What is the Best Acrylic Paint for Artists (And Crafters Too…)

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What is the best acrylic paint brand for artists, crafters, sculptors? If you plan to take your art seriously (Kudos to you, by the way!) you need to take your materials seriously too. And for a lot of craft projects, good acrylics are essential, too!

Acrylics have their advantages: unlike oils they don’t smell, they mix and clean up with water so you don’t have to deal with “turp” or chemicals.

Acrylics are a great medium to work with but do keep in mind that not all of them are created equal, or equally good for every endeavor. Oh, if you’re in a hurry or just curious, I thought I’d include my favs here:

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Don’t worry; I’ve got you covered! I’ll tell you what to look for and then the best performers to get you to doing what you love best, which, no doubt is painting:)

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best acrylic paints for artists

A Buyer’s Guide to Acrylics

Acrylics are a fairly modern medium (dating back to the 60s) and some people believe they lack the richness and depth of oils, but I’m here to tell you that is not true.In honestly, to appease my roommate in college . I didn’t want to offend her with my smelly oil paints. Some people literally are sensitive – not judging anyone here.

I was taking classes at the time and since I already had most of my materials with me all I had to switch out was my paints. Better yet, in my spare time, all I needed to do was to make sure plenty of water was around, I was freed up from the dangers of good ol’ turpentine, which may have been verboten in the dorm room.

Professional vs “Hobby” Paints

I’ve worked with craft paints that come in the wide array of colors that are a dime a dozen and while they have their place, I do not recommend them as a serious painting medium .You may know them as the little 2 oz bottles under the names FolkArt, AppleBarrel, etc., In my experience they are too thin and I had to use multiple coats to achieve the desired result.

I had the same problem when painting some of my finished clay sculptures…having to go back and re-apply another coat and worry about overlap marks showing – what a pain! The choices I am listing here are also the same paint brands I use for clay projects as well, so this article should come in handy for all you sculptors, too 😊 .

It should have a certain viscosity, thickness and richness to the paint itself, and provide good coverage.Click To Tweet

Heavy and Soft Body Explained

Have you ever seen the words “Heavy Body” or “Soft Body” on a tube of paint and wondered what that meant? Let’s look at that right now. “Body” is a term that refers to the thickness and viscosity of the paint.You may also see the word  “High” (or Low) Viscosity” which is pretty much synonymous.

“Soft Body” is sometimes known as “Low Viscosity” and refers to a lighter texture of acrylics. It does not mean the colors are lesser in depth – and they’re not to be confused with the “hobby” paints I mentioned earlier, but the texture is a little thinner. It can be good to use when building up layers.

‘Heavy Body” , also known per labeling as “High Viscosity” is a  type that is richer in pigments and thicker; it would be great to use if your specialty is a technique like impasto that involves thicker layers of paint and more dimension. You can also use a knife as well as brushes for application.

“Medium Viscosity” is the happy medium between the two with a moderate amount of pigmentation and thickness.

Compatibility with Other Products

In addition to water, you may also wish to use blending mediums and gels to enhance the texture of the paint, add a greater layer of dimension, and improve the flow. Unless other wise stated, most of the products listed here will allow you to do that. Some of them (mainly Liquitex and Goldens) have their own line of proprietary blending mediums that you can choose from.

Best value: Liquitex (Basics)

Having worked with a number of brands and types, my all-time favorite of them all is Liquitex. It has a few variations, including Liquitex Basics, Medium and High Viscosity. It’s my go-to brand for having a great range of colors, mixability, permanence and flexibility.

You have several options in terms of delivery; small 1 oz jars, larger quantity jars, and 4 oz tubes. Check Blick Art Materials as well as Amazon as sometimes one retailer may be running low in supply.

Liquitex BASICS Acrylic Paint Set, 6 x 118ml Tube Paint Set, AssortedLiquitex BASICS Acrylic Paint Set, 6 x 118ml Tube Paint Set, AssortedSee on AmazonLiquitex Basics Acrylic Paint Set - 12 Colors Artist QualityLiquitex Basics Acrylic Paint Set – 12 Colors Artist QualitySee on Blick

The 4 oz tubes also dispense with the flip top, in the case of the Basics line, Liquitex also makes smaller tubes too. I like the 4 oz size when it comes to the colors I need more of for easy mixing (white especially!), I can pick up a color I need more of as they are sold a la carte in addition to “starter sets”, which is good to know.

In which case, you will have a good workflow in terms of using a combo of brush and knife techniques that require skill, and you don’t have to worry they will dry too quickly (It will still dry faster from the outside, the inside layers may take longer.)

the best acrylic paint for artists

But all in all, this color range, different delivery options, and the choice of medium viscosity (“soft body”) and the slightly denser, richer “heavy body” options, give Liquitex a leg up on some other brands, which is why I think it’s the very best acrylic paint brand for artists taking their work seriously!

Liquitex (the jars)

I am also a big fan of the 2 oz jars – they have a flip-top for easy mess free dispensing and come in a wide range of colors. Most of the ones I used are classified as “soft body” (it’s indicated on the label  next to the color.) When I get to the stage where the paint is low enough to not squirt out anymore I just unscrew the cap and dip with my brush.

They’re shatter-proof too, better yet. The texture is light and buttery without compromising on color richness. I do think, however, they’re better suited to build up layers.

✅ Pros

  • Versatile, have soft, medium and high viscosity options
  • Larger tubes available for certain colors
  • Good value for the price

❌ Cons – Color selection may be limited for certain types

Next best paint brand: Reeves

There are several other brands I like as well that I’d like to pass along – Reeves with the cute little dog logo on the box  I like them and they’ve been around a long while. I was pleased with the general flow and texture of the paints overall; it’s just that the tubes are teeny and easy to run out of a color that I used more often.

That can be a bummer when it’s a color like white, dark green or brown (I feel that you can never have too much titanium white – since you’re always going to be mixing it with another color)

professional acrylic artist paint
All my Reeves brand paints…

Reeves was the brand of acrylics I was using in my spare time when I was in college and looking to practice on my “off” hours.  really liked my small 0.4 oz tube set (that size pictured above) because it didn’t take up room and I wanted to have as few materials as possible when living in a dorm.If you are a soon-to-be art student I’d highly encourage you to check out a set in that size. You won’t be disappointed.

Another negative is that the caps do not always stay on tightly…not sure why that is, but it’s not a total deal-breaker. Be sure to clean around the rim to prevent this.

✅ Pros:

  • Small tubes ideal for travel
  • Good color selection
  • Good for students and serious artists
  • Quality, highly pigmented colors

❌ Cons:

  • Paints may dry out more easily due to caps falling off

However I’d say that’s the only negative – I love me some Reeves paints and use them quite regularly!

best professional acrylic paintWinsor and Newton Galeria

Third best professional acrylic paint in my lineup is Winsor and Newton, and that’s a brand that excels at being both quality and affordable. The viscosity is excellent when working. As with Liquitex you have a fair amount of size and dispensary options to suit your needs.

Winsor and Newton makes a version called “Galeria” which is top notch with rich pigments in 60 ml (2 oz) tubes. You have the option of getting a set of 6 which will contain the most important colors but there are also larger quantity sets.


There are also larger size 4 oz, 200 ml tubes (6.75 ounces) The high opacity makes for a great workflow for brush and knife techniques and not having to apply multiple coats. In general, it carries a medium viscosity product.

✅ Pros

  • Vibrant, rich colors
  • Different size tube options
  • Good level of viscosity

❌ Cons – Nothing really major

Lumintrail Golden Artist Color Heavy Body Acrylics, 6-Color Intro Set, 3/4 Fl.Lumintrail Golden Artist Color Heavy Body Acrylics, 6-Color Intro Set, 3/4 Fl.Lumintrail Golden Artist Color Heavy Body Acrylics, 6-Color Intro Set, 3/4 Fl.

Goldens

One more and the last brand I’d like to mention in this lineup – is Goldens. Definitely worth your time, they’ve also got a line of fabric mediums too that are rated highly. Pretty similar to Winsor/Newton above, the colors are rich out of the tube (I mostly had them a la carte as opposed to a set)

To the right is their flagship set, which includes a nice bonus of a tube opener (that thingy that looks like a clothespin) but they also have interesting options such as fluorescents, metallics, and inks as well. All the paints in the series are heavy body with high levels of opacity.

One more thing that is unique to the brand is their “Open” line which is formulated to dry more slowly – so when you need more time for blending intricate details and colors this may be just what you need. It also can be combined with the proprietary blending gels too.

Best Hobby Paint for Miniatures

If your painting hobby runs more into the genre of small-scale projects. Things like the fantasy and folklore/ D & D oeuvre and fairy-garden figurines. If you are used to handling precise little details with small petite bristle brushes what kind of paint should you be using.

Vallejo is a good brand of paints to look into into paints that are grat for micro objects.. This set I came across was rated fairly highly by hobby painters.You can find two finishes, Gloss (Game Color) and Matte (Model Color). All of them come in 17 mL bottles with eyedropper applications, making it easier to get into the nooks and crannies of small-scale figures.

Vallejo Game Color Acrylic Paint Set - Assorted ColoursVallejo Game Color Acrylic Paint Set – Assorted ColoursVallejo Game Color Acrylic Paint Set - Assorted ColoursVallejo Model Colors Paint Set, 17ml, Assorted ColorsVallejo Model Colors Paint Set, 17ml, Assorted ColorsVallejo Model Colors Paint Set, 17ml, Assorted Colors

The “Game Colors” include some metallics in the set (gold, silver) which are ideal for added authenticity.The paint can be thinned or modified if necessary with water or alcohol. You will want to be sure to be supplied with the metal balls so the paint will not end up coagulating if the contents settle between use.

Biggest Takeaway

The most important reason to choose a brand like the ones above is that you don’t want to spend all your time trying to get the “right” consistency of paint – acrylics that are too thin (low viscosity) may dry too fast before you know what you’re doing next, may leave behind stray brush marks, or may not layer well.

If you find that you only need a dab of water at a time to distribute paint evenly then you’ve got a good paint flow going, as it should be!

Individual tubes are easily purchased but it can be a better option to choose a “starter pack” with the most important colors – if you’re fairly advanced in the knowledge of color mixing then the process of doing so should come naturally with good quality paint!

HAPPY PAINTING!!

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