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What to Paint? The Real Deal on Enamel and Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paint red pyrrole dab

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Beginning arts and crafts enthusiasts often have a hard time deciphering what kinds of paints work best when working with wood, glass, and other kinds of surfaces. The results of a wrong choice can often lead to frustration, disappointments, and even expensive setbacks in completing the project on-time and on-budget.

There are important differences between enamel and acrylic paints, including their chemical composition and also the types of surfaces that best accept their pigments and adherence, or “stickyness.” Knowing which ones to buy for which projects will help you avoid trouble both during the project’s execution and especially once it’s completed.

Acrylic paint is water based

Acrylic paints are water-based, meaning they are essentially water with concentrations of a certain color’s pigment. As the water evaporates, the pigment adheres to the painting surface.

Acrylic paints work best with relatively non-porous surfaces such as plastic and wood. It’s also ideal when working on a project with children: its water base allows for easy clean up and removal with ordinary hot water and soap.

Primer goes on before acrylics

Acrylics almost always work best when the paint surface is prepared with one or more coats of primer. Primer is relatively cheap, typically available in white and gray shades, and can be found with the spray paint in both craft and hardware stores. Using darker color primer will give the acrylic paint coated atop it a darker hue, while white primer will give the paints a slightly brighter hue.

The right kind of Acrylic paint brands

There are four main brands of acrylic paint sold in crafts stores such as Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and A.C. Moore. These brands are Americana, Apple Barrel, Folk Art, and Delta Ceramcoat. Americana paints have probably the widest selection of colors, and their range of reds, browns, and yellows are the best in the industry. Ceramcoat has the best blues and greens, while Folk Art’s slightly cheaper shelf price provides quality, especially with its broad line of metallic-finish enamel paints. Apple Barrel provides several hues of blue, red, and earth tones that the other lines do not.

Enamel paint is oil-based, sturdier, more tempermental

Enamel paint has oil as its main ingredient, typical of the kinds of paint used in fine arts painting and model-making alike. Enamel is more durable than acrylic paint, meaning it won’t as easily chip or flake off. However, that virtue is also its greatest flaw.

Enamel paint works best with canvas and ceramic mediums, especially if treated with a glazing agent or sealant after the painting is completed. Enamel paint used on plastic sometimes never completely dries, remaining sticky to the touch long after the project’s completion.

Painters working with enamel must use paint thinner (turpentine) to remove the paint from their skin and clothing. Finally, most brands of commercial nail polish are in fact the same kinds of enamel paints sold in hobby and craft stores.

Testors enamel paints are available in the model kit sections of most craft stores, as well as other brands in the fine arts sections. Prices vary, but enamel is typically more expensive per unit than acrylic.

Sealing acrylic paints

Hobbyists recommend using a fixatif, or sealant, to protect acrylic paints. The most popular brand, Testor’s Dull-Cote, gives a matte finish and can be found in the model kit section near (ironically) the enamel paints.

Dylan Blue Jewelry Creations offers a variety of designer glass enamel jewelry pendants and other accessories in a variety of styles and designs. For a complete look at their catalog, visit them online at www.dylanblue.com.
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