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Acrylic Paint Comparisons

Acrylic paints are my favorite type of paints to work with. They’re inexpensive, and the color choices are almost limitless. I can stand in the paint aisle at a craft store and gaze at them for hours. The hardest thing to do is go in with a budget and have to decide which colors I’m going to take home. It’s a visual feast! If I had unlimited funds, I’d put one of every color in my cart!

I was recently looking at my stash of paints and realized how many different brands I had in there. I found that I was choosing paints at the store for the colors and not necessarily for the qualities the different brands offered. I started taking the paints out and playing with them with the purpose of seeing what the pros and cons were. Once I started doing the comparisons, I was amazed.

The 5 brands of paints that I did my comparison on are:

  • Ceramcoat by Delta
  • Apple Barrel by Plaid
  • Americana by DecoArt
  • CraftSmart by Plaid
  • Anita’s

I started out with a canvas board that I’ve had since I was in my teens. I drew my design on this canvas back then, worked on it a little bit and then we moved, so it got put in a box and it’s been waiting all these years to be finished. I figured this was a great time to get back to work on it. I used this as my piece to compare my paints on as far as canvas went. I used a wooden piece for my other comparison for the same brands.

CERAMCOAT (by Delta)

I’ll be honest and admit that when I took all of my paints out to look at them (and I have WAY more than what you see in the basket above – those are just the paints I use the most of), I found that I had more Ceramcoat (by Delta) than the other brands. One of the reasons for this is the first PRO that I have for their paints.

* The Ceramcoat line has an extraordinary amount of colors available. More than I’ve ever seen of any other brand on the shelves at a craft store. There’s a total of 233 colors.

I know the packaging doesn’t make the paint better or worse, but I really love their packaging. it’s so clean and simply. It doesn’t feel cluttered like other paint brand packaging does. I just can’t help myself…when I see that label on the front of the bottles, I’m drawn to them.

I used Blue Heaven on the sky of my canvas and found the coverage to be very good for a primed canvas board. Canvases tend to hold oil paint on a first coat better than they do acrylics, so it’s typical to need a couple coats of acrylic to get full coverage.

Lighter colors do tend to show the canvas through them, but the Ceramcoat paints give a really good coat the first time. It doesn’t take much to touch them up after the first coat. The paint is thick enough for a good first coat, but not too thick to make it hard to work with in smaller spaces.
Wood is a much more porous surface and calls for a couple coats of paint as a primer. The Ceramcoat did really well on the first coat.

Ceramcoat touts their paints as “America’s Favorite Acrylic Paint.” The paints are a bit more on the higher end of acrylic paints. Most stores sell them for a MSRP of $1.69 per 2 oz. bottle, though there are bigger bottles of the more popular colors in 4, 8 and 12 ounce sizes.

These paints typically dry within 15 minutes.

APPLE BARREL (by Plaid)

The Apple Barrel line of acrylic paints are ideal for porous surfaces and great for wood, kids’ crafts, and basic crafting. They don’t necessarily work great for canvas work, as even with a second coat, the coverage isn’t enough.

After a second coat:

The bottle label recommends using them for porous surfaces and that’s definitely what I have to stick with unless I want to do 3 or 4 coats on a canvas. I find myself steering clear of the Apple Barrel paints when working with primed canvas, but when I’m working on paper crafts or wood, it’s an ideal paint to work with.

The bottle recommends allowing the paint to dry for 1-2 hours between coats, though I’ve found that I can administer another coat on a porous surface within a half hour.

There’s a little over 100 colors to choose from, including neons (which are hard to find in acrylics) and they also carry large economy size 8 oz. bottles of basic popular colors.

The price ranges from $1.29 – $1.49 in most craft stores, so they’re a good choice if you want a good-coverage paint for porous surfaces but you’re working on a budget.

ANITA’S

This is a brand that has been on US craft store shelves for years, though it’s hard to find much in the way of information online about them directly from their company site, Design Objectives Limited. I’ve got a fair share in my paint supply and they are a bit on the lower price range at around $1.19 per 2 oz. bottle.

I do like the Anita’s brand paints on canvas as they have good coverage and the colors are vibrant and very opaque. That’s one thing I’ve realized about paints that claim they are opaque. Not all paints are created equal. What one brand’s standards of “opaque” is…. another brand has a very different standard.


Anita’s paints even advertises as being ideal for using on canvas, which is a plus in my book. The first coat goes on thick and smooth and there’s not a lot of touch-up required.

There’s usually not as many colors available as Ceramcoat, which is why I tend to go with the Ceramcoat line more, but I find that the two brands are very comparable.

AMERICANA (by DecoArt)
There is a total of 235 color of Americana paint, which is 2 more than the Ceramcoat line, though I haven’t seen the full range of colors on a store shelf yet.

American boasts a total of 15 recommended surfaces for their paints and 5 of them are non-porous surfaces, which makes them ideal for primed canvas, one of my favorite things to paint. Because of the limited range of colors on most store shelves, I tend to veer toward Cermacoat, but the Americana paint is almost perfect for one coat on canvas. On wood surfaces it is even better.
This is one paint that I would really like to buy more of, as I like the appeal of a one-coat wonder.

Their price range is $1.19 – $1.29 per 2 ounce bottle, but they also carry 8 ounce bottles in selected colors.
CRAFT SMART (by Plaid)

I’m fairly new to this brand and just recently discovered it at my local Michael’s. This paint line is made exclusively for the Michael’s stores. Craft Smart also carries other art supplies that are made just for Michael’s.

I was looking for some low cost acrylic paints for my 9 year daughter to start out with, since she’s always getting into my stash of paints and especially my favorite colors (she has good taste!). When I found the Craft Smart line, I picked them up based on the price. At only 59 cents a bottle, it seemed like a really good deal for starter paints for a 9 year old.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality when I tried them out on my own projects. The quality of these paints are just one step below the Ceramcoat quality, but more than a dollar cheaper.

One of the downsides to this line is that there are only 74 colors available, so unless you’re willing to mix your paint colors, there’s not a large range of shades to work on complex colored projects. They’re ideal for projects calling for bold colors and also for kids’ crafts. The price makes them a great deal, especially if you’re working on a budget.


So, what did I find in my comparison?

The adage that “you get what you pay for” isn’t always true. Even some of the cheaper cost paints match up to some of the higher cost paints. The cheapest of the paints (Craft Smart) was almost as good as the most expensive paints (Ceramcoat).It also really depends on what you’re using your paints for. Some are formulated to work on all surfaces (Americana) while others are best used on porous surfaces (Apple Barrel).I’ve found that my paint collection is made up of a majority of Ceramcoat paints, but it’s not been out of a choice of quality, but rather the selection and the packaging. Now that I know what the differences are in the paints since doing my comparison, I’ll be expanding my collection to include more of the other brands and try to bring my paints together in color families, rather than brands.What brands are your favorite? Do you have a favorite color? What interesting surfaces have you used your acrylic paints on? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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9 Responses to Acrylic Paint Comparisons

  1. Avital November 4, 2009 at 11:19 am #

    My all time favorites are Amsterdam artist acrylic paints – they are thick, creamy and super duper pigmented – truly the best.

    I can even do without the impasto medium, as they are good enough for creating texture!

  2. spinalfusion November 4, 2009 at 12:42 pm #

    oh, i am so happy that you posted about this! i am new to using paints and don’t have a clue where to begin. i was in the paint aisle at joann’s the other day looking for a sky blue, or really, a chicago flag blue. i couldn’t deide. i kept walking around with a bunch of bottles and finally made my daughter choose. i am not sure how it’s going to cover, but i’ll post the brand and the outcome when i get home from work:)
    thanks,
    marsha spaniel
    http://www.spinalfusion.etsy.com

  3. Vel November 4, 2009 at 12:44 pm #

    I have just a couple different brands because I generally was buying Anita’s at AC Moore when they had them 3 for a dollar. Here’s what I discovered recently about Anita’s: If you leave them on your shelf too long without shaking the bottle a little bit, the paint changes consistency. I had two or three bottles I had opened and used then closed tightly only to discover after a couple months that the paint had become like a rubbery glue on top. The whole bottle wasn’t ruined, just the top, but I had to pull the rubbery stuff out with tweezers and throw it away. Strangest thing.

  4. Lori November 4, 2009 at 1:03 pm #

    Folk Art is probably my favorite, but it’s way too expensive. Rather, I stick with Apple Barrel. I constantly kick myself that I didn’t stock up more when I worked at Michaels. Granted, it’s been four years since I had my daughter and quit, and I’m just now having to go out and earnestly buy paint, but still…

  5. pezadoodle November 4, 2009 at 4:28 pm #

    great article and very interesting – i have SO many acrylic paints of all different brands and they certainly can vary!

    your alien is adorable!!!

  6. *reyanna klein* November 5, 2009 at 12:51 pm #

    Hmm… I think I use Plaid, Claudine Hellmuth and Making Memories most. Pretty sure…. without looking my paint stash. LOL. Maybe I use Folk Art too? That sounds familiar. I really can’t tell the difference in them… okay, the CH and MM paints do some thicker and creamier, I love those. :)

  7. Anonymous November 6, 2009 at 10:11 pm #

    I am new to craft acrylics, but have a number of the JoAnn’s paints, I believe they are made by Plaid. The price is right. They require multiple coats. For better coverage, I like to mix the craft paints with artist acrylics like heavy body Liquitex; this thins and creates a new color at the same time.

  8. KARLEEN KAREEM July 8, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    I’M NEW TO PAINTING SO I STARTED WITH BASIC BY LIQUITEX. I HAVEN’T BEEN TOO HAPPY WITH THE COVERAGE. I HAVE SOLD SOME OF MY PAINTINGS SO I WANT TO USE SOMETHING THAT IS OF PRETTY GOOD QUALITY. I CAN’T AFFORD TO BUY THE BEST PAINT YET, BECAUSE I’M KEEPING MY PRICES DOWN BECAUSE OF NOT BEING AN ESTABLISH ARTIST YET. I RECENTLY FOUND THAT THE CRAFT PAINT IS LESS EXPENSIVE AND SOME OF THEM SEEM TO BE JUST AS GOOD AS BASIC. (FOLK ART, FOR ONE). CRAFT SMART IS A REALLY GREAT PRICE, BUT WHEN I USED IT ON ONE OF MY PAINTINGS FOR THE FIRST TIME, IT GOT LITTLE CRACKS IN IT. IT ACTUALLY WORKED GREAT FOR THE PAINTING BECAUSE I WAS PAINTING A VINTAGE BATHROOM! :) BUT I’M AFRAID TO USE IT ON ANY OTHER PAINTINGS, ESPECIALLY IF I’M PAINTING IT FOR SOMEONE WHO WILL PURCHASE IT. I ONLY HAVE ONE BOTTLE OF DECO ART, TRADITIONS, WHICH I LIKE VERY MUCH, SO I PLAN TO BUY MORE OF THAT TO SEE IF I LIKE THE WHOLE LINE OF PAINT. IT SEEMS TO HAVE BETTER COVERAGE THAN BASIC. I HAVE HAD GOOD LUCK WITH FOLK ART, TOO.

  9. Keren August 6, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    Hi,
    I am new to using acrylic paint. We started a project using the Craftsmart brand on a mirror. I was wondering, do you know if sealing is required and what would be the best way to go about it? I am afraid the paint will not survive the cleaning process necessary for a mirror.
    Thanks