A Beginner’s Guide to Painting


Painting is a form of art that uses a brush or other tool to apply pigment to a surface. It is one of the most popular forms of visual expression, ranging from photorealistic depictions of landscapes and objects to abstract imaginings of concepts and feelings. Artists use the elements of shape, color, line, tones, and textures to produce paintings that convey sensations of movement, volume, space, and light.

Paintings can be created on a wide variety of surfaces, including paper, canvas, wood, plastic, and glass. The choice of a medium will affect the final result; for example, oils provide superior durability but can be difficult to work with for beginners. Paints can be water-mixable or oil-based, and come in a range of sheens and tints. In addition to choosing a paint, a beginner must decide on the subject of the painting and how much detail they want to include. Some artists prefer to sketch their ideas on a piece of paper before starting to paint; this step will help them establish the composition and layout of the work.

As a novice, it’s easy to be your own worst critic and fixate on mistakes in your work. While it’s important to identify areas for improvement, a beginner must also learn to celebrate successes. A single confident brushstroke or beautiful color interaction may be all it takes to boost your mood and give you the confidence to continue teaching yourself how to paint.

Before you start painting, make sure the surface you’re working on is clean. Wash walls and woodwork with a mild soap like dish detergent or TSP to remove any dirt or grease that might interfere with paint adhesion. Using a damp cloth, then rinsing the area with water, is an alternative to a thorough scrub. If you’re painting in your home, lay down a drop sheet or cover furnishings with painters tape to protect them from the paint.

Once you’ve decided on your medium, begin by limiting your palette to primary colors. A tube of red, yellow, and blue along with a tube of white will allow you to create all the other colors you need. Mixing shades of the basic hues will also teach you how to control the color intensity. Creating a purple that’s slightly more blue than red, for instance, will demonstrate how the proportion of pigments influences the color’s intensity.

Begin with a light touch when applying the paint, and avoid scribbling or squeezing too much out of the brush. This will cause the surface to absorb too much paint and result in a heavy, unnatural texture. The first few layers should be thin and applied evenly; as you develop your skills, you can layer more paint on for a thicker finish.

It’s also a good idea to keep the paint relatively warm. Cold temperatures cause the paint to dry more slowly, which can lead to cracking and flaking. It’s also easier to blend warm pigments together than cool ones.