Acrylic FAQ: How Do I Paint Areas of Flat Color Without Streaks?

3 Easy Fixes for a Common Problem With Acrylics

Four paint colors
Garry Gay Getty Images

You're painting with acrylics and mixing the paint properly, but you're still getting streaks in your brush strokes. Why is that and how can you achieve a nice 'flat' area of color?

There are a few factors that may be working against you. Acrylics are an easy type of paint to work with, but they are not foolproof and you do need to pay attention to how you use them and which paint you choose. If you're struggling with streaks, try one of these techniques to see if it fixes the issue.

#1 - Transparent Paints?

Start by checking that you're using an opaque color, not a transparent one. The tube should tell you or you can test it for yourself. Flat color is easier to achieve with opaque colors rather than transparent ones.

#2 - Add an Opaque Paint

You can also mix a little of a strongly opaque color, such as titanium white or titanium buff, with the transparent color to produce a color that will spread more evenly. If the resulting color isn't intense enough, wait until it's dry and then glaze over it with the transparent color.

#3 - Blend It

Another technique to try is to blend the paint by going over it with a very large, soft brush before it's completely dry. If the paint is drying faster than you can blend it, try using a larger brush or wetting the canvas before you paint (either with a brush or with a spray bottle).

Is it Your Paint?

Many of the most common problems painters face with acrylics stem from the choice in paint.

If none of the solutions above did the trick, it's time to look at the paint you're using.

Student-grade and low-quality acrylic paints are often filled with more filler than professional-grade paints. This can cause less than ideal results when you put them to canvas or paper. As an experiment, buy a single tube of a high-quality paint and test it out against the paints you already have.

Remember to look for opaque colors.

Even within the pro-quality acrylics, you will find differences in workability and opacity. If the paints you've chosen are not to your standards, give another company a chance. You don't have to make a big investment during your trials. Instead, choose just one or two of the pigments that you use most.

It's very easy for artists to get stuck with a single paint and sometimes we fear change. Yet, if it's not working the way you want, there might be a better option out there. Every painter has different styles and techniques, so what works great for your friend or instructor may not be the best for you.

If getting flat color with acrylics completely defeats you, try switching to gouache. This opaque watercolor paint may be more your style though it doesn't have the waterproof qualities of acrylic.