Can You Use Acrylic Paint for Watercolor?

Experimenting with different mediums can be a fun and rewarding experience as an artist. However, it can also be overwhelming, especially regarding watercolor and acrylic paint. While these two mediums may seem similar, they have distinct differences that can affect the outcome of your piece. 

One question often arises is whether acrylic paint can be used for watercolor. The answer is more than a simple yes or no, as it depends on the technique and desired result.

While the two mediums are different, acrylic paint can be thinned with water to mimic the transparency and luminosity of watercolor paint. Not only does this offer a versatile option for artists, but it can also save money on purchasing separate sets of paints.

This article delves into how acrylic paint can be used as a watercolor medium, providing insights into thinning techniques and methods for producing distinctive effects.

Can Acrylic Paint Be Used for Watercolor?

Acrylic paint and watercolor are distinct mediums that exhibit unique properties when applied to paper. Watercolor is specifically formulated to be used with water, whereas acrylic paint is not intended for such use.

Once dried, acrylic paint becomes water-resistant, while watercolor retains its water-solubility. Therefore, adding water to acrylic paint will produce different results than watercolor. Unlike watercolor, acrylic paint will neither dissolve nor blend with water in the same manner.

Despite this, some methods can be used to simulate a watercolor effect with acrylic paint. One such technique involves diluting the acrylic paint with water to create a more translucent appearance. Another option is to incorporate a glazing medium with acrylic paint, which can result in a more transparent layer of color.

So, while acrylic paint is not inherently meant to function as a watercolor, it is possible to replicate watercolor-like effects through specific techniques and mediums.

How to Use Acrylic Paint as Watercolor Paint

Acrylic and watercolor paints have different properties and characteristics, but it is possible to turn acrylic paint into a watercolor-like medium, This can be useful for artists who want to achieve the translucent, flowy effects of watercolor using the more durable and versatile acrylic paint.

Here are some methods on how to turn acrylic paint into watercolor paint:

Dilute with Water

One effective technique to increase the transparency and fluidity of acrylic paint is by adding water. To accomplish this, utilize a palette or mixing tray to obtain the desired consistency.

Begin with a small quantity of water and gradually incorporate more until the desired outcome is attained. However, it is crucial to exercise caution while adding water, as excessive amounts can weaken the paint’s adhesive properties.

Use a glazing medium

In the realm of painting, a glazing medium is a fine acrylic medium characterized by its unique ability to render paint more translucent and fluid when mixed. Additionally, it confers remarkable flow and leveling of paint. Combining a minute quantity of glazing medium with acrylic paint can obtain a watercolor-style consistency.

Use a retarder

An ingredient known as a retarder slows down acrylic paint’s drying process. By applying a retarder, you can have extra time to work with the paint and create a watercolor-like look. For a more fluid consistency, use a little retarder with acrylic paint.

Use a flow improver

Incorporating an efficacious flow improver into acrylic paint can enhance its fluidity and evenness while augmenting its translucency. For a watercolor-esque consistency, blend a minute quantity of said additive with the acrylic paint.

What are the benefits of using acrylic paint as watercolor paint?

Acrylic paint is a highly adaptable medium that offers many creative possibilities. Despite some distinctions between acrylic and watercolor paint, using acrylic paint instead of watercolor paint has several advantages.

Color Vibrancy

Watercolor painting can benefit significantly from acrylic paint’s vibrant, bright colors, which are well-known for them. Traditional watercolor paint’s transparency and color brightness can be replicated with diluted acrylic paint but with a stronger and more pronounced impact.

Waterproof and Durable

Unlike traditional watercolor paints, acrylic paints are waterproof and have a much higher resistance to fading and damage. Once dry, acrylic paint is water-resistant and can be layered and reworked without the risk of lifting or smudging.


Acrylic paint can be used in various ways, including as a base layer or for detailing. Because of its versatility, acrylic paint can be used in mixed media projects, allowing for experimentation and creativity in your artwork.


Acrylic paint presents an economical alternative to customary watercolor paints for individuals seeking to adhere to a stringent fiscal plan, as it generally incurs lower costs.

What is the difference between acrylic and watercolor paint?

Alright, let’s dive into the difference between acrylic and watercolor paint. Many people often wonder what sets these two popular mediums apart, so let’s look closer.

Color Saturation

One of the most noticeable differences is the saturation of color. Watercolors tend to be more transparent, with the colors appearing more muted when they dry. On the other hand, acrylics have more color saturation and a more opaque and bright finish.

Drying Time

Another significant difference is the drying time. Watercolors dry much faster than acrylics since they are water-soluble, allowing for quick washes and layering. On the other hand, acrylics dry much slower and provide more time for blending and layering.


Distinguishing the textural disparities between watercolor and acrylic paints is paramount for any discerning artist. Watercolors typically manifest as a sleek, fluid texture, whereas acrylics can be denser and may exhibit a semblance of elasticity or plasticity, contingent upon the specific brand utilized.

Mixing and Blending

Watercolors are known for their ability to blend and mix together seamlessly, creating soft, organic transitions between colors. Acrylics, while still mixable, require a bit more effort to achieve a smooth transition. Acrylic paints possess the distinct benefit of their compatibility with a wide array of other paint mediums, including but not limited to oil and gouache.

Lightfastness and Durability

The dissimilarity in lightfastness and durability between the two paint variants is notable. Watercolors are more susceptible to fading over time, especially when subjected to direct sunlight.

Conversely, acrylics possess superior durability and resistance to fading, making them highly suitable for outdoor mural projects or other undertakings that will endure exposure to the elements.

Can Any Paint Be Watercolor?

While some paints may be used as watercolors, not all are suitable. Gouache, for example, is a type of paint similar to watercolor but has more opaque qualities due to white pigment. It can be mixed with water to create a more watercolor-like consistency. Some water-based inks, such as India ink, can also be used as a substitute for watercolor.

However, oil paints cannot be used as watercolors due to their oil-based nature. On the other hand, acrylics can be used as a substitute for watercolor by adding a few drops of water. This allows the paint to be thinned and spread out, creating a watercolor-like effect.

How to Create a Watercolor-Like Wash Using Acrylic Paint Techniques

Can You Use Acrylic Paint Without Adding Water?

Using acrylic paint without adding water to acrylic paint allows for vibrant and bold colors. This method maintains the paint’s thick consistency, ideal for creating impasto textures and details. Whether for beginners or professionals, not adding water to acrylic paint offers versatility in artistic expression, as pigments remain true to their original intensity.

Is It Safe to Bake Acrylic Paint in the Oven if it is Used for Watercolor?

When oven baking acrylic paint is used for watercolor, caution should be exercised. Although some artists may choose to use this method to speed up the drying process, it is generally not recommended. The high temperatures in the oven can cause the paint to bubble, crack, or emit harmful fumes. It is safer to allow the paint to air dry naturally.

Is Acrylic Paint on Styrofoam Similar to Acrylic Paint for Watercolor?

When painting styrofoam with acrylics, it is important to note that acrylic paint for watercolor and acrylic paint on styrofoam are not the same. While both are water-based, acrylic paint for watercolor is more fluid and transparent, whereas acrylic paint on styrofoam has a thicker consistency and adheres better to the foam surface. Consider these differences when choosing the right type of acrylic paint for your project.

Will Fixing a Cracked Acrylic Pour Painting Require Acrylic Paint or Watercolor Paint?

When it comes to cracked acrylic pour painting repair, using acrylic paint is essential. Since acrylic pour paintings are created using acrylic paint, using the same medium is the most effective for repairs. Watercolor paint differs in properties and may not provide the necessary adhesion or durability to fix the cracks effectively.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Shoes for a Watercolor Effect?

When painting shoes with acrylics, creating a watercolor effect can be challenging. Acrylic paint is not translucent like watercolors, so achieving that delicate, layered look may require some experimentation. However, by diluting the acrylic paint with water and using multiple layers, you can achieve a similar effect. Remember to seal your design with a protective finish to ensure it lasts.


While acrylic and watercolor paint may have some similarities, they are different mediums with unique properties. Acrylic paint can be transformed into a watercolor-like consistency with the addition of water, but it may not produce the same effects as traditional watercolor paint.

When choosing between the two, it is essential to consider the intended use and desired effects. While different types of paint can be used as watercolor, they may not behave the same and may necessitate particular procedures or adaptations.

Ultimately, experimentation is key in determining the best medium for each individual artist and project. By understanding the differences and benefits of each medium, artists can make informed decisions and create beautiful works of art.

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