Acrylic Painting Techniques: Painting Without an Artist's Palette

01
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Straight From Tube to Brush

Acrylic Painting Techniques: Painting Without an Artist's Palette
This acrylic painting technique involves putting the paint directly onto the brush, rather than onto an artist's palette. Image: © 2006 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Have you ever considered not using a palette when painting with acrylics? To instead put the paint straight from the tube onto the brush? This is a painting technique I use a lot, especially when building up color through glazing rather than premixing colors on a palette before using them.

The technique also solves the problem of paint drying on a palette. Even using a moisture-retaining acrylic palette I found I wasted paint. With cheap or readily available paint it's not much of an issue, but with paint available to me only through international mail order, it is.

Instead of picking up paint off a palette, I apply it directly from the paint tube onto a damp brush (a clean damp brush!). How much paint depends on what I'm painting. That's something you learn to judge by experience.

02
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Straight from Brush onto Canvas

Acrylic Painting Techniques: Painting Without an Artist's Palette
Experience will teach you how hard to push the brush against the canvas. Image: © 2006 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

I always keep a cloth to hand so that I can wipe off excess paint if I need to, but experience has taught me how hard to push the brush against the canvas for what I have in mind (as well as how much paint to put on the brush in the first place).

In this painting I'm using the quinacridone gold to glaze over the cadmium orange ground as the beginnings of a foreground in a landscape painting (based loosely on this reference photo).

03
of 06

The Reason for the Damp Brush

Acrylic Painting Techniques: Painting Without an Artist's Palette
Using a damp brush means some water goes onto the canvas with the paint. Image: © 2006 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Because the brush is damp, some of the water in it will go onto the canvas along with the paint, making it thinner than it is straight from the tube. One of the secrets of successful glazing is thin paint (find out what the other secret is here).

Knowing whether a particular color is transparent or opaque is also important. For instance, the quinacridone gold being used on the brush here is wonderfully transparent, but another of my favorite colors, titanium buff, is extremely opaque and needs to be thinned considerably more. In fact, I always use acrylic glazing medium with it, not just water (see this Acrylic Painting FAQ for more info on this).

04
of 06

Paint Left Behind on the Brush

Acrylic Painting Techniques: Painting Without an Artist's Palette
One brush stroke doesn't get all the paint onto the canvas. Image: © 2006 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

This photo is shows how much paint is left behind on the brush following the brushstroke; it's about half. As I want the paint thin for glazing, I will dip the brush into some clean water before continuing.

05
of 06

Dip 'n Brush

Acrylic Painting Techniques: Painting Without an Artist's Palette
Continuing adding water to spread the paint around. Image: © 2006 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

I continue dipping the brush into clean water as I spread the paint around the area I want it to be.

Don't I worry about ending up with too much water to paint, thereby creating adhesion problems? Once again, it's something you learn to judge through experience. If you're new to glazing, I recommend taking a small container and mixing some paint with 50 percent water (judge it by volume), then mixing the two together thoroughly, to get a feel for it.

06
of 06

Tube in One Hand, Brush in the Other

Acrylic Painting Techniques: Painting Without an Artist's Palette
Being ambidextrous helps with this painting technique. Image: © 2006 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

I'm quite ambidextrous, so I work with the paint tube and cap in one hand and the paint brush in the other. If it's very hot, I close the tube every time to stop the paint from drying out. (And yes, I can do this without putting the brush down.)

In the photo you can see that the quinacridone gold varies in thickness (or is uneven). I could sort this out by spreading the paint around more and probably adding a little more water, but in fact it's what I want for the landscape foreground (see this reference photo). Next I'll use some titanium buff to start creating the feeling of grass.

Painting without a palette works really well for me because I tend to use a small number of colors in a painting so I don't need a large surface to keep them nearby. In fact, the tubes usually all fit on the small shelf on my easel. It also makes me more meticulous with cleaning my brushes, because I don't want to contaminate a tube with another color from my brush.

Why not give this acrylic painting technique a try and see how it works for you?