Ready To Start Painting: Acrylics

You’ve been through all our lessons and are ready to start painting in acrylics! Learning is doing and you’ll improve your skill the more you work on it. We strongly suggest you follow the lesson plan that follows before striking out on your own. We profusely thank the author, Will Kemp at for allowing us to use these four videos as well as the exercises that follow in the next three lessons. All great tutorials!

In case you’re new to YouTube, here are the basic controls you’ll need:


If you like, you can always open the YouTube video in a separate tab in your browser to make it simpler to switch back and forth between the video and the text in our lesson. To do this, simply click the YouTube button in the lower right hand corner of the video that’s in the lesson. This will open the video in a new tab on YouTube. We recommend watching the video in full screen mode. For more information on YouTube, see our Being A Successful Student post.

For information on YouTube’s Closed Captioning, see this post here.

The first three painting exercises use only three colors. After that, you will need more colors if you want to paint exactly what we have suggested for the painting exercises. If you absolutely cannot afford more than three colors, that’s fine—lots can be done with the three we suggest!

Here are the topics we’ll be discussing:

Laying Out Your Palette

Applying A Ground

Cleaning Your Brush

Painting Tips

Knowing When To Stop

Let’s Get Painting!


These videos pull together some of the things we’ve discussed in our lessons. The videos in total will take about 15 minutes to watch.

Laying Out Your Palette


Acrylic Painting Techniques – How To Lay Out An Acrylic Painting Palette Technique by willkempartschool

When you’re finished painting for the day, you’ll need to clean off your palette. Unlike watercolor paints which can be reconstituted with water once they’ve dried, acrylic paints cannot be reused once they’ve dried. If you’re using a Sta-Wet palette (as we recommend), you’ll be able to keep the paints for longer. If you’re using a standard plastic or wood palette, the dried acrylic will adhere and make it difficult to remove later on.

Applying A Ground


How To Apply An Acrylic Coloured Ground: Beginners Painting Techniques by willkempartschool

A “ground” is a surface you paint on. For example, gesso is a white ground. In this video, Will Kemp suggests using a Yellow Ochre ground for still life and landscapes and a Burnt or Raw Umber ground for portraits. Use a house painting brush or the largest brush you have to apply the ground quickly. Remember to paint the sides of your canvas too so it looks finished even without a frame when you hang it on the wall.

Cleaning Your Brush


Acrylic Painting Tips: How To Clean Your Acrylic Paintbrush by willkempartschool

If you’re using liquid soap, put a little in your hand and wash your brush just as Will Kemp does in the video. If it’s a cake soap (like the one he’s using), you’ll need to rub the brush on the soap first. He talks about using paper towels in the video—you may use paper towels also or a rag will do just as well.

Painting Tips

Acrylic Landscape Painting Techniques – Lessons For Beginners Part 1 by willkempartschool

This video is a bit longer but has some really good tips for beginning painters.

Knowing When To Stop

The key to a successful painting is knowing when to stop! Fussing too much will only make your paint muddy and the overall painting appear overworked. It’s really difficult to know when to stop painting, so here are a few tips:

  • Move your painting to another area. Take it off your easel and prop it up in another room in the house. You won’t have the temptation of brushes and paint in another room so you can view the painting more objectively.
  • Give it time. Sometimes you need a day or two to look at the painting before you see something you want to change.
  • Ask opinions. Get the opinion of someone else. Do they think it looks finished? This can be hard to ask of someone else–as artists, we often feel very vulnerable doing this. Sometimes, though, it’s best to get the fresh eyes of someone who hasn’t been looking at the painting for a long time because they’ll notice something that you overlooked because you were focused on another piece of the work. Be brave, ask for opinions, and have confidence in your work!

All artists struggle with the idea of when a painting is finished. Here are a few notable quotes on the subject, just for fun:

“When something is finished, that means it’s dead, doesn’t it? I believe in everlastingness. I never finish a painting – I just stop working on it for a while” – Arshile Gorky

“To finish a work? To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow the coup de grace for the painter as well as for the picture” – Pablo Picasso

“How do you complete a painting, really? There are paintings by so many different artists that are interesting precisely because they haven’t really been completed” – Peter Doig

“Do not finish your work too much. An impression is not sufficiently durable for its first freshness to survive a belated search for infinite detail; in this way you let the lava grow cool…” – Paul Gauguin

“It is difficult to stop in time because one gets carried away. But I have that strength; it is the only strength I have” – Claude Monet

Let’s Get Painting!

Once you’ve finished watching the videos above, you can move on to actual painting! Make sure you have all our recommended supplies to get started (to buy on Amazon, click here). You can use any size canvas with these tutorials, but the bigger the canvas, the more freedom you have to move and paint without getting too fussy with your details. We would suggest no smaller than 8” x 10”.

Get your space and work materials all set up then watch the videos in the order below for some great tutorials. We recommend you watch the video before you start each exercise so you’ll have an idea of what to expect. You will probably want to watch the video as you’re painting, so make sure you have a computer and an internet connection in your working space/studio. Pause and rewind if necessary and if you get paint on your mouse, either wipe if off with your paint rag while it’s still wet or scrape it off with your fingernail when the paint dries.

You will need to draw your image onto your canvas, so if you haven’t already, check out our Drawing section for some tips on how to draw. If you’re not sure how to get your image onto canvas or don’t want to rely on your drawing skills alone, take a look at our Quick And Dirty Tricks For Getting Your Image Onto Canvas.

The next three lessons will get you started with painting. Of course, you can skip around if you like, but we’ve ordered the videos in the way that we feel will best suit the beginning painter. We’ve set up each lesson in Parts that each take up to 1 and 1/4 hours to complete. This time includes approximately 20 minutes to watch that exercise’s video, and 10 minutes to lay out you paints on your palette and post painting cleanup. We suggest those who have trouble hearing the instructor use the closed captioning (CC) feature during their initial viewing of the video. Our CC experience is that they do a very good job capturing the instructor’s words—but do expect some humorous misses now and then!

If you feel like you need help, write in to the comment section at the end of each lesson or use our contact form to ask key questions not addressed in the comments section. We’d like to see your progress! If you feel you’ve been successful with the paintings in the lessons, submit photos of them to us using our submission form. If you want more instructional videos once you are done with the three exercises, you can always check out the Student Resource Center for more tutorials and information.


Key Lesson Learning:

You’ve learned information about getting ready to paint, and how the Beginner’s School encourages students to share their thoughts and work so we can all learn together.

Next lesson: Exercise One: Milk Jug




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