Acrylic paint is fast drying paint containing pigment suspension in acrylic polymer emulsion. Acrylic paints can be diluted with water, but become water-resistant when dry. Depending on how much the paint is diluted (with water) or modified with acrylic gels, media, or pastes, the finished acrylic painting can resemble a watercolor or an oil painting, or have its own unique characteristics not attainable with other media.
Acrylic artist paints may be thinned with water and used as washes in the manner of watercolor paints, but the washes are not re-hydratable once dry. For this reason, acrylics do not lend themselves to color lifting techniques as do gum arabic based watercolor paints.
Acrylic paints with gloss or matte finishes are available, although a satin (semi-matte) sheen is most common; some brands exhibit a range of finish (e.g., heavy-body paints from Golden, Liquitex, Winsor & Newton and Daler-Rowney).Politec acrylics are fully matte. As with oils, pigment amounts, and particle size or shape can naturally affect the paint sheen. Matting agents can also be added during manufacture to dull the finish. The artist can mix media with their paints and use topcoats or varnishes to alter or unify sheen if desired.
When dry, acrylic paint is generally non-removable from a solid surface. Water or mild solvents do not re-solubilize it, although isopropyl alcohol can lift some fresh paint films off. Toluene and acetone can remove paint films, but they do not lift paint stains very well and are not selective. The use of a solvent to remove paint may result in removal of all of the paint layers, acrylic gesso, etc. Oils can remove acrylic paint from skin.
Only a proper, artist-grade acrylic gesso should be used to prime canvas in preparation for painting with acrylic (however acrylic paint can be applied to raw canvas if so desired without any negative effect or chemical reaction as would be the case with oils). It is important to avoid adding non-stable or non-archival elements to the gesso upon application. However, the viscosity of acrylic can successfully be reduced by using suitable extenders that maintain the integrity of the paint film. There are retarders to slow drying and extend workability time and flow releases to increase color-blending ability.