Skye writes; Hi Lisa
I have worked in watercolours for a long time and I want to get started on acrylics but I do not know where to start I always have started with a super accurate sketch but as soon as I start painting I go back to my watercolour techniques but I feel that I ruin all my sketches by painting over them I watch a lot of your videos and try and follow your techniques but I feel that I have something lacking.

Acrylic painting is very different in how we approach the canvas. Acrylics dry very quickly. In order to achieve a seamless background without having a sort of glow/halo effect around the subject, you are better off painting the entire background, then drawing the subject out on top of that with a white charcoal pencil or tracing/transfer paper, THEN painting the subject.

The tracing and transfer paper is one of my favorite methods for painting in acrylics.

  1. You can still use this method even if you prefer freehanding. Just draw your subject on another piece of paper, then trace it onto the tracing paper and transfer it onto your canvas when ready. The reason for drawing it onto another piece of paper is so that you can do any erasing there without damaging the tracing paper.
  2. Your work stays cleaner. No drawing/erasing marks on your canvas.
  3. You can move the tracing paper drawing around over your painted background to get your subject positioned exactly in the right spot. When drawing onto the canvas first it’s so easy to end up too big/too small/too far to the left or right etc. The tracing/transfer paper method keeps you from messing up your canvas with these mistakes.
  4. This method allows you to pull your drawing back over your work as you paint to make sure you’ve not lost your shapes or general form. Is the eye starting to look too big? Check with your initial drawing, it may just be an illusion caused by how you’ve shaded around it, or you may need to change the shape. The tracing paper gives you much more control in keeping your drawing accurate.

In general, when I paint with acrylics I paint from whatever is farthest back and add layers as I move forward. Many of the acrylic paints are quite opaque so I can easily cover my backgrounds. Let’s say I’ve painted an underwater scene. I get my background painted dark blues but I want to add a red fish over that. The reds are going to be quite translucent and not show up well over the blue. In this case, I draw my fish out on my tracing paper, use the transfer paper to transfer just the outline of the fish. I fill the whole fish in with titanium white. I then can paint the base red layer of the fish over that. When that dries I can use my transfer paper again to transfer the details like fins/eyes/markings back onto the red of the fish, and then paint in my details and work on shading from there.

I do want to be clear that this is not the one “right” way to paint. I’ve seen amazing artists paint in all different orders. This is simply what has worked best for me.