Acrylics · Beginner Art · Oils · Painting · Painting Techniques · Watercolours

How can I Learn Painting Techniques?

This was a question I have been asked a few times, especially when a learner wants to be able to paint something specific like hair for example.  Learners can get very hung up about techniques and how to learn them.  Techniques need to be thought of as ways to apply or remove paint to create a visual effect, that is all they really are. Some techniques are extremely simple although at first glance you may not be able to tell how the painter achieved the effect.  Some techniques are more complex and require more of a knowledge of materials.

Learning painting techniques is knowing how the paint will behave and for this you have to get to know the materials.  Like learning anything the best way to add painting techniques to your repertoire is to learn a few at a time.

Learning to layer paint was an important step in painting for me

Many learners want to learn every technique straight away rather than working on a few and developing them.  There are lots of techniques but the likelihood is that you won’t use most of them. I advise my learners to start with a few simple techniques with sketchpad experiments.

Watercolour washes and bleeds

The way I teach my learners and students about techniques is to experiment with paint. To the left we see some watercolour experiments and below we see some acrylic experiments.  The learner is getting to know the mediums and how it behaves, this is a great foundation for learning how to use techniques.

Experiments with acrylic paint
Experiments with acrylic paint – page one

After some initial experimenting many learners start to see ways that they use the paint, thinly,  thickly, with different brush strokes,  layering, blending and so on.

Experimenting with acrylic paint
Experimenting with acrylic paint

After initial experiments learners then start to see ways that they can incorporate these techniques into their artwork.

Experimenting with brush strokes
Experimenting with brush strokes

Another useful exercise for beginners is to experiment with brush strokes. Some techniques are around the use of the brush as well as use of the medium, so you have to know what each type of brush can do.  I find beginners sometimes ask me ‘how do I do hair?’ and they only have one type of brush.  You need at least five brushes to be able to achieve techniques of painting, don’t expect to be able to master them with just one brush.  See my post The 4 Most Useful Brushes if you are starting out and not sure what brushes to get.

I will be writing some more detailed posts about specific techniques for you to try. The first step though to techniques is to get to know the medium and your tools. Use your sketchpad to experiment and enjoy it, this is a great way to find out and gain confidence about painting.

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