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.


3 Reasons You Should Have A Live Painter At Your Wedding

painter's canvas in a garden under a gazebo

Are you on the fence about hiring a live painter for your wedding? Are you wondering why you should make room in your budget for it? Or maybe you’re just wondering what the heck the benefit of having one is? Well my friend, it’s your lucky day! I’ve got 3 amazing (if I do say so myself!) reasons why you HAVE to have a live painter at your wedding!

artist brittany branson live paints a bride in a graden
Artist Brittany Branson live painting a bride in Washington, DC. Image by Kelly Hornberger Photography.

#1: A Live Painter Helps Preserve Memories

Maybe you’ve heard a photographer say something like “you need to have great pictures because they last long after your wedding is over.” Well, they’re right, and paintings do too! Like your pictures, your wedding painting will be proudly displayed in your home for years to come, and will bring back all those warm, fuzzy feelings you had on your wedding day every time you see it! Trust me, I had a live painter at my wedding! Heck, I’m staring at the painting now!

#2 It Can “Create” A Memory

You see, the fun thing about live painting is, unlike the photographer, we live painters aren’t limited to capturing exactly what we see as it’s happening! Perhaps you would love a painting that shows both your ceremony and reception, even if they were in two very different locations? Totally possible! Or, perhaps you have a family member or friend (heck, even your pet!) who wasn’t able to physically be at the wedding? Ask your painter to add them in as a tribute! The painting is a creation for you.

#3: It’s Trendy

Even if you aren’t the trendsetter in your group of friends, you still want your wedding to be fun, beautiful, and not look super dated. What better way to have that than to have a live painter? Trust me…it’s trending, it’s fun to watch, and it’s definitely something all of your friends and family will talk about!

Oh, you wan’t a bonus reason? Oh, ok.

#4 It Helps Make For A Killer “Thank You” Card

Ask the painter to take a high quality photo of the painting once it’s finished, and then use it on your thank you cards! Your guests will get a kick out of seeing the final piece, and they’ll smile as they get a moment to re-live your special day all over again.

So, as you can see, there are so many reasons why hiring a live wedding painter is an absolute must. No matter your reasoning, it is definitely worth the investment, and something that you’ll cherish forever!

Does this all sound too good to pass up?

If you’re interested in having me live paint at your wedding, just shoot me a message now! Out of state? Oh, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Check out my recent blog post about live painting in every state here!

Tyler and Ed’s Mount Vernon Alternative Guestbook Painting

image of mount vernon alternative guestbook painting with guest signatures

The oh so awesome Tyler and Ed exchanged vows in a beautiful ceremony at George Washington’s Mount Vernon last month. I was incredibly honored to be a part of all of the fun! My heart may or may not have skipped a beat when their darling wedding planner Karen of RSVP Events reached out to me to let me know that the couple was considering featuring a painting of Mount Vernon. I mean, come on! A venue painting of one of the most historic, iconic, and beautiful buildings in the country?! I’m in! Their Mount Vernon alternative guestbook painting has quickly become one of my favorites to date!


photograph of bride and groom sharing first kiss under floral arch
Tyler and Ed’s first kiss. Image by Photography by Marirosa.

The Painting’s Special Meaning

I don’t always have the chance to meet my amazing couples. Though I’m Annapolis and Washington, DC based, I’ve shipped pieces all over the country! But, since Tyler and Ed were Virginia locals, we decided to meet up at Panera so that I could meet their shining faces in person! Perhaps I’m just speaking for myself, but we all definitely hit it off! There were lots of laughs, lots of sassy remarks, and a whole lot of fun.

I broke out my sketchbook to do a rough sketch of what a painting of Mount Vernon could look like if used as an alternative guestbook. Tyler started to get very specific about the building and how it would be portrayed, so of course my ears perked up. Turns out, the awesome bride WORKS at the estate! I mean, how cool is that? I loved how personal their wedding was already turning out to be! Well, it was all definitely cool, but also a bit terrifying. I knew this painting was going to be an amazing (and welcome) challenge for me, considering all of the details involved. I wanted it to meet Tyler’s expectations, after all!

image of alternative guestbook painting with signatures featuring mount vernon
George Washington’s Mount Vernon alternative guestbook painting. Image by Photography by Marirosa

Creating the Painting

We all decided a 24×36 canvas would be perfect for their Mount Vernon alternative guestbook painting. Tyler also requested that the painting be designed to accommodate around 150 guest signatures. However, she really didn’t want signatures all over the house. I couldn’t agree more!  We agreed that the focus of the painting would be on the mansion itself, along with it’s two immediate outhouses, and that guests would be welcome to sign the top of the painting (featuring the Potomac River and Maryland in the distance), as well as the front lawn.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I actually use a different kind of paint for areas where guests will sign! You see, most acrylic paints dry with a shiny sheen. That’s not the greatest for Sharpie markers or pens. And so, for areas on paintings where guests will sign, I use a craft paint that dries almost like chalk!


image of wedding guests signing an alternative guestbook painting featuring Mount Vernon
Guests sign the Mount Vernon alternative guestbook painting. Image by Photography by Marirosa.

An Unexpected Surprise

I didn’t know it at the time, but two of my favorite wedding photographers were actually hired to capture Tyler and Ed’s wedding! It made my entire day when Marirosa of Photography by Marirosa, and her second shooter for the day, Emily of Emily Alyssa Photography, shot me this fun photo of the two of them posing with the painting!

image of wedding photographers posing with mount vernon alternative guestbook painting
Photographer Marirosa of Photography by Marirosa and her second shooter for the day, Emily of Emily Alyssa Photography, pose with the Mount Vernon alternative guestbook painting

It was so much fun and such an honor to work with Karen and be a part of Tyler and Ed’s incredible day. It really warms my heart that I was able to create something for them that will serve as a keepsake memory of their big day. Not only that, but it now holds tons of sweet and thoughtful messages from the friends and family that celebrated along with them!

Learn More

Did you love this venue painting? Head on over to my Instagram here to check out some more!

Also, be sure to check out my past blog post “Three Unexpected Ways to Use a Venue Painting” for more great ideas on how you can incorporate this special work of art into your or your client’s design!

Head to Marirosa’s website here to see more pretty photos from Tyler and Ed’s wedding!

Brittany Branson is a Washington, DC and Annapolis live painter and wedding and floral artist

Three Unexpected Ways to Use a Wedding Venue Painting

acrylic guestbook painting featuring wedding venue Rust Manor House
acrylic guestbook wedding venue painting featuring Rust Manor House
Rust Manor House guestbook venue painting. As featured on Fab You Bliss, image by Vanessa Smith Photography

If you didn’t know this about me already: I love venue paintings! I really do. They’re very close to my heart. I truly believe there is something so special about the location you choose to commit your love to one another. Maybe it’s the positive energy surrounding the space? Maybe it’s something more spiritual and sacred? I’d like to think both! Either or, I believe the perfect way to bottle up that lovely energy and memories is through art…and what better way than a custom wedding venue painting!

I’ve definitely seen a lot of amazing stationery artists begin to incorporate venue paintings into the couple’s wedding invitations. My hubby and I sure did! We hired the lovely ladies of Appleberry Press to create two custom paintings for the inside and outside of our invitations. The first was a painting of Tim proposing to me under the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC. The second was a likeness of the two of us standing on the beach at our gorgeous Chesapeake Bay venue Silver Swan Bayside. Not only did we get to keep the original art, but the invitation themselves told our guests the story of our love journey in just one flip! How cool was that?

A venue painting can definitely serve more purposes than just being featured on the invitations! Here are three ways an amazing venue painting can be incorporated into your big day!

 Use the Venue Painting as a Guestbook

This is one of my absolute favorite ways to incorporate a venue painting into your big day! Not only will it beautify your reception space, but, since it’s a guestbook, it encourages guests to actually interact with the piece (as opposed to just admiring how beautiful it is). When I work with a couple to create a venue guestbook, I often use a vertical canvas. That way, I paint the venue/location towards the bottom, leaving the top or “sky” portion free for signatures. The piece will definitely start a buzz at your reception. But the best part? You can display the painting in your home and re-read your guests’ kind messages every day thereafter!

 Another secret of mine? Before I start painting the piece with more quality acrylic paints, I first coat the canvas in a white craft paint. It dries matte, and is a much better surface for Sharpies!

alternative wedding guestbook venue painting featuring George Washington's Mount Vernon
George Washington’s Mount Vernon alternative guestbook venue painting. Image by Photography by Marirosa

Hire an Artist to Live Paint Your Venue

It really warms my heart to see the popularity of hiring live painters sky rocketing! But here’s the thing…most live painters (unless asked otherwise) will concentrate on painting the reception! Me, personally? I LOVE live painting the venue/location! Not only does it serve as entertainment for your guests, but your piece will be a wonderful landscape painted plein-air! It will most definitely fit anywhere in your new home. Plus, I always like to paint a tiny likeness of the bride and groom somewhere on the painting just for fun!  

Display the Venue Painting as a Sign or Décor Piece

Why not welcome your guests to your ceremony or reception with a custom piece of art highlighting the lovely venue/location? Consider adding calligraphy text such as “Welcome” or “Celebrate With Us.” It instantly makes your guests feel more at home, as if the venue itself were welcoming them! Drape the painting with foliage and flowers from your amazing florist. An even more amazing idea? I love to coordinate with the florist beforehand to learn what types of flowers he/she will be incorporating into the décor. I then paint those flowers into the piece! Consistency is always pretty!

alternative wedding guestbook venue painting featuring likeness of historic Hotel Tabard Inn
Hotel Tabard Inn alternative wedding guestbook painting

I hope these ideas have inspired you! Are you interested in commissioning your own custom venue painting to beautify your big day and days thereafter? I would love to bring your vision to life and create a one of a kind keepsake piece!

Create Your Piece