Do professional artists use acrylic paint? (with examples)

As acrylic paint is a relatively new art medium, you might wonder if professional artists use acrylic paint.

Acrylic paint is well accepted by professional artists because it is easy to use, easy to clean up, dry quickly, and non-toxic. But some artists do not prefer the fast-drying nature of acrylic paint, because it does not give enough time to blend colors.

Many famous or professional artists use acrylic paint. Also, there are many renowned acrylic paintings.

Do famous or professional artists use acrylic paint?

Famous/ professional artists like Mark Rothko, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, and Bridget Riley use acrylic paint as their art medium. This is because of the versatility, easy use, nontoxic and fast-drying qualities of acrylic paint.

There are many reasons to use acrylic paints by professional artists rather than not using them. The problem is that acrylic paint is a relatively new art medium. So the acceptance of artists may be below. But there are many famous and professional; artists who use acrylic paint as their art medium, more details about them will be discussed later.

Acrylic paint is first introduced as a safe alternative to oil paints. Oil paints have been there the longest and it is 14 centuries old. It is the art medium used by most professional artists for centuries. But acrylic paint has only been there for a few decades. It is first introduced in 1940, yet acrylic paint is a very attractive art medium.

I have written a whole article about the pros and cons of acrylic paint. There you will find all the reasons to use acrylic paint, as well as the pitfalls you need to avoid.

What famous painters used acrylic?

Acrylic paint is widely used by artists since 1960 after its introduction in 1940. Let’s get to know some famous artists who have used acrylic paint as their art medium.

Roy Fox Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein was an American pop artist. He had a comic art style. He used a mix of oil and acrylic paint in his famous art piece Drowning Girl made in 1963. He used one of the earliest acrylic paint called Magna. Magna is a solvent-based acrylic paint. Today there is no solvent-based acrylic paint unless made for conservation purposes.

David Hockney

David Hockney is an influential British artist. In 1960 he made a series of acrylic paintings of swimming pools using vibrant colors. This is at the time acrylic paint was gaining attention among artists. Beverly Hills Housewife, A Bigger Splash, and American Collectors are David Hockney’s acrylic paintings. It is a painting of a woman standing by the pool in a hot pink dress.

Bridget Louise Riley

Bridget Louise Riley is a British artist from London. She creates stylish geometric abstract art. Movement in Squares is one of her famous acrylic artworks made in 1961. It is a painting with black and white squares that carries a deeper meaning. She also did an acrylic painting called Cantus Firmus in 1973. Most of her artwork has made from acrylic paint or other synthetic polymer paints.

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol was an American artist who was a  film director, and producer as well. He was a pop artist and the most successful commercially paid artist before he made art for galleries. Some of his acrylic paintings are Brillo Boxes (Acrylic silkscreen on wood), Oxidation Painting (acrylic pigment on canvas), Marilyn Diptych (acrylic on canvas), and General Electric with Waiter (Acrylic and oil on canvas). These arts were made between 1964 and 1984.

Morris Louis

Morris Louis was an American painter. He is one of the leading artists in color field painting. He used different techniques with acrylic paint to create unique artwork. He used Manga acrylic paints which was the earliest acrylic paint brand that has a solvent base for most of his artwork. Examples of artworks he did with Magna paints are Charred Journal: Firewritten V, Breaking Hue, Dalet Kaf, Point of Tranquility, Delta Theta, and Partition. These artworks were made from 1951 to 1962.

Kenneth Noland

Kenneth Noland was an American painter and abstract artist. Most of his artwork is made with acrylic paint or Magna (solvent-based acrylic paint in the early days). Artwork made with manga paint is Ex Nihilo and, Beginnings, both made in 1958. The acrylic paintings he did are Shoot in 1964, Bend Sinister in 1964, Graded Exposure in 1967, and Vault in 1976.

Famous acrylic paintings

If you have been to an art museum or art gallery, you might have seen many acrylic paintings there. Especially acrylic paintings with a distinct surface made with different acrylic mediums. Some acrylic paintings may have sandy, coarse-textured surfaces. Some paintings have some parts glossy and some parts matte, all because of acrylic mediums and the versatility of acrylic paint.

Two examples of important postmodern art pieces of acrylic paintings are Marilyn Diptych by Andy Warhol and Shuttlecocks by Claes Oldenburg.

There are acrylic paintings that look exactly like really good oil paintings. But in reality, they are really good acrylic paintings.

I have written a whole article about distinguishing acrylic paintings from other paintings. You will find many tips and tricks to know if a painting is acrylic or oil in that article.

Why do artists choose not to use acrylic paint?

There are fewer reasons why artists would not paint in acrylics and many reasons to use them. One of the main reasons why artists do not use acrylic paint is because they are fast drying. When the paint dries fast it has little time to blend.

However, there are acrylic mediums called retarders today that can slow down the drying time. This gives artists more time to blend acrylic paints. Also, you can use a stay-wet palette that keeps acrylic paint wet and usable for a few days to weeks.

Another reason is, that acrylic paint has more vibrant vivid colors, unlike oil paint. Oil paintings have an earthy unique look to them. But you can get the earthy look of oil paints by choosing a simple color palette mostly with earthy colors.

Acrylic paint is very attractive to professional as well as beginner artists who want to finish up their artwork relatively quickly. You do not have to wait for days, weeks, or even months until the paint is dry to work on the next paint layer.

I have written a whole article about why acrylic paint is good for everyone. You can find the unique properties of acrylic paint that make it perfect for beginner to professional artists.

What paint do professional painters use on canvas?

Professional painters mostly use acrylic and oil paint on canvas. However acrylic paint can be used on a variety of surfaces from paper to canvas to glass to metal. Acrylic paint is easy to use, clean up, quick-drying, and nontoxic while oil paint is harder to use, harder to clean up, takes a long time to dry, and can be toxic.

Other art mediums professionals use like watercolors, and gouache, are used on paper rather than on a canvas. Tempera and poster paints are not used by professional artists. They are made for school art projects for student learning activities.

I have written a whole article about cheating in art and famous artists who have cheated in art. You will know many things that you might think are cheating but are not in that article.


There are no unprofessional art mediums in the world, except for the ones made for children for their school art projects like poster paint and tempera paints. Although acrylic paint is good for beginners as it is easy to use, doesn’t make it unsuitable for professional artists.

Many professional famous artists have used acrylic paint since the early days of its invention. In museums and art galleries, there are many acrylic art pieces. The only thing is, that oil paint has been there for centuries while acrylic paint is only a few decades old.

I have written an article series about common acrylic paint questions and answers: part 1 and part 2. You can find answers to questions like this in the articles even before you face them.

About Dilini

Dilini Tharaka is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to answering painting questions and providing helpful resources.Painting has always been Dilini's hobby. She has created dozens of paintings that she is proud of. She loves to share her painting experience with you.