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Beginner’s guide to acrylics

From laying out your palette and colour-mixing advice to painting a simple tree, Charles Evans offers a brief guide to painting with acrylics



Useful colour-mixing ideas

Know your brushes

How to paint a simple tree

Acrylics are possibly the most forgiving type of paint available and we are building up from basic, simple stuff here. It has taken me many years to whittle my palette down to the few colours that I use regularly but I have found, through necessity and trial and error, that with these few I can mix any colour I want for wherever I am in the world. As a result, I don’t need to alter my colour palette for differing subjects or different landscapes. My regular colours are: Payne’s grey, permanent alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, cobalt blue, Naples yellow, raw sienna, titamium white, Hooker’s green and raw umber.

All of the colours that I use are essential to my particular way of painting, but there are some alternatives. For instance, yellow ochre can be used as a substitute for raw sienna in most cases. There are myriad whites available, just as there are many different browns. But to me, none of them are as useful as the colours that I use.

Not every colour will be used for every painting, and the amount you need will vary – you’ll use more Hooker’s green in a forest scene than you will in a sunset seascape, for example. Decide which paints you want to use in a painting before you begin.


I use a stay-wet palette, which is a plastic tray with a sponge in. You wet the sponge and lay a piece of stay-wet refill paper on top. This is a semi-permeable surface that lets a little of the water through, which keeps the paint moist and useable for days and days. This means that you can squeeze out generous amounts of paint onto the surface without fear of wasting it, which in turn means you can make large quantities of each mix so you don’t run out of a particular one halfway through a painting.

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About Leisure Painter

Welcome to the May issue of Leisure Painter, packed with practical tutorials, step-by-step demonstrations and illustrated techniques - all designed to help the beginner and amateur to draw and paint successfully. There's something for everyone, from how to paint spring flowers, landscapes, boats and animals in watercolour to tutorials using coloured pencils, water-soluble pencils, oils, pastels, acrylics and tinted charcoal. Learn how to manipulate photographs on a computer to help you compose a better picture, take your first steps with scratchboard, and discover how to gather reference material from nature. There's a look at the joys of taking part in outdoor painting competitions, even if you are a beginner, and David Bellamy introduces part two of our sketchbook challenge. There is also a host of information about art events and exhibitions, art club activities and reviews of practical art books, as well as news, special offers, competitions, holidays and workshops to enjoy.