The Best Acrylic Paints of 2021

Bring your project to life with color! These acrylic paints will help you create vibrant works of art for your home.

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The Best Acrylic Paint Options

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Whether you plan to dabble in fine art or need a trusty set to add a splash of color to your crafts, it’s always a good idea to find the best acrylic paint you can. Choosing an acrylic paint set can be daunting. Not only are there many companies to choose from, but you need to take into consideration the type of pigments, viscosity, and price. We’ll help you demystify paint vocabulary and find the ideal acrylic paint set for your needs.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Liquitex BASICS Acrylic Paint Tube 12-Piece Set
  2. RUNNER-UP: Reeves Acrylic Paint 10ml Tubes, Set of 24
  3. BEST FOR STUDENTS: Golden Heavy Body Acrylic Introductory Set
  4. BEST FOR PROS: Liquitex Professional Heavy Body Acrylic Paint
  5. KNIFE PAINTING PICK: Golden Artist Colors Heavy Body Acrylic Paint
  6. GLAZING AND MIXING PICK: Golden Fluid Acrylic
  7. VIBRANT COLORS PICK: M. Graham 5 Color Acrylic Set
  8. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Winsor & Newton Galeria Acrylic Paint
The Best Acrylic Paint Options

Photo: depositphotos.com

What to Consider When Buying Acrylic Paint

Buying acrylic paint can seem overwhelming, especially if you are a beginner. There are many different brands, colors, and variations from which to choose. Fear not—we are here to help you navigate acrylic paints and find the perfect set that matches your needs and budget.

Quality

Like many art products, there’s a difference in quality. Sure, you can find acrylic paints in almost every big-box retailer because they are easy to use and have myriad applications. However, acrylic paints come in two grades: student and artist (or professional). The difference between categories is more than just price.

  • Student grade: Student-grade paints are less expensive and not as vibrant. They also do not give you as much coverage. However, they are suitable for large-scale painting and under-painting.
  • Artistic grade: Artist-grade acrylic paints are a superior product. They have more color offerings available, and the pigments will be more saturated and look better once applied. However, they cost considerably more than student acrylics.

Color Selection & Saturation

Acrylic paints offer a variety of colors, but the color selection and saturation varies considerably by brand. For specific colors and deep pigmentation, you’ll have to look at professional level sets. Student sets and inexpensive craft sets will be limited in color selection and saturation. It depends on the coverage you are looking for and the type of application for the paint. It’s not a bad idea to have a mix of student- and artist-level paints. Consider purchasing large tubes of student-grade paints in base colors like black, white, and gray, and buy artist-grade paints in specific colors. It’s the best of both worlds.

Consistency

The consistency or thickness of acrylic is often referred to as ‘body.’ Artist-grade paints often come in several bodies for different applications. Body is not an indication of quality—the difference is the formulation of the binder, not the amount of pigment in the paint. There are three types of body for acrylic paints:

  • Heavy: These are thick paints with the texture of soft butter. They retain brush marks when applied to paper or canvas. They are similar to oil paints and work well for knife painting or use on rougher canvases.
  • Soft: These paints are smoother and have a consistency similar to yogurt. They are ideal for mixing with mediums and will retain enough thickness to paint smoothly and responsively on their own.
  • Fluid: These paints resemble the consistency of honey and are perfect for smooth brushing or staining effects. They work well for glazing and fine detailed work.

The consistency of acrylic paint that’s best for you will be determined by the techniques and surfaces you plan on using.

Drying Time

The best thing about acrylics is that they dry quickly, and there are no solvents required for painting or clean-up. Acrylics feature a water-mixable formula that adheres to many surfaces and creates a stable ground for almost all wet and dry media. Heavy body paints will take longer to dry than fluid body paints. Drying time varies depending on how many layers of paint you have on your project. Acrylics are also customizable. There are many types of additives you can mix in with acrylic paint to change the texture and drying time. The best one to use depends on the project.

Color Permanence

Permanence is also known as lightfastness, referring to the pigment in the paint’s ability to resist gradual fading when exposed to light. The good news is that most acrylic colors have much higher permanence ratings than oils or watercolors. Each paint tube is labeled with an American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) rating for permanence. The rating classifies artists’ colors based on a test that simulates 20 years of gallery exposure.

ASTM Permanence Standards:

  • ATSM I = Excellent Lightfastness
  • ATSM II = Very Good Lightfastness
  • ATSM III = Not Sufficiently Lightfast

Low-permanence paints are referred to as fugitive colors. Try to pick paints with excellent or very good lightfastness. Fugitive colors are good for kid projects or crafts.

Our Top Picks

The top-rated products below were chosen for quality, price, and customer satisfaction to help you find the best acrylic paint for your DIY project.

Best Overall

The Best Acrylic Paint Option: Liquitex BASICS Acrylic Paint Tube 12-Piece Set
Photo: amazon.com

Liquitex is the go-to brand for students and artists who need quality paints at an outstanding value. All Liquitex paints use the highest-quality pigments. Their Basics line uses a lower concentration of pigment than what you’ll find in professional paints. This brings the price point down for beginners, but you still get pretty good vibrant colors.

The set of 12 features all the basic colors to get you started: Primary Yellow, Cadmium Orange Hue, Alizarin Crimson Hue Permanent, Primary Red, Dioxazine Purple, Primary Blue, Phthalocyanine Green, Light Green Permanent, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Titanium White, and Mars Black. The paints have a medium viscosity that is highly versatile and easy to work with.

This set is the top pick due to its high pigment quality, variety of base colors, and versatility. It sticks to almost any surface, including canvas, paper, wood, masonry, metal, styrofoam, stone, ceramics, and textiles. It’s the perfect set to add a splash of color to your DIY Projects.

Pros

  • High-quality pigments
  • Good color range
  • Versatile viscosity
  • Great on multiple surfaces

Cons

  • Lower pigment content
  • May need several coats for adequate coverage


Runner-Up

Photo: amazon.com

If you are not ready to dive into color theory and mixing your colors, this set has you covered. Featuring 24 vibrant colors, this set should more than satisfy your color needs. It is perfect for anyone who wants to experiment with a new medium without investing in an expensive set.

This acrylic set falls into the “heavy” body category. It’s versatile, too—water it down to have a watercolor-like consistency or pile it on thick to resemble oil paints. It works on a variety of surfaces, including paper, fabric, and more. For a wide color selection that’s great for beginners, crafts, and decorative pieces, you can’t go wrong with Reeves.

Pros

  • Great for beginners
  • Can be used as oil paint or watercolor
  • Works well on fabric

Cons

  • Pricey


Best for Students

Photo: amazon.com

If you want to experience the superior quality of artist-level paints without spending a lot of money, Golden’s intro set is the perfect pick. Golden makes top-quality acrylics for professional artists. Their paints are rich in color, creamy, and smooth consistency.

This heavy body intro set only features six colors: Naphthol Red, Light Hansa, Yellow Medium, Titanium White, Mars Black, Permanent Green, and Light Ultramarine Blue. But don’t be intimidated by the lack of colors. This set comes with a guide that will show you how to create new colors from the set’s six colors, helping you learn and understand color theory. Golden’s intro set makes it exceptionally easy for a new painter to get started or for a more experienced painter to replace core colors.

Pros

  • Artist-level quality
  • Rich colors
  • Smooth consistency

Cons

  • Small tube caps can be difficult to close


Best for Pros

Photo: amazon.com

Superior pigmentation is what sets artist-grade paints apart from student grade. Since 1955, Liquitex has focused on providing all of the tools needed by the professional artist. This heavy body paint set features acrylic resin technology that offers open working time and colors of great clarity and vibrancy, with a minimal wet-to-dry shift, or change in tonal values when dried.

The set of 6 delivers intense color in the ideal consistency for a range of techniques. The paints can be combined with a wide range of mediums and binders that let you seamlessly layer, blend, and mix with stable, archival results.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Suits a range of techniques
  • Minimal tonal change when dried

Cons

  • Tubes are small


Knife Painting Pick

The Best Acrylic Paint Option: Golden Artist Colors Heavy Body Acrylic Paint
Photo: amazon.com

Palette knife painting, also known as impasto, is a technique of applying paint to canvas using a painting knife. The effect is created by applying thick daubs of paint on canvas. Only heavy body paint is thick enough for this technique.

The paint’s consistency is quite buttery but sticky, so it will have no issues adhering to surfaces—which is a must for palette painting. The set features quality pigments. Although there are only seven colors in the collection, the superior pigments produce clean, bright mixes that won’t muddy or gray when layered.

Pros

  • Rich buttery consistency
  • Great for impasto
  • Mixes well
  • Able to build texture

Cons

  • No black paint included


Glazing and Mixing Pick

The Best Acrylic Paint Option: Golden Fluid Acrylic
Photo: amazon.com

A glaze is made by adding a translucent medium to acrylic paint. To get an effective mix, you need a high pigment, blendable paint. This fluid set by Golden features 10 vibrant colors that you can mix, tint, or shade with ease. The set is ideal for spraying, brushing, or mixing with all Golden color sets.

Glazes feature a small amount of paint blended with a much larger amount of medium. So, if you want your color to pop, it needs to be highly pigmented. Golden paints are known for their professional-level pigments, and this set won’t let you down. As a bonus, the collection includes an application guide to get the most out of your paints. Pair the set with Golden’s glaze medium for best results.

Pros

  • 10 vibrant colors
  • Great for spraying
  • Works well on paper and canvas

Cons

  • Nozzle tends to squirt paint


Vibrant Colors Pick

The Best Acrylic Paint Option: M. Graham 5 Color Acrylic Set, with 1 Bonus Tube
Photo: amazon.com

If you are looking for a high-pigment paint, M. Graham & Co.’s set is a worthy option. M. Graham & Co’s paints are all about color. They fill their paint with the highest pigment loads possible and apply traditional milling techniques to achieve outstanding tinting strength and mass tone. The result is a truly intense color that’s more brilliant and vibrant than its competitors.

This paint does not contain fillers, wax, retardants, bulking agents, or whiteners. The colors are acrylic emulsion containing 60 percent solids—instead of the usual 45 percent found in artists’ color. While the set is a bit costly for only five tubes of paint and one bonus tube for a total of six tubes, you can create almost any color imaginable with the base colors of Azo Yellow, Naphthol Red, Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Green, Mars Black, and Titanium White.

Pros

  • Intense colors
  • No fillers or bulking agents
  • Can mix to create almost any color

Cons

  • Some colors have less coverage


Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Acrylic Paint Option: Winsor & Newton Galeria Acrylic Paint
Photo: amazon.com

Winsor & Newton is a respectable and recognized company, producing fine arts supplies since 1832. Their Galeria line of acrylic paints delivers professional results and quality color at an affordable price.

The set of 10 features a high level of pigmentation with a buttery consistency for quick and easy coverage. The paint features a soft body but does retain brush strokes. These acrylics can be used on a variety of surfaces. They are versatile—use them directly from the tube, diluted, or mixed with other acrylic mediums and gels. It’s perfect for adults and kids alike who would like to dabble in acrylic paints without a considerable investment.

Pros

  • Well-established and respected brand
  • Smooth paint with excellent coverage
  • Highly versatile

Cons

  • Tubes can be difficult to open


Our Verdict

For a versatile set of paints suitable for both beginners and professionals, consider the Liquitex BASICS Acrylic Paint Tube 12-Piece Set. For those looking to create textures and build impasto in their projects, the Golden Artist Colors Heavy Body Acrylic Paint is an excellent option.

How We Chose the Best Acrylic Paints

When gathering our top picks of acrylic paints, we looked carefully at quality to find suitable options for a wide range of artists, from beginners and students to professionals. Our list of recommendations covers this range of artistic experience to provide shoppers with plenty of options, no matter their skill level.

In our research we also made sure to look carefully at consistency and pigmentation, picking brands that stood out from their competition in terms of saturation and drying time. We also made sure to list our suggestions for several paint consistencies to suit a variety of projects, with heavy, soft, and fluid paint options all included in our list.

FAQs 

Q. What kind of canvas do you use for acrylic paint?

Linen is a great surface to capture the best qualities of acrylic paint, although it is quite costly. For a more budget-friendly option that still works great, cotton canvas also does the trick.

Q. Is acrylic paint permanent?

Once fully dried, yes, acrylic paint is permanent. However, if trying to wash acrylic paint from clothing, there are several simple methods to remove the stains, even when it has dried completely.

Q. What are the best acrylic paint brushes? 

The best brushes for acrylic paint are able to retain their shape. For the most versatile option, a round-shaped brush can handle most jobs. For fine details, consider a fine tip or rigging brush.

Q. What paper should I use for acrylic paint?

Acrylic paint is very thick, so to avoid bleed-through and wrinkling, users will need to use a heavyweight paper. In terms of texture, go for a smooth paper such as Hot Press paper, since grainy or rough paper can hinder the acrylic paint from moving well.

Q. Do professional artists use acrylics?

Depending on the artist and their preferred medium, yes, professional artists use acrylics to create highly vibrant and impactful pieces.