The Paints I Use The Most.

I’ve been painting with bottled acrylic paints for at least twenty years. My favorite paints are Apple Barrel and the full family of Folk Art Acrylics. The Plaid company has been around since 1976. They have many product brands under the Plaid umbrella that include my two favorite lines.

Why I Use Both

The difference between Folk Art and Apple Barrel is simple. AB is for decorative purposes and sticks on difficult surfaces like Styrofoam and wood. FA paints are also considered decorative, but for many different surfaces that include canvas. They also tend to cover more ground. The FA paints are more opaque and they also offer pure pigments. I use the FA for solid bases. I use AB, which tends to be more transparent, for my layers and washes. I then use the more solid pigments for my highlights; the very top layer of every painting. For my art classes I only use the FA artist pigments. They are pure pigments and come in the names that teachers usually require; like burnt umber and yellow ocher.

I Continue To Use These Paints.

I was first drawn to the paints for their price. I couldn’t afford the types of paints that came in tubes. Later when I could have afforded the tube paints, I simply had no desire. I love their creamy, semi-runny texture. The consistency allows me to choose either a rough texture or a smooth one. For the way I paint, in washes and layers, these paints are perfect for me. If I feel like mixing and experimenting with colors I mix with the FA pure pigments. If I want ready made colors, because both FA and AB have fantastic colors, I just use them and alter them very little. One of the biggest draws for me too, is the fact that all I need to clean my brushes is soap and water.

For The Whole Family.

Both Apple Barrel and Folk Art paints are perfect for a household with children. These paints are non toxic. Through the years I’ve been able to use the same paints I use on my canvases for school projects and holiday crafts. **Always look at the bottle. If there is a “AP” on the bottle, then it is non-toxic. If there is a “CL,” it means that it must be handled by adults and with more care. Read Article Here

Great For Art Classes

If you want to use these paints for an art class, make sure to pick only “Artist Pigments” from Folk Art. Unless your teacher demands it, spending five to ten dollars a tube of acrylic is completely unnecessary. In my experience, as you can see in my video below, these paints hold up to any student grade acrylic tubes.

Quick and VERY Brief Paint Lesson.

Each color is made up of the basic pigment and a binder. The expensive paints have more pigment and less binder. Conversely, the cheaper paints have less pigment and more binder. Student grade paints and most of Plaid’s bottled acrylic paints both fall under the cheaper paint category. As you can see from my paintings, it does not mean the more affordable paints can’t produce a vibrant final product.

Most of the bottled acrylics tolerate very little mixing or they begin to get what teachers call “muddy.” It just means you are loosing the original color characteristics. Muddy isn’t always bad. Maybe you like that muddy color; it’s all a matter of opinion. These characteristics are why I usually only use white or black to change the value. But FA does sell “cheap” pure pigments, and they are awesome!

Folk Art Artist Pigments are pure pigments.

These colors will have names artists are most familiar with; like Burnt Umber and Alizarin Crimson. If you want to have fun mixing colors or you want to water down your paints and not loose a bit of the hue, buy these. They are still a lot cheaper then the tubes. If they are too expensive at Amazon, because some people try to sell them as expensive as tubes, go to walmart (they are $2. there) or a hobby store. People often alter the consistency of these to use in their artist spray guns.

If you want your paintings to last.

Make sure your surfaces are always primed before you begin your painting. On canvas I prime it with a layer of gesso. Always make sure your paintings are sealed/varnished for longevity! I am currently working on a product review lens and a how to lens on how I archive my paintings.


People’s first reaction when they see what paints I use is that I shouldn’t use “cheap” paints for fine art. Why is affordable paint considered cheap? If you compare a 20 year old painting of mine and a painting I just made today, you can’t see the difference.I take great care archiving my acrylic paintings. I have made hundreds, if not thousands, of paintings. I have never seen any cracking, pealing, discoloration, or any other unsightly flaw in any of them.

There is a saying, “the only famous artists are those with their paintings still around.” First, my goal is, and has always been, to create affordable art. I want my family, friends, and even strangers who buy my art or get it as a gift, to hang my art in their kitchens, their office, their living room, and yes, sometimes in their bathrooms. I create art that people can live with. I want them to pass it on to their kids and hopefully they can have them till the end of their days. Second, I have no desire to be famous. I want to teach and I want to have the ability to paint till I die. Those are my artistic expectations. Yes, making money is great and I love money just like everyone else. There is a big difference between making money and being famous. I’m not rich, but I do just fine selling my work to ordinary folks that don’t have thousands to spend on art.

What is fine art and is my work not fine art because I use bottle acrylics?

I think I’ll write a lens for this subject alone. Because there seems to be many people who wouldn’t consider my work fine art because of the paint I use. Art is subjective, so you be the judge. No, I don’t have galleries knocking at my door. Maybe that alone is a requirement. I know this for sure, I create quality work that I am proud of and I think everyone should be able to afford their supplies. The Plaid company is one of MANY, because I do use other liquid acrylics, who allow everyday folks like myself, the ability to do so.

Quick Tips:

Make sure you always seal your paintings with varnish.

Always keep your paintings out of direct sunlight. Even if they say it is good for outdoor use.

If you don’t like the transparency of some of the colors (pigment vs. binder), add a drop of white.

If you don’t have the patience to work in layers, grab your blow dryer. You’ll blow, pun intended, through your layers.

If you don’t like the brightness or “neon-ish” quality to a certain color, add a drop of that color’s compliment. The complimentary color is the one directly opposite on the color wheel.

If you want the paint to be even more transparent, add a bit of mixing medium or water. That is the beauty of these paints; water will do.

More about Plaid products.

My Painting Videos and A Few Of My Paintings

“The Life Of An Oak Tree” was my final project for my 2D class. The video is sped up, but the painting itself had to be done in two long sittings. Painting quickly was crucial. Without the creamy, yet runny, consistency of the acrylic paint, I couldn’t have worked so quickly. Though I experiment with other acrylic paints, there are times like these where nothing else will do.

Because this was a design class and the color palette was crucial I used only pure pigments from Folk Art. It had to be pure because I had to work my way through all the color relationships; Monochromatic, Complementary, Split-Complementary, Analogous,etc. I also had to demonstrate chroma, Intensity, saturation, and value. I could have reached my goals with any paints, but because my professor is such a brilliant artist she would have known if I didn’t use the pure pigments. It turned out that she is the professor for a reason, because I learned so much about the difference between the pure pigments and the less pure mixtures. I learned a lot about their most basic characteristics and how far they can all be pushed.

The second video is one I put together for my website. It is a brief video of a commission I did in Arizona last summer for a local nursery.

Click images for larger view

Grape Rain

Beefy Flowers
I made them up:P

Cherry Rain

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  • JaguarJulie Apr 18, 2014 @ 10:36 am
    I haven't tried these yet, but if I did, I would surely try AB since it sticks on difficult surfaces like Styrofoam and wood. I've been thinking about decorating the base of my mailbox - it's plastic I think.
  • Joie Feb 09, 2014 @ 2:55 am
    I loved your "Home Grown Nursery" video! And I could just imagine the burst of flavor when biting one of your delicious-looking cherries! Beautiful lens. :)
  • 1angelsbestkeptsecrets Jan 08, 2014 @ 3:35 am
    The Oak tree video was amazing. Great art!
  • JackalynAnn Jan 02, 2014 @ 6:01 am
    I am wondering if I can get these in the United Kingdom. Acrylics are the one medium I can actally paint a picture with.
  • OhMe Jan 01, 2014 @ 6:05 am
    I use Folk Art Paints and have for many years. Like you said, the Apple Barrel paints seem to be more transparent. I just recently purchased some for a project because I liked the color better in AB but was not pleased at all and regretted making the purchase.
    Your videos are amazing. I really enjoyed watching. You are very talented.
  • leahjsongs Dec 31, 2013 @ 5:45 pm
    I have zero talent in visual art, so I really appreciate people who do.
  • nightcats Dec 31, 2013 @ 3:36 pm
    I have been using Apple Barrel paints for various craft projects for years. For everything I want to do, they work fine. I guess if I were going to take up fine art painting, I would use a higher quality product.
  • grammieo Dec 31, 2013 @ 2:53 pm
    I wll have to look into these paints, I've only ever used the folk art ones......thanks for a great review and congratulations of Review of the Day!
  • LynnKK Dec 31, 2013 @ 12:02 pm
    The videos were a lot of fun to watch. You show your talent well!
  • getmoreinfo Dec 31, 2013 @ 10:51 am
    These are my favorite paints too.
  • mojo_007 Dec 31, 2013 @ 10:12 am
    These are fine for crafters, but for fine art I wouldn't use these.