Best Acrylic Paint for Artists in 2021

Every painter knows just how expensive oil paint can be. Still, if you have been looking into acrylic paints – whether you are curious about the medium or you just want to explore new acrylic paint brands – you have probably noticed that they too can sometimes be pretty pricey. 

And we might naturally assume that the more expensive professional paints have to be better quality, but is that really always true?

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Table of Contents

Whether you’re getting individual tubes or jars, or entire sets, whether you want to spend a little or a lot, whether you are new to acrylics or an old hand, it’s a great idea to get some guidance from an expert, to help make sure you’re getting the best acrylic paint brands you can.

We’ll try to answer some of the most often asked questions, like:

  • What is the best acrylic paint on the market today?
  • What acrylic paint do professionals use?
  • What acrylic paints do fine artists use?
  • What brand of acrylic paints is the best?
  • What is the best acrylic paint brand set to get?
  • What is the best value in acrylic paint?
  • What is the best acrylic paint to use on canvas?

Please note that this is the first part of a three-part series on acrylics. I would love for you to also check out the second and third articles in the series:

What Should You Look For in Acrylic Paint?

There are several factors you might want to consider when you are selecting acrylic paints, but really the three most important, and most often specified, factors are:

  • Quality – Professional or Student
  • Permanence or lightfastness
  • Viscosity

So let’s get into these three qualities in acrylic paints in a little more detail.

Quality

There are two grades of acrylic paint: professional and student, each with its own advantages.

  • Professional: Higher color saturation because of more finely ground color pigment, higher permanence rating, and more colors available. And they often just feel better.
  • Student: Cheaper

Now student grade quality paints can still be very high quality. Many students, new artists and even experienced or professional artists prefer them for practice or because they are just starting out and want to see if they even like working in acrylics.

That said, there’s also an argument to be made for experimenting and even practicing with the best materials you can afford – if you are trying acrylics out, and have inferior paints, this might make you discouraged and even decide that you don’t like the medium.

And for finished commercial or fine art pieces professional artist grade acrylics are an obvious choice for the beauty and intensity of their colors.

Permanence

This is simply the ability of acrylic paint to keep its color over time, even when exposed to sun or other light. 

There are various ways paint companies rate their products’ permanence, including:

  • The ATSM standard, with ATSM I being the best and ATSM V very poor
  • Star System, with 4 stars being the best
  • AA to C, with AA being the best, most lightfast acrylic paint

And while you’d obviously want the most permanent paints you can get, and so ATSM I, ⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎ or AA paint would seem to be a no-brainer, they will always be more expensive, and if you are just practicing or learning you should keep this in mind. At any rate, all of the paints I will recommend in this list of best acrylic paints in 2021 have excellent permanence levels.

Viscosity

The thickness of acrylic paints, either heavy body acrylics or fluid acrylics.

Heavy body acrylics are more in line with the idea of traditional painting, and have a thick and rich consistency which is not unlike oil paints, and which sets beautifully on canvas, shows brushstrokes vividly and mixes really well.

Fluid acrylics are, as you may have surmised, thinner. They are great for airbrushing, for very detailed illustrations, for larger areas and for a more watercolor like effect.

You can always use acrylic medium, or even water, to thin heavy body acrylics, so they tend to be more versatile, but if you know you are going to paint a large area or use an airbrush you should probably just get fluid acrylics.

There are other grades of thickness or slight variations, but these two are by far the most popular and widely used.

How Can You Find the Best Acrylic Paint Brands on the Market Today?

It’s my opinion that you should always get the best art supplies of any type that you can, and it does make everything more productive, effective and fun. But that doesn’t always mean you have to spend a ton of money, and so I will make sure to include only the best acrylics here, whether they are professional or student grade, heavy body or fluid.

This means that even though we talked about the various qualities and what to look for when selecting the best acrylic paint, my recommendations will already take all of that into account. And so if you want the most rich and beautiful colors, which mix well and last a long time, you don’t have to remember all that stuff above because you will find them below.

And to be clear I have tried a few professional artist grade acrylic paints which are just not as good as the best student grade acrylics, and some which claim to have very good permanence which don’t actually last like they should. But, at any rate, many paints – even the good ones – don’t even necessarily specify their grade, their viscosity, their permanence or other “standard” identifiers on the packaging. 

So you can use the labels and the claims as a general guide, but not an absolute one.

To make this acrylic paint buyer’s guide the most helpful and easy to use, I am going to offer here a basic summary of my strongest recommendations:

Overview: Best Acrylic Paints for Artists in 2021

  1. Golden Heavy Body Professional 6 Color Introductory Set
  2. Golden Heavy Body Professional 6 Color Introductory Set

    Best Professional Grade Heavy Body Acrylic Paint

    The basic acrylic painting experience and an affordable introduction to Golden quality

    

    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Liquitex BASICS 36 Tube Acrylic Paint Set
  4. Liquitex BASICS 36 Tube Acrylic Paint Set

    Best Student Grade Heavy Body Acrylic Paint

    

    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. Mont Marte Signature Acrylic Color Paint Set 12x16.9 Oz
  6. Mont Marte Signature Acrylic Color Paint Set 12x16.9 Oz

    Best Value Liquid Acrylic Paint

    Semi-Matte Finish, 12 Colors, Suitable for Canvas, Wood, Fabric, Leather, Cardboard, Paper, MDF and Crafts


    Buy Now on Amazon
  7. Arteza Acrylic Paint, Set of 60 Colors/Tubes (0.74 oz, 22 ml)
  8. Arteza Acrylic Paint, Set of 60 Colors/Tubes (0.74 oz, 22 ml)

    Best Huge Acrylic Paint Starter Set with Tons and Tons of Fun Colors

    With Storage Box, Rich Pigments, Non Fading, Non Toxic Metallic Paints for Artist & Hobby Painters, Art Supplies for Canvas Painting


    Buy Now on Amazon

Then, in the Bonus section, I will talk a little about gouache acrylic paint, and some of the exciting uses and possibilities it offers. I’ll make a few more recommendations for the best gouache acrylic paints available today.

Best Professional Grade Heavy Body Acrylic Paint

Golden Heavy Body Professional 6 Color Introductory Set

Best Professional Grade Heavy Body Acrylic Paint

The basic acrylic painting experience and an affordable introduction to Golden quality



My top recommendation for professional-grade heavy body acrylic paints is Golden Professional Acrylics. Yes, I know… quelle surprise, as the French would say – these are, after all, the most recommended and favorably reviewed acrylic paints on the market, but I am happy to jump aboard the bandwagon.

There are for sure more expensive acrylic paints on the market, and some of them may give you the slightest advantage in one aspect or another. Still, the Golden paints go from strength to strength, with splendidly thick and luxurious texture, superior mixability, incredible permanence and just a wonderful flow when you’re painting. And the colors are stunning, wet or dry.

Golden heavy body professional acrylics are, in fact, though probably the most expensive paints on my list of best acrylic paint brand in 2021, a true value. They meet and far surpass any artist’s needs on any level and do so with a reassuring consistency, color to color, batch to batch. An easy recommendation, then, for the best professional artist grade acrylic paints on the market today.

  1. Golden Heavy Body Professional 6 Color Introductory Set
  2. Golden Heavy Body Professional 6 Color Introductory Set

    Best Professional Grade Heavy Body Acrylic Paint

    The basic acrylic painting experience and an affordable introduction to Golden quality

    

    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Golden Heavy Body Professional 8 Color Classic Theory Set
  4. Golden Heavy Body Professional 8 Color Classic Theory Set

    Thick acrylic paint with superior pigment in classic colors, great out of the tube and supremely mixable

    

    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. Golden Artist Color Open Acrylic Professional 7 Color Landscape Set
  6. Golden Artist Color Open Acrylic Professional 7 Color Landscape Set

    Not technically a heavy body paint, Golden’s open acrylic is a wonderful slow-drying paint for an almost oil painting type of experience, perfect for open-air and portraiture

    

    Buy Now on Amazon

Best Student Grade Heavy Body Acrylic Paint Set

Liquitex BASICS 36 Tube Acrylic Paint Set

Best Student Grade Heavy Body Acrylic Paint



Liquitex is, of course, also one of the best known brands of paint on the planet, but what is maybe not so widely known is that their Basics range of heavy body acrylics offers quality that is so close to their acclaimed professional products that it might be difficult to know which range you’re actually using.

Liquitex Basics acrylic paint are thick and buttery in consistency, with extremely high quality pigment and very rich, consistent colors that display beautifully and flow with ease and superior controllability onto any surface. And they are essentially archive quality, with exceptional permanence.

Best of all, Liquitex Basics acrylics are surprisingly affordable, and offer a really amazing value. As a result, they are an easy choice for best heavy body acrylic paints for students in 2021.

Best Value Heavy Body Acrylic Paint

No, this isn’t the least expensive set you can get. In fact, I don’t even think it’s the least expensive set on our list of best acrylic paint for artists. Still, the Daler-Rowney System 3 acrylic paint sets are, without question, the best value I have ever found in an acrylic paint that will fully satisfy the needs of any artist on any level. 

In fact I use these paints on a regular basis, and I can’t say enough about their wonderful consistency, the way they mix, the precision and flow I have laying them down on any surface, the way the beautiful colors present and the way my work looks. 

If you can’t already tell, I absolutely love working with the Daler Romney System 3 paints (not to mention their papers and brushes). There may be better paints out there, but I can think of very few that are nicer to use or give really dramatically better results – and nothing at all even close to this price. An easy choice, then, for best value in an acrylic paint set in 2021.

Best Fluid Acrylic Paint in 2021 

It’s absolutely amazing that you don’t see these wonderful professional-grade fluid acrylic paints on more buyer’s guides because Dr Ph Martin’s Spectralite is so beloved among artists who use fluid acrylic paint regularly.

They are fairly new to the market, though, but with their vivid and consistent colors and extremely high quality, Spectralite acrylics are fast becoming the real go-to for working artists and serious crafters. Dr Ph Martin’s Spectralite Liquid Acrylics are:

  • Pigment Based
  • Archival Quality
  • Lightfast
  • Waterproof
  • An Absolute Joy to Use!

So a bit of an industry secret, I guess, Dr Ph Martin’s Spectralite are an easy choice for best fluid acrylic paint on the market today.

Best Value Fluid Acrylic Paint

Mont Marte Signature Acrylic Color Paint Set 12x16.9 Oz

Best Value Liquid Acrylic Paint

Semi-Matte Finish, 12 Colors, Suitable for Canvas, Wood, Fabric, Leather, Cardboard, Paper, MDF and Crafts


If you want value, but you don’t want to ever be held back in your practice, experimentation, fun and creative flow (I know how you can be when you get an airbrush in your hands!) there’s nothing better than a big set of acrylic paints in big bottles.

And that’s exactly what you get with the Mont Marte Signature acrylic paint set, with 12 colors in a whopping 16.9-ounce bottles. These are, I should say, really a bit thicker than most fluid acrylics – somewhere between fluid and heavy body – but they also have much denser pigmentation and creamier finish than typical fluid acrylic paints, and work wonderfully as is or thinned with water.

In fact, their thicker consistency just makes them an even better value, not to mention more versatile. And the Mont Marte Signature acrylic paints have better colors, a more attractive matte finish, and are easier and nicer to use than similar paints I’ve used – which are often much more expensive. 

The Mont Marte Signature acrylic paint set is an easy choice, then, for the best value fluid acrylic paints on the market in 2021, and a real favorite of mine.

  1. Mont Marte Signature Acrylic Color Paint Set 12x16.9 Oz
  2. Mont Marte Signature Acrylic Color Paint Set 12x16.9 Oz

    Best Value Liquid Acrylic Paint

    Semi-Matte Finish, 12 Colors, Suitable for Canvas, Wood, Fabric, Leather, Cardboard, Paper, MDF and Crafts


    Buy Now on Amazon

Best Huge Acrylic Paint Starter Set with Tons and Tons of Fun Colors

Arteza Acrylic Paint, Set of 60 Colors/Tubes (0.74 oz, 22 ml)

Best Huge Acrylic Paint Starter Set with Tons and Tons of Fun Colors

With Storage Box, Rich Pigments, Non Fading, Non Toxic Metallic Paints for Artist & Hobby Painters, Art Supplies for Canvas Painting


I thought I must be crazy for thinking that such a big set of acrylic paints at such an affordable price could be this good, but as I was putting together this acrylic paint buyer’s guide I saw that this Arteza acrylic paint set has gotten an astonishing 4.8 star rating on Amazon, with almost 10,000 reviews. So it’s not just me that finds them to be a bit of an unreal value.

In fact, while professional acrylics, and even some high-grade student paints, will offer slightly more intense colors, better flow and mixability and longer permanence, the performance of these inexpensive paints is nothing short of incredible. And with 60 colors you can really go nuts practicing, experimenting, painting things around the house that really shouldn’t be painted.

It’s really great when a paint set is inexpensive enough that you can really practice as much as you want and need. But when it is not only cheap but also truly superior quality, the practicing is much more fun, easy and productive, and the results are much more beautiful and encouraging. That’s why I am so happy to know about the Arteza 60 color acrylic paint set, and recommend it for my, ahem, Best Huge Acrylic Paint Starter Set with Tons and Tons of Fun Colors.

Bonus: What is the Difference Between Acrylic Paint and Gouache Paint?

You may have noticed that on my site, Art Side of Life, I recommend a few gouache paints in the acrylic section, and so I thought it would be nice to close up this article on the best acrylic paints by talking a little about gouache paint.

  • What is gouache acrylic paint?
  • What is the difference between gouache acrylic and normal acrylic paint?
  • What is gouache acrylic paint used for?

As used for over 1,200 years, traditional gouache paint is actually a watercolor paint, but one that dries to a much more opaque (that is, not transparent) matte finish.

But there is another type of gouache paint, gouache acrylic, which similarly dries to a more opaque matte finish than normal acrylic paint, but is more durable than watercolor gouache and more water and light resistant as well, and is therefore very good for some specific applications like large areas, glass, wood and other surfaces, murals, decorative accents and a lot more – not to mention tons of crafting uses.

Acrylic gouache is also very good for normal painting, and will give different effects than more glossy normal acrylic paint – I often use both in one piece, for various layers and areas of accent, emphasis and effect.

Here are three of my favorite acrylic gouache paints – I’ll list them in order of preference, but they all offer really high quality pigment and excellent colors – strong, consistent and great for mixing – and they all are great to work with.

  1. Holbein Acryla Gouache 12 Color Lesson Set
  2. Holbein Acryla Gouache 12 Color Lesson Set

    The best I’ve ever tried, splendid paints with superior colors, finish and usability, and a real delight to use!

    

    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Turner Gouache Acrylic 24 Color Paint Set
  4. Turner Gouache Acrylic 24 Color Paint Set

    Surprisingly consistent and high quality colors, wet and dry, and quite long lasting and durable - best value!

    

    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. Liquitex Professional Acrylic Gouache 6 Color Paint Set
  6. Liquitex Professional Acrylic Gouache 6 Color Paint Set

    The same quality you’d expect from any Liquitex product, including really beautiful colors and consistent, attractive finish when dry.

    

    Buy Now on Amazon

Thanks so much for reading this latest article – The Best Paint Brushes for Acrylic Paint: An In-Depth 2021 Buyer’s Guide. Check out the other two articles in this series: The Best Paint Brushes for Acrylic Paint: An In-Depth 2021 Buyer’s Guide and The Best Art Paper for Acrylic Paint: An In-Depth 2021 Buyer’s Guide, and please make sure to visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for tons of other inspiring ideas, resources, articles, buyer’s guides and a lot more

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