How To Paint With Acrylic On Canvas? Step By Step Beginners Guide

Canvas is the primary choice when you land in the world of painting. It is a surface specifically designed for artists to create stunning masterpieces and is equally beneficial for beginners and professional artists. 

Before going for the canvas, I was instructed to practice on paper sheets with acrylic paint during my bachelor course, and one of my mentors, David Hockney, had my back in this regard. So I suggest you do the same. 

Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, in this post, you gonna learn a lot about how to paint with acrylic on canvas. 

The basic requirement for painting on canvas is to collect the right and fundamental materials and know the correct way to prepare, apply and seal acrylic paint on canvas. 

Read the blog post thoroughly if you want to paint like a pro. 

What Do You Need To Paint Acrylic On Canvas?

You might be confused and tangled thinking about what materials you would have to buy to start painting. Don’t panic! Don’t overthink things, and just arrange the materials below. 

Here are the tools and compounds that you would need and complete beginners guide to acrylic painting on canvas: 

  • Canvas

Choose a canvas that is suitable for acrylic paints. It is recommended to use a pre-primed canvas with a coat of gesso already applied, as this will make the paint adhere better.

  • Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints are water-soluble and dry quickly. They come in various colours and are available in tubes or jars. It is suggested to purchase a set of basic colors and a few additional colours of your choice.

  • Primer

Although many brands claim they sell only primed canvas still, it is recommended to prime the surface on your own. For this purpose, you’ll need a good quality gesso primer for your canvas. 

  • Paintbrushes

Paintbrushes are available in different sizes and shapes. It is suggested to purchase a variety of brush sizes to accommodate different areas of the canvas. A set of round and flat brushes are a good starting point.

  • Palette

A palette is used to mix the paint colours. It is usually made of plastic, glass, or a disposable paper pad. You may use an alternate palette for mixing your colours at the start.

  • Water Cup

A cup of water is needed to clean the brushes and thin the paint. You will need to clean your brushes after every usage which is why it is necessary to keep a source of water near you. Make sure the water should be only used for cleaning the brushes.  

  • Palette Knife

A palette knife is used to mix the paint and scrape it off the palette. It has many other uses, like Impasto painting but as a beginner, you’ll need it for mixing, scraping, and applying the paint on canvas only.  

  • Easel

An easel can hold the canvas and provide a good painting position. I suggest you buy one as it will ease your work and angle. 

  • Paper Towels

Use paper towels to clean the brushes, wipe the palette knife, and clean any spills. You may use a clean cloth or tissue as well. 

  • Spray Bottle

 A spray bottle filled with water can be used to keep the paint moist and prevent it from drying too quickly.

  • Sealant

A sealant is a clear coat that is applied over the dried paint to protect the painting from dust and fading.

These are the basic materials required for a beginner to paint on canvas with acrylic. Once you have mastered the basics, you can experiment with other tools and techniques to proceed to the next level. 

How To Prepare A Canvas For Acrylic Painting? Thorough Instructions

After you’re done with collecting all the materials needed, the next phase is getting your canvas ready. Preparing canvas for acrylic painting properly is important in producing a successful artwork. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Clean The Canvas

Before you begin painting, clean the canvas with a lint-free cloth to remove any dust or debris. If the canvas is particularly dirty, you can use a soft brush to gently clean the surface.

Step 2: Apply A Layer of Gesso

Apply a thin, even layer of gesso over the entire surface of the canvas. This will provide a uniform surface for your painting and help the paint adhere to the canvas. Here is how to prime canvas for acrylic paint.

Use a flat brush for this purpose and start applying gesso from the mid and go your way to the edges. Allow the gesso to dry completely before proceeding to the next step.

Step 3: Sand The Primed Surface

Once the gesso is dry, sand the surface of the canvas with fine-grit sandpaper. This will smooth out any bumps or rough spots and create a more even surface for your painting. 

The sanding process should be gentle so that you don’t remove the primer from the base. 

Step 4: Apply a Second Layer of Gesso

Apply a second, slightly thicker coat of gesso over the sanded surface. This will further smooth out the surface and provide a solid base for your painting.

Make sure you use a light hand while priming the canvas for acrylic paint, and gently use the brush over the entire surface.  

Step 5: Allow To Dry

Your canvas is now ready for painting with acrylics. Remember to let each layer of paint dry completely before adding additional layers to prevent smudging and muddying of colors.

How To Apply Acrylic Paint On Canvas?

The next phase right after preparing the surface is applying the paint to create wonderful paintings. How you apply the paint decides what you will get in the end. So make sure you follow the instructions below. Here is how to draw with acrylic paint on canvas:

Step 1: Prepare Your Workspace

Cover your work area with a plastic or old cloth to protect it from any accidental spills. Have all your painting supplies, including paints, brushes, palette, and water or solvent, within reach. 

Step 2: Sketch Your Design 

How to sketch on canvas before acrylic painting? For this purpose, use a pencil to sketch the design or image that you want to paint on the canvas. You can also trace the design onto the canvas using transfer paper. Sketching before applying the paint is an excellent way to avoid any mistakes. 

Step 3: Blend Your Paint

Mix your paint colors on the palette, and experiment with the color combinations to find what works best for your painting. You may blend acrylic paint with different colors to get new shades and opaqueness.  

Step 4: Apply The Paint 

Use a brush or palette knife to apply the paint to the canvas. Start with the background colours and work your way forward, adding layers as you go. Use light brushstrokes to blend the colours together and create the desired effect.

Step 5: Allow The Paint To Dry

Allow the paint to dry completely before adding any additional layers of paint or details. It makes take up to two hours for acrylic paint to dry to the touch. 

Step 6: Clean Your Tools

Once you are finished, clean your brushes and palette with water or solvent and store your paints and supplies in a safe place. Cleaning your brushes and palette helps you use them for longer and extend their lifespan.  

Note: Painting is all about experimentation and finding what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to try new techniques, colours, and styles. Always tend to explore new things. 

How To Seal Acrylic Paint On Canvas?

The final phase is to seal your acrylic painting on the canvas. It helps protect your artwork from severe conditions, line weathering, pollutants, and physical wear. Here is a step-by-step procedure to seal your paint. 

Step 1: Wait For the Drying

Wait for the paint to dry completely. Acrylic paint usually dries within 24 hours, but it’s best to wait for at least 48 hours before sealing it.

Step 2: Select the Right Sealer

There are different types of sealers available, such as varnish, polyurethane, spray sealers, and gel mediums. The type of sealer you choose will depend on the effect you want to achieve and the type of finish you prefer. 

Some sealers may change the colour or texture of the paint, so test it on a small area of the canvas first.

Step 3: Apply The Sealer

Use a clean brush or a foam brush to apply the sealer evenly on the surface of the canvas. Make sure to cover the entire painting, including the edges. 

Apply the sealer in thin, even coats, and avoid over-brushing, which can create bubbles or streaks. If you’re using a spray sealer, follow the instructions on the can and apply it in a well-ventilated area.

Step 4: Let it Dry

Allow the sealer to dry completely before applying another coat. The drying time may vary depending on the type of sealer and the thickness of the coat. Some sealers may require multiple coats to achieve the desired effect.

Step 5: You May Repeat 

If you notice any area of the canvas that is not properly sealed or if you want to add more protection, you can apply another coat of sealer. Make sure to let it dry completely before handling the painting.

Tips For Beginners To Paint On Canvas With Acrylic

  • Before you begin painting, apply a coat of gesso or a primer to your canvas. This helps to create a smooth surface and prevents the paint from soaking or bleeding into the canvas. 
  • When you’re first starting out, it’s best to start with a basic palette of primary colours (red, blue, and yellow) and white and black. This allows you to mix a wide range of colours. As black is the most demanding colour so I bring you a complete guide on how to make black.
  • Invest in a palette to mix your colors on. This can be a plastic or metal tray or even a paper plate.
  • Different brushes will create different effects. Try using a variety of brush sizes and shapes to create different textures.
  • If your paint is too thick, you can thin it with water. This can make it easier to apply and create a softer finish.
  • Acrylic paint dries quickly, so you can apply multiple layers to create depth and texture. Allow each layer to dry before applying the next.
  • Acrylic paint is a versatile medium, so don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. Try different techniques like blending, stippling, or dry brushing to create different effects.
  • After you’re done painting, clean your brushes with soap and water. This will help prolong their lifespan and prevent the paint from drying on the bristles.

Can You Draw Galaxy On Canvas?

Yes, you can paint a galaxy with acrylic on canvas with proper color combinations and using appropriate techniques and strategies.

How To Paint With Acrylic On Canvas? Step By Step Beginners Guide


Can you paint acrylic directly on canvas?

Most of the canvas comes with a surface that is primed already. So you can paint them directly. However, sanding the surface lightly with fine-grit sandpaper is recommended. 

Do you need to prime canvas for acrylic paint?

Yes, priming canvas for acrylic painting is vital to the successful adherence of the paint and preventing it from bleeding through the surface. Moreover, it prevents the paint from peeling and cracking.

What acrylic brush should a beginner use?

A beginner should use small brushes of round and flat ends. A flat brush can be used for filling larger areas, while a round brush can be utilised for sharp and detailed paintings. 

How to start painting with acrylic?

To start painting with acrylic, you’ll need some basic supplies, suitable space, and some ideas in your mind to bring them to canvas. However, the most important thing is motivation and proper guidance.

Final Thoughts 

Overall, painting on canvas with acrylic can be a fun and rewarding experience, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist, and is a great way to create beautiful, long-lasting works of art.

How to paint with acrylic on canvas requires practice and patience. Once you’re used to different tools and techniques, you can create stunning pieces of art that will be admired for years.

Thank You For Reading! 

Jose Scott

Leave a Comment