Can you paint acrylics with alla prima – Complete Guide

Alla prima gives command of the whole painting because it can be done in just a single sitting. This technique is popular in oil painting because it allows artists to work with oil paints in a fast and creative way. Artists who work with acrylics always get confused about applying acrylics in alla prima. Well, this blog post is based on the complete use of alla prima technique in acrylics and the supplies which you are gonna need to paint acrylics with alla prima.

This technique is so simple and easy to use for those who want to work consistently on a single painting as it is time efficient and provides more control over what you want to paint. As we work wet-on-wet in this technique, it is ideal for oil painting because oil paints take a lot of time to dry which gives more time to work without any haste.

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“You can paint acrylics with alla prima technique but acrylic paints dries a lot faster as compared to oils. That’s why you can do it in both wet and dried form

Alla prima (wet-on-wet) technique with acrylics

As acrylic paints dry quickly, so we cannot do wet on wet without any additional material. Thanks to acrylic retarders which make it possible. They just increase the drying time of acrylic paints which allows us to work with alla prima technique by using acrylics.

Acrylic retarder is actually a transparent, glue-like mixture that contains a large amount of glycol which slows the drying time of acrylic paint to provide more blending and better details. Good quality retarders often provide more drying time with an additional glossy look. They are also very useful in protecting paint from skinning.

If you really want to create eye-catching alla prima paintings with acrylics then you must have a good medium to increase the drying time.

Some of the highly recommended mediums to increase the drying time are given below.

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Best acrylic retarders to use for alla prima technique

  • Liquitex professional slow-drying fluid retarder
  • U.S. Art Supply acrylic retarder acrylic medium
  • Winsor & Newton Professional Acrylic Slow Drying Medium

Can retarders change the color consistency of acrylic paint?

Acrylic retarder
Acrylic Retarder

No, the retarder is a transparent medium that does not impact the color consistency of the paint when mix with the paint. Working with alla prima technique, there are no restrictions on the quantity of retarder to use with paint. If you want your paint to dry late, then you can mix more amount of retarder.

When working with this technique, you must have to be so much care with the use of water in colors. On the final layer, an additional amount of water can ruin the whole painting because it is a pure solvent that could destroy the entire look of your paint. You have to be a little bit careful while working on the final layers. I recommend practicing this technique first before making professional artwork.

Importance of good grip over brush

Holding a paint brush While working with alla prima, there are some parts on which you should minimize the quantity of paint over the layer. To do so, you can hold the brush from the end to reduce pressure on the bristle. On the other hand, holding the brush near the bristle can help to apply more pressure which increases the quantity of paint.

You can wipe any part of the painting with a cotton or a cloth piece to correct the mistakes.

What if you want to make the paint softer and smooth? To do so you can add some Beige medium which will help in losing the opaque nature of the paint. Remember that white is perfectly opaque and if you want to increase this feature in any color, just add some white to it.

Disadvantages of doing alla prima with acrylics

Alla prima is best for oil paints but when you paint it with acrylics, you face some issues with drying time. The use of mediums cannot slow down the drying time as in oil paints. Compared to oil paints, acrylics don’t stay stable with the same color which could become darker after drying. It is the same as a peeled apple getting darker after some time.


Yes, it is possible to use acrylics for alla prima. The addition of some mediums can increase the drying time which can help to work wet on wet. Use suitable brushes such as synthetic to improve brush stroke and always take care of highlights, smoothness, texture, etc. Avoid using so much water in the final layers which can ruin the whole paint on the painting.

This technique is so much rare in acrylics and there are too few resources on the internet, if you want to work with this technique, you need a little bit of hard work and practice because it is the only thing that can turn the stone into gold.

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