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How to Avoid Brush Strokes With Acrylic

By October 2, 2016Uncategorized

If I wanted to paint solid, flat, even areas of color without visible brushstrokes I would:

  1. Start with a pre-gessoed smooth panel
  2. Use a soft brush
  3. Soft brush still too brushy? Don’t use a brush. Try a spray, roller, squeegee. No? Try pouring the paint or apply cut outs for flat shapes.
  4. Try Golden fluid acrylics instead of heavy body paints
  5. Choose colors that are opaque, not transparent
  6. Try an acrylic paint extender (slows drying time) and a paint leveler (smooths itself out)
  7. Try using house paints instead of artist paints (less pigment power, but can be very “flat”)
  8. Apply the paint in several light layers, instead of one thick one.
  9. Lightly sand between coats
  10. Alternate brush stroke directions
  11. Didn’t solve the problem? Consider switching to enamels, or dang it all paint on a computer.

Image above: Paul Reed, Barcelona 1969
Image below: Gene Davis, Apricot Ripple 1968

(More ideas from artists below)

How can you pretty much eliminate brush strokes with acrylic paint on canvas?

https://www.quora.com/How-can-you-pretty-much-eliminate-brush-strokes-with-acrylic-paint-on-canvas
 Sam Bleckley

Sam Bleckley, http://blog.diiq.org

Some different methods to experiment with:
  • Use a thinning medium, as Daryl Shaw suggests.
  • Build up the paint in many thin washes, rather than all at once.
  • Don’t use a brush — apply paint with a makeup sponge, a soft rag, or a roller, etc.
  • Rapidly criss-cross back over the wet paint with a soft, unloaded brush.
  • Paint back over a still-wet-but-not-too-wet brushstroke with medium/extender loaded on a soft brush
  • Use thinned paint and tiny brush. Brush strokes can be invisible if they’re small enough!


A lot depends on your brand of paint, and on the surface you’re painting on. Painting on canvas is different from masonite, which is *very* different from board. Some of these techniques risk lifting the paint right back off again.

It also depends on the size of the area you want brushless, and if you want it to have gradients or be a solid flat color. A modern abstractionist won’t be opposed to using a roller, but if you want to look like an old master, get out the fine brushes and start applying washes. OTOH, if you want to look like an old master, oil will be your friend.

Pamela Beer

Pamela Beer, Abstract artist, teacher, and perpetrator of beauty and creativity.

You can use a self leveling gel to smooth out most of the tool or brush marks. Be sure and varnish first and let it dry for awhile BEFORE applying the gel, else it will craze. If you don’t want the surface to be shiny, you can sand it with very fine sandpaper after the gelled surface has dried for at least 24 hours.

Srish Nair

Srish Nair, Freelance traditional artist, specializes in realism/hyperrealism

All the suggestions so far are pretty much what you’re looking for, but here are a couple of additional tips:

  • Try using paint that is quite pigmented, but not too watery. Water breaks up the acrylic polymer easily, which is great for thinning, but it can also make brush textures appear more prominent.
  • If you’re looking at an opaque area of colour, try layering paints on in this way: allow the lower layer to dry completely, then use fairly dry paint (dab off excess fluid on a tissue, for instance) and paint over it with a different stroke direction. This will ensure you leave no gaps from painting in a single direction.

Hope this helps! 🙂

Daryl Shaw

Daryl Shaw, Bought my fair share

I’d suggest trying a thinner acrylic paint. I use Golden brand acrylics and have used all their consistencies. Even using the heavy body I usually end up thinning it with some medium to change its viscosity. I really enjoy their “fluid” line as I paint fine details. I just started experimenting with their “high flow” line which has the consistency of ink! I used the high flow recently to make some marks on a painting using a fine (relatively) tipped empty marker. This ending up being just the effect I was looking for. Have fun and experiment with different paint viscosities and don’t forget to use the many mediums that alter the behavior of the paint.

Jen Joaquin

Jen Joaquin, full time artist for the past 8 years, www.vibrantartstudios.com

I paint in acrylics on cradled wood, when the brush strokes or texture aren’t what I want I use a carbide paint scraper and sandpaper to knock out down.  If you have many layers of paint this can lead to some unexpected and interesting effects as well.

Michele Taber

Michele Taber, Artist (taberart.com)

I don’t paint with brushes, I use squeegees, rollers and bowl scrapers (although I work in oils).

Steve Brown

Steve Brown, Learner, slacker, questioner

You can use an airbrush or use an extender that extends your drying time.

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