your palette. Regardless of what you want to paint, it can be helpful to have a dab of each primary color plus black and white.
Space each color so that there is plenty of “white space” around it, so that you have room to mix and that the paint can spread without getting crowded.
Treat your surface
If you’re painting on canvas, you’ll want to treat your surface before you get started. A coat of gesso will dry quickly and will keep your painting archival. Not all surfaces require treating. Check the manufacturer’s suggestions on whichever work surface you’ve chosen.
Start painting! Adjust the consistency of your paint using a small amount of water on the brush as desired. You can begin to paint free-form, or try out a simple method like a monochromatic painting or try a self-portrait.
Experiment, and enjoy!
From here, you can take your art into your own hands. Experiment with different styles, or different media, including painting with your palette knife or including catalyst wedges in your art.
Acrylic paint tips:
These tips will help ensure painting success.
Cover colors if you need to take a break
Acrylic paint cannot be “revived” once it dries, so if you need to take a break, seal your paint in an airtight container to keep it wet. For a short break, you could simply cover the palette with plastic wrap; for a longer break, you could put the entire palette in an airtight storage container, or use your palette knife to transfer individual colors to airtight containers.
Let your painting dry completely
After your painting is done, let it dry completely before you move it. There’s no bigger bummer than creating a masterpiece and then accidentally mashing your thumb into wet paint.
You might not be creating masterpieces right from the get-go, but with practice, you’ll begin to develop skills and confidence in your painting. It’s a wonderful journey — enjoy it.
Have you ever used acrylic paint?
The massive audience behind Paint Tool SAI has fostered a loving community of artists.
Many of these artists create their own custom brushes and brush textures. Some even release their creations online for free.
Anyone new to SAI can learn a lot just by playing with these brushes. You may not create a masterpiece on your first attempt, but you can at least familiarize yourself with the process.
More experienced artists will also enjoy these brushes and find a ton of variety to nail down some very distinct textures. Have a look and see what you think!
Default SAI Textures
Let’s kick things off with this massive list of Paint Tool SAI textures.
The brush tool in SAI works a little differently than Photoshop or Krita. It uses textures to design brushes along with other settings that you can customize on the fly.
This means a lot of artists will take screenshots of their brush settings and release them online, but they won’t always release a full brush file. This is because the brushes often rely on textures to create the end result.
Some of the newer versions of SAI do not come with all the same textures. Naturally this is pretty frustrating.
But if you grab a copy of this texture pack you’ll have all the assets you need to work with the brush tool on your own.
You could even mess around with some settings to create your own custom brushes from scratch. How cool!
40 Brush Settings
So I just mentioned how SAI often uses custom settings for brushes. This is even clearer with this amazing pack of 40 free brush settings.
The creator DocWendigo released a pack of textures alongside these brushes and you can download all of them right from the DeviantArt page.
All the textures are hosted on sta.sh but they’re still free to download. And on the main brush settings DA page you’ll find a step-by-step tutorial on how to install these textures/brush settings into your software.
Please note: this is a bit confusing to learn but you’ll get the hang of it with time.
Parts of the process involve copying code and editing files directly like Brushtex.conf. It sounds scarier than it is.
Realistically this is just how SAI works so it’s part of the deal when painting in this software.
Blotmap Set VIII
Here’s a very nice blotter-style brush set designed by DA user K-OG.
This is totally free to download and use with any version of SAI. It’s got a brilliant setup and this breaks into three different categories: dark, walt, and grainy.
You can use this pack for almost any purpose and it should blend in nicely with all digital painting work.
I can’t say that inexperienced users will find this very comfortable. It does take a bit of effort to nail down the brushing process, not to mention handling settings like opacity.
But SAI is a favorite among anime and manga artists for good reason. These brushes are just one example.
Easy Paint Tool Sai Brushes
Note: I found a few different brush packs with the same name so if you Google search “easy paint tool sai brushes” you might find more to work with.
But this page seems like the easiest brush pack to start with. It has a visual tutorial along with direct download links on the page.
I’ve never personally used the Weasyl site before but it does seem legit. And it hosts plenty of free downloadable assets like these brushes.
Only trouble is the search feature doesn’t work too well. It’s hard to find brushes or textures on this site unless you do some advanced searches in Google.
I’d definitely recommend grabbing this pack though and keeping it handy.
The tutorial makes this an easy setup for absolute beginners too.
Brush Supplement #2
So many artists hit a wall with free brushes. They eventually learn how to create their own, but not all are created equal.
I will say that this free supplementary brush pack is one of the best out there. DeviantArt user DarlingMionette offers over 15 custom brushes with a wide range of styles:
- Rough crayon
- Etc, etc…
You can download the entire set for free off the DeviantArt page. The full set measures about 6MB in size so it’s pretty big.
But this is also one of the absolute best brush packs you’ll ever find for SAI. Really, this has it all.
If you’re still learning how to create your own brushes this would be an excellent place to start. Really easy brush set to break into and it works for all skill levels.
To get into something a little more specific have a look at this fur brush created by rainbowsprinkles12.
At first glance this may not look like much. But you can do a lot with brush settings to get this fur brush to look how you want.
Whether you’re drawing a horse’s mane or a big grizzly bear, this brush should work wonders. It’s also pretty small only weighing 50KB in size.
The download link can be found on the main DA page along with comments and further setup instructions.
Keep in mind you can search DA for brushes and for groups related to Paint Tool SAI. These are both good methods for finding similar brushes meant for a very specific purpose.
Moving into some textures we have this fun pack by user aheria.
These textures are plentiful and really easy to adjust as needed. Some will prove more useful than others but overall it’s a great pack to have.
There’s a lot here from basic markings to more detailed textures like paper and cardboard. You can work these into any brush style you want to create a variety of effects.
All these textures were created from open source Creative Commons photos, or from public domain photos, so everything is free to distribute and edit for yourself.
For an amazing texture pack with some vivacity definitely check out aheria’s collection.
Colorful Texture Pack
For some color and pizzazz in your painting work check out these colorful textures released by AF-studios.
Inside the pack you’ll find 5 huge JPEG files measuring 2000×3000 pixels. That’s pretty darn big! And they all work up to 300 DPI which is perfect for print resolution.
These textures weigh about 38MB which definitely isn’t small. But these are textures you can use across so many brushes, or even alter them in photoshop to create new textures.
So much potential here in this pack of 5 basic textures. All you need to do is take the first step and download it.
Super basic yet incredibly useful describes this texture pack.
It comes as a freebie from user Piromanova and the pack includes 17 unique textures tailor-made for brushes. You can alter the shape, spacing, and even change how they work based on opacity.
A lot of options to work with here.
Inside the .zip file you’ll find a set of instructions on how to install these textures too.
SAI can be really confusing if you’ve never used it before so basic instructions are pretty commonplace with texture packs.
I do recommend checking this out and testing these textures just to see what you think. They don’t follow traditional brush norms but they are really well-designed. And they can fit into a bunch of project types from custom comics to anime fan art.
Custom SAI Brushes
If you’re looking more for shapes and unique brush styles then DigiKat04 has a pack for you.
Take a look at these custom SAI brushes and see what you think. I’d argue this pack is one of the better options if you’re doing a lot of custom effects or graphic design work mixed with illustrations.
But many of these brushes also work very nicely with digital painting. The Scale, Flat, Lace, and Flake brushes all look really nice together. I’m also a fan of the Dragonfly brush style.
Inside this pack you’ll find 12 unique brushes with a wide range of styles to work with.
Overall definitely recommend grabbing this set whether you’re a newbie or experienced artist.
You may look at this grass brush design and get the idea it’s a pattern brush.
However most SAI brushes are not stamp/pattern brushes.
This grass brush is actually a style of brushes designed around individual strokes that you can use to draw grass, bushes, hedges, and so on.
This means you really need to have your fundamentals down and feel comfortable with digital painting before you can turn this into grass.
That said, this brush can be used for so much more than just grass. It’s got a very smooth feeling with easy curves and the end result depends a lot on your pen pressure.
An excellent resource that I highly recommend toying with if you have the time.
Leaf & Bark Brushes
Nature brushes are always nice to have. Aside from the grass brush mentioned above there’s also this free pack of leaf and bark brushes.
The textures really do feel quite natural and they’ll blend into any piece of artwork.
But I do think this pack will be tough for newbies just learning Paint Tool SAI from scratch. If you’ve never done any digital drawing in here before then spend some time with the default brushes first.
Try to use this pack more as an addition once you’re comfortable with digital painting. It feels great under your stylus but will take some adjusting.
Electroslime SAI Brushes
Gumroad is one of the best websites to find digital art brushes. Problem is they’re spaced out across tons of profiles and there’s no easy way to search for everything.
But Gumroad user electroslime has a really nice brush pack that I highly recommend downloading.
This is totally free so it’s a valuable asset for beginners and experts alike. Not to mention the brush pack itself is full of so many nifty designs.
You’ll find cloud-style brushes along with pencil and pen styles to match any piece of artwork. There’s a good mix of examples in the image above with semi-blended and blended work all from these same brushes.
What I like most about this pack is the consistency. It can be used for almost any project so this is a brush set you’ll use many times over.
Nintendo ARMS Brush Pack
Nintendo ARMS is a lesser-known game with a dedicated following. The art style is superb and this brush kit is aimed at mimicking the style.
Digital artist BlackHeartedInk created this brush pack and released it for free on Gumroad. The default price is $0 so just hit download and this pack is yours.
The styles are a clear copy of the ARMS artwork so you can paint your own similar characters with a similar style.
Or design your own brushes with a similar format, or even paint some custom artwork. Whatever you want!
Interestingly enough this artist created an ARM brush pack 2.0 with some updated settings to better match the style.
I like the original pack myself but you can grab both for free and try them out.
Super Smash Bros. ULTIMATE
This is an excellent all-purpose brush that you can use to create amazing works of art without ever having to switch tools.
This has a sketchy dry brush texture that you can use to create light, wispy shapes or layer for more depth and opacity. This can give your cartooning and concept art a bit more “life” in the final design.
Play with the settings to try creating different effects and line qualities too. This might become your new favorite brush!
And make sure to view the linked demo video to see this bad boy in action.
Doxy’s Brush Dump
Now this pack is the result of an artist’s past decade of experience and the brushes they use the most!
This is a good toolbox of brushes that includes all kinds of textures, line qualities, and screen tones so that you can render just about anything you can think of in any medium.
If you’re new to Paint Tool SAI and just want a basic pack of brushes to get you started, this is a fantastic place to start.
Doodlemancy’s SAI Brushes
This set of 3 brushes even gives each one a name: “pencil,” “softy”, and “bloopy”.
If those aren’t descriptive, I don’t know what is!
The pencil brush is what it sounds like: a brush that perfectly captures the texture and quality of a soft pencil (think 6B), which is great for sketching and line drawing.
The softy brush is a round, fuzzy, pastel-like brush that’s great for shading. But also handy for soft highlights and texturing. It’s like applying little puff balls to the page.
What's The Best Acrylic Paint Brushes
The bloopy brush is a small brush that’s great for drawing soft lines, which is a strong fit if you’re going for a serene look.
Overall this threesome is a lot of fun to play with, and no that’s not dirty.
SAI Brushpack(9 Custom Styles)
Nine awesome texture brushes make up this pack that mimics the quality of wet and dry pastels.
Some brushes in here have a scratchy texture while others are much softer and almost look like paint.
You can also layer colors beautifully with these brushes and texture just about anything you can think of from hair, skin, and eyes to cloth, grass, clouds, foliage, and stone.
Each brush has a distinctly different mood, too. So you’ll probably have a lot of fun incorporating these into your regular brush rotation.
2srooky Sai Brush Pack
I think the best brush packs are the ones that artists use themselves and have fine-tuned over time to match their drawing needs.
Well that’s exactly what you’ll find here, a collection of 2srooky’s favorites.
Each one in this set is designed to provide everything you need to create complete drawings and digital art with minimal adjustments and brush changes. Over weeks and months of painting this adds up to a lot of time saved.
Nintendo ARMS Brush 2.0
This is the second iteration of this artist’s original ARMS brush, designed to do everything the original could do… but better!
Everything here was made to replicate the look and feel of the Nintendo ARMS game, so if you love that game and would like to incorporate that into your style, well look no further.
This brush has all the same texturing and precision as the game art style which is really cool. And it can add a lot of movement and energy to any digital drawing.
Big Brushes Pack
Don’t you love it when artists put together the actual stuff they use?
That’s always what I’m looking for and it’s why I love this set.
Inside you’ll find a great variety of textures, shapes, brush tips, and more, all in this one pack.
I have to say this is the perfect all-purpose pack that makes for a fantastic kickoff point if you aren’t sure where to start with Paint Tool SAI brushes. Try it out and see what you think!
AcetalDigital’s Sai Brushes
There’s nothing better than a good brush you can use for everything, right?
Well this one like the hammer in your toolkit.
You can use this one brush to complete an entire work of art, from the initial sketching to coloring, texturing, highlighting, and shading.
It’s an incredible resource for digital artists. I feel like it can do just about anything and it’s an awesome addition to your brush collection for SAI powerusers.
Luvbites: Artist Starter Pack
This set of tools is great for the Paint Tool SAI beginner who wants a comprehensive set to begin with, along with templates and instructions for getting the most out of them.
Inside you’ll find over 40 custom brushes (for versions 1 and 2), a template for soft shading, and a template for cell shading.
No matter what your style is like or what you want to draw, this brush set is indispensable. At least check it out and give it a quick test run.
Sketchers Brush Pack
Inside this collection you’ll find 10 sketching brushes that are perfect for base sketches, detailing, doodling, highlighting, or even texturing.
Most of these brushes are textured and lend a fun scratchy-ness to your sketches that you’re bound to love.
They mimic a variety of mediums like pens and pencils, chalk, watercolor, and acrylic paint.
Keep in mind, these are only for Paint Tool SAI 2 so it’s unclear if they can run in older versions(you can try, but not officially supported).
If you do a lot of digital doodling in Paint Tool SAI then this pack is a must-have.
Funny enough, this is actually a set originally made Clip Studio Paint that includes settings for two of the brushes in Paint Tool SAI (Color and Line).
I’ll admit, these are pretty basic and you’ll probably find yourself using them for quick drawings or possibly even more detailed artworks. But not a whole lot else.
Use the sketch brush for your base sketch, and maybe as you move onto fine details and textures too.
Then use the color brush for your coloring, shading, and highlighting. It’s amazing what you can do with just two well-designed brushes, once you learn how to use ‘em that is.
Sai Artistic Textures Vol1
Don’t let the volume 1 in the title fool you here. This set is perfect just the way it is, no volume 2 needed.
Here you’ll pick up some fantastic brushes for quickly rendering all kinds of textures, from animal skin to worn concrete, corrugated metal to a sci-fi “coding” texture.
You’ll have a lot of fun playing with these brushes and finding creative ways to work them into your digital paintings.
One other cool feature: these brushes are all seamless so they’re great for filling in large areas quickly. This pack can also help you save a ton of time while adding a whole new dimension of texturing to your SAI workflow.
LoZ Breath of The Wild Brush Pack
Every Legend of Zelda game has some of the best graphics and character designs hands-down.
These designs come from amazing video game artists who produce some incredible concept art for the series.
The same artist mentioned above created this Legend of Zelda brush pack designed exclusively for SAI users. These brushes are meant to mimic the artistic style from Breath Of The Wild.
And let me say this brush pack does a fantastic job.
While this is hosted on Gumroad, you’ll notice it has a price tag of $0. That means you can download the entire pack for free at no cost, or choose to give a tip. Either way these brushes are available for everyone.
Gumroad is one of the best sites for artists to share tutorials, brushes, textures, everything. It’s the single largest digital download marketplace so it’s a trusted resource.
Considering you can get these brushes totally free I’d absolutely recommend grabbing them.
Best Acrylic Paint Brushes For Canvas
Especially if you’re big into game art or if you’d ever want to paint your own concept art from scratch.