What the Heck is the Difference Between Watercolor and Acrylic?

I’m going to take a wild guess and immediately assume that you think you have a pretty good idea of what watercolor paint looks like. I’m also going to guess that you’ve heard of acrylic, but aren’t exactly sure what it is or why it would look the way it does. Ok, one more guess: when it comes to weddings, you honestly didn’t think there were any other paints used other than watercolor! Don’t you worry one bit. You’re not at all alone. But, here’s the deal: give me the next few minutes of your time, and I’ll not only show you the difference between the two, but convert you into an acrylic lover for life! Sound good? Great! Now, let’s get started! What the heck is the difference between watercolor and acrylic?

The Science


Watercolor paint is slightly deceiving in terms of its name. The actual paint has a lot more to do with its binder as opposed to water itself. Watercolor paint is made by mixing pigments with gum arabic. Gum arabic is a watersoluble tree sap that is also often used on paint brushes to form the shape of the bristles. Remember your 3rd grade art teacher yelling at you to never leave brushes in the paint water overnight? Remember how you totally ignored her, and ended up with a brush that once had North to South bristles now heading East and West? Yep, that gum arabic dissolved away!

This is where the importance of your water comes in! When you paint with watercolors, you’re using water to break down that gum arabic and leave the colored pigment behind. That’s why using less water leaves a darker color, and more water leaves a lighter color. The less gum arabic you dissolve, the more tightly bound those pigments still are. Spread those pigments around, let the water evaporate and, voila! You have yourself some pretty watercolor strokes!

example of watercolor paint
Watercolor paint example. Image courtesy of art-is-fun.com


Acrylic paint is made when a plastic resin concoction is “suspended” in water (acrylic polymer emulsion) and mixed with colored pigment. Similar to working with watercolor paints, acrylic painting is dependent on that water in the mixture evaporating. Except, that water evaporating leads to the plastic resin particles fusing together. This is why many acrylic paints come out of the tube rather glossy and wet, but dry almost like a plastic!

example of acrylic paint
Example of acrylic paint. Image courtesy of thoughtco.com.

The Aesthetic


Watercolors are an absolute favorite in the wedding industry because they have a very soft and romantic feel to them. No matter how bold you get with your color or subject choices, you can’t escape how ethereal the paint looks!

custom watercolor wedding crest featuring florals
Example of wedding crest painted with watercolor paint. Crest By Brittany Branson.


Due to its plastic/resin base, acrylic paint can often look very bold and have a lot of “movement!” It can also have a bit more “depth” to it, as its a lot easier to place different colors on top of one another.

acrylic painting of peach and blue florals
Example of florals painted with acrylic paint. By Brittany Branson.

Why Do I Use Acrylic?

I finger paint

What’s crazy fun about the services and products I offer is that they range from really small paintings to really, really large ones! When it comes to tackling the larger pieces, I often find myself finger painting in order to achieve a more whimsical style. Finger painting is simply not possible with watercolor. But, perfect for acrylic! I usually end up using a base color paint, and then utilizing a heck of a ton of heavy body white paint to create those whimsical brushstrokes you know and love!

I create products that need to be more durable

Custom backdrops and alternative guestbooks are two of my most popular commissioned paintings. They’re very often used in both indoor and outdoor settings. When it comes to my backdrops, some couples choose to commission a length that serves as both a backdrop and an aisle runner! And so, guests need to be able to walk all over that part of the backdrop. Watercolor paper (and a watercolor painting) simply won’t do the job. It’s not very fun to have to constantly worry about a drop of excess water from the bouquets or moisture on the bottom of a guest’s shoe finding its way on to the painting and warping the design. However, acrylic can withstand all of that! Due to its plastic/resin nature, it’s incredibly durable and nearly waterproof after it has completely dried.

I believe it can be just as beautiful as watercolor

I love acrylic. I love how playful it is. I love how it responds. Most of all, I love how beautiful it can be. I think the wedding industry needs to embrace the fact that watercolor is not the only wedding-worthy paint. I think acrylic wedding art can capture a whimsical, fanciful, and even playful feeling that many couples may be looking for but can’t quite find with watercolor. In general, I just think it’s awesome.

acrylic painting of pippin hill winery
Acrylic painting of Pippin Hill Winery. Print available in my Etsy shop!

Are you ready to incorporate amazing acrylic art into your wedding? Send me an email today!

Interested in hearing me personally describe my love for acrylic paint? Tune in to my episode on Anchor.FM here!

Brittany Branson is a wedding paper and live painter serving Annapolis, Maryland, Washington, DC and destination weddings.


Lauren and Ken’s Philadelphia City Hall Live Wedding Painting

philadelphia city hall live wedding painting

With the help of the amazing team at Elizabeth Duncan Events, Lauren and Ken exchanged vows in what I’m personally calling one of the coolest ceremonies ever! I really should say one of the coolest weddings ever, as the reception took place on a ship! At the top of their “must have” list was getting married in Dilworth Park right in front of Philadelphia’s City Hall. Completed in 1894, the building’s gorgeous “Empire style” architecture served as the jaw-dropping inspiration for Lauren and Ken’s Philadelphia City Hall live wedding painting!

When discussing what elements of the big day would make it on to the canvas, Lauren quite had her heart set on capturing the ceremony and grand architecture of City Hall. And so, I arrived a few hours early to start sketching out the numerous columns, windows, and details!

artist brittany branson live painting in front of philadelphia city hall
Painting in front of Philadelphia’s City Hall

The Elizabeth Duncan Events and Dilworth Park teams did an amazing job of sectioning off a huge portion of the park just for the wedding party, guests, and vendors. But, that didn’t stop some friendly strangers from politely being a part of the wedding!

The groom’s men and women paid a bit of homage to their reception later being on a ship by wearing compasses in lieu of floral boutonnieres! And in lieu of floral bouquets, the bridal party each walked down the aisle holding a sign with a portion of the Bible’s “Love is patient…” quote. They then attached each sign, in order, to the couple’s ceremony structure at the end of the aisle to complete the verse!

bride walking down the aisle with mother and father
Lauren walks down the aisle
bride and groom exchange vows during Philadelphia City Hall wedding
Lauren and Ken exchange vows!
philadelphia city hall live wedding painting in progress
Working on the Philadelphia City Hall live wedding painting

As I always do, I took the painting home with me to add in all of the details and complex colors of City Hall.

completed philadelphia city hall live wedding painting
Lauren and Ken’s Philadelphia City Hall Live Wedding Painting
philadelphia city hall live wedding painting
Lauren and Ken’s Philadelphia City Hall Live Wedding Painting

Thank you so much to Lauren, Ken, and the Elizabeth Duncan Events team for having me along for the fun! Pennsylvania is officially checked off my Live Painting in 50 States list!

Did you miss the exciting news? Check out my recent blog post about my goal to live paint a wedding in every US state here!

Brittany Branson is a live painter, wedding and floral artist serving the Annapolis, Maryland, Washington, DC and beyond


Favorite Podcasts: The Strategy Hour Podcast

headshot of artist Brittany Branson

Let’s be serious, everyone. There’s a lot of education and content out there. I mean, a lot. Sometimes it can be insanely overwhelming. And, sometimes, it really just turns into noise. As someone with a rather niche product and service, all of the content floating around can often times feel inaccessible, unrelated, and downright confusing. I can’t tell you, on the daily, how much time I have to spend consuming photography, wedding planner, or business coach related education in the hopes that I can pick out one golden nugget of advice! Luckily for you, my peeps, I’ve narrowed down my top five favorite podcasts (so far) that I consistently and gladly tune in to! Today is part one, so let’s get into it!

headshot of Abagail and Emylee of the company Think Creative Collective
Abagail and Emylee of Think Creative Collective

The Strategy Hour Podcast

Hosted by the two most fabulous and sassy ladies you’d ever want in your corner, Abagail Pumphrey and Emylee Williams of Think Creative Collective, this podcast is jam packed full of actionable strategy. I’m telling you, the title doesn’t lie! These boss babes are not only the real deal, but are incredibly open about and giving of tactical steps each listener can take to become the real deal themselves. Now, what may seem strange about me flocking to every episode this dynamic duo produces is the fact that they run a very successful online course and content generating business. That’s a very, very different offering from my own. But, their openness to divulging useful information makes up for the product and service difference. I’m talking “we’re going to break down the where and why of every cent we spent on our most recent launch” kind of useful information. As someone who is rather “new” to the creative industry, those kinds of tips and tricks are priceless. I could go on and on, but you should go check them out for yourselves!

My Favorite Strategy Hour Takeaway So Far

Though I can easily say I walk away from every episode with that golden nugget of useful information, I would still have to say that Episode 032: Resisting Trends & Missing Opportunities is one in which I revisit weekly. In the episode, Abagail and Emylee call creatives out on some of their crap, so to speak. Meaning, they tackle a common trend in the creative community to, actually, resist trends. One of those big rebellions that ultimately turns into an excuse is a resistance to blogging. In the episode, the two ladies break down exactly how long it took them consistently blogging five days a week before they began to notice a financial ROI. It was a long time! And so, they call many creatives out on how they simply don’t give something such as blogging the chance and time it deserves before calling it quits and claiming it simply doesn’t work for them. I very much resonated with this, and am actively working to tackle my mindset and give some strategies the time they deserve!

How You Can Listen

Do yourself a favor and go download The Strategy Hour podcast now! I’ll make it easy for you: go here!