How to paint with acrylic- A step by step guide acrylic painting for beginner

Hello MTMT Friends! In the past blog, we have guided you on how to choose acrylic materials. Now we can dive into the next step which we will create your first masterpiece acrylic painting! It is so exciting and nervous at the same time but you don’t have to worry cause I will help you in creating your first acrylic painting!

Quick navigation of step by step acrylic painting for the beginner:

Step 1: Setting up your painting station

Step 2: Experiment with your materials

Step 3: Ideas for painting

Step 4: Planning your painting layout

Step 5: Color your background canvas and start drawing them

Step 6: Paint the subject

Step 7: Put a varnish gloss on your painting

Step 8: Clean up your materials and painting area

Step 1: Setting up your painting station 

When you are doing your painting, you must do it in a relaxing area to boost yourself into a calm mood. Find a serene area in your home, rooms, or outdoors that can give enough focus and calm. Avoid a crowded space or else it will be a huge distraction to you. Then you can set up all your painting materials. First, place the canvas on an easel or a table in front of you. Then put your brushes in a cup, acrylic paint, rug, or towel and then near your palette beside the canvas.

Example painting room studios

Pinterest, all rights reserved

Example outdoor painting

Ardith Goodwin, all rights reserved

Step 2: Experiment with your materials

This step helps you a lot as a beginner to become familiar with your medium and materials. You can get the feel of how the paint applies on canvas, feel the thicker of the medium, how the paint dries quickly, how it blends with other colors, the brushstrokes, and the opacity of the colors. These are some exercises you can do to practice your acrylic paint. 


  1. Swatch. Swatch all your acrylic colors on the canvas. 

My experiment doing colors swatch and acrylic techniques before starting painting.

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  1. Linear gradient. It helps you to see how well the paints blend. You can do linear-gradient black to a white color or two colors from hot to cold tone colors like red to blue or yellow to green. 

The mix between two cool colors, two hot colors, and both of them with some techniques.

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Step 3: Ideas for painting

This step needs to be ready first alongside materials for acrylic painting. Before starting painting on a canvas, you must pick an idea of what you want to paint. As for beginners, you do not need to choose an intricate and complicated subject to paint. Do not make a mistake by selecting a difficulty level, or else you might not enjoy your journey and process when you start doing your first masterpiece. You can first choose the right difficulty level for you or pick easy subjects on your surroundings or images to paint.

Here are some easy painting ideas and subjects to paint for a beginner:

  1. A simple landscape


                 Pinterest, all rights reserved                                                Pinterest, all rights reserved     


  1. A nice view at the beach


            Stacey, all rights reserved                                                        Ahmad Art Youtube, all rights reserved

  1. A vase of flowers/flowers/ leaves


    Wikihow How to Paint a Flower Vase with Acrylics, all rights reserved

               Art with Suzanne Youtube, all rights reserved 

  1. Fruits

           Chelzart, all rights reserved

  1. Galaxy 

                 Ahmad Acrylic Youtube, all rights reserved

  1. Abstract 

         Abstract art usually creates textures with palette knives or with brushes

                     Oliver Maass Abstract Art Youtube, all rights reserved

  1. Minimalist Landscape/Beach/Moon 


             Pinterest, all rights reserved                                        EmcDesignLab, all rights reserved

There are so many exciting ideas for beginners to paint! These ideas challenge you enough as a beginner. You can check the others' ideas tutorials on Youtube, Google or, Pinterest.

Step 4: Planning your layout painting.

Don't jump into the painting and draw right onto your canvas after you find and get the ideas you want to paint. It will lead you to make big mistakes in your artwork from the beginning. Planning your layout first by doing some exploratory rough sketches. Using the ‘Rule of Thirds’ when doing your plan layout can help you place your focal point and give a great proportion and composition of subjects matter later in your painting. 

Step 5: Colored your background canvas and start drawing them.

Use a large brush to paint your background canvas with any ground colors. Usually, yellow ochre is used as a background color before starting to draw on the canvas. However, if you don’t want to tint your background, you can just sketch your layout painting onto the canvas. It depends on the subjects matter.  Applied a color to the background canvas gives you a vibrant undertone.

* Remember! Do not use too much and apply thick pigment when you color the background. Instead, mix it with a little bit of water to give some opacity for the color. 

After you finish coloring the background, wait for them to dry. It doesn’t take a long time as acrylic is quickly dry. After the dry, then you can start drawing your planning layout onto the canvas.


MTMT Studios, all rights reserved 

Here I will paint a minimalist moon scene on acrylic paper. A minimalist painting is easy to paint, especially for beginners! You can start with minimalist painting ideas as your first began into acrylic painting. I started the first step by placing masking tape along the sides of the acrylic paper to form a frame. Then, I sketch the layout on the paper.

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I chose a medium pink mix with some light pink to paint my background.

Step 6: Paint the subject 

Now, you can begin painting your ideas after you feel good enough with the composition of your sketch layout! 

When starting your acrylic painting, you need to keep these rules in mind:

  1. For acrylics, you need to start with the middle tones to darker and light tones for the end.

Example of Tonal Value Chart for references to differentiates the dark tones, mid-tones, and light tones 

Zena O'Connor on Pinterest, all rights reserved

  1. Paint rough the large shapes with the middle tones first. At this time, you don’t need to worry about the highlight details and shadows. Just keep working on coloring all the large shapes with the middle tones. 

  2. After that, you can start putting darker tones to shape the details of the subject appropriately and put some shadows. Never use the black color for the shades because black is a neutral color. Instead, use a cool tone color such as blue or purple tones.


After painting the background, I paint the three foreground mountain with medium tones. Then, I paint the night sky with dark indigo tones. Finally, I went with the light grey tones for the fourth mountain.

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  1. While painting your subjects matter, take a few steps away from your canvas and analyze the painting. This way helps you in looking at a different perspective of your painting and the composition of your subjects matter. 

  2. Remember, acrylics are the type to dry quickly and become water-resistant when they dried. You can spray water a little to your pigment to keep the medium moist a little longer.

  3. Add the highlight tones for the final details of your painting. Highlight tones never meant a white color but use light values of your primary color of the subject.

I use overlay techniques by painting a yellow moon, the sparkling line around the moon, and points like a star onto the dark indigo sky. Then I put some light and medium tones as the detailing for the mountains. Finally, some lines paint outside the circle shape.

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My final look minimalist moon scene painting! 

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Step 7: Put a varnish gloss on your painting

This step is optional. If you are feeling good enough with your final look painting, you can put gloss varnish onto them after your painting dried. Usually, people who sell their paintings will put the varnish to protect their paintings from the weather and UV light, which can cause the paints and colors to yellow over time.

Step 8: Clean up your materials and painting area

This final step is essential for you so that you learn how to care for your materials appropriately. Do not let your brushes dry with the acrylics on them. Instead, wash them with gentle soap and warm water. If the acrylic medium is dry on the palette, you can peel off them. If not, you can wash them with soap and water. Then you can place all your materials together in one place.

Finally, you have created your first acrylic masterpiece! It is okay if you don’t feel good enough for your first painting. You can do more practice! Learning art is a journey and process that you need to enjoy. Soon you can see how your art skills improved over time. Do not give up and be frustrated. Just enjoy and learn more about art, and you will become to love them! There is more knowledge in the art that you can learn! Wise more your creativity and imagination, and keep up the excellent work!

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