Acrylic paint is a paint executed in the medium of synthetic acrylic resins.
Acrylics dry rapidly, serve as a vehicle for any kind of pigment, and are capable of giving both the transparent brilliance of watercolour and the density of oil paint.
Most acrylic paints are water-based, but become water-resistant when dry. Depending on how much the paint is diluted with water, or modified with acrylic gels, mediums, or pastes, the finished acrylic painting can resemble a watercolor, a gouache, or an oil painting, or have its own unique characteristics not attainable with other media.
They are considered to be less affected by heat and other destructive forces than is oil paint. They found favour among artists who were concerned about the health risks posed by the handling of oil paints and the inhalation of fumes associated with them.
Acrylics appeared in the 1940s and have been adopted by many modern painters, in all painting genres, for their fast drying qualities and permanence.
Otto Röhm invented acrylic resin, which was quickly transformed into acrylic paint. As early as 1934, the first usable acrylic resin dispersion was developed by German chemical company BASF, which was patented by Rohm and Haas. In due course, this invention was applied to paint by Bocour Artists Colors, Inc. who launched a narrow range of acrylic paints in a turpentine solution which could be mixed with oils. This led to experimentation in acrylics by artists like the colourist Kenneth Noland, the Russian-born large-scale artist Mark Rothko, the Abstract Expressionist Barnett Newman and the Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstien.
Between 1946 and 1949, Leonard Bocour and Sam Golden invented a solution acrylic paint under the brand Magna paint. These were mineral spirit-based paints.
When acrylics were first invented in the 1930’s, they didn’t resemble the acrylics we use today – neither did the acrylics from the 40’s, or even some from the 50’s. Those paints all used different vehicles, or binders of the pigments, from what are used now. Acrylics today are pigments in an acrylic polymer emulsion… which is a way of saying they are in the plastics family. Once these dry, you can’t re-wet them, and they have more flexibility than most other types of paint.
This formula was hit in the mid-1950’s, and while there are still different types of acrylic paints (some thicker, some runny and thin, some with higher quality pigments, etc.), acrylics today share this in common: they are mixable, easily cleaned or thinned with water, and dry fairly quickly.
Soon after the water-based acrylic binders were introduced as house paints, artists and companies alike began to explore the potential of the new binders. Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco were the first ones who experimented with acrylic paint. This is because they were very impressed with the durability of the acrylic paint.
According to The Times newspaper, Lancelot Ribeiro pioneered the use of acrylic paints in the UK because of his “increasing impatience” by the 1960s over the time it took for oil paints to dry, as also its “lack of brilliance in its colour potential.” He took to the new synthetic plastic bases that commercial paints were beginning to use, and soon got help from manufacturers like ICI, Courtaulds and Geigy. The companies supplied him samples of their latest paints in quantities that he was using three decades later, according to the paper.
Acrylics burst onto the artistic scene at a time when artists were beginning to explore movements and forms such as pop culture, photorealism, abstract expressionism, and pop art. Acrylics provided an ideal medium for these art forms, which sought hard-edged flat images and distinct use of line.
American artists such as Andy Warhol, Robert Motherwell, Larry Poons, and Helen Frankenthaler, and British artists like Bridget Riley and David Hockney were attracted to the acrylic medium for these very reasons, as well as for the flexibility afforded by these paints. Media could be mixed, different textures and consistencies could be achieved (by mixing sand, water, or other elements into the paint), colors could be transparent or opaque, and artists could work much more quickly due to its substantially
faster drying time. In essence, the arrival of acrylic painting opened up a whole new wave of creativity and possibility in the modern art world that to this day is still a strong influence in artistic forms and trends.
Water-based acrylic paints are used as latex house paints, as latex is the technical term for a suspension of polymer microparticles in water. Interior latex house paints tend to be a combination of binder (sometimes acrylic, vinyl, pva, and others), filler, pigment, and water. Exterior latex house paints may also be a co-polymer blend, but the best exterior water-based paints are 100% acrylic, because of its elasticity and other factors. Vinyl, however, costs half of what 100% acrylic resins cost, and polyvinyl acetate
(PVA) is even cheaper, so paint companies make many different combinations of them to match the market.