What Acrylic Painters Should Not Do – Even if the Art Books Tell You To

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I recently purchased an art book that told me to do something I knew was not good for acrylic paintings. The book is “Acrylic Painting: Landscapes: Learn to paint landscapes in acrylic step by step (How to Draw & Paint)” by Tom Shropshire. It is a Walter Foster book, which is usually very reliable.

Shropshire’s book is good, though. I don’t want to imply that the book is not a good one for our art library. It is a welcome addition to my collection. There are 5 landscape projects. Some have small human figures, which I like. He is into stormy skies and does them remarkably well. We can also learn to paint trees and reflections in the water from this book.

Furthermore, the 5 projects could be painted as a set for a large wall.

But the instructions for each project start with “Dampen the canvas with a sponge.”

I don’t believe this is wise. The binder for acrylic paints can be diluted with water to the point where it will not bind to the canvas. I can imagine that some unsuspecting student in acrylics could make the mistake of putting too much water on the canvas. Later the dry paint could flake off due to what Michele Theberge calls “under-binding” in her video below.

A much better technique is to add acrylic medium to the paint if you want to create a “wash effect” or “tone the canvas.” Used according to the instructions, the medium would not dilute the binder in the paint beyond what it can tolerate. So always follow the instructions on the bottle of medium to the letter.

I use Liquitex Airbrush Medium which Michele demonstrates in the video. It is not glossy and is practically odorless. These were two requirements I was looking for in a medium. I use it to tone a canvas or to make the paint more fluid on my brush, especially when the paint is beginning to dry out and drag across the canvas.

Instead of dipping my brush into water to make the paint more fluid, I dip it into the airbrush medium.

To back up my claim that adding too much water to the paint or canvas is not good with acrylics, I have included Michele Theberge’s video. She explains the problem and solution better than I can. She asks us in her video to “spread the news” about the problem acrylic paint has with adding too much water, so here we go. Thanks, Michele! We appreciate that you took the time to teach us this important point: