Are acrylic paints expensive? (a price breakdown)

You might have found that acrylic paint is the perfect art medium for you as it is easy to use and very beginner-friendly. However, painting is not a cheap hobby and the same applies to acrylic paints. So, are acrylic paints expensive?

Acrylic paints are less expensive compared to other art mediums like oil or watercolor paints. It costs from 0.25 USD/ fl oz to 9 USD/ fl oz. Expensive paints are higher in quality. If cost is a concern, start with good quality student-grade acrylic paint that costs 1.27 USD/oz.

Acrylic paint is an amazing art medium to start your painting journey. I have been in love with it ever since I started using acrylic paint. It is one of the affordable art mediums you will find, not only paints but also other accessories needed for acrylic paintings altogether.

Are acrylic paints expensive?

Acrylic paints are more expensive than latex paints but less expensive compared to oil or watercolor paints. Artist acrylic paint price varies from 0.25 USD/ fl oz to 9 USD/ fl oz. The cost varies with quality, pigments, size, brand, and where you buy acrylic paints.

If cost is a concern then you can go for a good quality student-grade acrylic paint brand. The best student-grade acrylic paint brand you can find is Liquitex Basics. Liquitex Basics 4 oz (118 ml) tube cost 1.27 USD/oz at Blick Art Materials.

I have written a whole article where I have compared 5 renowned student-grade acrylic paint brands that are affordable to find a winner. That is how I have discovered Liquitex Basics as the best choice for a student-grade acrylic paint.

Best cheap acrylic paint…

The best cheap acrylic paint is Liquitex Basics and it costs 1.27 USD / fl oz. It has good coverage and has more single pigmented colors compared to other student-grade brands. All the colors are archival quality with a lightfastness rating of I or II. It is the best acrylic paint for beginners.

Liquitex Basics acrylic paint 4oz (118 ml) tube

I have written a whole review about Liquitex Basics, you can read it here: Liquitex basics review: why it is good value for money

The higher-end artist-grade acrylic paints offer the best quality regardless of the brand in most cases. However, you might find some specs you like about the artist-grade acrylic brand. Artist-grade acrylic paints are available from 1.75 USD to 9 USD.

Below I have included a table that breakdown the prices of different artist-grade heavy body acrylic paint in 2 – 2.7 fl oz tubes. (All the prices included are Blick Art Material discounted prices)

Acrylic paint brandSize of the paint tubePrice (USD/1 fl oz)
Sennelier Extra-Fine Artist Acrylique Paints2.0 oz (60ml)3.56 – 7.4
Liquitex Professional Heavy Body Acrylic Paints2.0 oz (59ml)3.85 – 8.5
Golden Heavy Body Artist Acrylic Paint2.0 oz (59ml)4.16 – 9
Chroma Atelier Interactive Artists’ Acrylic Paints2.7 oz (80 ml)2.25 – 8.6
Utrecht Artists’ Acrylic Paint2.0 oz (60ml)3.46 – 7.5
Blick Artists’ Acrylic Paints2 oz (59 ml)2.2 – 3.88
Amsterdam Expert Series Acrylic Paints2.5 oz (75ml)1.75 – 5.28
Prices of artist-grade acrylics per 1 fl oz

Golden Artist acrylic paints and Liquitex professionals acrylic paints are pioneers in the acrylic paint industry. They are still the best acrylic paint brands you can get. Other than that You can get Amsterdam Expert Series Acrylic Paints for just 1.75 USD/oz. It is such a good deal for artist-grade acrylic paint. However, it is the discounted price on Blick Art Materials.

You can also get Blick Art Material’s artist-grade acrylic paint for a very cheaper price. You can get all the Blick Artists’ Acrylic Paints from 2.2 – 3.88 USD/ oz. It is such a huge deal.

You can get Chroma Atelier Interactive Artists’ Acrylic Paints starting from 2.25 USD/ oz. However, the minimum size they can be purchased is 2.7 oz (80 ml). Yet it is very good value for money.

Most expensive acrylic paint…

The most expensive and highest quality acrylic paints come from Golden Paints. It costs between 4.16 – 9 USD/ oz for a 2.0 oz (59ml) heavy body acrylic paint. However, the price can change according to the discount given from where you purchase.

Why is acrylic paint so expensive?

Many factors contribute to the price of acrylic paint as with the price of any other thing. So I asked two acrylic paint manufacturers what factors play a role when determining the price of their products. This is what they have to say about that.

When it comes to paint, whether it is watercolor, oil, or acrylic, it is the price of the pigment that designates the cost. Some pigments, like cobalt and cadmium, are very expensive and others, like umbers and ochres, are much cheaper. So, cost depends on the pigment used as to the cost of producing certain colors.

In our professional acrylic range, we use a very high pigment load and a special binder that reduces the color shift. This is unique to our brand.

Debbie Bryan from Winsor & Newton

So, pigment and the pigment load is the main thing that determines the cost of any paint product. Other than that there are other aspects unique to each brand that contributes to the cost.

In the case of Winsor & Newton, they have modified their acrylic polymer binder in the professional acrylic rage to make a clear one. So the color shift (Change of color from wet to dry. Usually acrylic paints dry darker) is very minimum.

I also asked Golden paints- the most expensive acrylic paint- what factors determine the cost of their acrylic paint products. Here is the answer I have got.

The factors that go into the pricing with acrylic paints are a combination of the pigments used – each pigment as a raw material has a different price range – and the time and expertise put into creating formulas, plus the time and expertise in maintaining those formulas as things change over time: Research and development, time and expertise. 

We are unique in the world of artist-grade paint manufacturing with the level of our research, quality control, and sharing of testing results. We work with conservators and major museums and have gained their respect the world over. Some of the research and testing have been groundbreaking. And of course, our contact with customers and the world at large is not common. So all of that figures into our pricing and any company’s pricing. 

Scott Bennett, Materials Specialist for GoldenPaints.com

So, as you can see many things contribute to the pricing of Golden acrylic paints. Although their acrylic paints are more expensive than the competitors, I think it is well worth the price.

In my experience, their customer service is just on point. They are ready to answer any question you have got even the very technical questions. I have not seen this in other acrylic paint brands.

If you are interested in knowing the kind of research and testing Golden paint is doing, you can check their Just Paint newsletter.

I have written a whole article about ‘Is it cheaper to make acrylic paint?‘. You can find a price breakdown of two archival quality acrylic paint-making processes there.

Are acrylic paints cheaper than oil paints?

Oil paint is the close resembling art medium to acrylic paint. So you might wonder if acrylic paints are cheaper than oil paints.

Acrylic paints are cheaper than oil paints. On average acrylic paint, price varies from 0.25 USD/ fl oz to 9 USD/ fl oz while oil paints are priced from 2.14 USD/ fl oz to 17.56 USD/ fl oz. Oil paints also require mineral spirits to thin the paint while acrylic paint can be thinned with water.

Acrylic paints are relatively easier to use than oil paints. Acrylic paints are water-soluble but oil paints need mineral spirits such as turpentine to thin the paint. Discarding oil paints is also complicated as they are flammable. You can mess around with acrylic paint and learn but it is hard with oil paints.

I have also written an article about why acrylic painting is good for everyone. You can find the 13 best reasons to start acrylic painting there.

How much does it cost to start acrylic painting?

You can start acrylic painting with professional art materials just for 120 USD. A simple color palette of artist-grade acrylics, a few brushes, a palette, a palette knife, canvases, and a jar of water will cost only 120 USD and enough to start professional acrylic painting.

Below I have broken down the cost of each item you will need to start acrylic painting, especially with professional acrylic paints. If you get these you will not fail because of your materials. They will certainly help you. The prices are from Blick Art Materials. You can find the best deals there.

Art MaterialQuantity and brandPrice (USD)
Cadmium yellow lightGolden Heavy Body Artist Acrylic, 2oz13.92
Permenent alizerin CrimsonGolden Heavy Body Artist Acrylic, 2 oz3.92
Ultramarine blue Golden Heavy Body Artist Acrylic, 2 oz8.88
Burnt umberGolden Heavy Body Artist Acrylic, 2 oz8.32
Titanium whiteGolden Heavy Body Artist Acrylic, 2 oz8.32
Brush set: round, flat, filbert Dynasty Black Gold Decor Set41.96
Palette knifeRicheson Offset Economy Painting Knife 4.80
CanvasBlick Super Value Canvas Pack of 7, 11″x14″22.81
Acrylic varnishLiquitex Basics Acrylic Varnish7.32
Total price120.25
List of materials needed to start acrylic painting with their prices

Now you might wonder why there are no water jars or palettes in my 120 USD list of art materials. You can of course find an empty jar and fill it with water to clean the brushes. For the art palette, I recommend you use a picture frame with glass as the palette. Glass is a great material to mix colors on.

The number one thing you need to spend money on is pigments or artist-quality acrylic paints. All the other painting accessories such as palettes, easels, and fancy brush cleaners come next.

However, you can also use a good quality student-grade acrylic paint brand like Liquitex basics for underpaintings. Then build up layers with artist-grade acrylic paints.

I have written a whole article about the 17 pros and cons of acrylic paint. You can find all the important aspects of acrylic paint there.

Cheap acrylic paint vs expensive acrylic paint

When you can buy acrylic paints for a very cheap price, you might wonder why to go for expensive acrylic paints. Here I have compared cheap and expensive acrylic paints so that you know exactly the difference and what will be the best investment (The cheap paint prices I have included here are from amazon).

AspectCheap acrylic paintExpensive acrylic paint
Price 0.25 to 2.95 USD / fl oz1.75 to 9 USD/fl oz
QualityLow quality (low pigment load with more fillers) or student gradeHigh quality (high pigment load with no fillers) or artist grade
PigmentsLess single pigmented colors and more colors with pigment mixturesMost colors are single pigmented
Color shiftGreater color shift and promote inaccurate color mixingLittle to no color shift and helps accurate color mixing
Comparison between cheap and expensive acrylic paints

Below I have compared different aspects of cheap and expensive acrylic paints in detail.

Price

There is an obvious price difference between cheap and expensive acrylic paint. However, if you take one cheap acrylic paint brand like Apple Barrel it has the same price for all the colors.

But expensive artist-grade acrylic paints have different prices for different colors. Usually, cobalt and cadmium pigment colors are more expensive.

The artist-grade acrylic paints are also divided into different series (e.g. series I, series II, or series A, series B). More expensive colors are categorized into series with higher numbers or letters.

I have written a whole article about ‘Does cheap acrylic paint work? (Plan for a tight budget)‘. You will find the absolute best-value acrylic paint deal to pick, yet with good quality there.

Quality

Cheap acrylic paints have low quality while expensive paints are higher in quality. Cheap acrylic paints have fillers that are used to extend colors. But cheap acrylic paints have less pigment load. Because of the low pigment load, cheap acrylic paints have less coverage, low saturation, and intensity of colors.

Expensive artist-grade acrylic paints have a higher pigment load. Therefore artist-grade acrylic paints have high color saturation, intensity, and coverage. Investing in high-quality artist-grade acrylic paints will make the painting process easier and you will not be frustrated with your outcomes.

Pigments: single and mixtures

Most cheap acrylic paint colors are made from a mixture of pigments. Pigments give color to paint. When there is a mixture of pigments the mixed color has less intensity and saturation than when there is a single pigment.

Artist-grade acrylic paints have a single pigment in one color in high concentration. Therefore the color that a single pigment give has the highest saturation and intensity. This gives artist-grade acrylic colors their vibrancy.

Consistency

Artist-grade acrylic paints offer different consistencies such as heavy body, soft body, fluid, and airbrush. The type of binder used in each consistency of paint changes allowing to have different consistencies. However, the pigment load is the same regardless of the consistency.

But cheap acrylic paints do not offer different consistencies. They all have a medium viscosity or soft body consistency.

Color shift

There is a greater color shift in cheap acrylic paints but little to no color shift in artist-grade or expensive acrylic paints. Color shift happens due to the white color of the acrylic polymer binder. It has a milky appearance when wet but dries clear.

Below you can see the color shift of Daler-Rowney Graduate acrylic paint which is a student grade acrylic paint.

Daler-Rowney Graduate acrylic paint when wet
Daler-Rowney Graduate acrylic paint when dry

Because of this, you will not be able to accurately mix colors. Not because you are incapable but because of the materials you use.

However artist-grade acrylic uses different additives in the acrylic polymer binder to minimize color shift. This is especially in the case of Winsor and Newton as I have already mentioned above. Therefore you will not see much difference in artist-grade acrylic paint colors when wet or dry.

Below I have included the Winsor & Newton professional (blue) and Winsor & Newton Galleria (student grade) acrylic paint (red) when wet and when dry.

Winsor & Newton acrylic paint when wet
Winsor & Newton acrylic paint when dry

Although Winsor & Newton said their acrylic paints do not have a color shift, I observe a slight color shift from both professional and student grade acrylic paint lines of them. You may also observe this from the above images. However, the color shift is very little in both professional and Galleria paint lines of Winsor & Newton.

Acrylic paints used for the color-shifting experiment

If you are interested to know about color shift, especially related to house painting projects, you can read my following article; Does paint dry darker or lighter? What you need to know. There you will find factors that influence color shift other than the quality of paint.

Are acrylic paintings expensive?

Acrylic paintings are not as expensive as oil paintings. However, the price depends on the hours you put into creating your artwork. You can take 15 USD per hour of creating the artwork.

The price will also change depending on how complicated the piece is. Again when the artwork is complicated, it will take more time to create it. So the price will be high for that piece.

If you are a beginner artist think about who are your customers. Then decide on a price that they are comfortable with. As an example, you can charge 8″x10″, 9″ x 12″, 11″x15″ acrylic paintings with 50 – 60 USD, 18”x24” pieces with 200 USD upward, 12″x24″ with 150 USD upwards. These are just general prices of how artists charge their art pieces.

It is always better to burn the shipping cost into the selling price of your artwork. This way the customer does not need to worry about paying separately for shipping which they do not know how much will cost.

Conclusion

Acrylic paint is one of the most affordable art mediums. Also, it is very beginner-friendly. However, it is important to choose the right art material which is not always the cheapest. This way you will be less frustrated with the artwork you create because of the materials you use. This is why it is important to find the balance between the quality and economy of acrylic paints and I hope that this article has helped you find it.