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9 Useful Painting Techniques for Beginners – anyone can use these

There are so many ways to make a painting! If you’re new to painting, this is the perfect time to explore painting techniques for beginners. Exploring the options and becoming familiar with new techniques can help you grow as a painter and develop your own personal style. Exploring techniques also helps you to learn how to manipulate paint and get the results you want when you’re making a painting.

I also have another related post How to make a painting which I suggest you have a look at after reading this article.

Painting techniques for beginners

Why I Recommend Exploring Techniques With Acrylic

While there are many kinds of paint available in art stores, the three most common types of paint are oils, acrylic and watercolor. When you’re exploring different painting techniques, I recommend using acrylic paint for the following reasons:

  • It’s fast-drying. Acrylic paint dries within minutes. Once it’s dry, you can quickly paint over your old work and make adjustments. This is useful when learning techniques like scumbling, which involves painting colors on top of one another without blending. 
  • It’s water-based. Unlike oil paint, which is mixed with turpentine or linseed oil, acrylic mixes with water. You can thin it with water, or wash it off with water. This means you don’t need special ventilation or any special chemicals to get started with your painting.  
  • It’s thinner than oil, thicker than watercolor. Oil paints are thick and kind of goopy, while watercolor is thin and transparent. Acrylic occupies a middle ground between the two – it’s thick enough to be opaque, but not so thick that it’s a challenge to cover your canvas. This makes acrylic a really solid beginner-level paint. 
  • Easy entry into painting. Anyone who has engaged in arts and crafts at school is probably already familiar with acrylic paint and how it works. Familiarity makes it easier to use than oil paint. 
  • Flexibility. Acrylic is thick enough that it can be treated almost like oil paint, but it can also be watered down and treated almost like watercolor. It can also just be itself. You get to decide how you work with acrylic. 

Because I recommend acrylic for your first paintings, I’ll be talking about beginning painting techniques assuming that you’re using acrylic. You can use oil or watercolor for most of these techniques, but the process may vary. Don’t be afraid to experiment with other mediums just because I’m not doing that here. 

Painting Techniques for Beginners with Acrylic

Dry Brush Painting

Dry brush painting is exactly how it sounds. Dip a dry brush into a blob of paint, then apply it to a dry canvas. Before the paint dries, try applying different colors. The colors will mix somewhat on canvas, but elements of pure color will remain. To mix colors better, use a dry brush to blend. 

Wet Brush, Dry Canvas

Dip your paintbrush in water, then apply the wet paintbrush to the palette, mixing the water and paint together. When the water and paint are mixed and transparent, apply the wet brush on the dry canvas. The watery paint may run or soak into the canvas, depending on how watery the paint is. 

Wet Brush, Wet Canvas

This technique is most similar to watercolor. Dip a clean, dry brush in water and drag it across the canvas to wet it down. Next, dip a wet brush in paint and thin the paint with water. Finally, apply the wet, thinned paint to the wet canvas. Use a wet or dry brush to drag the paint around the canvas. If your canvas is upright, the paint may run down. 

Palette Knife

Use a palette knife to lift paint off the palette, then spread the paint on the canvas like it’s a butter knife spreading butter on a roll. You’ll find that the palette knife leaves some areas thick with paint, and in some areas, it scrapes the canvas to create a thin layer. This thick and thin application of paint creates texture on your palette. Some artists only use a palette knife and never paint with brushes at all. 

Sponge Painting, Wet or Dry

Dip a dry sponge in a blob of paint, then dab the sponge to the canvas. The first application of paint on the canvas will be thick, but the paint will thin with repeated applications. As the paint thins, you’ll see the texture of the sponge on the canvas. For a different look, try wetting the sponge before dabbing paint on the canvas. The paint will soften at the edges when applied to the canvas. 

Dry Brush Layering

This is a really common technique to use with acrylic paint because acrylic can dry in minutes. Apply a layer of paint to the canvas and allow it to dry, then apply a second coat of paint in a different color over the first coat.

Allow some of the first coat of paint to shine through in thin places. Water down the second coat of paint, if you like, or apply the second coat of paint with a palette knife. This is a great way to show texture and depth. 

Pointillism

Dip a thin, pointed paintbrush in paint, then dab the color onto the canvas in a series of dots. To switch colors, dip your paintbrush into a new color. Allow the dots from each color to mix. This will create a gradient on the canvas. To see a great example of pointillism, check out the work of Georges Seurat.  

Scumbling

Paint the canvas with a layer of paint and allow the paint to dry on the canvas. Next, apply a new color over the paint with a dry brush, allowing the brush marks and brush strokes to show the layer of color underneath. To see fantastic (and colorful!) examples of scumbling, see the work of Joseph Mallord William Turner

Impasto

Dip your paintbrush in paint, picking up quite a bit of paint with your paintbrush. Apply the paint to the canvas thickly, so that it mounds on the canvas, then apply paint of another color onto the canvas. You can also apply the paint with a palette knife. Allow the canvas to form peaks and valleys. Enjoy the texture. Wondering where you might have seen this type of painting style in the past? See the works of Vincent Van Gogh

Experiment with Different Painting Techniques

So, I’ve mentioned quite a few painting techniques above – there are others! Acrylic is easy to mix with some other mediums and can be applied to the canvas in so many different ways, I couldn’t mention them all here. 

Some suggestions:

  • Don’t be afraid to experiment.
  • Mix mediums, if you want! While it’s not recommended mixing acrylic and oil (they dry at very different rates), you can apply acrylic paint to a canvas that has been drawn or colored on with charcoal, pastels, pencil and other tools. 
  • When one technique feels good, explore it to the fullest extent possible. It could be your preferred technique.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix techniques. Most of the best artists use a range of techniques on one canvas to achieve the effects they want. Mix and match! It can be liberating and it also results in better paintings.  

Painting Techniques for Beginners – Supporting Video

I have found a great video that visualizes many of the points just discussed in Painting Techniques for Beginners.

Wrap Up

I hope you really enjoyed this post covering Painting Techniques for Beginners. Let me know if you have any further questions via the Contact Us or via Instagram and I will look at updating the post for you.

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