Beginners Acrylic Painting - What Palette and Brushes to Buy?


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Starting a new hobby can be a bit daunting, don't you think? There’s everything to buy and no previous knowledge about what to get. You go into a store and the range is huge.

“I’m just beginning with acrylic paints and I only want to buy a paint brush!”

Well, when you’re beginning with acrylic paints there are a few things you need to know before you get as far as the store.

The key thing with acrylic paint is that it dries very quickly which can a blessing when you are ready to tidy away. Or a curse if you don't know how quickly it dries and it ruins your brush!

When the paint dries it is impossible to remove it from clothing, surfaces and brushes. So cover yourself with ‘painting clothes’ and be sure to clean your brushes before the paint dries on them. Once you have the right equipment this isn’t a problem.

Acrylic Paint Palette

Beginners to acrylic painting should either buy or make a reservoir palette. This is a palette with a damp reservoir with a disposable paper on top of it. You mix the colors on the paper. This means that the paint on the paper remains damp and ready to use.

A ‘shop-bought’ reservoir palette often has a separate section for brushes. Usually the brushes will be placed on their sides with the tips of the brushes in some water to stop the paint drying on the brush. There is a cover for the palette that keeps the moisture in and makes sure that the paint doesn't dry out. It’s all laid out in a nice tidy container.

If you feel that you don’t want to spend money on something when you’re just beginning with acrylic paints there is another choice. Make your own. You can make up your own version of this using a flat dish or tray with a low edge. Place a few layers of blotting paper or a layer of capillary matting (often used in greenhouses to keep the plants damp) in the bottom for the reservoir.

Cover this reservoir with tracing or greaseproof paper. This paper is used as your palette. This is where you will place the paints when you're using them and mix them on top of this paper too.

Keep the reservoir moist - not too wet - and the paints will not dry out. It is important that in between painting sessions you cover your palette to keep the moisture in. A large plastic bag that is large enough to hold the whole palette is ideal.

The brushes will need their own reservoir too. This will stop them drying with paint on them. If the paint dries on the brush it will stick and the brush will be ruined. Use a long narrow container like an ice cube tray for the brushes. They rest on their sides in the water. If you just put the brushes in a jar of water then the tips will eventually get bent out of shape and the brushes will need to be replaced.

When beginning with acrylic paints it is best to buy nylon brushes as nylon brushes can be left soaking in the water. If you tried that with a sable brush it would be ruined.

OK now you have a reservoir palette and some nylon artist brushes what else do you need to complete your beginner’s acrylic paint set?

Well there are only two other things - paints and something to paint on. We'll need to discuss that in other Beginners Acrylic Painting articles.

Catherine Calder is the author of the step-by-step Acrylic Painting Course, the beginners guide to acrylic painting - with a free preview to completing your first painting. Visit


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