Using Acrylics As Watercolors

guitarist watercolor

After posting the sketch, above, on my Deviant Art account, I’ve had some questions from my friend about using acrylic paints with watercolor techniques. I answered his questions on DA, but I thought this would make a good post here as well.

dancer sketch

Above and below, two sketches of dancers done with acrylics and ink, in a Canson watercolor paper sketchbook.


I use this style mainly for quick sketches. It’s a very improvisational style: colors are going to spread and blend in often unexpected ways. Many times this results in happy accidents, though it can also result in unhappy accidents. The good news is,if you see something you don’t like,  you can usually just wipe colors away with a paper towel and begin again.


Above, acrylics and ink: the wavy lines in titanium white were done using a fan brush; below, a quick life drawing using ink and acrylic paint.



Above, archer; below, figure drawing. Both done in acrylics and ink on sketchbook mixed media paper.


I thought I’d paint a quick piece to talk about my wet-in-wet acrylic technique. I used a Canson mixed media sketch book. I find that using acrylics wet-in-wet works best on mixed media paper, rather than on really fine watercolor paper. These books are great: very versatile, and very inexpensive. They are not only available at art stores, but Walmart now carries them.

wc 12 book

I selected a pencil sketch of a model I had already done in the sketch book:

wc 7 line

I used only three colors for the figure: yellow ocher, vermillion, and windsor violet. I started by brushing a layer of water over the skin areas, then laying in the first wash of yellow ocher for the skin tone. I used a lot of water: you can easily see the pencil lines beneath the very thin, wet layer of yellow ocher:

wc 8 color

Next I layered in vermillion and windsor violet, working quickly so that the wet shading tones blended with the still wet yellow ocher:

wc 9 color

I continued working the skin tones, and used yellow ocher for the first layer of hair:

wc 10 color

More hair colors. I began to lay in a background color. Because the majority of the figure is yellow, I used the opposite color on the color wheel, purple: I laid in a background of violet, with wet-in-wet layers of vermillion and payne’s grey. Wet-in-wet is exactly what it sounds like, painting very wet, watery paint into an area that is already wet, either with just water, or with the previous layer of wet paint. This is different than most acrylic techniques, which are impasto, meaning paint in paste form as it comes out of the tube:

wc 11 color

When all was dry I filled in the hair with a very small amount of impasto yellow ocher and vermillion. When that was thoroughly dry, I added very slight lines with a pen. Here is the finished sketch:

wc done

The entire process, not counting the original pencil sketch, took maybe half an hour, much of which was spent waiting for wash layers to dry. As I said, this is a very quick, improvisational process. Though I am certain other artists can use it in a more tempered way, and create more “finished” works using the same technique.

Thanks for looking at this post! Please subscribe and comment. You can see a lot of my art and photography on my Deviant Art site, at






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