How to Make Your Acrylics Look Like Oils

Hey guys! I wanted to take some time out of the studio to share a bit about my process and some tips that I've learned along the way that help me create vibrant, colorful abstracts using acrylics. I get asked pretty consistently online "Ummm, is this oils or acrylics?" The beauty of that question is that, truthfully, it doesn't really matter. Oils have long been the preferred medium for painters in the past because it was virtually the only option to create paintings that would stand the test of time. And while acrylics are fairly new in the game of art history, they can now rival with the best of the best thanks to leaps and bounds in their chemistry and manufacturing.

My standard series acrylic paints. They are great for initial layers but not as pigmented and therefore, less expensive.

My standard series acrylic paints. They are great for initial layers but not as pigmented and therefore, less expensive.

So, how do you chose which medium to paint with? Ultimately, it does come down to personal preference. And I can tell you, 4 years ago, I hatttteddd acrylic paints and kind of viewed it as paint for kids (sorry veteran acrylic painters). But, when my style evolved from more realism to abstraction, acrylic paints were the clear winner for me and here's why.

See the movement and rhythm in "Memphis" ? I was practically dancing when I created this electric piece and used oil sticks, Krink, and acrylics to make it happen.

See the movement and rhythm in "Memphis" ? I was practically dancing when I created this electric piece and used oil sticks, Krink, and acrylics to make it happen.

As an abstract expressionist painter, I move through ideas pretty quickly. The movement and spontaneity I seek to create in my paintings are often the result of impulse and split decision-making. If I had to stop and wait 2-3 days for a layer of oil paints to dry, I'd be frustrated or worse, anxious that I'd forget my idea. But anyway, this post is not to convince you of whether you should use acrylics or oils, and in fact, I fall somewhere in the middle these days as a mixed media painter (using resins, inks, acrylics, and mediums that take often just as much time as oils to dry). This is to share with you some key tips to make your acrylic paints look like oils, be it your favorite medium, or just a fling.

Golden acrylics are some of the best I've ever seen. The quality for the price is pretty reasonable and the pigmentation is superb. I order it from Amazon and have it sent to me 6,000 miles away when I need to. They're that good!

Golden acrylics are some of the best I've ever seen. The quality for the price is pretty reasonable and the pigmentation is superb. I order it from Amazon and have it sent to me 6,000 miles away when I need to. They're that good!

Use highly pigmented paints.

You know those tubes of paint at your art store that when you see the price tag you sort of gasp a bit? Yea those. They're crazy expensive, but they're totally worth it. It's the only way to get that rich, vibrant color to make your paintings rival with any oil. I started using them a few years ago when I started getting some consistent art sales and wanted to push the quality of my work further (and in doing so, it's value).

And let me tell you, the first time I squeezed a bit of quinacridone rose onto my palette I was amazed. It didn't slide out in the normal liquidy fashion of some of the standard paints I use. It held its weight and the color was beautiful. And when I put a few strokes down onto the canvas? Boy, I was in love. They were loud and clear, no need to amplify or reapply. In fact, the color pigmentation was so strong that I had to use the high quality stuff in moderation and slowly build up my ability to handle them cohesively in a painting. Yep, they're that powerful.

The good stuff. These tiny tubes run $10-15 a pop but they are beautiful and boldly pigmented. They even have that funny smell that I missed with oils. 

The good stuff. These tiny tubes run $10-15 a pop but they are beautiful and boldly pigmented. They even have that funny smell that I missed with oils. 

 

Use a lot of paint.

The thicker the paint, the bigger the impact. Don't be afraid to get crazy!

The thicker the paint, the bigger the impact. Don't be afraid to get crazy!

Okay, this is a biggie and often a rookie mistake. You spent a small fortune on those art supplies and you wanna make it strettttttchhhhhhhh. But guess what, you don't realize that you're stretching your time also from starting a painting to ending up with a beautiful, finished work of art. Using a lot of paint also allows you to get thicker textures which is crucial impact. And, this may get me shunned a bit, but I'll say it: I like to use the paint right out of the tube. Oh yea. Because if it's the right shade that I need, why fuss and dilute it down further. The thicker the paint, the strong the pigments will be when they dry. Period.


Mediums are your best friend.

Me getting down and dirty with "Mama's Gun". Pouring paint and experimenting with different ways of carrying the paint across the canvas makes for nice finished effects.

Me getting down and dirty with "Mama's Gun". Pouring paint and experimenting with different ways of carrying the paint across the canvas makes for nice finished effects.

Matte medium. Gloss medium. Gel medium. Heavy impasto paste. High flow medium. Modeling Paste. Sand. Anything that you can mix into your acrylic paints. They are amazing for pushing the folds of what acrylics can do. I have used modeling paste as a ground for my abaya series paintings, and found that not only do they create a richer tooth for my acrylics to adhere to, but they create a beautiful texture that looks like folds of fabric when it's dry. Way cool. I also like to use gloss mediums in my work to punch up the intensity of my standard acrylic paints but also to glaze over sections in a painting.

 

Get your modeling paste on! It makes for the best textures and a great surface to paint on.

Get your modeling paste on! It makes for the best textures and a great surface to paint on.

 

And speaking of glazing...

Glazing is kind of like the holy grail of oil painters and acrylics alike. It's like this secret secret society of deliberate, beautiful color application that is best shown in person. And once someone shows you, man, is your painting life forever changed. I've been glazing my abstracts now for roughly a year now and it is a great way to add translucency and depth in different areas. Glazing can also be used as a final layer if a color dried differently or less saturated then you had hoped. For this, I highly recommend the clear gloss mediums available that you pour out. I simply pour it in a little bowl and add the color I want to glaze with and bam! It's like a shiny, happy window in a dim room.

 

 

Texture, texture, texture

Sennelier is kind of the Queen B oil pastels. They are creamier than butter and melts just as fast. Snag some and treat them well.

Sennelier is kind of the Queen B oil pastels. They are creamier than butter and melts just as fast. Snag some and treat them well.

This is where my mixed media techniques come in. I like to use acrylic inks directly on the painting where possible. Oil pastels and oil sticks are also a favorite of mine. It's kind of like adding beans to a pot of chilli, it just beefs it up. Not to mention, oil sticks provide sublime texture and mark-making which further glorifies your new abstract painting. It really is the icing on the cake for me. Some of my favorite at the moment are the Sennelier brand (also a small fortune, so brace yourself). I've also been enjoying the Krink enamel paints which are just divine for making gorgeous drips or nice glazed looking portions in my work.

Krink is the new love in my studio life and they are here to stay! Traditionally used in graffiti art, I love how quick I can add impact on a canvas with these powerful markers in my hand.

Krink is the new love in my studio life and they are here to stay! Traditionally used in graffiti art, I love how quick I can add impact on a canvas with these powerful markers in my hand.

Well, that's a bit of my method to the madness. If you have any questions, please ask away. I loveeeee talking about this stuff and plan to blog more often on the topic!

 

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