The complete guide to artists paints

12:22 PM

Do you want to paint, but don't know where to start? Do you get confused about the different type of paints on the market and wonder which one to try?
This little guide is for you then.

The world of artists paints can be a very confusing one, and different type of paint serve very different purposes. I have done artsy stuff from as far as I can remember and have pretty much tried all paint mediums out there at one point or another. There are some I prefer more than others, but I did experiment at least a little with each of the most common paint types out there.

I'll give you a list of all type of paints you are likely to come across in a stationary shop and art supplies shop below, along with that they are used for and how to use them.

Acrylic Paint
This is by far the most versatile paint on the market and one of my favourite for many reasons. The paint is water soluble as long as it is wet and can be thinned with water to a translucent level. It also dries VERY quickly which means you don't have to wait long to apply a second coat (but it requires you to work fast as well).
The ultimate advantage of acrylic paint is that once it has dried it is waterproof and quite durable. It can be used on almost any surface, but does best on slightly porous surface. If you plan on using it on glass or plastic, you might need to prime your surface with a primer first. I've used it on most of the projects featured on this blog.
It comes available in tube or pots, and a wide range of vibrant colors.

Fabric Paint
This one is technically nothing but Acrylic paint. The only difference being that it comes in pots and has a slightly more liquid consistency that let you use it "as it is" on fabric in order to prevent bleeding into the textile fiber. I have used fabric paint on other surfaces, and used tubed acrylic paint on fabric. But if you are a beginner and do not understand acrylic paint well enough to dilute it properly in water to use on fabric, I recommend you stick to the specially formulated fabric type. Like regular acrylic, it dries quickly and becomes totally waterproof once completely dry. To make the paint last longer on fabrics, it is recommended to iron the design on the reverse after 24 hours of drying.

WatercolourThis type is probably the type you used as a kid and in school. It comes in dry cake form or tubes. The big advantage this pain has is that even once it has dried, it can be dissolved again once you add water. Which is a big plus if you keep your colour blending palettes and have shades you will need again later on it. It is also washable in most cases, which is why it is a popular choice with schools and small kids.
The end result will be matte and a bit powdery to the touch, contrary to acrylic and oil which give you a glossy finish. It is also a bit less UV resistant and will fade with time if you fail to protect your work with a varnish coat.
I prefer using watercolours whenever I am working on a project where I need watered down colours and for its ability to blend directly on paper to create interesting gradients. This type of paint does best being used on paper. But be aware that regular printer paper will not give you the best result, you need a thicker and slightly grainy type of paper. Ask at the shop you buy the paint from, they usually have the paper too.
In India, this type of paint is also called "Poster paint" and comes in small jars.

Oil PaintI am going to be frank here, this is personally the type of paint I dislike the most (oil paint artists please don't kill me). If you are a total beginner at painting, I would highly recommend you stay away from it. It is a very slow drying paint, and a painting could take months to fully dry (and you will have to wait that long to frame it and varnish it). It is also a paint that demands a high level of technique to come out right. Do it improperly and you could end up with cracks and chipping. The paint need to be thinned with either oil, or turpentine, water will not work. The big advantage of this paint is that due to its very slow drying time you can blend and add layers to a painting over the course of a few weeks. The Renaissance masters all worked with that type of paint and often spent years working on one single painting because the oil based allowed them to do touch ups easily.

Glass Paint
This type of paint is translucent and will give you a stained glass effect. There are two variants in the market : water based and solvent based. The water based one will be a bit less durable and a bit more liquid than the solvent based type. The water based one works well on flat surfaces you can paint while its in a horizontal position. The solvent based paint is a bit more viscous and definitely more toxic, and does best on curved glass surfaces and windows (where you need things to dry quickly before gravity does its thing). Very often glass paints are used along with a 3D liner (more on that later).
Once dry, this type of paint is fairly resistant to light and water. The solvent based one will only really come off with turpentine or an acetone based solvent and a lot of scrubbing (speaking from experience).
One of the project I did using this paint were these cute water glasses. They are still good 2 years later despite my maid scrubbing them vigorously (one or two have lost a bit of 3D liner, but the paint is still in good shape).

Spray Paint
This type of paint comes in a pressurized can and is mostly used to paint metallic surfaces. Street artists use it to paint grafitis too. This is a 100% durable, wash proof, UV proof paint that gives you a very uniform finish. That said, it is a solvent based paint that emit toxic fumes, so you MUST take precautions while working with it. Always do it in a well ventilated area (preferably outdoors) and if you are going to work on a large project that will take you a couple of hours, wear an adequate breathing mask (available in hardware stores). make sure you cover your work surface well too, this pain is volatile and you will find deposits within a 30-50cm radius from the surface. If working outdoor, avoid doing it on a day of high wind, and definitely wear clothing that you don't mind getting permanently stained.

Paint Markers
These are metallic body markers filled with acrylic paint. They need to be shaken before use and the the pressure on the tip is what will released the paint. These are solvent based, like the spray paint, and you need to make sure you are working in a well ventilated room.
They are used for any work where you need a precise application. be it writing on glass, plastic, or ceramic, or doing a touch up on a car. The paint is permanent on most surfaces. These pens need to be stored horizontally when not in use, so resist the urge to have them stand in your pencil pots on your desk.

3D liners and glitter glues
Those following this blog regularly will know that they are a particular addiction of mine. I LOVE working with them. Technically, they aren't as much of a paint as they are a colored fabric / white glue. They can be used on a wide variety of surface, and again, if you have been following this blog long enough, you know that I did just that. Cardboard, fabric, glass, wood, canvas, paper...they really work well on everything. They are non toxic as well. Remember though that they aren't super permanent and will peel off certain surface after a while. You will increase the chance of them sticking on glass longer if you clean the surface with some nail polish remover or some rubbing alcohol before applying the glue though.

I hope this little guide has helped you understand paints and their uses a bit better. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments (I will answer them as good as I can).
If you are already familiar with paints, what is your favourite type?

For your shopping convenience in India (affiliate links) :

Acrylic and Fabric paints
Watercolour & Paper
 Oil paint
Glass paint
Paint markers

You Might Also Like


  1. Thanks for the great post...very informative and helpful!!!


Blog Archive