Beginner’s Guide to Painting

Painting is a means of conveying ideas through the use of colors, lines and shapes. The medium of painting has been used for centuries and has taken many forms depending on the culture in which it was developed. The most popular form of painting today is oil, but watercolors and soft pastels are also used.

When first learning to paint it is helpful to begin by establishing the composition of your subject. This will help you figure out where to place your luscious colors. This is normally done by sketching or “drawing” a basic plan for where you want to place the shapes on your canvas. Depending on the complexity of your subject this drawing may not be detailed.

The next step is to start laying down some color. When you apply the paint try to vary the amount of pressure and the kinds of strokes you make to create different textures. For example short little strokes can look like fur, and longer smoother ones can flatten out the paint. Varying the brush size can also create different effects. By using less paint you can create a more transparent look, while adding more will thicken it and give it density. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake or “screw up” a part of the painting. In fact embracing happy accidents and using them to your advantage can add a lot to a painting.

If you are starting from a photo try to take the time to get the proportions, framing and colors in the picture just right. It’s also important to note the lighting on your subject and how it will fall upon the canvas. You can then use these factors to guide your painting process as you work with the actual subject.

Getting the edges of your paintings right is another critical element in the finished product. Having hard, soft or lost edges will determine how the viewer interacts with your painting and helps them to find their way around the composition.

Many beginner painters start with a photograph as a reference source. This allows them to work more quickly and confidently and can also provide a more familiar starting point for their painting. However, this can be challenging to master as the details and lighting of a photograph can be very difficult to reproduce on canvas.

When working from a photo it is helpful to draw or sketch the image to establish the composition before beginning to paint. This can be a quick and simple line drawing or a more complicated tonal underpainting. Using a grid or a projector to trace the outlines of your image can also be very helpful in helping to define the outlines on your canvas.

It is also a good idea to learn about the works of great painters and the techniques they used. Studying the masters can help you gain a deeper appreciation for their paintings and will allow you to see how the fundamental aspects of painting come together to create them. Novice painters tend to be their own worst critics, focusing on the many faults in their work, but by learning to celebrate even the small successes of their paintings they will be more motivated to continue teaching themselves the craft.