The Basics of Painting


Painting is an artistic expression that can be done on any number of surfaces including paper, canvas or wood. It is an ancient form of art and has been around for many thousands of years. It can be representational, abstract or even entirely figurative. The basic elements of painting are shape, line, color, tone and texture. Artists use these in unique ways to produce their works of art.

Paint is more than just a color on a wall; it is a material that applies as a liquid and dries by a variety of chemical processes to a solid. It is made of pigment (granular solids) incorporated into a binder that is used to hold it together and control its gloss. This binder may be made from any of a number of materials such as natural or synthetic resins, clays, starch, gums, oils and waxes.

The primary function of the pigment is to provide the desired color, hiding and control gloss. It is typically divided into two groups called ‘prime pigments’ and ‘extender pigments’. The former includes whites, yellows and reds and are usually based on titanium dioxide, mica, iron oxides, calcium carbonate and other crystalline substances. The latter are primarily used to help the prime pigments dissolve into the solvent, a liquid that is added to the paint and used to dilute it into the proper viscosity for application to the surface being painted.

Once the pigments have been dissolved into a solution they are mixed with a solvent, often water or an oil such as turpentine, mineral spirits or linseed oil, to create a paint film that can be applied to the surface. The solvent also helps to disperse the pigment and allows it to adhere to the surface being painted.

A good paint will also contain diluents to adjust the consistency for easy application and to make it easier to clean brushes. This will vary from medium to medium but most acrylics are based on emulsion resins that use water as the diluent and oil-based paints usually require an oil solvent such as turpentine or mineral spirits.

When applying the paint to the surface, a light sketch is often helpful for staying in the lines and controlling the flow of the paint. It is also a great way to test out the colors and to see what they look like on the actual surface.

When the paint is applied to the surface, it needs to be worked quickly to avoid smudging or making a mess. A good tip is to wear old clothing or an apron and to work in a well ventilated area. Also, a dust sheet is a great idea for preventing drips from getting onto areas you don’t want them to. Paper towels and cloth rags are also helpful to have for cleaning the brush between strokes. A roller is also a good tool for large surfaces or high ceilings as it reduces the amount of labor needed and makes it much easier to get up close to details.