Me, Not The Paint

This was originally published many years ago via my old blog. I’ve changed blogs throughout my life, but some nuggets of information still ring true today. This was first published in Dec. 19, 2008. I forgotten which blog it was, but I still have all of my old writings.

This was a letter from a woman named Kristin who kindly wrote and asked questions about acrylic paint for me to answer on my blog.

Hi There,

So…I am about to embark on my first go at painting with acrylic (or anything else, for that matter). I was inspired by an abstract that a coworker did. It is really just a canvas streaked with color (hers is blue & green). I want something similar for an empty wall that is driving me nuts….but I didn’t want to pay her $450 to make me one.

I went to the art store and bought the colors that I want (I think) and the canvas. Now I am scared to start. I know NOTHING about this, but I found your website and you seem like the expert.

Here are my initial questions…

1. I am assuming to make the blue paint a light blue, I just add white until I find the desired color. Is that right? Do I need to add water??

2. If I want streaks of white, is it better to paint white streaks or wipe off paint to reveal the white canvas beneath?

3. Can you layer this type of paint?

4. Can I mix these paints on a paper plate, or something else around the house, or do I need to purchase the plastic thing? (you are probably cracking up by now)

I would appreciate it if you can shed any light for me on these questions or any other helpful tips for an ABSOLUTE BEGINNER. I am fully aware that I may hate this thing after I do it, but just don’t want to waste my initial investment by making a rookie mistake!

Thanks in advance.”


Thank you Kristin,

Congratulations on your first step towards being an artist! To answer your first question, yes. You need water in a tub (jars, bowls or anything to hold water will do), blue and white paint, brush(es), a tub of water, a palette and canvas. However, a paper plate isn’t a good idea for a palette because the plate will take the moisture right out of the acrylics. Use a spare ceramic plate, or just a piece of wax paper will do fabulously. Take a piece of typing paper and tape it to a board. Use this for practice. It’s cheap and easy. Then take a brush and dip it into some water. Always keep the brushes moist. Next, take the brush and dip it into the blue. Use the brush as a spoon and scoop the blue and put it elsewhere on the palette. Then do the same thing with the white, but make it close to the blue. Rinse the brush (good habit to get into). Then take the brush and mix the blue and white together. When you are done, look at the color closely. Do you like? If not, adjust with more blue, or more white until you got the correct color. That’s your base color for the picture, so when you learn how to mix that color, make a batch of it and tone the entire paper. (Basically color the entire paper with that color).

You will notice that the paint will begin to skin (begin to harden on the top like magic shell ice cream topping). When this happens, if you have a mister, great, periodically spray your paint. If not, take your brush, dip it into the water, and put a drop of water into your mixture.

The next step is a bit more difficult as it is most definitely your judgment call. This is where your streaks come in. Do you want it thick or thin and wispy? To make it thin and wispy, add water to your mixture, as well as more white or blue depending if you want it lighter or darker. Do some practice streaks on an extra sheet of paper. If you like, apply the same principles to the typing paper. If you want it thick, take a brush and scoop a bit of it and put it on the paper, next you smooth it out with a light touch. In other words, have your brush a bit higher off the paper. You know when you put icing on a cake or cupcake? It’s the same thing, don’t squash the icing. Once the paint is dry (about 10 minutes) you can put another layer over it.

Once you get your basic idea down and the colors down and are more confident, go ahead and dive into the paint and make your painting! Remember, it’s only paint! Don’t be afraid!