Anyone who has been following my videos knows that I like very high-end art materials. Why is Liquitex Basics acrylic paint my go to paint then? After over 20 years of working in this medium there are certain elements about this paint that has me reaching for it over any other type of acrylic paint in my collection.
Fresh out of high school, I went looking for acrylic paints to purchase. I was on a strict budget and wanted something low cost. I picked up a bunch of Liquitex basics that happened to be on sale at the time. Who knew that choice would actually be such a good one?! Most of my other attempts to purchase low cost art materials did not end so well. These paints are not just “beginner acrylics”.
Zebra painting completed with Liquitex basics (and a bit of white createx airbrush paint for the background) (video)
The Liquitex Basics are a fairly thin paint compared to its heavy bodied big brother. It dries almost completely matte, which means that a white charcoal pencil or transfer paperwork quite well with it. I found that with the heavy bodied paints don’t work great with these tools because there is too much gloss in the paint. I consider the airbrush to be a must have tool for acrylic painting in the style I work, so having a more matte finish paint is perfect for me. The airbrush paint doesn’t stick well to a slick, high gloss paint.
You can see in this in progress shot of my Asian Elephants, the baby elephants are drawn out in white. I drew my initial sketch onto another piece of paper so that I could be messy and do any erasing I wanted without messing up the paint already on my canvas. I then used white transfer paper to transfer my image onto the canvas (video). This keeps my work extremely clean, but the transfer paper won’t stick well to a higher gloss paint. The Liquitex Basics are perfect for this.
“The Mist” painted with Liquitex basics (and white createx airbrush paint for the mist)
As you can see in my finished painting, my background is quite simple. If I had lines all over and smudges from having drawn and erased several times directly on the canvas, it would be pretty obvious. Having the ability to draw my subjects on another piece of paper, make all the mistakes and eraser marks I want, then use transfer paper to get my image cleanly onto the canvas is pretty important for the type of work that I do.
Orcas painted with Liquitex Basics (and a bit of white airbrush paint for the background and Earth) (video)
I’ve heard people complain that these colors felt dull to them when dry given how matte they are. Choosing a gloss varnish will solve this issue, bringing out the brilliance of all the colors you used. I use one from Liquitex. The thing I found with that Liquitex varnish, however, is that it tends to smudge even totally dry paint. My solution to this is to use a spray varnish first. I use one by Krylon. I apply a very thin layer of the spray varnish, let it dry for a few hours, and then I can go ahead and apply the gloss painted on varnish. The reason I don’t just apply a heavier coat of the spray varnish instead of using these two steps is that the spray varnish can be difficult to get good even and heavy coverage with. This two-step method I’ve been using has worked great for many years.
One massive bonus to working in a paint that dries matte is that it is much easier to photograph than its high gloss counterpart. If you’ve ever tried taking photos of work that has a gloss to it you know how difficult this can be. I find that these paints photograph quite nicely which is especially important if you’re having prints made of your work.
“Don’t Breathe” painted with Liquitex Basics, Liquitex Heavy Bodied transparent mixing white (and createx airbrush paint for a few special effects) (video)
There are a few colors in the Liquitex Basics line that I switch over to the Heavy Bodied paints for. Oranges, reds, translucent yellows, violet, and transparent mixing white. All of these colors (with the exception of the transparent mixing white that is only available in the Heavy Bodied series) have a sort of gooey feel to them. If I’m glazing it’s fine, but if I’m painting a sunset that needs a lot of these colors, they gum up weird as I’m blending wet into wet. The older versions of these shades were fine, but I’ve noticed over the past several years that the formula has changed. In this one case, I do feel that the Heavy Bodied paints are a better choice for me.
Orca painting with Liquitex Basics (and a bit of createx airbrush paint) (video)
If cost isn’t an issue, why not just use the Heavy Bodied paints then? Well first, as I mentioned before is the issue with the airbrush paint not sticking well to the glossier paints. Another big reason for me is I find that the Heavy Bodied paint dries quite a bit faster than the Basics. Acrylic paint dries so quickly anyway, I don’t enjoy that added drying speed. Even the paint that I place on my palette dries quite fast in comparison to the Basics. Using a wet palette can of course help with this, but I don’t like mixing colors on those palettes so it’s not a great option for me.
The next reason is that I actually prefer the thinner consistency of the Basics. I work in multiple thin layers doing quite a bit of glazing, so I don’t want heavy, thick paint. If you work in a looser, more painterly or impressionistic style you may prefer the Heavy Bodied acrylics, but as you can see in my sample pieces, that isn’t how I work.
I love how well the Basics series layer and glaze. They adhere beautifully to the canvas even when thinned a bit with water for glazing. Some bargain brands don’t do this even when not thinned. Adding a new layer can cause the previous, dry layers to lift from the canvas. These bargain paints also tend to have less pigment in the colors making them terrible even when first learning to paint.
When blending my paint wet into wet I mist water with an airbrush onto my canvas to keep the paint wet so that I have as much time as I need to blend. The Liquitex Basics handle this technique beautifully.
The techniques that you use and your end goals will certainly make a difference in which type of acrylics you will choose to work in, but don’t discount the Basics line as being poor quality. I personally love them for most of my acrylic work.