The Basics of Painting

Painting is the act of creating pictures by applying pigments to a surface. It is one of the oldest considered art forms and has evolved through centuries, but its core remains unchanged. It can be used to create a sense of place, express an idea or emotion, or simply beautify. Artists use a wide range of tools and techniques to create paintings that are unique and personal. The process of painting varies from artist to artist and develops over time. Some artists sketch their composition before starting and then layer their colors while others work alla prima, completing the entire picture in one session. Ultimately, you should choose an approach that works for you.

Paints are made from pigments mixed with a medium, such as linseed oil, safflower, or poppy oil and thinned with solvents like turpentine. Some paintings are created on gessoed canvas, while others are painted on paper. The most common modern painting media are acrylics and oils, but there are also watercolors, gouache, and water-mixable oils. Watercolor is favored by many beginners because of its simple materials and soft look, while oils are loved for their ability to create rich color and depth.

Before you start painting, you should decide on a subject and set up your workspace. For the beginner, it is helpful to draw a plan or a thumbnail sketch of what you want to paint, as this will help guide your brushstrokes and will prevent you from straying too far from your goal. You should also consider the size of the painting you want to create, as this will determine how much detail and precision you will need to achieve.

To begin, it is helpful to have a good understanding of color theory and basic painting techniques. The best way to learn these is through watching master painters at work. Observe how they hold their brushes, the strokes they make, and how they mix their colors. Try to emulate these techniques in your own work.

As you practice, your skill and technique will improve. Try to avoid focusing on developing a specific style, as this will come naturally over time with experience. Rather, focus on the fundamentals of painting such as composition, edges, and brushwork.

In order to paint successfully, it is important to understand the concept of values. Values are the lightness or darkness of a color, from white to black. Often, when a painting looks “off,” it is because it lacks enough value. The trick is to get the right amount of variation in your colors so they look realistic.

As you continue to paint, don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles and subjects. It is always beneficial to challenge yourself and try new things, as this will allow you to grow as an artist.