20 Ways to Avoid Brush Strokes when Painting Acrylics

By Mandy Moss

Painting is a craft that will require skill and practice to master. The most important aspect of a painting in my opinion are the brush strokes. They will give your work its character.

20 Ways to Avoid Brush Strokes when Painting with Acrylics.

It can be difficult for you as a beginner to learn how to paint without making mistakes or overworking areas. With this article, I will help you avoid common pitfalls in the acrylic painting by teaching you about the importance of using proper techniques and avoiding brush strokes.

Types of Acrylic Painting

Acrylic painting includes the use of bright colors, quality lines, and sharp brush strokes. It is one of the desirable mediums because it can be mixed with other media and used on different surfaces. As water-soluble, you can combine it with water to create watercolor effects or can use it alone to create dimension and texture.

The different techniques in acrylic painting help achieve the desired outcome. Here are some of the styles:

1. Sponging

Sponging uses a sponge to make a springing motion when painting to create an irregular, textured pattern. The technique originated at a time when the Impressionist movement emerged, where the artist wanted to capture fleeting effects of the sponge’s rough surface.

TIP: You will love this technique if you are a beginner since it has visual aesthetics and it is difficult to mess up.

2. Dabbing

From its name, it is a painting method where you dab accents of color on the canvas. You apply the paint quickly and lightly on the surface using a stiff, bristle brush. Dabbing will add movement to your painting. By adding multiple layers, you can achieve more depth as well. The French Impressionist painter

You will find the dabbing technique on a lot of Claude Monet paintings. It is best suited to explore the effects of color and light.
Source: Wikimedia

You will find the dabbing technique on a lot of Claude Monet paintings. It is best suited to explore the effects of color and light.

3. Glazing

A glaze is a thin and translucent film, which you add to acrylics to form the painted area rich and texture surface. When you apply the glaze over an opaque paint layer will create a distinctive effect with glass stain.

The technique has been utilized since oil paint emerged. Johannes Vermeer, a Dutch painter, used glazing in several of his works. The most famous work where he is applying Glaze is ” Girl with the Wine Glass”.

The most famous work where Jan_Vermeer is applying Glaze is  Girl with the Wine Glass.
Source: Wikipedia

4. Palette Knife

Although this is an advanced technique, it will give you an easy way to add thickness to your painting surface. You can create sweeping ad flat layers on the painting by applying thick-layered paint on your surface with a palette knife.

5. Tippling

The tippling style involves creating a collection of dots. The technique began in the 16th century as an engraving method. Artists today develop different shades based on how close and bold the dots are assembled. Painters also utilize a range of colors to create actual dimensions with the technique. You will see it mostly in landscape painting.

6. Stippling

Stippling is a style that closely relates to Pointillism. The approach includes soft flickering and small surface dots. Georges Seurat, a French Post-Impressionist, popularized the method. Its works relied on color separation through individual strokes of paint.

6. Detailing

The technique is often used when you are about to finish your work. Sufficient control and precision for a smooth finish is needed. You need to use small, fine brushes to clean lines if necessary and apply details to your painting

TIP: You will use this style when painting features such as flowers in a landscape or a minor feature that will require your special attention.

How to Avoid Brush Strokes when Painting with Acrylics

When we have envisioned a beautiful painting in our minds and want to bring the vision to life, we may realize it is not turning as smoothly as we anticipated. Apart from the acrylic paints on the canvas, we may notice appearances of brush strokes too.

Although we may have tried several tactics to eliminate the brush strokes like painting over the area with water and thinner paints, changing brushes, and smoothing the area out with more paint, the stroke persist. As a result, we may become frustrated and give up on the painting.

Let’s figure out effective methods to avoid brush strokes when painting with acrylic. Such ways include having a smooth painting surface and using paints in thinner coats or with varying consistencies.

1. Start with a Smooth Surface

We should use pre-gessoed canvasses if we plan to paint over a canvas or apply several coats of gesso over the surface to ensure it is smooth and even.

TIP: To get the best smoothness, ensure you also sand between coats.

2. Use a Soft Painting Brush

The texture of the brush we use plays a role in how streaky our paint becomes. Brushes with stiff, hog hair are suited for oil painting as they cause several streaks. We should use brushes made from softer materials like synthetic squirrel brushes to avoid strong strokes.

Although expensive brushes are not necessarily a perfect choice, we should not buy dollar store brushes that lose hair with time. Experimenting with brushes is essential to find one that painting style.

KEEP IN MIND: Softer brushes need to be used with thinner paints. 

3. Opaque Paints

When using transparent paints, we have to apply several coats to get a good coverage increasing the likelihood of getting ridges in our painting. On the other hand, opaque colors need fewer coats, minimizing the possibility of streaking.

The use of transparent colors will require that we add white paint to make the paint more opaque.

TIP: We can give our transparent paint a base by underpainting.

4. Painting Technique

The way we move the paint on the canvas and approach the surface matters when using acrylics. We need to paint in thin layers by making soft brush strokes. A thick layer of paint almost guarantees ridges in the painting.

We should only use enough paint over the painting area. If the paint is too much, wipe it off with a damp cloth while the paint is still wet.

TIP: Since acrylic paint becomes slightly darker after drying, we should not use too much paint to get the color depth we want.

5. Try Fluid Acrylics

Heavy body acrylic paints tend to exaggerate brush strokes. To avoid this, use soft body or fluid acrylics as they are thinner with a runny consistency. They tend to flow and blend more easily on the canvas.

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Fluid and creamier acrylic paints have the same pigment, so we will not compromise our depth color.

KEEP IN MIND: We need to work faster if we are using fluid acrylics since they dry faster.

6. Flow Improver

Flow improvers are additives that reduce acrylic paint viscosity. They break the surface tension of water in the paint and thin the paint without affecting its color. Flow aids also slow down the paint’s drying period giving you sufficient time to blend out the ridges. They are often mixed with water or added to the brush water.

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NOTE: Excess flow improver can cause issues like your paint not drying.

7. Thinning Acrylic Paint Using Water

Water can be used to thin our paint and improve its flow. We should only use enough water since too much water can prevent acrylic paint from sticking. It may also dilute the paint’s color. When painting details like thin lines and eyelashes, it is necessary to use water as a thinner.

TIP: We can thin our paint to an inky consistency and use a liner brush to paint these details.

8. Ensure we Have a Fully Loaded Brush

Swiping a bare brush over wet paint will leave streaks. We also get brush strokes when we use a brush that is not fully loaded. We need to load the brush fully but avoid the part that holds the bristles together, known as the ferrule. Loading the ferrule will separate the bristles over time.

TIP: If we load our brush with thick paint or until it becomes a little clumpy, we should swipe it on our palette to get a smooth gradient.

9. Blend Brush Strokes Softly

Blending our paint is essential, but this can be challenging with acrylics since they dry quickly. We need to use a soft brush to blend the paint before it dries. A touch light with a soft mop brush on wet paint can blend out any visible streaks.

TIP: We can improvise and use makeup brushes for blending since their bristles do not fall out as often as those of mob brushes.

10. Mist Acrylic Paint with Water

We should have a mister when painting to enable us to achieve a smooth finish. Spraying the front and back of the canvas makes it moist, and this will help us paint smoothly. Spraying the paint on a palette with water will make a better consistency causing fewer streaks.

TIP: Use a mister than a spray bottle since it will not leave large drops of water on the painting.

11. Size of Brush

Use the right brush size for the painting area. A small brush over a large painting area leaves brush strokes and takes a long time to paint. Use that largest painting brush that will fit the area over which you wish to paint. The painting will be much faster, and it will have fewer start and stop streaks.

12. Clean Brushes

One of the vital things to do before beginning to paint is to ensure clean brushes for different paint colors. After every painting session, we should clean our brushes to maintain their good shape. Brushes with leftover paint will have separated bristles and add texture to the strokes, leaving uneven surfaces.

NOTE: Dried paint also chips off from the brush bristles and gets into the wet paint.

13. Add Water to the Painting Brush

Adding water to our brush before dipping it into the paint will help the paint flow easily across the painting area. Additionally, it helps to soften up the bristles, thus making blending easier.

KEEP IN MIND: Do not have the brush dripping wet as it will dilute the paint. To prevent this, wipe it off the edge of the water jar to get the excess water off.

14. Avoid Hard Presses

Avoid too much pressure when painting. Scrubbing the paint into the canvas will leave uneven surfaces and damage the brush. Use a light touch when applying paint for smith blending. We should add more paint to the brush if we observe some white dots showing through the canvas.

15. Do not Brush Over the Same Area Over and Over

Avoid brushing over the same area with wet paint. The paint should be applied, blended if necessary, and left to dry. If the surface requires another coat, we can paint over it after it has dried. Doing this minimizes the appearance of brush strokes in our finished painting.

16. Use an Airbrush

We can use an airbrush on acrilics in the following ways to avoid streaks in our painting:

  • Use the airbrush to apply a smooth layer of paint as the base before getting into much detail. We can use acrylic paint mixed with an airbrush medium or acrylic airbrush paint.
  • Lightly spraying our background and letting it dry before continuing will help us get a smooth finish.
  • We can also use an airbrush to lightly mist our painting with water making the paint wet and workable for longer. The technique is instrumental when working on a large canvas.
NOTE: The airbrush will keep the large area wet for long, allowing you to blend easily.

17. Paint Extender and Leveler Gel

A paint extender will increase our acrylic paint’s drying time. As a result, we will have more room to adjust the painting surface and avoid brush strokes. A leveler gel will help level the pant when applied on the surface to prevent ridges.

18. Use Different Painting Techniques

Acrylic’s versatile nature makes it adapt well to different techniques of painting. We can even use a finger for painting with acrylic to blend and mix the colors smoothly and avoid brush strokes. Playing and experimenting with our paint by mixing new shades and unpredictable surfaces will help us figure out how to get a smooth finish.

19. Paint in sections

We know that acrylic paint dries much faster; therefore, uneven application moving toward the semi-dry area can leave marks on the surface. Hence, it is wise to divide the panting area into sections.

PRO TIP: When painting with acrylics, paint one section at a time instead of covering the entire area. It will enable us to avoid brush strokes and control the process easily.

20. Choosing right type of Brush

We should use effective brushes to help us avoid brush strokes when painting with acrylics. We need to look into the following brush details:

  • Price. The success of painting depends on the quality of the brush. We should invest in a good brush. Heap brushed tend to leave bristles on the surface, making it uneven.
  • Brush or roller? We should decide whether we are going to use a brush or roller when painting. Brushed are ideal for furniture and canvases and painting details. In contrast, rollers and sprayers are better for large projects and walls.
  • Bristle material. The main types of brushes are natural and synthetic. Oil-based paints require natural brushes, while synthetic bristles are suitable for acrylic and water-based paints.
  • The shape of the brush. There are different brush shapes such as round, pointed round, filbert, fan, and bright. Depending on their purpose, we should choose a brush that works best on our painting surface.
  • Length of bristles. Brushes with long bristles are the best as they will not leave streaks, unlike short bristled brushes.
  • Brush age. Brushes need to be renewed with time. Frequent use and cleaning of brushes make them lose bristles. Older brushes are also rough and cannot achieve a smooth surface finish.

Related questions

Sometimes, you can use palette knives, a roller, squeegee, or foam brush to get a smooth finish and avoid brush streaks. However, they will limit the shapes you can make and the details you will achieve if you used a different tool.

It would be advantageous if you crave variety and non-beneficial if you need a regular painting brush to achieve specific effects.

Gently sand your surface with waterproof sandpaper to eliminate brush strokes. You can use water to prevent surface scratching and even the area out with time.

The type of paint you are using, and your desired consistency will determine the flow release amount you can add. The general rule of thumb states that the flow release should be anywhere from 12-25% of your mixture. Painting with acrylics can be fun but frustrating due to the fast-drying properties of the paint and the appearance of brush strokes on the surface. We hope the tips discussed will help you get the results you want. Achieving a smooth finish requires that you keep practicing the art to learn. Frequent practice allows you to experiment with different surfaces, brush mediums, and paint and see the ones suitable for your type of painting.

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