Acrylic On Canvas

18 Steps To Paint With Acrylic On Canvas

Painting is a form of meditation, skill, and creative activity. You can always break all the rules, but for the first few times, get to know acrylics as they are and attempt to follow the process step by step; this will help you realize how and where you may break the rules. Do it on your own.

Acrylics are versatile and one of the most popular mediums for painting. It is easier than watercolor and oil but still offers you an incredible variety of techniques. Paints look amazing and are sold for hundreds of thousands.

I have 18 steps, but it looks excessive, right? As a result, I divided it into three stages:

  1. The preparation of the surface, materials, and yourself
  2. A real painting
  3. Painting protection

Many novices do not consider protection and stop when the painting is completed. It’s hardly a professional attitude, as we’ll see today.


  1. Prepare the surface
  2. Dress up / apron
  3. Prepare water
  4. Get a canvas and easel
  5. Get paint
  6. Prepare brushes
  7. Get a printed reference

PAINTING: 6 steps

  1. Gesso
  2. Sketch
  3. Mix paint
  4. Dark to light: start from medium or dark areas + sides
  5. Paint in layers + dry
  6. Light and details
  7. Dry


  1. Protective finish/varnish
  2. Protection/framing
  3. Maintenance


  1. Potential sale

Preparation For Painting With Acrylics On Canvas

1. Prepare the surface

Acrylic paint adheres to any absorbent surface, including wood, cloth, and paper. Cover the floor if you use an easel; if you use an easel on a table or paint horizontally on a table, cover the table.

Some folks utilized old newspapers to cover the surfaces. Still, not every house has any, so we may use garbage bags. I cut a large bag and tape it to the surface.

Because tile does not soak acrylics, you can remove paint from it even if you unintentionally dropped some on it.

2. Dress up

For the same reason (acrylic is difficult to remove from clothing), you should either dress in “painting” clothes or wear an apron.

It might be a cloth apron (denim or cotton) or a disposable plastic apron. You know yourself better; I don’t use an apron since I am quite careful and have never dropped paint on myself, and I don’t want to spend more money on it.

3. Prepare water

Water aids us in the following ways:

  • to keep brushes clean and moist – this is why the first container or jar with water is required,
  • to clean brushes between colors – this is why we need a second container or jar with water,
  • We need a spray bottle of water to keep the canvas or paint from drying too quickly and allow us more time to work.

I’ve already indicated that using too much water will not only thin or slow down the drying period but will also damage the paint composition: pigments and binders will no longer hold together as tightly as they used to.

What does this imply? It may cause cracking while the painting dries, affecting how long it can endure.

People, though, continue to paint with tap water. Don’t overthink it if you’re a newbie practicing. Some experts use distilled water instead of tap water to maintain the paint. Still, there is a simple and inexpensive way to keep it fluid and prevent it from drying.

4. Get a canvas and an easel

Beginning using an easel is typically advised for acrylic novices. True, it simplifies things; it will be difficult to get the proper proportions and perspectives if you start painting horizontally. An easel aids in the placement of the painting, keeping it vertical, and can be changed to fit any size canvas.

When I painted in oil, I always used an easel and sat in front of my canvas.

If you’re thinking about purchasing an easel, I’d recommend doing it at an art store where you can touch it and see how comfortable it is for you. If you prefer to purchase online, Amazon is a good option.

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Foldable Wooden Studio Easel

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It is also necessary to stand up and back up in order to observe the entire picture and compare it to a reference, if you have one, to check the proportions.

Canvas is an important component in painting success. Examine the texture, the stretcher bars (big canvas should have one or two stretcher bars across it), how the canvas is stretched (it should never be droopy or have any dentations), and the priming. Before making an internet purchase, always check some reviews.

It is a wonderful and affordable alternative for a novice because it is triple primed, 100% cotton canvas, and has good-quality wooden stretcher bars.

5. Get paint

Acrylic paint is relatively simple to obtain both online and in art stores. As previously said, depending on your budget, you will want artist-grade excellent quality paint from any brand.

Acrylics are commonly sold in tubes and jars. I like tubes, but it is entirely up to you.

Do not open and squeeze paint at this point!

6. Prepare brushes

Brushes should be clean and dry at all times. A good brush has tight bristles that do not leave hairs or strokes behind (until it is intentional). We utilize synthetic brushes, as we all know.

Prepare forms and sizes based on your concept and feelings. You may use this chart to ensure you made the best decision, but it is ultimately your experience.

7. Get a printed reference

If you are a newbie, having a reference in front of you may be simpler.

Where can I locate it? My first paintings, for example, were of my favorite images from vacations and of my cats when I was a youngster. You may use any photo, get inspiration on Pinterest, or even imitate your favorite artist if you’re studying.

Print it as large as your canvas (if feasible) or only the maximum size – A4. Of course, print it in color. Adjust it on the easel next to you or on the wall so that you can see it and compare it to your painting when you back up.

I’ve discovered references in publications occasionally, which can also work!



8. Gesso

Skip this step if you have a pre-primed canvas and like how smooth it is.

Continue reading if you don’t have a pre-primed canvas or aren’t happy with how smooth it is.

Gesso is a primer that may be used on any surface. It smoothes and adheres to the surface. In general, you will never get the same or desired effects without gesso. Yes, painters may paint on unprimed canvas if they know what they’re doing!

9. Sketch

Now that you have your reference in front of you grab a pencil and do an almost invisible drawing to identify all the items and modify it to the size of the canvas.

If you have a reference, this step is required, but you are prepared to provide your data.

Another helpful technique for both beginners and pros is to paint the entire concept on paper or a canvas pad before painting it on a large canvas. This way, you may experiment with techniques, colors, effects, and extra pieces to see whether they will work. It is excellent for practice and indicates that you will produce greater results on a real canvas, but it requires time and patience.

10. Mix paint

Color charts and mixing might be one of the most unpleasant parts of the process at first, but as you learn more nuances, you will realize that blended colors can be even more opaque than purchased ones.

  • Let’s discuss color mixing. A color chart is a handy item to have on hand for the first few occasions.
  • Get your paint, your reference, a palette knife, and a palette or whatever you’re going to use as a palette.
  • Always squeeze little quantities of paint since acrylics dry quickly, and you won’t be able to undry or reopen them after they’ve dried too hard on your palette.
  • Always use a palette knife to combine colors. Maintain a clean and dry environment.
  • Make notes on how you matched colors and patches to save time in the future.
  • DO NOT COMBINE ALL COLORS AT ONCE; they will dry. Work gradually!

Here are several “recipes” for combining brown, grey, purple, orange, and green:

  • Light brown: Gradually add a white color to your brown.
  • Warm brown: brown + red and/or yellow color.
  • Cool brown: brown + some blue color.
  • Darker brown: brown + dark blue.
  • Grey: a lot of blue colors + a small amount of orange color + white color.
  • Purple: red + blue 1:1.
  • Reddish Orange: yellow + red 1:2.
  • Yellowish Orange: yellow + red 2:1.
  • Orange: yellow + red 1:1.
  • Green: yellow + blue.
  • Muted green color: yellow + blue+red

11. Paint Dark to light

When painting with acrylic paint, we proceed from darker to brighter parts.

Examine your reference and determine which items are farther away and darker – here is where you will begin. At first, your painting will appear not as you thought, and that’s alright – it is termed the “ugly stage.” Maintain consistency and patience, and go from bigger, darker things to smaller, lighter, and closer details. The best part is still to come!

Consider mountains. You start by painting a deeper primary color – it might be dark green, blue, or even black, depending on your reference and vision. Then you start making slopes and shadows, but little rivers, small snow regions, and unusual trees come last. From dark to light, I developed this painting:

Acrylics are not the same as watercolors – they operate very differently!

While painting, don’t forget to paint the sides – they are a part of the picture, and leaving them blank might seem amateurish.

12. Paint in layers

Acrylic painting entails applying paint in layers. It may appear to be simpler to apply one thick coat and let it dry, but this is not the greatest option.

Thin layers are simple to paint and dry quickly. It is simpler to cover up a mistake and give your painting a more professional appearance with several layers than with a single layer.

When you begin the next layer, the previous one should be dry. Brushes should be clean and dry before applying each coat.

Consider a mille-feuilles cake – Napoleon – This is your artwork! It tastes so nice because we have so many layers of pastry and cream!

13. Details

You’ve completed the entire procedure, and all of the layers have dried; now it’s time to add the finishing highlights and details.

You can also play with pencils or charcoal at this stage to create minor details, lines, or abstract forms.

14. Let it Dry

You are correct that acrylic dries quickly, however… In actuality, there are often two stages of drying:

  • The first step is when the paint is dry to the touch, which can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the brand. And this is what occurs between layers.
  • The second stage is when the painting has completely dried or cured – when it is no longer sensitive to water or maybe reopened (we can no longer paint).

So, once you’ve finished painting, you’ll have to wait till the second step is finished – generally 24 hours.

Why is it significant? It is critical because cracking and peeling of paint happen as a result of an improper drying process. When the dry time or temperature changes, your painting may fracture. Which isn’t pleasant, is it?

Another consideration when painting and drying is the environment:

Humidity range: 40-50%

Temperature: 65-75 deg F (18-24C)


There will be no direct sunshine.

Your artwork is finished! However, the procedure is not yet complete; we must still ensure that it will last long enough.


15. Protective finish/varnish

Acrylic paintings require protection for several reasons:

  • It adores dust and gathers a lot of it.
  • It tends to fade or even turn yellow at times.
  • Acrylic paint cannot be touched or cleaned directly.
  • It may last less time if no protective coatings are used.

To conserve acrylic paintings, we need a first store or display them in a suitable setting.

Second, we must apply for special protection – the traditional method is to apply a layer of varnish. It is a protective coating that is difficult to apply yet long-lasting. In 25-50 years, a varnish coat should be removed and replaced with another coat of varnish.

16. Framing

Framing is an excellent technique to safeguard a picture, but it is no longer as popular as it once was.

Nowadays, artists use box framing (also known as a ‘tray’ frame, a shadowbox frame, or a ‘floating’ frame).

We also use plexiglass instead of glass since it is lighter, clear (glass can have a green or yellow tinge), and less delicate.

However, you are not required to frame all of your paintings if you do not choose to.

17. Maintenance

Your artwork is safe and dry and will wow everyone. Now you must follow these simple guidelines to assist it in the coming years:

  • Use a feather duster or another delicate item to clean it. Clean the glass if you place your artwork beneath it.
  • If you leave a painting without glass, avoid touching it because human skin contains oil, which can harm the protective surface over time.
  • Maintain the temperature, humidity, and air movement.
  • Make a note of the varnish you used and replace it when the time comes.

Isn’t it so simple?!


18. Potential sale

It may appear strange that I placed this step here, but let’s be honest – being an artist may be more than just a pastime!

Don’t underestimate yourself; simply look at some of the cheapest acrylic paintings for sale, and I know that the average selling price ranges from $1000 to $100,000!

There are other internet galleries, but my favorites are Artfinder and SaatchiArt. Most importantly, they are well-known and trusted by purchasers. These galleries charge a commission, but they also have a large number of visitors. Therefore I believe it is reasonable.


To paint with acrylic on canvas, you’ll need some basic equipment (acrylic paint, canvas, brushes, and a palette) as well as some extras (easel, palette knife, jars, etc.). You will also need patience and understanding in preparing the surface, painting, and protecting the artwork.

Everything is here. I’ve walked you through a fundamental procedure that you’ll use again and again regardless of what you’re painting. It is a good place to start and will serve as your foundation. You can break any restrictions and explore once you have gained confidence!

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Ubaid Siddiqui is interested in arts and crafts. He has done arts and crafts since he was in school, and taking this passion to a greater extent, he became a writer in INKBYHAND. Here the users will learn how to make their first art and all the information they need to make a painting from tip to toe. An excellent mind will inform you.

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Muskan is a gifted artist who has dedicated her life to creating stunning paintings and calligraphy. From a young age, she has displayed an innate talent for the arts, and her passion has only grown. With a unique style that seamlessly blends traditional techniques with contemporary elements, Muskan's works are truly one-of-a-kind.

Throughout her career, Muskan has consistently proven her skills and creativity. She has won numerous medals in the field of art, recognition that speaks to the quality and impact of her work. Her paintings and calligraphy are not just visually stunning but also emotionally charged, inviting viewers on a journey of self-discovery and connection.

Whether you are an art enthusiast or appreciate beauty, Muskan's works are sure to captivate and inspire. With a passion for her craft and talent that shines through in every piece, she is a true master of her art form and a rising star in the industry.

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