The Basics of Painting

Painting is the act of applying pigments on a support, usually to create an image or representation of an object or scene. It is one of the oldest and most widely known forms of art, having been used since prehistoric cave paintings. Artists use a wide variety of shapes, colors, lines, tones and textures to convey ideas and create unique artistic styles.

Before you begin painting, it’s a good idea to think about what you want to paint and why. You may just be trying to master the skills of painting, or you may have a specific purpose in mind like “I want to paint a portrait.” Painting is also an excellent way to explore your emotions and express yourself, which is something that many people find very therapeutic.

It’s also important to choose a medium that you will be using for the majority of your work. Each medium has different characteristics, including dry time and opacity. Quick-drying mediums allow for fast layering, while slow-drying media can be better for blending colors or working wet-into-wet. The opacity of a medium can also have a significant effect on the finished appearance of a painting. Translucent mediums allow underlying layers to show through, while opaque mediums can help build depth and structure and cover or obscure older layers.

Oil painting is a versatile medium that can be used to create a wide range of effects. Its long-lasting quality and the ability to blend well with other materials have made it a popular choice for artists, from the 16th century onward. The drying time can be a drawback, however, and it requires special brushes, mineral spirits (which are needed to clean the brushes) and a large ventilated space to work in. Oils also tend to turn yellow over time, and they can crack if not properly stored or varnished.

Watercolors are another common and versatile medium. They can be applied in thin washes to create translucent layers or in thick, textural blobs to create an impasto effect. The drying time is relatively fast, which allows for quick layering, and they can be easily cleaned with water. It’s a great medium for beginners and is ideal for creating colorful abstract images.

Other painting techniques include pastels, gouache and acrylics. Pastel painting uses chalky, dry-mounted pigments to produce a wide range of colors. It can be difficult to control, however, and it’s not recommended for children. Gouache and acrylics are water-based paints that can be applied in transparent washes or thick, textural blobs. The drying time is faster than oil, but they can be sloppy to use.

Encaustic painting, also called hot wax painting, involves melting beeswax and adding colored pigments to it. The mixture is then applied to a surface, usually prepared wood, though canvas and other materials are sometimes used. Metal tools can be used to manipulate the paint before it cools, and heated tools are often available to shape the wax after it has cooled.