- Lesson details
In this lesson series instructor Sheldon Borenstein shows you how to work with a variety of drawing and painting media. You will learn how the general principles of art apply equally to all media and specifically how to work with each individual medium while employing the appropriate techniques. In this video lesson Sheldon will teach you how to work with acrylic paints.
- Tombow Mono Professional Drawing Pencils
- Butcher Tray Palette
- Paper Towels
- Robert Simmons Titanium Brushes
- Artists Grade Acrylic Paint
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of drawing and painting media. You will learn how the general principles of art apply equally
to all media and specifically how to work with each individual medium
while employing the appropriate techniques.
In this video lesson, Sheldon will teach you how to work with acrylic paints.
with. Remember that acrylic painting was actually invented by illustrators, according to what
my boss says. I wasn’t there. But imagine doing a tight deadline, and you’re doing
an oil painting. How do you get it to the publisher? Today we’re digital. We can take
a picture of it and send it off. Back in the olden days you had to make a transparency.
So you had to shoot a “tranny” a transparency, get that color corrected. I remember working
in the industry at this time because I was working in graphics as an art director and
an account executive. This is a different kind of tranny, by the way. The other trannies
are over there. But these are transparencies. Not to say that trannies are transparent.
I know some; they’re very deep and wonderful people. Can we get back to this? Now, you
get your transparency done, and you have to—this is funny, it’s getting late. Then what you
have to do is color correct it, scan it into four color, look at your proof, color correct
that. Oh man. It’s crazy. So the digital.
But imagine having to do all that with a wet oil painting. So they invented this thing
called acrylic which is a plastic binder. Not a wax binder, not a gum binder like watercolor.
This is a plastic binder. It dries really fast. You have to be careful with that. When
it’s done it’s plastic. You can actually kind of feel and stretch it. But they’re
very opaque. Sometimes it’s really fun just to do a silhouette of a tree and then just
pretend like your midtoning your lights is the light hitting the tree. It’s really
fun. It’s like turning the light on. It’s really cool. So we’re going to do acrylic.
Now remember, again, we just want to show you how it’s done. I’ll do paintings later
on where I’ll do full-blown finished paintings with the acrylic paint and show you the total
finished work. Right now we just want you to understand how it works.
This is for your technique.
So, starting again, we’re going to do our flat wash, our gradated wash. As you’ll
find out when you watch the demo that you want to start thinking brush strokes. Okay,
then our sphere, our box, and our cylinder. Then this is just real fast. You’ll just
see this is a box. These are cylinders. This is a box shape. Just fun. Real fast just to
get an idea that you understand that really in the end it’s just three shapes.
Okay, so the cost, I would say cheap brushes. Just get some pointed, these University brushes
are really good. I think they’re Winsor & Newton University brushes. They’re a red
brush. They’re pure synthetic. Do not use your sable brushes with acrylic. You’ll
destroy them. Keep your watercolor brushes in another room. My acrylic brushes, I don’t
really care. I just shove them in the corner of the room. My watercolor brushes are in
beautiful wooden boxes lined with felt. They’re put aside and I rub their backs at night.
I sing them lullabies. I talk to them. I love my watercolor brushes. Acrylic brushes it’s
like, phfft, get over there. They get destroyed.
The acrylic paint, stay with a good paint. A good Graham or Winsor & Newton, Grumbacher.
Stay away from the cheap brands of the acrylics. There’s an old saying in the art world.
It’s hard enough to do a good painting with good supplies. Try to do it with bad supplies.
So I’d stay down the middle with acrylics. The substrate which you put it on, canvas
board is good. I painted on Canson paper. It’s really fun. It’s good solid paper.
It takes it really well. Stay away from the Strathmore charcoal paper. The Canson works
great with the acrylic. I guess that’s about it. Experiment and have some fun.
And buckle your seatbelt.
Paint-wise, at my school, Sheldon’s Art Academy, we have them start with white and
burnt sienna and burnt umber. Then we get to add yellow, yellow-ochre. Then we add a
blue. It gives you a pretty good palette. Eventually you can add in some reds, and then
you add in some greens. Always start out monochromatic and work your way out.
Don’t go to full color. You’ll frustrate yourself.
When I started painting back around the turn of the century. I think we were lighting our
models with candles back then. It’s been about 100 years ago. They only let me, my
painting teacher—no, I was about 20 when I started painting. I asked my teacher, I
said why do you paint when animation is the ultimate art form? I was being real cocky
because I was an animator. He goes, “I feel the same way about painting. Why don’t you
take my class?” I could do anything I wanted. I was a counselor. I was on the board of directors
in charge of the art department and a teacher at the school, and I was 20. I said okay.
I started painting in his class and never left. Boy, did I fall in love with painting.
You have the best painters in the world here. You have Bill Perkins. It doesn’t get any better.
So I just want to get you started so Bill can take you to the great world.
But painting is a drug. Painting is fun. Let’s get started. Buckle your seatbelt.
Not a huge investment on the acrylics, but an investment in time. Alright, let’s go.
Alright, everybody, welcome to acrylic. Acrylic is a lot fun. Acrylic is also more forgiving.
Acrylic was invented by illustrators. Really? Yes. That’s what they tell me.
I believe everything I hear. Here we go.
We’re always going to do the same.
This is going to be a tree.
This is why gesture is important.
You can rough it out. That’s our tree.
We’ve got this and this.
I'm probably going to want to have some distance here. We’ll put a circle here, a box.
Remember, everything is three shapes. Look at our fundamentals.
We’ll put the cylinder--
I'm going to put the cylinder here.
The light will go this way.
Nope, light has to go this way because I want this to be in shadow.
Then the light will come like that so I’ll put a shadow here. Shadow here. Shadow there.
There we go.
Now, when you come over here you use these shapes to do your drawing.
There’s a box shape.
We’ll have this tree coming out from behind this.
Little bush behind here.
Clouds will go this way. Not too much though. Mostly just put some blue behind that.
Shadow is going to come down the mountain this way.
There we go. That’s our lay-in.
Are you ready? So my brushes are very different in the acrylic world than they are in my watercolor.
Look at this. This is a brush that an art supply owner gave me, and he said, “But
you have to use a certain way to clean it,” and when I did it destroyed the brush. So
thank you. He gave me a brush and we destroyed it. If you look, like this is, I should be
in jail for the way I treat these brushes. But the oils in the acrylics, they just beat
up these brushes. I just don’t have the patience. I just beat them up, beat them really
bad. Here’s a new one we’ll use. This one feels like it’s okay. I get the cheapest
ones I can find, Robert Simmons. What’s this one? Silverwhite or something, I don’t
know. Again, look it; here’s one. Here’s a good one. See? Isn’t this great? Perfect.
See, this is one that got murdered. So I go like that and now it works. So again, they
get beat up. I don’t really care. I own an art supply store. If it’s something I want
I just go in and get it because I’m kind of spoiled. I know a lot of the art supply people.
They give me stuff. But my watercolor brushes, you don’t mess with my watercolor brush.
Those are special. I love them.
Where was that one I wanted to use? Yeah, there was one that was working.
I want to do a—here we go. I want to do a gradated wash.
This one is pretty cool. We’ll use this one.
Alright, so with acrylic I lay out my palette a certain way. I like to go—now
this one is a little different because what happened is I grabbed these as I was leaving.
I need to update my pastels. Not my pastels, sorry. I need to update my acrylics.
It's been a little while since I’ve been doing acrylic painting. Generally, I like to go white, then
I go into my yellows, into my browns. Kind of separate warms and cools. Into my greens.
You can do warms and cools, or you can go white into yellows, into browns, into reds,
into blues. But you generally have a pretty good idea of where to go. In this case, I
just kind of squirted them out. But here’s white, yellow, greens, green over here. This
is my green. This is my key color. This is green. So I have that. This is black. Payne’s
gray is an awesome color. It’s really fun. It’s kind of a blue-black. It’s really
fun to use. The blues, I like cerulean blue. I think that’s ultramarine.
The reds, I like cad.
Generally, my palette is very simple. It’s white. I like white, Naples yellow, cad yellow,
I like cad red pale, burnt sienna, burnt umber, cerulean blue, kind of a cobalt blue or ultramarine-type
blue, a black. Real simple like that. I don’t get too much into that. I like the Naples
yellow. It’s kind of fun. I love olive green so I usually have an olive green in there.
You can mix that too. So I don’t get too crazy with it.
In this case we’re going to do our, we’re going to start with a flat wash.
In acrylic that’s really easy.
So with the flat wash it’s really pretty easy. Just go ahead and
put the paint down as if you were painting a house because it’s acrylic.
It’s really opaque. All paint is the same, everybody.
The only thing that makes it different is the binder.
With acrylic it’s a plastic binder. This is nasty.
People like to put it in their airbrushes. No! You’ll destroy your air brush.
As soon as that stuff dries it's plastic.
How do you re-wet plastic? Like oil, how do you re-wet that stuff?
This is the nastiest of it. It’s like a very opaque paint sealed with plastic that dries
really fast. When you’re using it you’re going to be tiling a lot more than you normally
would. Tiling means putting down planes, very direct. In the studios for background painting
you usually have an airbrush in this hand so you paint and spritz,
mist it and keep it soft. It’s called badgering.
how you want to go. We can either go with the midtone and then go dark to white. Or
we can go dark and then go white on into that. It really doesn’t matter.
We’re going to play it safe and do a midtone and then go dark.
So here’s my mid.
In this case, what we’re going to do is put the brush strokes down a certain way. We don’t want
to treat this as if we’re painting a house. We want to treat this as if we are tiling
like a mosaic. We’ll just go midtone all the way.
Here we’ll leave white because you can never get as white as the board.
Now, if I’m doing a painting and I want it to key. I’ll put a wash over the whole
thing. So if there is a green painting I’ll put a green wash. I’ll do that on this.
I'll show you.
I’ll put a green wash over the entire painting. What that does is it keeps the local, keeps
the local color. Off camera here I just have a towel that I borrowed from the local gym.
They’re probably walking around going, where is that towel? Where is that artist? Just
anything that’s bad. Okay, now, here’s my white.
Next time I go to the gym they’re going to have a bill for me.
One towel. If you take it from the house then your wife gets mad at you.
Now, what I like to do is like this: Here’s my white. There’s my dark, and I smear into
it like that. See that? I just smear it. Then I can pick up the tone I want right out of it.
Here’s my dark to my light. Nice gradation. I’ll just pick out what I want.
There's the next one there. I’m not looking for an airbrushed effect. We’re looking for
painterly effect. So we have this.
These are brush strokes.
What happens when you’re doing your painting
is that this could actually pick up the light,
and you can put warms and cools in here.
It’s really pretty.
You want to break it up a little bit. My painting teacher
used to always say it’s like a mosaic. Okay, so we have that. Then we’ll go dark up here.
It’s still wet which is kind of fun. You know that really doesn’t happen very often.
It usually dries really fast.
Add a little black if you want.
Really dark. There’s your gradation from dark to light.
Get used to being able to match colors. I used to do airbrush retouching. This was before
Photoshop. You had to be able to just literally mix a color and put it down and then have
your figure just disappear because you had to retouch photographs. Also, working as a
print rep for years, we would have “basel 6”, and that’s like having a really expensive
palette. I used to have so much fun. But you know, the clients would bring in their products
especially when they were doing fashion. You know, they’d bring in the actual fabric
and products and, you know, we’d have to match it.
The pressmen, they’re thinking CMYK, you know, red up, blue down, that type of thing.
I’m thinking add the complement. So if we have a green I might say to the pressman,
hey you know what, let’s pump some red. There’s no red in there, very little. Alright,
then bring the yellow down and red up. What that would do is that would, you know, kill
some of the green. If you wanted it to power it up a little bit then you would bring the
blue down, and then you’d bring the yellow up. That would give us a stronger green, you
know, that type of thing. And you’re using this printing press as a painting thing, as
a palette, really fun. Especially when you’re powerful, and I can fire up that press and
all those sheets are coming through and you’re seeing your changes. That was the old days.
Really fun. Alright, so that’s your gradation. See it? But it has to be done with brush strokes.
Okay now, let’s move on to our sphere. Let’s start learning how to do the local colors.
The local color with this is green. It’s like a grayed-out green. There’s a couple
ways you can do this. You can actually use a wash...
just like that.
That will key our color.
So this is our wash. Then we can put in our shadow, which will be our green with a little
bit of Payne’s gray. Why not? I want to gray it back a little bit. Add some red.
Really kill it. That’s a grayed out weird green. It’s getting a little warm so I’ll add
some blue to it. Now it’s a blue-red-green-Payne’s
gray. What does that give us? Mud. There you go.
Okay, there’s my shadow. Remember, this is opaque. I can go light and dark if I want
cause I can come back in with my reflected light real strong.
There’s my shadow.
Light is coming this way. Cast shadow.
I can put some in the dark which will give me a conversation coming this way.
Alright, so I’ve got that.
It’s starting to dry a little bit. Now we’re going to put in our light.
I’ll go with white and some brown. Let’s go really warm.
It’s going to be hot. Dude, you’re hot.
You’ve got burnt sienna, man. So now we have our light. We have our dark. Now, Rembrandt
lighting is kind of fun. It’s dark, light, dark, light. So we’ll put a light down here.
This is dark so I’ll put a light here. Just wherever you have a light put a dark.
Wherever you have a dark put a light.
Okay, so we have that. Now, my core shadow I want to go really dark.
I’m going to mix kind of this darkish brown, really dark.
This is my core.
Cores have soft edges.
Okay, then again, I’m mixing these tones together. I’m an animator so
I like to think of extremes and in-betweens. This is my extreme. This is my extreme. This
is my in-between. So extreme, extreme, breakdown, and then between these are the in-betweens.
That’s why I’m using this paper towel that’s wet and putting the—I forgot to
tell you. This is a wet paper towel and the acrylic is right on top of that. It keeps
it wet. Otherwise, it’s going to dry really fast. You’re going to get really frustrated,
and you’re going to get really moody, and you’re going to lose all your friends. You’re
going to lose everybody, and they’re going to go in for therapy. The therapist is going
to say, but did you put a wet paper towel down? You’re going to go no. They’re going
to go, well, there you go. Conversations. See that? Lights coming here.
See the soft edge? That’s all brush strokes.
I’m going to have some fun. I’m going to go with a blue,
very cold reflected light.
Uhh, a little light. You want to make sure your
reflected light is darker than your halftone or you’ll kill your form.
There we go.
This is called dirty brush painting where sometimes you don’t clean the brush.
You just kind of wipe it off.
It’s really fun because all your colors kind of meld together. It makes it really
pretty. Hard, really sharp. That brings it towards us. This is really hot, really warm.
Now, if this is cool over here maybe I’ll put a warm in the background. Again, conversation.
Opposites. Law of opposites. That’s pretty much my whole story of how I do everything.
My lectures are Law of Opposites. I just think of what anybody else would say, and then I
go opposite. And then everyone goes, how do you say that? Well, it’s just the Law of
Opposites. You go down really low in your lecture, and then you scream and you wake
up the class, and then you hit them with the hard stuff. It’s just a formula. I like
music that has Law of Opposites. It really takes you down, brings you up, that type of
stuff, which is kind of fun. You know, movies Law of Opposites. You know it’s really calm
and then all of a sudden something happens. Horror films—look this way, look that way.
Look this way again. Then go back and then all of a sudden jumps out at you.
A little shadow coming in here.
Then you can put in your highlight on here. Not a whole lot, very simple.
A highlight sometimes has a hard edge and then a little soft edge coming off of it. Highlight, halftone,
core, reflected light, cast. There you go.
Okay, so that’s that one.
The next one is going to be our box. So this is our shadow side. I’m going to do the
same thing, but I’m not going to use the wash. I’m going to paint direct.
Here's our shadow.
Remember, you have so much freedom with acrylic. You can just paint right over it.
You don’t want it to get too muddy, though. You want to be careful.
You know, watercolor you have to really plan.
This is called scrubbing, by the way, or scumbling, scrubbing.
Yeah, the style of teaching that I’ve adopted which you’re not seeing at this moment,
is kind of dangerous because people actually sometimes think you’re that way, you know,
the character. The movie Silence of the Lambs, the guy who plays the villain, I’d be afraid
to meet that guy. He just scared me. But he’s an actor. That’s what my classes are.
It's a lot of theater. Okay, so now I’ve got this neutral on this side, dark on that side.
It’s going to be very light on the top. Very warm, so I’ll use the same.
Okay, down here is our dark. There’s our shadow. Remember perspective.
We have an auxiliary vanishing point up here. It’s coming down. It gives us our shadow.
It’s darkest next to the subject and lightens up as it goes away.
You can accent it right next to it.
Clean your brush. Background. This is light so we’re going to go dark.
This is dark so we’re going to go light. We’ll go cool in the background, really bring this out.
Just think of opposites and you’ll do great. Okay, everybody? Don’t
get too crazy. What’s the opposite? If I have something that’s dark, put something
light next to it. If I want it to blend in and I have something dark, put something dark
next to it, and it’ll blend in. It’s really that simple.
Now, if I’m talking to a client then I’m going to make it complicated. Well, it’s
the X-factor divided by the aspect of the ratio. It’s the knowledge of the anatomy
as it transfixes past the aspect moving to the transverse side.
They go, wow, you're really smart.
Yeah, I know. Yeah, it’s just, you know, how it is.
Then you go home and you break it down into three shapes.
Give it some rhythm. Go Law of Opposites.
Call it a day. It’s not that hard.
Alright, there we go.
Let’s have some fun. This I need to be subtle. I’m going to put some reflected light in there.
This is pretty cool. I’m going to go with a warm reflected light because it’s
bouncing off of the floor here so we’ll go like this. Done.
Then coming back this way this is kind of grayed out
Let’s go with kind of a blue on this side coming back
this way. We have a Cal-State cool. This is coming this way. This will go that way. See
how it comes up, brings us around. What’s going to happen here is we’re going to go
this way. Then we’ll grab some of that gray. We’ll be careful.
That way. I can’t find that color.
But if you want to you can really go hot on it and go with yellow too.
It's not going to hurt you. Let’s see what happens. It’s acrylic. That’s where you can have
fun with acrylic, everybody. It’s really forgiving. Let’s see what happens. We added
the yellow. Man, that’s really strong. Then if you want to now, but if you want to soften
the edge in the background then it gets a little bit more difficult.
See, now that pushes it back.
And soften some edges.
Maybe answer that over here. Everything should point. Okay, so that’s that.
Let’s just knock in this—let’s just go direct with kind of an alla prima type.
Okay, ready? Light’s coming here. Here’s my light side. Done.
Here’s my reflected side. Done.
Ooh, lost edge, fun.
Let’s go with a warm, very warm or hot core.
Little dark on the center. Make it metallic, go like that.
If you want to do metallic, go hard and then next to it put a very sharp light.
That’ll give you metallic.
It’s blending in so we’ll have to come back. Then we go opposite.
Let’s go with a dark on the other side.
Uneven brush strokes. See, if you make this shape mirror this shape,
and a lot of my students do it, because you’re trying to match, you’re trying to get it
to work around this, what happens is the background takes on this shape. Then your eye goes to
the background shape instead of what you’re painting. You want your background shape to
be uneven like that. Then your eye comes back here. Go with that point.
Then we can put in our tone.
You can lose an edge too.
The way you draw a straight line is you look here
and you look here. You look here, look here, look over here, and then bring your brush
and it will follow your eye. Okay, that’s kind of fun.
There you go. Soften here because you don’t want the eye to go. Soften where you don’t want the eye.
Like, I might want the eye to be here cause that’s sharp because that will point.
When I get back here I’ve already used it.
It’s like Hollywood, you know? Just using you for your edges.
Once I’m done I’m going to cast you off into nowhere. Hollywood—cruel, heartless place.
Only wants you for your edges.
Not true. Hollywood is a lovely place. We love everybody. Okay, here we go.
Play with a warm right there. This could be reflecting all kinds of things. You can see yourself
in it and go hi. Oh, I can see all you guys. Look, there’s Kansas. Hi, Kansas!
Look, there's L.A. and there's New York. See, that's the whole country.
Oh I know, you people in Europe are Kansas too.
Okay, here we go.
Yeah, Asian countries, you’re Kansas too. Basically, anything that’s not L.A. or New York is Kansas.
Why are you putting white there? Because of Law of Opposites. Why not? Let’s try it.
It doesn’t hurt. Okay, so there’s the cylinder.
Okay, so here you go. Flat wash, gradated wash, sphere, box, and cylinder. That makes
up everything in the world. Alright, now we’re going to move on to our tree.
If you notice we talk a little slower cause we just got back from lunch. When you get back from lunch
in a studio everything moves a little slower.
Alright, let’s key this.
You can have some fun too.
When you’re keying you can also put in different colors.
We can put in blues, all kinds of different colors.
That’s kind of moody.
Okay, so we're going to settle in a little bit.
You can do it like a coloring book. You put in all your local colors.
Sometimes when you’re working with acrylic the way they do it the studio is you put in all your shadow colors,
and then you pull light right out of it. It’s like turning on the lights.
I’ll do it with this.
Let’s say the shadow on this is going to be, let’s
just go with kind of this dark brown looking color.
That’s a wash.
So we’re putting in our box shape.
Okay, we’ll put in dark here.
Now, when you’re working this way silhouette is really
important, especially in the film industry.
You’re going to walk it back. So the rhythm is the most important.
Now you have your silhouette.
That’s really probably the most important part of a drawing because it’s got to read—
again, especially in the entertainment industry because everything is reading fast.
In advertising and in illustration and animation you want it to read.
Alright, so we have to let this settle a little bit.
Next step, we can put in the green.
Okay, so now let’s turn on the lights.
This is basically key in the painting. You want to have your lightest lights and your darkest darks.
Let’s turn on the light right here.
We’re going to the shadow side here.
Now remember, this is an opaque medium,
so don’t be afraid to put down a shape to be able to work back into it.
Watercolor is a little more difficult.
This was designed for illustrators to be able to have their freedom.
Okay, now the light is going to come this way.
Hit a core. Reflected light area here.
Remember, I like to call it exhausting the brush. Just keep moving it around.
That would be the underside.
You know about the edges, back to the side down here.
One thing to be aware of is that, you know, when you’re working in your own
studio you’re not talking to yourself.
So you go off into like this zone,
a lot of my students can’t see that with me because,
you know, in my classes singing and dancing
and telling jokes and everything
When I’m at home, you know you just, you can go for days working without speaking
because you just get so into what you’re doing, especially when you’re animating.
You just get into your character.
Right now if I was at home I would be in the mode of
just putting the headphones on and just working.
Let me pull this back here. Pull in the shadows.
This way I can pull it back around.
There are the lights hitting on there. Hitting here.
Coming around and hitting on this part.
When you’re dealing with clouds they also have form.
We’re going to have the planes.
Okay, showed you lay-in.
Now we’re going to move over a little bit. Let’s have some fun.
I have this new brush.
Let’s have some fun. Let’s do some details.
This could be like an indentation inside the rock.
Push back the edges that you don’t want the audience to see.
Really kind of hitting this edge to bring out that part of the rock.
Lights coming down.
We’re going to have some fun with what appears to be some wet into wet.
Mostly when you’re putting in acrylic you’re putting in the planes like this.
So if it’s really cold you can put in some warm reflected lights too. It’s kind of fun.
Sharpen up the edge on top.
Okay, got that.
Now let’s have some fun with the branch. Light is coming this way.
I’m thinking more shape down here.
Remember, these are just like little intros to show you how to use the medium.
You can put a lot more time into it.
Sometimes it feels like you’re frosting a cake, which is really kind of cool.
Step back and take a look.
Okay, so now we’re at this point where I’m really having fun. I’m having fun. I’m painting.
It’s painterly. But now I have to tie down my shapes.
We have some fun brushstrokes, so let’s see what we have. Let’s just start from the
center of interest and work our way.
Again, remember we’re really, there’s a couple areas that we have to be dealing with here:
Number one, at this stage in a painting I’m going to the happy place.
And that means I’m going to daydream land.
And you really can’t do artwork unless you’re there because you want to get lost.
You want to get lost in your work.
You want to daydream, you know, have fun.
We’re artists. We’re inside.
I do a lot of singing and dancing and stuff while I draw for my students because I want them to be awake.
This is the kind of stuff that’s growing on top of the trees. We’re hitting this.
Got that. We can hit some accents right there.
Right there, little on the side.
We’ll keep this pretty loose.
We’re not going to go too crazy on it.
Put a light next to this, though. Bring out that branch.
This is the light side of the cloud.
There’s a rhythm to everything.
This is pretty much a straight line, but maybe it comes down this way and pulls up.
Okay, so we’ve got that. Light side, shadow side.
Look how much freedom you have with acrylic.
You can just have so much fun.
Because it's opaque.