I like the idea of being able to dip my brush into the paint and then paint a shape in one shot, without having to go back over it.

In my experiments so far I am having to go over each line several times to stop the background colour from showing through the acrylic. Even when the background is only white.

I am painting on MDF which has been primed with an undercoat of shellac and then some spray paint over that.

The effect I am going for is shown in this video of Keith Haring: https://youtu.be/VWRRQKwtB90?t=2m26s

He never has to go over his lines because the colour is consistent for as long as he drags his brush.

I an thinking it largely has to do with the paint and the brush that I am using. But am yet to figure it out.

Any help wold be greatly appreciated.

  • 1
    I have/had a similar issue. I think my problem was that I was using really-really cheap paints.
    – maugch
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 7:35
  • Yeah I agree with what most of the people are saying. Cheap paints are thin, and they wont coat the medium nicely. Buying a higher quality paint, although more expensive, will reduce the need for layering. That saves time, and paint, and its just overall a lot more fun to use. Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 19:28

5 Answers 5


In my experiments so far I am having to go over each line several times to stop the background colour from showing through the acrylic. Even when the background is only white.

This is probably caused by the quality of your paint. Pigments are usually the most expensive ingredient in any paint, so the cheaper the paint, the less pigments are in it. In order to cover your background color you need to create a layer of pigments over it. If your paint doesn't contain enough pigments, that can only be achieved by putting several layers of paint over each other.

There are usually 3 categories of paint:

  • Hobby quality: Very cheap, full of fillers and almost no pigment at all. Mixing colors is a gamble at best and impossible at worst. Useless for any crafting project. These can be found in dollar stores and similar shops that don't usually have art supplies.
  • College / art student quality: Good price-performance-ratio with acceptable amount of pigments. They're often offered in a wide variety of colors that usually mix well. These are best fit for crafting projects and can be found in most craft shops and some DIY or construction stores.
  • Artist quality: Most expensive but usually contain the most (and purest) pigments and least additives. They're often thicker in consistency than collage quality paints and some very special pigments (like ground up semi-precious stones) may only be offered in artist quality paints. Use these when you need absolute coverage of any color in small areas (like miniature painting) or when you need consistent coloration despite extreme dilution of the paint.

As already mentioned the concentration of pigment is important to the ability to cover. Yes, high quality paint will usually have a higher concentration of pigments, but bear also in mind, that some pigments are more opaque than others. For example, the colors "madder Brilliant" and "cadmium red medium" (primacryl from schmincke) have almost the same brilliant red color. However, the first is comprised of a transparent pigment while the other is highly opaque. So you have to ckeck for opacity of your color before using.

The concentration of the pigment is still important if you want to thin your color to a liquid consistency. If you want to thin your color a lot, colors with highly concentrated pigments (often called artist grade or professional color) are preferable.

There are also acryilic inks that are quite liquid, but for these you still have to check the opacity, because different applications require different transparency.

When it comes to brushes, you need to use a brush with a high capacity for holding paint to achieve consistent lines. Look for watercolor brushes or asian caligraphy brushes with long soft hair. I prefer cligraphy brushes with a mixture of hair from goat (soft hair) and marter or badger hair (a bit more rigid). It looks like haring is also using a caligraphy brush in the linked video.


Asian calligraphers, I'm sure you've witnessed people painting characters or logograms with a brush and ink, make beautiful forms that need no touching up. In the West we have a kind of painting called "Tole" that also uses multiple single strokes to create images, usually botanical but not limited.

Both the calligrapher and the Tole illustrator have common threads. The brushes are soft and the medium is more liquid than paste. The trick they master is to lift and lower the brush while making a stroke. Lowering, or putting pressure on the hairs or bristle end, thickens the stroke and lifting thins. Moving the brush along the surface determines the length and direction.

Another trick they employ is to twirl the brush while lifting. Doing this with a tapered sable will leave a point where the brush left the paper. This is a common way to end a letter or character stroke. Tole painting also uses this technique when making single stroke leaves.

Many inexpensive Tole painting books can be found on Amazon.

  • I think it is spelled Tole, and is a traditional American folk method of decorative painting on tin and wooden objects. My grandmother used to do it! And yes, it is done with a brush loaded with color(s) that makes a single mark per stroke that add up to the total design. For Elmy, in addition to using heavily pigmented paint be sure to really load the brush before starting a mark. High quality sable brushes or equivalent in the proper size for the mark is critical.
    – rebusB
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 20:48

Something the other answers have missed is your priming method. There is B-I-N shellac which is specifically a priming shellac that is designed to cover stains, but other typical shellacs may dry to a hard glossy finish.

The paint you are applying has to have something to grab on to. If the primer layer is too slick or non-compatible with your paint much of the paint in each stroke will just slide along the surface, leaving the inconsistent lines. So if your lines are well pigmented (the paint is solidly opaque) but have gaps or streaks then it is the priming* and not the paint.

Beyond that, your paint (as the others have noted) has to be quality, well pigmented, and thinned to the right consistency to go on smooth but not so much that it makes the paint too dilute.

*You may also need a brush with bristles that are longer and softer so the brush delivers the paint without "scratching" or scraping it in the process.


Lines and markings all come from brush and stroke used. I can use the cheapest paint possible and unless you knew you would never know. When it comes to detail, taking time, using a brush that you are comfortable with and your stroke is the things that count. The first run might not be what you want and look bad but you always add to it until it looks the way you want!

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