I get asked this question a lot. My answer is always the same. I’ve been painting for years now and I’ve tried all types of acrylic paint. Most were lower-grade paints. It seems like every other year I see a new brand on the market at my local art supply store. Most of the time they don’t compete.
Your choice depends on what you are trying to accomplish with your painting. You see, there are types of acrylic paint that feel, look and do certain things. That’s why I say that it depends on what you are trying to do. You have the thin paint, which is really beginner-grade paint, that many elementary art teachers use for students in their art rooms. Then there’s a group of paint that is a little thicker; this is known as student-grade paint, meaning paint used by beginning artists and college-level students who are taking studio classes. There’s also the professional-grade paint that is much thicker and that has a lot of volume, allowing you to manipulate it really well. (It also does a good job of holding onto the brush or palette knife.) This is the paint that I love to use. However, there are many well-known artists who prefer to use student-grade paint or even the lesser kiddie paint. It all depends on the artist and what they are trying to accomplish.
It also depends on the techniques you will be practicing during the painting process. For example, if you are trying to create interesting textures using the palette knife, you definitely want to use a paint that is thick and that creates a good texture. On the other hand, if you are trying to create flat-layered artwork similar to folk art or artwork on a mural, paint that is thin and that can stretch a long way (e.g., a student-grade or lower-level grade of paint) will suffice. Keep in mind, however, that depending on how thin the paint is, you may have to use two coats.
Another thing you may want to consider is the type of tools that you will use. If you enjoy painting with a palette knife, again, you want to use a higher-quality grade of paint that holds to the knife and that doesn’t drip off. If you want to add a medium to get a certain feel or look, you will have to consider which paint works well with the medium you are using.
I hope I don’t overwhelm you with all this information; I just wanted to get you thinking about some of the things to consider when buying different types of paint. Most of my decisions in terms of which paint to use stem from my techniques and tools. As you know, I love to paint with a palette knife and I love to create textures; therefore, I use a higher-quality paint. Even if I were using a brush, I would still use a higher grade of paint simply because when I paint with a lower-grade acrylic paint, I sometimes have to apply a second coat. When I’m in the “zone,” I might not feel like going over something twice just because the surface wasn’t covered the first time.
Since you are reading this book, you have probably followed my YouTube videos. I’m assuming, then, that you are interested in creating paintings that are rich in color, that are manipulatable (if that’s a word) and that have a lot of texture. Let me share with you the two acrylic brands that I like and that work well for many other artists, especially when creating textures.
Let’s start with Liquitex Heavy Body
Liquitex is known for its two types of acrylic paint. You have the Liquitex BASICS acrylic paint and then you have the Heavy Body Liquitex. Liquitex BASICS is the less expensive of the two. It is my go-to paint when I’m creating quick and easy paintings. Liquitex Basics is a lot softer and has a thinner body than the Liquitex Heavy Body ; however, the are the same in terms of pigment. The main reason I recommend the Heavy Body is because it seems to go further and is much richer in color and texture because of the amount of polymer that’s used to bind the paint. When you paint with Liquitex Heavy Body, you can feel the difference. It feels smooth and loving. It’s almost like you’re painting with oils. The paint holds onto the brush and the palette knife really well. Most of the time I paint with the Heavy Body, I’m able to create awesome textures, and if I want to thin it a little all I have to do is add water. Another great thing about this paint is that, if I’m trying to make a relief-type texture, I rarely have to add a medium, such as the Heavy Body gel, to thicken it. With the Liquitex BASICS and other inexpensive paints that I mentioned earlier, I have to add a medium to thicken it up so that I can get great textures. I suggest that you play around with it to see what works for you. If you’re just getting started, buy one color, such as a cadmium red in Liquitex Heavy Body and a cadmium red in Liquitex Basic, and see which one feels right for you.
Last but not least, the best-quality paint on the market is, in my opinion, the Golden brand. Yes, it costs more than most popular brands, but it is just so doggone good. Honestly, when I have money to spend, I buy this paint. Bear with me and what I’m about to say: “When I paint with Golden paint, it’s like making love.” It feels good, the way the paint moves across your surface. It’s very elegant and soft, but still heavy and controllable. It’s doesn’t run away from you. I know that I’m using adjectives to explain this, but if you were to ask any professional artist who uses this paint, I know that they would agree. The pigment load with Golden is phenomenal! A little bit of paint can go a long way. Liquitex Heavy Body is a little thicker than Golden, but Golden still has a nice range with its buttery feel that makes the painting experience worthwhile.
That said, all the paints mentioned in this book are great in their own right. Again, it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. There are a plethora of brands that I didn’t mention, such as Winsor & Newton, Utrecht, Matisse Structure Formula, Atelier Interactive Acrylics, M. Graham & Co., and Sennelier Acrylics. These are all popular brands used by thousands of artists. I wanted only to give you my opinion about the brands that I have personally used, so please keep that in mind.