What is acrylic paint

Acrylic paint

Acrylics, -paints or -paintings are based on plastic dispersions. They can often be thinned with water and dry out to form a waterproof film. There are also acrylic paints based on organic solvents. The acrylic resin paints made on the basis of polymerized acrylic acid esters were first produced by artists' paint factories for use in painting at the end of the 1940s in the United States, and from the early 1960s also in Europe. Today they are also used in trade, industry and in the hobby area.

Artist colors

Painting with fluorescent acrylic paints by the artist Beo Beyond. The pictures are illuminated with UV light.

As early as 1934, BASF produced the first ready-to-use aqueous acrylic resin dispersion; Röhm and Haas patented it in 1930 under the name Plextol Registered. 1946 brought the company Bocour Artists Colors in New York City Magna Plastic on the market, the production of which was only discontinued in the 1990s. Depending on the degree of polymerization, the solvents were initially toluene or xylene, later it was white spirit (which was also called acryloid F-10).[1] The binding agent in the acrylic lacquer is initially milky white and only becomes transparent when it dries. Therefore, acrylic paints get slightly darker as they dry. Since the paint can be mixed with water, it is sometimes used instead of watercolor and wall paint.

Acrylic paint can also be used as an alternative or complement to oil paint and with most of the painting techniques commonly used here. The drying time of pure acrylic paint is very short, but can be artificially extended with painting materials. The paint can be applied using the impasto technique with brushes or painting knives and dries even in thick layers without cracking. When diluted with water, the acrylic paint can be painted in a translucent way. With the help of acrylic binders, thin glazes can be applied, similar to watercolor painting. The dried paint is slightly shiny and forms an elastic film on the painting surface. Acrylic paint can be used on any oil-free painting surface (canvas, wood, metal and others). When using oil paints at the same time, the acrylic paint can be used as an underpainting. However, solid image carriers such as painting boards are required for highly paste-like working methods and image design with pastes and gels. For color changes and light effects, modeling paste and other texturing agents such as effect, fiber and metallic gel can be used in acrylic painting. The structure gel or structure paste can be applied to the primed painting surface with a variety of tools such as painting knives, combs or spatulas and then colored.

Tools can be cleaned with water; the paint only becomes insoluble in water when it dries and must be removed with special solvents. In contrast to oil paint, water-based acrylic paint has a very low odor when painted.

Acrylic paints in craft

In the construction and do-it-yourself sector, acrylic paints have largely prevailed over comparable products such as nitro or alkyd resin paints. One advantage is that the harmful solvents used are significantly reduced (7 to 15%) compared to, for example, nitro lacquers (70 to 80%). The initially lower abrasion resistance compared to synthetic resin paints was largely offset by new product developments.


Like other paints, acrylic paint consists of three components:

  • solventwhich dissolve the binding agent and evaporate when the paint dries. In contrast to oil paint, it is mostly water here. Due to its evaporation, the paint mass loses its volume slightly.
  • binder serve to connect the pigment particles to one another and to connect them to the substrate. Acrylic binders consist of synthetic resin particles that are found in high concentrations in water. When the water evaporates, the particles collect closer together and form an elastic, water-insoluble film. The type of binder determines the properties of the paint in z. B. elasticity, thinnability, adhesion.
  • Pigments. There are organic, inorganic and effect pigments. In addition to the color, the covering (covering of the substrate) and coloring (changing other colors) are the most important properties.

Painting and aids

  • Primer white (Gesso): serves as a primer on all unprocessed painting surfaces.
  • Thickeners: increase the consistency of the paint and are well suited for an impasto application or for working with a spatula.
  • Retarders - extend the drying time of the paint. Good for working with the wet-on-wet technique. Glycerine can also be used as a cheap substitute. Drying accelerators (siccatives) are not used with the already quick-drying acrylic paints.
  • Modeling pastes: allow after several hours of drying, without significant shrinkage of the volume, a plastic post-processing with abrasive materials or knives.
  • Rinse aid dispersions (media): influence the gloss properties in stages from semi-gloss to high-gloss.
  • Varnishes: create a varnish-like protective layer on the surface. The color brilliance can be increased (gloss varnish), retained (neutral varnish) or reduced (matt varnish).
  • Perfluorinated surfactants: improve the wetting and surface properties (concentrations from 300 to 500 mg / kg).
  • Acrylic binders: enable the production of acrylic paint, the painting of fine glazes and are also suitable as an intermediate varnish.

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Thomas Hoppe: Acrylic painting. The artistic techniques, Ravensburger Buchverlag, Ravensburg 2000, ISBN 3-473-48408-3, pp. 26-32.


  • Thomas Hoppe: Acrylic painting. The artistic techniques, E. A. Seemann Verlag, Leipzig 2000, ISBN 3-363-00810-4
  • Max Doerner: Painting material and its use in the picture., Enke Verlag, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-432-81048-2
  • Brigitte Waldschmidt: Workshop acrylic. Structural means and their application. English publisher. Wiesbaden 2005, ISBN 978-3-8241-1317-0
  • Manfred Hönig: Acrylic painting. Tools and options. English publisher. Wiesbaden 2003, ISBN 978-3-8241-1227-2