Craft paints or acrylics? What should I use as a beginning painter?

acrylic paints for beginners
One of the questions I get asked most by beginner painters is, “What paint do you use?” followed by, “Are craft paints ok?” 

If you are beginner, yes, craft paints are fine to use, but first take these questions into consideration and then look at the pros and cons below:

  • Do you sell your art? Do you sell your art for a premium price?
  • Do you mostly craft, paint just for fun or journal?
  • Do you travel a lot and like to take along art supplies?
  • Do you paint with children or have skin allergies?
  • Do you want to continue to develop your painting skills and learn more, like how to mix your own colors?

Now that you've given some thought to your painting habits, consider these pros and cons before investing a lot of money into one type of paint.

1) Craft paints have less pigment and more water. What this means is that they will be more transparent and less vibrant, resulting in you having to use more paint in the long run to get better coverage. Often you can see the brush strokes and white canvas showing through, and uneven coverage if you don’t use more than one layer of paint. Because they use water and not a polymer type binder, craft paints can make achieving a thick impasto look impossible to achieve without adding a texture medium.

2) Most craft paints are usually not UV resistant and will fade over time. High quality artist grade paints are permanent, UV resistant and more flexible which prevents peeling or cracking.

3) Craft paints are substantially less expensive and come in a wide variety of colors, so you don’t have to worry about mixing colors. However, if you are wanting to mix some colors, since craft paints are so varied and lack true pigment, you are more likely to get a muddy, diluted color. Also, with craft paints, you will most likely see a noticeable color shift when paint dries.

4) Since craft paints are thin, they are great for washes or under-paintings.

5) Most craft paints are free of chemicals and considered non toxic, so they are safe for you, children and the environment. 

Keep in mind, these are just my opinions from experiences I’ve had over my 15+ years of painting and teaching art. As a self taught artist, I too started off using craft paints and used them for years. When I finally invested in higher grade paints, most of the frustrations I was experiencing in my painting practice were remedied. I still use craft paints for my art journals, crafting and when traveling and doing paint studies. You can find my favorite art supplies HERE. (As an Amazon Associate I earn a small fee from qualifying purchases on links.) 

If you are investing in an artwork collection and paying premium prices, check and make sure that they are painted and sealed with artist grade products and are UV resistant.


  • Responding to Jen about her craft paint question:

    Since I only use craft paints for art journaling and craft projects, I’m probably not the best person to answer that question. I would think that the craft paints would be protected with a UV varnish, however the integrity of the craft paint can still compromise the archival longevity of the painting. The pigment and binders are both a different quality than that artist grade paints.

  • What if you use craft paints, but seal it with a high quality UV varnish? Does that adequately protect it?


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published