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How to Control Opacity & Brightness with Acrylic Paint

Learn how to control opacity and brightness when painting with acrylic paint from painter Linda Rhea in this Howcast video.


Hi, I'm Linda. I created a company called Paint Along. Check us out at We have really fun painting workshops in Nashville and New York. I'm going to show you a few little techniques that you can use when you want to do like a water-color wash. We're going to build from transparent to opaque in this demonstration. So what I want to start with is just a basic wash of water on the canvas. And I'm going to use my acrylic paint on here in almost the same technique that we use with water colors. I'm going to start with some blue. And what I'm going to do is just paint the blue into the sky and you can see that it starts thinning out really quickly. As you can see, the paint is very transparent as it mixes with the water. So if I want more blue on my canvas, I'm going to use my brush without any water in it at all. And it has dried a little bit so it should stick to it, okay. So we're just going to continue to add these layers. You can see the intensity of the colors getting stronger and stronger. So if we want to add some grass, we're going to use a green. And it's a transparent green. Go ahead and put it down here. You can see how thin it is, you can almost see the blue through this green. Now to make this green a little bit stronger and less transparent, we're going to add some gesso to the green. It's a medium and it's a filler. It's made with acrylic, which is a plastic and this is what we use to give our paint body and it also controls the opacity. So I've got my little section of green here and I'm mixing it down with the gesso. And you can also see that it's hard to get the color intense and bright, so we're just going to mix it to a medium green. Then I'm going to add this to our painting. This makes it much heavier and less transparent. And that's how we control opacity and brightness.

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