Beginner Art · Painting

4 Things to Know Before You Start Painting

I meet lots of learner who can’t wait to get started with painting which is fantastic. Often they embark on elaborate artworks for the first time and then find themselves disappointed with the results. Why? Often because they have not grasped a few basics first.  I will share some things you should learn before you embark on painting:

Understand the Media

Take some time in the art shop or online to look at different materials and the type of paper, brushes etc. that works best with the paint.  There are many different types of paint out there; oils, water-based oils, acrylics, gouache, watercolour and so on. I  have met many a learner who has wondered why the paper has buckled with watercolour paint or they can’t mix oil paint with water.  This very disappointing if you have spent lots of money on materials and realise they aren’t quite right for the job.  Lots of information on this site can be found about using materials on my page – Art Materials.

Take time out to get to know the media before you start painting

Understand Colour

Before you embark on painting it is worth getting to know the basics of colour mixing.  All colours (well almost) can be mixed from the primary colours (red, blue and yellow).  If you can learn some basic colour mixing it is really going to help you when it comes to painting.  Go back to basics and look at the colour wheel, learn how to mix the secondary colours first such as green, purple, orange before moving onto tertiary colours.  For more on the topic of colour see my post How can I learn about Colour?

Don’t just mix a green, purple and orange and think, I’ve done it.  Challenge yourself by making several different variations of purples or oranges by varying the quantities of each primary colour.  You should be able to create a host of different purples, greens and oranges.  It is this fine tuning with colour that will be very useful for painting.  Try mixing different combinations of colours that you wouldn’t expect to mix and see what colours they make, you maybe surprised.

Learning about colour is important for good painting

Learn Some Art Vocabulary

This is particularly important if you are teaching yourself from art books or online websites.  There are words such as ‘value’ ‘tone’ ‘tint’ ‘hue’ ‘shades’ and many more used frequently in association with painting.  It can be very difficult to understand these art resources if you are not versed in the vocabulary that is being used.  See my Glossary page for some useful art words.

Learning some art terms can make understanding painting easier

Learn How to Layer Paints 

When many beginner painters start they don’t understand that you can layer paint and they tend to block in colours, working in sections.  Although there maybe a good reason to work this way in some cases it can make paintings look dull and flat.  Experiment with layers, they tend to make colours look richer and give depth to paintings.  Acrylic and oil paint can be layered as it is used thickly rather than watercolour which is translucent.  Experiment with building up thin layers, wait for it to dry (in the case of acrylic and watercolour) and then layer another layer of paint.  Getting to know paint means being able to use it in different ways, thickly and thinly.  Try experimenting with thinner and thicker mixes of the paint.

What do you think you need to know before you start painting?  Add your ideas below.

5 thoughts on “4 Things to Know Before You Start Painting

  1. Very good post, Rebecca! Another thing I notice is that so many beginners want to draw and paint and frame what they do right away. Do you know why that is so when there is really a lot to learn and practice in drawing and painting, using the tools and materials as you’ve said, for example. I feel I have too much to learn to hurry and exhibit or sell my work. Thank you for your valuable art site!

    1. Thank you Elizabeth, so pleased you find it useful! I agree most of use make progress slow and steady and this can be best to develop a good foundation in the skills and materials.

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