The Best Acrylic Paints of 2022

Bring your project to life with color! These acrylic paints will help you create vibrant works of art for your home.

By Debbie Wolfe and Glenda Taylor | Updated Jun 20, 2022 7:01 PM

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The Best Acrylic Paint Options

Photo: depositphotos.com

Whether you plan to dabble in fine art or need a trusty set to add a splash of color to your art supplies, it’s always a good idea to find the best acrylic paints you can. Choosing an acrylic paint set can be daunting and confusing due to the range of consistencies, colors, and prices.

Not only are there many acrylic paint brands to choose from, but you need to take into consideration the type of pigments, viscosity, and price. We’ll help you demystify paint vocabulary and find the best acrylic paint set for your needs. Each of the top picks below was selected after an in-depth review of the market and thorough product vetting.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Liquitex BASICS 12 Tube Acrylic Paint Set
  2. BEST BUDGET: Winsor & Newton Acrylic Paint
  3. BEST FOR STUDENTS: Golden Heavy Body Acrylic Introductory Set
  4. BEST FOR PROS: Liquitex Professional Heavy Body Acrylic Paint
  5. BEST FOR KNIFE PAINTING: Golden Artist Colors Heavy Body Acrylic Paint
  6. BEST GLAZING AND MIXING: Golden Fluid Acrylic
  7. BEST FOR FABRIC: Golden Artist Colors Acrylic Series Gac 900 Medium
  8. BEST FOR GLASS: FolkArt Gloss Finish Acrylic Enamel Craft Set
  9. BEST COLORS: M. Graham 5 Color Acrylic Set, with 1 Bonus Tube
The Best Acrylic Paint Options

Photo: depositphotos.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Acrylic Paint

Buying acrylic paint can seem overwhelming, especially if you are a beginner. There are many different brands, colors, and variations from which to choose. Fear not—we are here to help you navigate acrylic paints and find the perfect set that matches your needs and budget.

Quality

Like many art products, there’s a difference in quality. Sure, you can find acrylic paints in almost every big-box retailer because they are easy to use and have myriad applications. However, acrylic paints come in two grades: student and artist (or professional). The difference between categories is more than just price.

  • Student grade: Student-grade paints are less expensive and not as vibrant. They also do not give you as much coverage. However, they are suitable for large-scale painting and under-painting.
  • Artistic grade: Artist-grade acrylic paints are a superior product. They have more color offerings available, and the pigments will be more saturated and look better once applied. However, they cost considerably more than student acrylics.

Color Selection & Saturation

Acrylic paints offer a variety of colors, but the color selection and saturation varies considerably by brand. For specific colors and deep pigmentation, you’ll have to look at professional level sets. Student sets and inexpensive craft sets will be limited in color selection and saturation.

It depends on the coverage you are looking for and the type of application for the paint. It’s not a bad idea to have a mix of student- and artist-level paints. Consider purchasing large tubes of student-grade paints in base colors like black, white, and gray, and buy artist-grade paints in specific colors. It’s the best of both worlds.

Consistency

The consistency or thickness of acrylic is often referred to as ‘body.’ Artist-grade paints often come in several bodies for different applications. Body is not an indication of quality—the difference is the formulation of the binder, not the amount of pigment in the paint. There are three types of body for acrylic paints:

  • Heavy: These are thick paints with the texture of soft butter. Heavy-body acrylics retain brush marks when applied to paper or canvas. They are similar to oil paints and work well for knife painting or use on rougher canvases.
  • Soft: These paints are smoother and have a consistency similar to yogurt. They are ideal for mixing with mediums and will retain enough thickness to paint smoothly and responsively on their own.
  • Fluid: These paints resemble the consistency of honey and are perfect for smooth brushing or staining effects. Fluid acrylics work well for glazing and fine detailed work.

The consistency of acrylic paint that’s best for you will be determined by the techniques and surfaces you plan on using.

Drying Time

The best thing about acrylics is that they dry quickly, and there are no solvents required for painting or clean-up. Acrylics feature a water-mixable formula that adheres to many surfaces and creates a stable ground for almost all wet and dry media. Heavy-body acrylic paint will take longer to dry than fluid body paint.

Drying time varies depending on how many layers of paint you have on your project. Acrylics are also customizable. There are many types of additives you can mix in with acrylic paint to change the texture and drying time. The best one to use depends on the project.

Color Permanence

Permanence is also known as lightfastness, referring to the pigment in the paint’s ability to resist gradual fading when exposed to light. The good news is that most acrylic colors have much higher permanence ratings than oils or watercolors.

Each paint tube is labeled with an American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) rating for permanence. The rating classifies artists’ colors based on a test that simulates 20 years of gallery exposure.

ASTM Permanence Standards:

  • ATSM I = Excellent Lightfastness
  • ATSM II = Very Good Lightfastness
  • ATSM III = Not Sufficiently Lightfast

Low-permanence paints are referred to as fugitive colors. Try to pick paints with excellent or very good lightfastness. Fugitive colors are good for kid projects or crafts.

Our Top Picks

The top-rated products below were chosen for quality, price, and customer satisfaction to help you find the best acrylic paint for your DIY project.

Best Overall

The Best Acrylic Paint Option: Liquitex BASICS 12 Tube Acrylic Paint Set
Photo: amazon.com

Liquitex is the go-to brand for students and artists who need quality paints at an outstanding value. All Liquitex paints use the highest-quality pigments. Their Basics line uses a lower concentration of pigment than what you’ll find in professional paints. This brings the price point down for beginners, but you still get pretty good vibrant colors.

The set of 12 features all the basic colors to get you started: Primary Yellow, Cadmium Orange Hue, Alizarin Crimson Hue Permanent, Primary Red, Dioxazine Purple, Primary Blue, Phthalocyanine Green, Light Green Permanent, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Titanium White, and Mars Black. The paints have a medium viscosity that is highly versatile and easy to work with.

This set is the top pick due to its high pigment quality, variety of base colors, and versatility. It sticks to almost any surface, including canvas, paper, wood, masonry, metal, styrofoam, stone, ceramics, and textiles. It’s the perfect set to add a splash of color to your DIY Projects.

Product Specs

  • Quality: Artist-grade
  • Color Options: 12
  • Consistency: Heavy

Pros

  • All basic colors included
  • Medium viscosity
  • High pigment quality
  • Suitable for multiple surfaces

Cons

  • Leaves some streaks; ample paint required

Get the Liquitex acrylic paint on Amazon.

Best Budget

The Best Acrylic Paint Option: Winsor & Newton Acrylic Paint
Photo: walmart.com

Winsor & Newton is a respectable and recognized company, producing fine arts supplies since 1832. Their Galeria line of acrylic paints delivers professional results and quality color at an affordable price.

The Winsor & Newton set of 10 features a high level of pigmentation with a buttery consistency for quick and easy coverage. The paint features a soft body but does retain brush strokes. These acrylics can be used on a variety of surfaces. They are versatile—use them directly from the tube, diluted, or mixed with other acrylic mediums and gels. It’s perfect for adults and kids alike who would like to dabble in acrylic paints without a considerable investment.

Product Specs

  • Quality: Artist-grade
  • Color Options: 10
  • Consistency: Soft

Pros

  • High quality pigment
  • Suitable for use on a variety of surfaces
  • All basic colors included
  • Ample quantity per tube

Cons

  • Permanent when fully dried

Get the Winsor & Newton acrylic paint at Walmart.

Best for Students

Photo: amazon.com

If you want to experience the superior quality of artist-level paints without spending a lot of money, Golden’s intro set is the perfect pick. Golden makes top-quality acrylics for professional artists. Their paints are rich in color, creamy, and smooth consistency.

This heavy-body acrylic paint intro set only features six colors: Naphthol Red, Light Hansa, Yellow Medium, Titanium White, Mars Black, Permanent Green, and Light Ultramarine Blue. But don’t be intimidated by the lack of colors. This set comes with a guide that will show you how to create new colors from the set’s six colors, helping you learn and understand color theory. Golden’s intro set makes it exceptionally easy for a new painter to get started or for a more experienced painter to replace core colors.

Product Specs

  • Quality: Student-grade
  • Color Options: 6
  • Consistency: Heavy

Pros

  • Mixing guide included
  • No opacifiers, extenders, fillers, toners, or dyes
  • Reusable plastic case included
  • Ample paint per tube

Cons

  • May not be suitable for use with water

Get the Golden acrylic paint on Amazon.

Best for Pros

Photo: amazon.com

Superior pigmentation is what sets artist-grade paints apart from student grade. Since 1955, Liquitex has focused on providing all of the tools needed by the professional artist. This heavy-body acrylic paint set features acrylic resin technology that offers open working time and colors of great clarity and vibrancy, with a minimal wet-to-dry shift, or change in tonal values when dried.

The set of 12 delivers intense color in the ideal consistency for a range of techniques. The paints can be combined with a wide range of mediums and binders that let you seamlessly layer, blend, and mix with stable, archival results.

Product Specs

  • Quality: Artist-grade
  • Color Options: 12
  • Consistency: Heavy

Pros

  • Acrylic resin technology included
  • Allows for open working time
  • Minimal wet-to-dry shift
  • Suitable for mixing

Cons

  • Pricey

Get the Liquitex acrylic paint on Amazon.

Best for Knife Painting

The Best Acrylic Paint Option: Golden Artist Colors Heavy Body Acrylic Paint
Photo: amazon.com

Palette knife painting, also known as impasto, is a technique of applying paint to canvas using a painting knife. The effect is created by applying thick daubs of paint on canvas. Only heavy body paint is thick enough for this technique.

The paint’s consistency is quite buttery but sticky, so it will have no issues adhering to surfaces—which is a must for palette painting. The set features quality pigments. Although there are only seven colors in the collection, the superior pigments produce clean, bright mixes that won’t muddy or gray when layered.

Product Specs

  • Quality: Artist-grade
  • Color Options: 7
  • Consistency: Heavy

Pros

  • Buttery consistency
  • Suitable for palette painting
  • High-quality pigment
  • Can be mixed if needed

Cons

  • Less colors than other options
  • Pricey

Get the Golden acrylic paint on Amazon.

Best Glazing and Mixing

The Best Acrylic Paint Option: Golden Fluid Acrylic
Photo: amazon.com

A glaze is made by adding a translucent medium to acrylic paint. To get an effective mix, you need a high pigment, blendable paint. This fluid set by Golden features 10 vibrant colors that you can mix, tint, or shade with ease. The set is ideal for spraying, brushing, or mixing with all Golden color sets.

Glazes feature a small amount of paint blended with a much larger amount of medium. So, if you want your color to pop, it needs to be highly pigmented. Golden’s fluid acrylics are known for their professional-level pigments, and this set won’t let you down. As a bonus, the collection includes an application guide to get the most out of your paints.

Product Specs

  • Quality: Artist-grade
  • Color Options: 10
  • Consistency: Fluid

Pros

  • Suitable for blending, shading, or tinting
  • Can be sprayed or brushed
  • Requires little paint for full effect
  • Application guide included

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Some users report poor packaging

Get the Golden acrylic paint on Amazon.

Best for Fabric

The Best Acrylic Paint Option: Golden Artist Colors Acrylic Series Gac 900 Medium
Photo: amazon.com

When using a fabric medium, there’s no need to purchase a special fabric paint. This additive transforms acrylic-based paint into a durable and colorfast fabric paint. This product is a cost-effective way to use paints already on hand. Golden Artist Colors heat-set fabric painting medium improves both the consistency of paint and its color penetration into the fabric.

The medium also can be used to thin heavy body paints to use in a paint sprayer and improve the viscosity of fabric paint. Its base is white, but it dries clear and won’t alter the acrylic paint’s pigment. When added to an acrylic paint, the painted fabric must be heat-set in a dryer or with an iron to make the paint permanent.

Product Specs

  • Quality: Student or artist-grade
  • Color Options: Universal
  • Consistency: Soft

Pros

  • Transforms into any color; works with any paint consistency
  • Does not alter color pigments
  • Affordable price point

Cons

  • Requires heat-setting after application

Get the Golden acrylic paint on Amazon.

Best for Glass

The Best Acrylic Paint Option: FolkArt Gloss Finish Acrylic Enamel Craft Set
Photo: amazon.com

Both beginners and experienced crafters can enjoy FolkArt acrylic enamel paints. They have a thinner consistency than standard acrylics, making them easier to brush on. They provide suitable coverage and produce rich, vibrant colors with high opacity. They mix well, too, so this eight-piece starter set can produce virtually any color imaginable.

FolkArt acrylic enamels dry to a tough finish that doesn’t need to be sealed. Oven curing will further increase durability, though the manufacturer says it isn’t completely necessary. However, while dry to the touch in just a few hours, if not baked it will take 21 days to be dishwasher safe. FolkArt acrylic enamel paints are also effective on ceramics.

Product Specs

  • Quality: Student and artist-grade
  • Color Options: 8
  • Consistency: Soft

Pros

  • Suitable for beginners or artist
  • Dries quickly and automatically seals
  • High opacity
  • Suitable for multiple surface types

Cons

  • Pricey
  • May require baking to dry properly on some surfaces

Get the FolkArt acrylic paint on Amazon.

Best Colors

The Best Acrylic Paint Option: M. Graham 5 Color Acrylic Set, with 1 Bonus Tube
Photo: amazon.com

If you are looking for a high-pigment paint, M. Graham & Co.’s set is the best pick for you. M. Graham & Co’s paints are all about color. Unlike other acrylic paint brands, they fill their paint with the highest pigment loads possible and apply traditional milling techniques to achieve outstanding tinting strength and mass tone. The result is a truly intense color that’s more brilliant and vibrant than its competitors.

This paint does not contain fillers, wax, retardants, bulking agents, or whiteners. The colors are acrylic emulsion containing 60 percent solids—instead of the usual 45 percent found in artists’ color. While the set is a bit costly for only five tubes of paint and one bonus tube for a total of six tubes, you can create almost any color imaginable with the base colors of Azo Yellow, Naphthol Red, Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Green, Mars Black, and Titanium White.

Product Specs

  • Quality: Artist-grade
  • Color Options: 6
  • Consistency: Heavy

Pros

  • Above-average amount of pigments
  • High tinting strength and mass tone
  • No fillers, wax, retardants, bulking agents, or whiteners

Cons

  • Small tube sizes

Get the M. Graham acrylic paint on Amazon.

Our Verdict

With so many acrylic paints on the market to add to your inventory of art supplies, it can be hard to know which one is best for your intended use. One of the best options overall is the Liquitex paint with its artist-grade quality, 12 heavy-body acrylics included. Alternatively, for a budget-friendly option, the Winsor & Newton option is also an artist-grade paint, soft-consistency option with 10 colors included.

How We Chose the Best Acrylic Paints

We researched the most sought-after acrylic paints in their respective categories and discovered that the best picks are determined by their quality, consistency, number of color options, compatibility with multiple surfaces, and other special features included by select acrylic paint brands.

While researching the best options on the market, heavy-body acrylics were among the most popular options for their ease of application and reliability while applying. Though less popular, the soft and fluid acrylics produce smoother effects for more intricate work. The above list also prioritizes the best quality paints, which is why the majority of our picks are artist-grade paint, while some are meant for beginners and kids.

As for color options, our selection ranges from 1 to 12 tubes included for ample color options. For added versatility, these paints can be used on canvas, paper, glass, fabric, stone, and leather materials. Finally, some of these paint sets come with guides and reusable cases for long-term, practical use.

FAQs 

Now that you’ve learned some of the important factors to consider when choosing the best acrylic paint for your collection of art supplies, questions may still remain. Any additional information about choosing and using your new paint is listed below.

Q: What is the difference between oil paint and acrylic paint?

Oil paint is traditionally made with drying oils from animal fat, synthetic polymer or linseed, making it hard to wash off or fade. Alternatively, acrylic paint is water-based and can be thinned, diluted like watercolor paints, or washed off.

Q: What surfaces can acrylic paint be used on?

Acrylic paint is suitable for canvases, paper, metal, fabric, glass, stone, and leather.

Q: Can acrylic paint be used outside?

In most cases, if unsealed, acrylic paint can wash off or fade if left outside due to exposure to moisture or rain. It is recommended to leave acrylic paint to dry for 3 weeks before potential exposure to moisture.

Q: Do you use water with acrylic paint?

As it is water-based, acrylic paint is acceptable to use with water. Usually, this causes the paint to thin and become more malleable for painting objects.

Q: Is acrylic paint washable?

Acrylic paint is washable. But, you may need to use a cleaning solution or soap for paint that has already dried.

Q: How do you seal acrylic paint on fabric?

Follow the paint manufacturer’s recommendation for heat-setting the paint. Most acrylic-based fabric paint manufacturers recommend allowing the painted fabric to dry for several hours before applying heat with an iron or a clothes dryer.

Q: How do you seal acrylic paint on glass?

It can be done either by baking in an oven (manufacturers provide specific instructions on the curing process for their paint) or by applying a coat of sealer. Apply with a paint brush or spray-on versions are available.