Beginner’s Guide to Painting


Painting is a form of art that involves the application of pigment to a canvas or other surface. It has been an activity that has captivated people from all cultures for thousands of years and continues to be popular among artists of all ages and professions. For those new to the craft, however, it can be difficult to know where to start. Many people shy away from trying their hand at it, fearing that they will not be able to create something beautiful or that the material itself will be too complicated to grasp. It’s important for novices to understand that their first paintings will not be perfect, but it is equally important to celebrate any successes they have. By focusing on positive aspects of their work, they can keep their motivation high and continue to improve.

The first thing that a painter will need is a basic color palette. While it is tempting to begin with all of the different colors that are available, a new painter should stick to a core set for the time being. Using primary paint tubes (red, yellow, blue) will allow the painter to learn how to mix all of the other colors needed for the painting. By mixing the colors instead of applying them directly from the tube, the painter will be able to control the intensity of each hue.

After the basic color palette is acquired, a beginner will need to choose a surface to work on. Canvas is the most common choice, but some artists also work with wood panels and paper. Oil canvases must be primed with a linseed oil based primer in order to provide the best surface for oil paints. Absorbent canvases are typically used for tempera paintings. For those who want to try their hand at murals or other large scale works, there are also gesso-based primers that can be applied in large sections.

Another tool that is often overlooked by novices is a variety of brushes. It is a good idea to purchase a small selection of brushes in various shapes and sizes, and then focus on learning how each one works. For example, the angled brush can be used to “cut in” around corners and other small areas that will require precise work. The roller can be used to cover a large area quickly with thick, textural blobs of paint (called impasto).

A final piece of advice for beginners is to watch videos or read how-to books about painting techniques. Taking the time to study how established painters work can help the beginner develop his or her own style without feeling overwhelmed by all of the different possibilities. Often, these demonstrations will illustrate the basics of starting and developing a painting, such as creating a tonal underpainting or working from flat patches of color.