The Best Student Grade Acrylic Paint

In Acrylic Painting by Chris BreierLeave a Comment

Convenience Colors

Some of the colors are convenience mixes that save you time from having to mix them yourself. For instance, Light Blue Permanent is a mixture of Phthalo Blue and Titanium White. Medium Magenta is a mixture of Quinacridone Magenta and Titanium White.

I recommend buying the full strength color because you can add white to them. If you buy the lighter version, there’s no way to subtract the white from it to make them more saturated.

If you want to buy these colors for convenience, and you have the money, I don’t see the harm in that. All of the colors are roughly the same price.

Tubes and Jars

These paints are available in 4 and 8 oz tubes.

Air pockets have a tendency to form inside of these tubes.

There’s only one thing that I don’t like about the plastic tubes and that’s they have a tendency to pop it back to their original shape when you squeeze the color out.

This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it lets air into the tube. If you paint consistently, then you’ll use them up before they have a chance to dry out. But they may dry up or become thicker if you store them for years or in extreme conditions. Acrylic paint will eventually go bad.

I like the flip-top cap because it’s easy to open. There aren’t any threads that can get clogged up with paint. If the paint does dry on the cap or tube it’s easy to peel off.

If you don’t like the tubes they’re also available in jars. There are three sizes available: 8oz, 16oz, and 32 oz.

Matte Liquitex Basics

The regular Liquitex Basics dry to a satin surface, but they’re also available in matte. There are supposed to be 36 matte colors available but they don’t seem to be widely available.

If you’re interested in matte acrylics, you may want to try acrylic gouache. I wrote a full review of Liquitex Acrylic gouache, which includes a video demonstration.

Another option is to add some Ultra Matte Medium to the Liquitex Basics to make them more matte. The medium is opaque, so it won’t make the color more transparent. It will lighten the color though if you add enough of it.

If you prefer a gloss finish, then you may want to try Liquitex acrylic gloss medium. You can buy the professional gloss medium, but they also make a less expensive Basics version.

Liquitex Basics Mediums

The most popular acrylic mediums are also available as a student grade version.

You can add mediums to change the characteristics of the paint. If you prefer a thicker paint you can try adding some gel medium to the paint.

The gloss fluid medium may be what you’re looking for if you prefer a glossy surface. You can add it directly to the paint, but this will increase the transparency. If that’s unacceptable, you can apply a coat of gloss medium when the painting is done.

When the painting is completely dry, you can brush on a coat of gloss medium. I recommend trying it out on a failed painting before using it on a painting that you care about. This will help you to determine if you like the glossy look, and it will give you some practice in applying the gloss medium as a final varnish.

There are other mediums available such iridescent medium and super heavy body gels which will make the paint extra thick.

Liquitex also offers a starter set of five different mediums if you want to try out a bunch of them without having to spend a lot of money. The set is less expensive because the tubes are small.

Comparison With Artists Grade Acrylics

You may be wondering what the differences are in comparison to the professional artist grade acrylics.

It’s not as if the student grade acrylics are the same thing as professional acrylics. They have to compromise somewhere in order to offer them at a lower price.

Professional artists will tell you that there’s definitely a difference. I recommend artist grade paints if you can afford them and want the best quality paints. But as a beginner, it may not be worth it. There are a lot of concepts and techniques that you have to learn and these differences in quality may not be your biggest concern.

Many of my early paintings were failures, so I don’t regret using student grade paints in the beginning.


The most obvious difference is the viscosity, which is the thickness of the paint. The student grade acrylics are slightly softer than the regular professional heavy body acrylics.

What I mean by “softer” is that the paint has a tendency to settle as it dries. The bristle marks smooth out somewhat as the paint dries. The professional heavy body paints will retain sharper bristle and palette knife marks.

The professional Heavy Body Acrylics retain the texture and bristle marks better than the student grade paint.

In the photograph above, the swatch on the left side is the Liquitex Basics Dioxazine Purple. The professional heavy body acrylic is on the right.

The top samples were painted with a soft nylon brush and the bottom two were painted with a paintbrush that has stiffer bristles. If you look at the two samples at the bottom right, you can see that professional version retains more of the bristle marks.

This may not matter to you if you paint in thin, flat layers of color. The texture of these paints may look almost identical if you paint in thin manner. The only difference is that they may not have as much covering power or tinting strength as a professional paint.

If you really want to create the texture that retains bristle marks in your paintings, you can still achieve that with the Liquitex Basics. Adding some gel medium to the paint will thicken it. The professional Super Heavy Gel Medium is the thickest. This medium would be great for palette knife painting. Keep in mind that adding gel to your colors will make them more transparent.

Another option is to create some texture on the canvas with acrylic gel or modeling paste (also known as molding paste). If you use gel, the surface may be too slick to paint on. When the gel is completely dry, you can apply a coat of gesso two create a rougher, more absorbent surface.

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