Does cheap acrylic paint work? (Plan for a tight budget)

Acrylic painting can be pretty expensive at some point. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You might not be able to do the investment for good quality acrylic paints now and may be wondering if cheap acrylic paint work.

In general, cheap acrylic paint will work for a beginner who does not have any funds to get at least limited colors of good-quality student-grade acrylic paints like Liquitex Basics. A limited color palette consists of white, yellow, blue, red, and brown.

Follow the tips and ideas explained in this article to get all the good quality acrylic colors needed just for 20 USD. If you learn this budget will not come in your way of becoming a wonderful acrylic artist.

Does cheap acrylic paint work?

Cheap acrylic paints can work for a beginner who has absolutely no way of investing in at least good student-grade acrylic paint. If you have the ability to at least invest in a limited color palette of good student-grade brands, I suggest you do it anyway. You will get a much better reward.

Also, cheap acrylic paints can work for art pieces that are not that complicated. However, the reason why artists are willing to spend money on good quality acrylic paint is because of the saturation and vibrancy given by those paint. Good quality paints have the most coverage.

Coverage/ opacity of good quality acrylic paint
Coverage/ opacity of low-quality acrylic paint

Cheap acrylic paint is acrylic paint with fewer pigments with more fillers. Pigments are the most expensive yet the most important part of acrylic paint. When you buy expensive artist-grade acrylic paint you mostly pay for the pigments as they are so concentrated with pigments. So in art “you get what you pay for”.

You can get a good quality student-grade acrylic paint brand like Liquitex Basics. You will get quality results just as with artist-grade acrylic paint so easily. However make sure you get it from a place that offers good deals like Blick Art Materials store or Jerry’s Artarama. You can get Liquitex Basics for the price of some cheap acrylic paint.

If you decide to go on the cheap acrylic paint route anyway, I suggest you use a good quality titanium white with them. It will make painting so much easier and better. Otherwise, you will be very frustrated with the transparency of the cheap white acrylic paints.

I have written a whole article about ‘Are acrylic paints expensive? (a price breakdown)‘. There you will find the price breakdown of many popular acrylic paint brands and what to pick for the best value.

What is the best affordable/cheap acrylic paint?

I have done a full review of 5 student-grade acrylic paint brands for a beginner. Of those, the cheapest and the best acrylic paints I have found are Liquitex Basics and Winsor & Newton Galleria acrylic paints. I love Liquitex Basics the best as it offers high pigmented colors. I suggest you buy it from an art store offering the best deal like Blick Art Materials store or Jerry’s Artarama as mentioned before.

You will save more money when you buy acrylic paint sets. I have focused on the Liquitex Basics brand here in the table.

Acrylic paint setQuantityPrice (USD)USD/ ozLink
Liquitex Basics – Set of 5 colors (Primary Red, Primary Blue, Primary Yellow, Mars Black, and Titanium White)2.5 oz (75 ml) each17.581.4Blick Art Materials
Liquitex Basics – Set of 5 colors (Primary Red, Primary Blue, Primary Yellow, Mars Black, and Titanium White)2.5 oz (75 ml) each17.071.36Jerry’s Artarama
Liquitex Basics Acrylic Set- Set of 6 (Titanium White, Primary Yellow, Primary Red, Phthalo Green, Primary Blue, and Mars Black)
4 oz (118 ml) each
22.920.95Blick Art Materials
Liquitex Basics Acrylic Set of 6 (Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue, Naphthol Crimson, Phthalocyanine Green, Ultramarine Blue, Mars Black, and Titanium White.)22 ml (0.74) each12.242.75Jerry’s Artarama
Set of 4 w/ 1 x 118ML White (Primary Red, Primary Blue, Primary Yellow, and Mars Black. Also includes a 118ml tube of Titanium White)2.5 oz (75 ml) of 4 and 4 oz (118 ml) of 120.781.48Jerry’s Artarama
Affordable acrylic paints of a limited color palette

As you can see in the above table you can get one of the best acrylic color sets starting from 12.24 USD to 22.92 USD. However, you can get the best value by getting Liquitex Basics Acrylic Set- Set of 6, 4 oz tubes. I highly recommended you get these 4 oz paint tubes as you can use them for a long time and they are highly pigmented for student-grade acrylic paint.

However, the stores have mentioned the color combinations can be changed due to the availability of each color. I think it is still very valuable for a beginner to get all the colors needed for around 20 USD. You will be able to do any paintings you like with this set of 5 or 6 colors.

Pros of using cheap acrylic paint

First and foremost the reason why we use cheap acrylic paint is because of its price. You can get acrylic paint for as cheap as 0.25 USD/ oz. Therefore any of us can afford cheap acrylic paint. They are good for practicing acrylic paint as a beginner to have a good feeling for the art medium. But once you decided to go with acrylic paints as the art medium I highly suggest you start using good quality acrylic paint.

Cheap acrylic paints are better for bigger projects that need a lot of paint, like mural arts. It is almost impossible to use artist-grade acrylics for mural arts because of the high expenses.

Mostly you can use cheap acrylic paints for your underpaintings or mix them with some of your good acrylic paints. However, I think it is not worth using cheap acrylic paint for any part of a painting that takes more time to complete, like still lives, figures, or landscapes. These paintings need the saturation and vibrancy given by good quality acrylic paint.

Sometimes you can use cheap acrylic paints when you need transparent glazes for your paintings. I used to do this with browns and blacks. Usually brown and black cheap acrylic paints are not overpowering.

If you like muted colors in your painting there will be not much problem with using cheap acrylic paints. Cheap acrylic paints usually come in thin consistency and maybe even watery. Therefore they can be blended easily right out of the tubes than professional and thicker acrylic paints. This may be an advantage of using cheaper acrylic paints.

Muted and transparent colors of cheap acrylic paint on canvas

Usually, cheap craft-quality acrylic paints are made to adhere to almost any surface. So you can use them on many surfaces from glass to metal to fabric to paper. This can be an advantage of using cheap acrylic paints. Student grade paints may not have easy adhering properties to any surface like craft acrylic paints.

Most craft-quality acrylic paints can hold up for a fairly long time without fading, as said by many artists. However, there is no guarantee for the lightfastness of cheap acrylic paints like with artist-grade paints.

Cons of using cheap acrylic paint

If you ever decided to be an acrylic artist, cheap acrylic paints are not the way to go as the learning process becomes so harder if you use cheap craft quality acrylic paint. It is harder to feel what you paint with cheap acrylic paint. If you are on a budget you can invest in Liquitex Basics set which you can get for a fairly cheaper price.

When you are buying cheap acrylic paint you also pay for the fillers used in it. With any paint, what you should pay is for pigments. When you purchase artist-grade acrylic paint you only pay for the pigments in the paint as they are so concentrated with pigments.

Cheap acrylic paints are so thin and transparent. Hence, it is hard to create opaque layers that cover well with cheap acrylic paints. You will have to create many layers to achieve the same opacity of an artist-grade acrylic paint and it is so time-consuming. So you will be struggling more with cheap acrylic paints rather than painting.

It is impossible to create paintings with so much depth and details with cheap acrylic paint. It will make the paintings look duller, less vibrant, and flat. The colors can be patchy, chalky, and washed out. Accurate color mixing is also harder with cheaper acrylic paints as they do not dry to the color of their wet paints most of the time.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Artist-grade paints are so much easier to use and it helps to bring out the best artist in you. I cannot stress how much it will help you if you start using artist-grade acrylic paints beginning from a limited color palette.

How long does cheap acrylic paint last?

Low quality and cheap acrylic paints last for 2 years in general. However, it may last longer as acrylic paint which is plastic is a much more durable material. Adding a layer of UV protective varnish can increase the longevity of acrylic paint.

Also if you doing commissioned artwork I suggest you not use cheap acrylic paints. This is because we can’t guarantee the longevity of cheap acrylic paints. You can also contact the manufacturer for further details on the longevity of the product.

I have written a whole article about ‘How long does acrylic paint last? All you need to know. You can find how long different paint brands last and how to keep acrylic paints in their best condition for a long time.

How can I make cheap acrylic paint better?

You can make cheap acrylic paint better by combining it with good-quality acrylic paints. If you are on a tight budget you can just get a good quality titanium white from Liquitex Basics. Then you can mix a little of it with cheap acrylic paint to increase the coverage. You can also layer on top of titanium white for better coverage.

You can get several other good-quality colors if possible. The yellow color in cheap acrylic paint is usually transparent. This can be a pain as there can be many elements in painting using yellow. If you have funds the next important good quality color to get after titanium white is cadmium yellow. It is an excellent opaque color for your paintings. Use a cadmium yellow color with medium darkness.

You can always use low-quality, cheap acrylic paint for the underpaintings, drawings, and block colors. This way you can save your good quality acrylic paints. You can also use cheap acrylic paints where transparent layers of acrylic paint are needed.

Pyrrole red from Liquitex Basics

Even when buying good student-grade acrylic colors make sure to avoid colors named as hues. ‘Hue’ on a paint tube means the color inside the paint tube is made by combining several pigments. But a mixture of pigments has less color saturation. Therefore try to go for pure single pigmented colors.

The best choice…

Even though you use cheap acrylic paints if you use a limited color palette of artist grade or good student grade acrylic paint, that will make your paintings so much better. To make a limited color palette you will only need the below colors.

  • Titanium white
  • Cadmium yellow
  • Ultramarine blue
  • Permanent Alizarin Crimson
  • Burnt umber

You can make any type of painting with this limited color palette of good-quality acrylic paints. It is important to mention that you do not need to buy every color in the rainbow when using good-quality acrylic paint. Since good quality acrylic paints mix well to make any color you can depend on a limited color palette.

The learning process and color mixing will be easier. Even a small amount of good-quality acrylic paints go a long way. So you can use them for a long time.

Some good acrylic paint brands you can go for are Golden and Liquitex. Golden paints have a rich buttery or creamy consistency unique to them. Liquitex is also rich and thick with pigment. Make sure to pick them for the best deal rather than buying them expensive from a local art store.


Acrylic paint quality matters for an artist. The more you use good quality yet expensive acrylic paints, the better the painting will look. If you use low-quality, cheap acrylic paints, you are handicapped in your true potential. However, starting the art you love is much more important than waiting for quality paints. I suggest you make the best out of what you have right now while you plan to get other necessary good-quality acrylic paints later.

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.