Acrylic paint is a relatively new medium in the world of art. It has been around for just over a half a century. Despite it's "newness", acrylic paint has quickly become a popular art making medium. Acrylic paint is less dangerous than oil paint because it uses water instead of toxic solvents. When dry, acrylic paint can have some of the same visual characteristics as oil paints.
Like all paints, acrylic paint is made up of three general ingredients-pigment, solvent, and binder. The pigment is the color and is generally universal in all different types of paints. Solvent is what thins the paint. Water is typically used as the solvent for acrylic painting. Binder is the material that holds the pigment together and allows the paint to be spread over a surface. Acrylic paint has a binder of acrylic polymer emulsion and dries quickly to create a waterproof surface. It can also can be used as a glue or as an image transfer medium. Acrylics can be matte finish or gloss. Matte acrylics dry to a dull sheen while gloss acrylics are shiny.
Acrylics can be applied with brushes, palette knives, or really anything at all. In my experience, nylon brushes work best with acrylic paint-although any type of brush will work. It is especially important to keep your brushes clean, as acrylic paints will dry quickly and ruin a brush.
Acrylics can be applied to almost any surface. Artists mostly use canvas, watercolor paper, illustration board, gessoed masonite, or other papers to paint on-although any surface is fair game.
Acrylic paints are resistant to UV light making them a suitable choice for outdoor applications. Acrylic paint also dries to create a waterproof surface that is impervious to many types of liquids.
Acrylic paints can be used with a variety of different acrylic mediums that can change the characteristics of the paint. Some mediums make the paint thicker for impasto effects, while some make the paint more transparent for glazing techniques. Others change the texture of the paint. Experiment with different mediums to find out which ones suite you best.