Acrylic paints have only been around since the 1950s. Despite this relatively recent development – compared to oil paints and watercolor – this type of paint has become one of the most popular painting mediums today. Because of their unique properties, acrylic paints are a great choice for any artist, from budding painters to discerning professionals.
With that being said:
There may be hundreds of acrylic paint brands on the market today, but they don't all offer the same quality of paint. Perusing an art store's shelves, you may notice some paints come in cheaply priced large pots while others come in more premium packaging, often labeled "artists" or "professional-grade".
Not All Acrylic Paints are Created Equal
With the cost of acrylic paints today, it's easy to think "the cheaper the better". This may be perfectly fine or you may be unknowingly setting yourself up for problems down the line.
What exactly is the difference between cheap and professional-grade acrylic paints? Does a paint being affordable automatically make it low-quality? Do you need a second mortgage to afford to get into the painting hobby?
Read on and find out:
Understanding Acrylic Paints
Acrylic paints are marvels of paint technology and development. This type of paint consists of fine pigments, an acrylic binder, and a vehicle for both – usually water – all mixed together into an emulsion. Once the water dries, the pigment and binder cure together and eventually harden.
Because of its formulation, acrylic paints possess unique qualities that make them preferable over oil paints or watercolors. These qualities include the following:
- Vibrant Colors: Acrylic paints come in hundreds of vibrant colors, including metallics, pearlescents, and fluorescent versions. This lets you choose exactly the right hues you need for all your painting demands.
- Water-soluble: Most acrylic paints use water as a vehicle to transport their binder and pigment. This means you can easily thin and clean them with water, forgoing the need for noxious chemicals or toxic solvents. You can use acrylics even in an unventilated room.
- Quick-drying: Because they use water as a vehicle, acrylic paints dry within a few minutes to an hour. This lets you add multiple layers quicker – making it easier to use techniques such as glazing – and lets you finish your painting in less time.
- Modifiable: Acrylic paints can be mixed with acrylic mediums or additives to extend them, make them more/less glossy, or achieve some amazing effects (like Impasto).
There are also several types of acrylic paints (like heavy-bodied, soft-bodied, acrylic gouache, etc.) But this is a topic for a different article.
What are Cheap Acrylic Paints?
First things first:
Let's talk about the elephant in the room – pricing.
Cheap acrylic paints cost a lot less but there's a reason – or several – why this is so. Generally speaking, cheap acrylic paints are also lower in quality which is why they're usually marketed as "student-grade" rather than professional-level or artist-grade paints.
As previously mentioned, acrylic paints are mainly composed of pigments and an acrylic polymer acting as a binder. It's usually the difference in ratio between these two parts that makes acrylic paints cheap or professional.
Cheap acrylic paints have a higher concentration of acrylic polymer than pigment. This lesser concentration of pigment means cheap acrylic paints are less vibrant in color. It also means you need more paint to fully cover an area of your painting surface.
Talking about pigments, cheap acrylic paints also have a narrower range of colors to choose from. Apart from the primary and secondary colors, you'll be hard-pressed to find the exact color paint you need to match the exact value you're trying to represent.
While you can usually find the right shade or tint by mixing your colors, even that can be a problem because:
Another characteristic of cheap acrylic paint is its uneven consistency. You may notice that cheap acrylic paints can sometimes differ in consistency despite coming from the same brand. Speaking from experience, We've even found different tubes of cheap acrylic paints with consistencies ranging from perfectly workable to chalky and even jello-like – all from the same box!
Speaking of consistency, you'll also notice that cheap acrylic paints may not produce the exact results you want when you mix and blend them. For example, you may want to mix white paint with some blue to make a bluish tint but end up with a dull chalky blue color instead.
Cheap acrylic paints also dry VERY quickly. While this does let you finish your work faster, it also makes you need to rush your work, which is never good. This also means you'll need to add more paint to your palette more often as your paints dry before you use them up.
Furthermore, you'll also need to clean your brushes more often as you paint to avoid having your paint dry on your brush, which can be a nightmare especially if you're using some expensive natural brushes.
Lastly, cheap acrylic paints are also less durable. They tend to have lower lightfastness and noticeably fade or change color over time, especially if unvarnished.
Benefits of Using Cheap Acrylic Paints
With all that said:
Who benefits most from using cheap acrylic paints?
Cheap acrylic paints are best used as an introduction to acrylic paints or painting, in general. Since they're still acrylic paints, despite their low quality, they should be enough for a complete beginner to compare and contrast with other types of painting media.
Student-grade paints are also great for teaching young learners how different colors react to each other. They're also cheap enough to use for something temporary like classroom arts and crafts.
Cheap acrylic paints are also a good option for painting large-scale amateur crafting projects (like wargame battle board terrain and terrain pieces) that see a lot of use and contact.
What are Professional Acrylic Paints?
Now that you've learned what cheap acrylic paints are all about, how exactly are professional acrylic paints different?
Again, the first thing you'll notice is the price. Some brands sell single tubes of professional acrylic paint at the same price as a whole set of student acrylic paints. With the higher price tag does come higher quality, though, which is why the highest quality acrylic paints are marketed towards serious professional artists.
High-quality acrylic paints don't always need to break the bank to give you a professional-grade performance. Our Nova Color paints come with all the high quality you'd expect from other top paint brands – but at more affordable prices (thanks to our direct shipping). Feel free to check out Our Store.
Professional acrylic paints also have a higher concentration of pigment which means they are simply more vibrant. You may be surprised at how large of an area you can fully cover with just a single thin layer of high-quality paint.
High-quality paints also come in a wider range of colors giving you more colors to choose from. For instance, Nova Color paints come in 97 brilliant colors that you can easily mix and blend to create color combinations limited only by your imagination.
When it comes to consistency, you can expect professional acrylic paints to share the same consistency across all the same products. This means your paints are all going to act the same way, giving you more control over them.
Professional acrylic paints are also much easier to blend and mix making it easier to create the exact shades and tints you need.
When it comes to drying time, professional acrylic paints usually give you a longer work time. For instance, Our Nova Color paints have a working time of about 30 minutes and are completely dry in about 1.5 to 2 hours. This means you can take your time with some techniques like wet-on-wet.
Professional acrylic paints are also much more durable. They tend to remain the same color for longer. Our Nova Color paints also indicate each paint's lightfastness to give you a better idea of how long each paint lasts.
Benefits of Using Professional Acrylic Paints
So, who benefits from professional acrylic paints the most?
Any serious artist looking to produce the best acrylic painting possible should unquestionably choose professional-level paints.
However, since brands like Nova Color do offer top-notch quality yet also affordable acrylic paints, this grade of paint can now be viable for artists of all skill levels as well.
While all acrylic paints may look the same, the difference is in the quality.
Cheap acrylic paints are definitely dirt cheap but are also less vibrant and have a limited range of colors. They can vary in consistency and don't blend or mix very well. They also don't give you much time to work with and tend to fade or change color as time passes by.
Professional acrylic paints are simply superior and don't need to break the bank, especially with brands such as Nova Color.
We hope that you learned something from this article and that it helps you reach your goals as an artist.
Want to learn what you can do with Nova Color paints? Feel free to check out Our Blog.