Which Paint Type is Best for Beginners?

When we start painting many are confused by the paint media, there is acrylic, gouache, oil, watercolour so what are the differences?  Which one are best for the beginner?  I will explain the characteristics of each type of paint media.

Acrylics

Acrylic paint is fast-drying paint, water-soluble and becomes water-resistant when dry.  The paints are made from a by-product of the plastic industry so they are fairly new as an art medium (1960’s) and have become much more popular in the last few decades.

Acrylics are versatile and easy to use for beginners
Acrylics are versatile and easy to use for beginners

They are easy to use for beginners, they can be used in a diluted way in washes a bit like watercolour or thicker to achieve an opaque finish.  You can layer the paint as it layers with ease because the paint dries quickly so you can go over areas again and again.  The fast-drying qualities of the paint does make blending challenging as you will get lines where the  paint dries.

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What is a ‘Stay Wet’ Palette?

A ‘Stay Wet’ palette is something that is used with acrylic paints to keep the paints moist. Acrylics are extremely fast-drying which means they can dry and stick onto a palette.  You often end up scrapping off the acrylic paint from a palette and wasting excess paint.

Acrylic paint used on a plastic palette is very difficult to remove once dry!
Acrylic paint used on a plastic palette is very difficult to remove once dry!

One way to save this waste of paint is to buy or make a ‘Stay-Wet’ palette.  It works by having an absorbent sheet of paper (usually blotting paper) which you wet with water to make moist and a non-porous paper on top (a bit like a greaseproof paper) that the paints are placed on.  The palette also has a lid  so you can close it to keep the paints moist overnight and between sittings.

The Stay Wet Palette
The Stay Wet Palette

You can make your own homemade ‘Stay-Wet’ palette using a plastic tray, blotting paper (or I have seen sponge being used instead) with greaseproof paper on top.  I plan to write a post on how to make a Stay-Wet palette in the future.

If you don’t want to buy the palette, you could buy some ‘Tear Off Stay-Wet Palettes’ which come in sheets.   They look much like a sketchpad and last a while, the sheets have a non-porous surface that that acrylic paint can sit on and not sink into.  These tear off palettes will keep your acrylic paints moist for a long time

'Stay Wet' Tear Off Palette
‘Stay Wet’ Tear Off Palettes

If acrylics are your thing then I would recommend getting the Stay-Wet palette with the lid, they aren’t that expensive and are worth it.

Also see Which Palette for Which Paint? and What are Acrylics? for more advice.