Some painters are put off by acrylics as they dry too quickly for satisfactory blending or they are too bright.  But there are easy ways around this.  Thicker, heavy-body paint can be used in different ways to slow the drying time – and the brightness of acrylics can be tempered by selecting familiar, traditional colours and keeping to a simple palette.

Colour mixing

If you are new to acrylics, all you need to begin is a good introductory set of primary colours.  I have chosen the following selection from Daler-Rowney’s Heavy Body range:

Cadmium yellow
Cadmium red
Burnt sienna

The three bright primary colours are used to create all the secondary colours you’ll need and the addition of burnt sienna allows for duller colours and greys to be mixed. Acrylics are surprisingly transparent so, to achieve really strong darks, black might also be required.  I like to use black acrylic ink so that I can draw with it as well.

To help understand the limited palette, I’ve developed a notation using three triangles (below).  The points on the upright triangles represent the three primaries: red, yellow and blue.  One triangle shows dull colours (left), the other, bright (right).  The inverted triangle (bottom) represents secondary colours:  violet, orange and green.  As you can see, it’s possible to work with just three bright primary colours and a dull red, such as burnt sienna, which is useful for greys, darks and making dull yellows for skies.

I’ve laid out the selected starter colours on the bright and dull primary triangles.  All the missing colours can be added as secondary mixes from this basic primary palette. Further subtle colours can also be produced from these basic colour combinations.  Tonal adjustments are made by the addition of white.

One of the dangers of painting snow scenes is that you end up with large tracts of the painting predominantly covered with white paint. So adding big skies, melting snow or texture often offers relief from this and adds welcome warmth to the painting.

Fast-drying acrylics can be off putting, but there are techniques that take advantage or sidestep this problem entirely.  Derbyshire Lane demonstrates one technique of overcoming fast drying and turning it to an advantage.

Demonstration - Derbyshire Lane