How to fix mistakes on an acrylic painting

When you start painting you will inevitably make some mistakes. The dimensions will be wrong, the colours won’t look as you imagined them, you’ll splash paint accidentally etc. My first reaction was panic. And when you panic, you either start painting over like a maniac, making everything look even worse, or you quit.

In this post, I explain how I saved this painting, and instead of sitting incomplete in my bedroom it will be displayed at a small exhibition soon.

Victorian man by the river, January 2018
Editing phase 1
Victorian man by the river, 13 October 2018
Editing phase 2
Victorian man by the river, 19 October 2018
Editing phase 3

The first round of corrections was when my boyfriend noticed that one side of the man’s hat is bigger than the other. After research, I used what seemed like an unconventional method to me: alcohol. I bought a bottle of Surgical Spirit from Boots and used it with cotton buds to clean the area. This actually worked very well with cleaning the portrait area too, because the charcoal was smudged at places. The only problem was that when I painted over it afterwards, the paint looked glossy instead of mat.

At the same time, the waves, that I had spent HOURS painting, looked all over the place. If anything, the waves at the top looked closer to the effect I wanted, and they only took a few minutes to make. The rest of the waves were painted meticulously using impasto technique very heavily.


Fixing the glossy areas and the impasto waves seemed impossible. It took me about eight months to get back to it and try to fix these mistakes.

The one technique in painting that I didn’t know anything about when I started and is absolutely basic is layering. Layering is also what will help save your painting from ruin.

Here is how I managed to save my painting:

  • To start with, I used some sand paper to get rid of some thickly painted areas.
  • Then, I repainted a large part of the dark blue background, painting over areas where the waves and stars were. You need at least two layers to cover everything.
  • I repainted the edges of the stars when needed.
  • I tried to copy the technique from the top two waves for the rest. Instead of using really heavy layers, I used a thin brush and painted with fast strokes and really thin layers, blending colours.
  • I then realised that one of the repainted waves looked too big. Again, I tried the same technique to fix it. I covered the area that I needed to erase with layers of dark blue (same as the background). Again, I had to re-paint the star under the wave, and then added a few more layers where the wave and the background meet, to blend the blue tones of the wave.






Another tip I found online is to cover the area that needs fixing with a couple of titanium white layers.

Fixing areas that went wrong was way easier than I thought, so if you messed up your painting do not give up! As an afterthought I would say that if you paint impasto maybe start with a thin layer to make sure you’re happy with the general look, and then build up.

Do you have any tips? Let me know!

PS. Sorry for filming this from the left side, my hand is hiding everything! I will know for next time 🙈

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s