Difficulties reproducing the same color with acrylics

Reader Question: I just got started in acrylic painting. I just retired from years of work and began painting in canvas using acrylic. My problems are:

Each time I mix colours and if the mixture is not sufficient, I remix the same colours again but it does not come out the same as the previous ones. Is there a way I can measure my mixture?

There is this paint called Folk Art and has a variety of colours with different tones of green for example and I don't have to mix anything and I would arrive at a progression of tones or fade tones. Is this type of paint a good one? There aren't many reviews about is as opposed to Golden and Liquitex.

When it comes to painting with acrylics, it's certainly not easy to remix colors to get the same hue you previously achieved. This is a problem that plagues even professional artists.

The only way I can think of to measure your mixture is to pour your paint into teaspoons (or measuring spoons of other sizes) before mixing them, and carefully write down the amounts you used to reach your desired color.

If that proves too tedious, another option is to mix more paint than you think you'll need, and store the extra color in an airtight container. The only drawback is you'll need to use that mixture within a few days, before the paint dries out.

Alternatively, you can mix more paint than you'll need in a stay-wet palette, such as the Masterson Sta-Wet Premier Palette (this links to Blick Art Materials, and if you make a purchase I get a small commission that helps support this site). Artists have been able to keep their paints wet for weeks inside the Masterson Sta-Wet Palette, so it's something to consider.

FolkArt Paints vs. Artist Acrylics

You also asked about FolkArt Paints. Folk Art Paints are considered more of a decorative craft paint than a fine art paint, because they are usually used for painting craft items rather than creating fine art.

The qualities of FolkArt Paints differ from "fine art acrylics" (which we'll also refer to as "artist acrylics").

Two of the most important differences between FolkArt Craft Paints and artist acrylics have to do with pigment content and lightfastness.

Artist acrylics have higher pigment content than FolkArt Paints, making the colors of artist acrylics more rich, vibrant and deep. Artist acrylics are thicker (high viscosity) while Folk art paints are thinner and more fluid (low viscosity).

Folk Art Paints are not as lightfast as artist acrylics, which means that they will fade more quickly. You can protect your FolkArt paintings with a protective varnish, but if you want the colors of your paintings to stay true for a lifetime or longer, then you should switch to artist acrylics.

Craft paints can stick to a variety of surfaces, such as fabric, wood, metal and ceramics, while artist acrylics are best suited for primed canvas and wood (and even properly-prepared metal).

Craft paints like FolkArt Paints come in a wide variety of colors so that they can be used straight out of the bottle without mixing. Artist acrylics, on the other hand, are usually mixed to achieve the desired color. The qualities of artist acrylics allow them to be mixed to create glazes and other effects to achieve subtle transitions of color that may not be possible with FolkArt Paints.

I think whether or not FolkArt paints are "good" depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you want to create artwork to hang in galleries and museums, then it's worth the expense to invest in artist quality acrylics, because gallery owners and collectors will be interested in knowing what materials you used to create the artwork, especially since this has an impact on how long-lasting the artwork will be. They want assurance that the artwork will last as long as possible.

If you are painting more for personal pleasure rather than the goal to exhibit and sell, then you can stick with the FolkArt paints if you want. If you're happy with the way your paintings are turning out by using FolkArt paints, then you don't need to change unless you want to. You could also buy a few tubes of artist acrylics to compare the quality and the painting experience, and then decide.

Hope that helps and Happy Painting!

Here are some helpful tips and suggestions submitted by site visitor Jeni:

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I'm just transitioning into acrylic paints myself, after being an oil painter for decades. I've had trouble with color mixing for ages, until I found 3 books in particular that have helped me tremendously. They are: The Acrylic Painter's Pocket Palette by Ian Sidaway, and The Watercolor Painter's Pocket Palette by Moira Clinch. These books take the main colors available and mix them with each other, producing all sorts of brilliant and beautifully grayed possibilities. They show you how to mix your colorful 'greens' without having to purchase ready-made greens. I find if you are searching for a particular color or shade of gray, you simply leaf through the book until you find something close that matches it and then mix it yourself from the book's suggestions. And this way, you can even add to your own home made color if need be.

Another brilliant book, now a 'classic', is William Powell's Color and How to Use It by "Walter Foster publishing". This book is a must have for every artist's library! Powell jam-packs it with tons of useful information on color mixing. For instance, he tells you what to do when you add 'black', or 'white' to a color to make that color stay fresh and not look chalky or muddy! Fabulous information.

About storing pre-mixed colors, I find that those little two dollar glass bottles found in art stores, (for instance, "Michael's") will store acrylic paint literally for weeks. I've got some paint stores in those little glass jars now for 5 weeks and they haven't gone 'moldy' yet on me. However, like Thaneeya said, I'd be cautious about doing this in summer, when the heat can cause mold to form in the bottles. In winter I don't have this problem though. Also, it's NOT a good idea to store acrylic paints in the freezer. I'm not sure about the fridge. You'll have to experiment and see. Storing them in the fridge might make they last longer than leaving them on your art table like I do.