This step by step canvas painting tutorial guides beginners through the process of painting with acrylics, from selecting and preparing materials to finding inspiration and creating artwork.
The guide covers choosing the right canvas, paint, and brushes, setting up a workspace, and provides a list of easy painting ideas to help get started.
By following these steps, beginners can learn to mix colors, apply paint, and create impressive artwork on canvas, while building skills and confidence.
To start painting on canvas can be a daunting task, especially if you are a beginner.
You might feel overwhelmed with the variety of materials available, and the fear of not being able to create anything at all can be discouraging which can prevent you from actually starting.
But you have come to the right place where you will get the right guidance. Trust me when I say that anyone can learn how to paint on canvas with acrylic paint with my Step by step canvas painting tutorial.
This tutorial breaks down the painting process into easy to follow steps, making it accessible to anyone, even if you have never painted before.
By following the steps, you can learn how to mix colors, apply paint, and create artwork on canvas that will amaze your friends and family.
There are many step by step canvas painting tutorials available online from a YouTube channel to courses on Udemy or Skillshare that will have more detailed step instructions, covering a wide range of subjects, and different ways to use painting techniques.
These range from making landscapes, portraits, abstract art to still life but my simple step by step canvas painting guide covers the hardest step – getting started.
Whether you want to create a beautiful piece of art for your home or explore your creativity, step by step canvas painting tutorials can help you achieve your goals.
So, get your canvas, brushes, and acrylic paint, and let’s start painting.
Art Supplies Needed
Before starting your canvas painting, it is important to have all the necessary art supplies. You do not need the most expensive or the best products, even a cheap no name brand set is good enough to start. Here is a list of items you will need:
|11″ x 14″ or 12″ x 16″ sizes are recommended.
You can use a canvas board or a stretched canvas. I would even recommend using sheets of canvas paper.
|A variety of colors is suggested to allow for mixing and blending. I also suggest using acrylic paints to start learning instead of oil paints as oil paints need a little more skill and extra materials to start with. I also do not suggest watercolor painting as a first painting medium as it too requires some additional skills that may discourage you if you don’t get them right.
I also suggest buying a 6 color set as it will include primary colors that you can mix to make different colors and whites and blacks to make different shades of those colors.
|Various sizes and shapes, including flat, round, and angled brushes
|Plastic or glass palette for mixing paints
|Gesso or Acrylic Primer
|Gesso or Acrylic primer (undercoat) is a white paint used to prepare the blank canvas for painting. If you have purchases an already primed canvas or canvas board then you don’t need this.
|For cleaning brushes between colors
|Used for mixing paint and applying texture. Again this is optional. I use an old brush if I don’t have a palette knife around.
|Optional, but helpful for holding the canvas while painting. Look at my easel alternatives article or just use a wooden chair.
When selecting paint brushes, it is important to choose a variety of sizes and shapes to allow for different techniques and effects.
Flat brushes are ideal for large areas and straight lines, while round brushes are great for detailed work and blending.
Angled brushes are useful for creating sharp edges and filling in corners. You only need a couple of each to start with. You also do not need brushes aimed at professional artists, just purchase a cheap set to start.
Gesso is a crucial step in preparing the canvas for painting. It creates a smooth surface that allows the paint to adhere properly and prevents it from soaking into the canvas.
Apply a thin layer of gesso to the canvas and let it dry completely before beginning your painting.
Choosing the Right Canvas
The first step in canvas painting is choosing the right canvas. You’ll want to consider the size and shape of your canvas, as well as the texture of the canvas. A smooth canvas will be easier to paint on, while a textured canvas will give your painting more depth and dimension.
As I mentioned earlier, you can use cheap canvas boards or canvas paper sheets. These are great in that they are rigid and easy to work on and usually come pre-primed and are ready to paint on.
You can also purchase stretched cotton canvas or linen canvas, some can be purchased in bulk and you can save money on these. They are usually pre-stretched on a wooden frame and will last a long time.
Selecting the Best Acrylic Paint You Can Afford
Acrylic paint is a popular choice for canvas painting because it dries quickly and is easy to work with. When selecting your acrylic paint, consider the color palette you want to use and the quality of the paint. Higher quality paints will have better pigmentation and will last longer.
That said, while I always recommend brands such as Liquitex or Masters, I started painting using cheap acrylic paints from the dollar store.
Once you get addicted to painting then you will find that nice heavy bodied acrylic paints from the more well known brands will give you a better result.
You should also find something you can use as a paint palette. I use an old large tile or a plastic ice-cream container lid as a palette for when I work with acrylics.
These are easier to wash than a wooden palette designed for oil paints and you won’t need to use much water to do so.
Picking the Right Brushes
Choosing the right brushes is important for achieving the desired effect in your painting. Different brushes have different shapes and sizes, and are designed for different techniques. Invest in a variety of brushes so you can experiment with different strokes and effects.
You do not need to purchase the best brushes available to you, I ran a series of tests on 18 affordable no name brands on Amazon and found that they performed quite well for non professional artists. So save yourself some money and buy a set of these.
Setting Up Your Workspace
First things first. Before you start painting, it’s important to set up your workspace. Make sure you have a clean, well-lit area to work in. Lay down a drop cloth to protect your workspace from paint spills, and have all your materials within easy reach.
You have hopefully chose the right size canvas you want to work with and you can now prepare it with a layer of primer for better paint adhesion if you have used a raw canvas. Gather all your painting supplies, place them on a flat surface within easy reach, and create a comfortable workspace.
Find Inspiration for Your Painting
Finding Inspiration by finding easy canvas painting ideas from numerous sources like abstract painting, well known artworks such as Starry Night, or simple shapes. YouTube channels, social media, and bookshops are fantastic resources for discovering inspiration, full length video demonstrations, and painting tutorials tailored for beginners.
I also found lots of inspiration from book stores. They are a great place to find lots of books on art styles, artists and trends that you can use as inspiration.
As a beginner artist, your main aim is to find something that is easy to paint while giving you new ideas that will also stretch your skills and teach you new techniques.
Now as you may be a beginner artist making canvas art you might want some easy painting ideas that will make the perfect subjects to paint.
I have listed a few examples below under Canvas Painting Ideas that I believe any beginner artist can do and I will provide a simple example of an artwork as a reference image if you wish to copy it (by the way, copying is ok when you are learning. It’s how the old masters learned to paint).
Sketching Your Design
Before you start painting, it’s a good idea to sketch out your design on the canvas. Use a pencil to lightly sketch out the basic shapes and outlines of your painting. This will help you plan out your composition and make any necessary adjustments before you start painting.
Sketching Your Design Gently sketch your chosen design onto the canvas using a pencil. Remember, precision isn’t a must, as unique quirks and happy little accidents add personality to your artwork.
Keep your design simple
The key to learning to paint is to paint easy paintings at the start. You want to encourage the creative process so focus on painting easy things. Look up easy painting ideas or pick a single object that you know well as a starter.
Exploring Color Options Use your color wheel to select a variety of colors that complement one another. Experiment with different mediums, such as oil painting or acrylic painting, or combine them for a unique effect. Play with diverse shades, blends, and techniques to give depth to your design.
Painting the Background
Start by painting the background of your canvas. Add a thin wash as your first layer of paint. One trick I learned was to make this first layer a very thin one using a color such as brown. I apply the paint thinly and then grab some paper towels and wipe the canvas down and let it dry. You will notice that you can still see the design you penciled in earlier.
This will help establish the overall tone and mood of your painting and I find it easier to work off a stained canvas. Use a large brush to apply a base color, and then add in lighter and darker shades to create depth and dimension.
Adding the Details
Once you’ve established the background, it’s time to start adding in the details. Use smaller brushes to add in details like shadows, highlights, and texture. Take your time and work slowly, building up the details gradually.
Building Your Painting Begin by painting lighter colors, and then gradually progress to darker ones. Employ a smaller brush for intricate areas and a fan brush for smooth blending. Discover new easy methods, like diluting acrylic colors with water to create a watercolor-like effect, or using a palette knife to add texture and dimension.
As a final step before you finish your first painting, I suggest that after you’ve added all the details, step back and take a look at your painting. Make any necessary touch-ups or adjustments, and then let your painting dry completely. Once it’s dry, you can add a varnish or sealant to protect your painting and give it a professional finish.
Once your painting has dried, use black paint or titanium white to create depth with shadows and highlights. Layer your paint as necessary to accomplish your desired look, ensuring you maintain balance between applying too much or too little paint.
Share your new work of art
Share your new work of art and take pride in your creation and the end result. Share your artwork on social media, display it in your home, or gift it to a loved one. Celebrate your achievement and inspire others to embark on their artistic journey too.
Canvas Painting Ideas
If you’re looking for some inspiration for your next canvas painting project, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some acrylic painting ideas that will give you the start you need for creating beautiful works of art.
Simple Still Life
Painting a simple still life involves choosing everyday objects and arranging them to create a visually appealing composition.
For beginners, this is a great subject matter to practice capturing form, shadows, and highlights, while learning to mix and apply acrylic paints.
Abstract flowers provide a chance for beginner artists to explore color, shape, and texture without focusing on realistic details.
This subject allows for creative freedom and experimentation with acrylic paint techniques, helping to build confidence in the artistic process.
Palm trees offer a relatively simple subject matter for beginners to practice painting organic shapes, textures, and natural elements.
By painting palm trees, beginners can learn to create depth and dimension with shading and blending, while also exploring the use of acrylic paints in landscape art.
You don’t have to wait for Christmas to start learning or making Christmas themed art. Get in early and save the mad rush.
A Christmas tree provides an opportunity for beginner artists to practice painting a festive scene with various elements, such as lights, ornaments, and branches. Think of baubles, tinsel, wrapped gifts, a fireplace etc.
This subject matter helps develop skills in blending colors, creating texture, and adding fine details with acrylic paint.
Painting a tree trunk allows beginners to focus on capturing the texture, color, and form of natural elements.
This subject matter helps develop techniques for creating a sense of depth, working with different brush strokes, and blending acrylic paints to achieve realistic effects.
Mushroom Fairy Landscape
Paint a magical, enchanting world with a mushroom fairy. This project helps beginners learn color blending and adding fine details, while exploring the realm of fantasy and developing their creativity.
Morning Glory Landscape
Capture the beauty of a morning glory garden on canvas. This landscape teaches beginners how to create depth and dimension, enhancing their understanding of perspective and layering in acrylic painting.
Learn to paint a rustic wagon wheel. Perfect for adding a vintage touch to your home. This project teaches beginners how to create a weathered wood effect and intricate details, developing their skills in texture and fine brushwork.
You can paint a wheel on its own or pair up with a landscape or as part of a still life composition.
Paint a charming spring donkey and learn to create a fluffy texture and fun details. This subject matter encourages beginners to experiment with textures and explore their creativity in depicting animals. Fur looks easy until you try to paint fur hair by hair (which is not what you are supposed to do!)
Bring a vibrant floral arrangement to life with a spring bouquet. This project teaches beginners how to blend colors seamlessly and add depth, resulting in a visually dynamic painting.
Walk in the Rain
Create an atmospheric masterpiece with a walk in the rain. Beginners will learn how to blend colors effectively and add reflections in water, capturing the essence of a realistic rainy day scene.
Tulips Cherry Blossom Butterflies
Paint a delightful floral scene featuring tulips, cherry blossoms, and butterflies. This helps beginners learn color blending techniques and adding details to create a dynamic composition.
Add a touch of whimsy to your art with a dandelion wishes. This project teaches beginners how to create fluffy textures and intricate details, encouraging experimentation and imagination.
Tulips in Rain Boots
Paint a charming spring scene with tulips in rain boots. This teaches beginners color blending and texture techniques, resulting in a dynamic, visually appealing painting.
Brighten your art collection with a rainbow painting. Beginners will learn to blend colors smoothly and add highlights, creating a vibrant and eye-catching piece.
Cherry Blossom Bridge
Craft a tranquil scene by painting a cherry blossom bridge. This helps beginners learn depth and dimension, mastering layering techniques with acrylic paints.
Inject a touch of whimsy into your art by painting a dragonfly. Beginners will learn color blending and detail techniques, resulting in a dynamic and visually appealing piece.
You can either paint a full dragonfly or one up close with blurred background.
Cute Ladybug or Bees
Paint a cute ladybug or bees for a playful, charming scene. This teaches beginners to add texture and details, encouraging creativity and experimentation with different styles.
Spring Birch Trees
Create a peaceful spring birch tree scene. Beginners will learn to develop depth and dimension using layering techniques, enhancing their understanding of perspective in painting.
Paint a rustic garden fence for a charming touch to your home decor. This teaches beginners how to create a weathered wood effect and intricate details, honing their skills in texture and fine brushwork.
Joseph Colella (Joe Colella) is an Editor and Writer at WastedTalentInc. As a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech).
While Joseph holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent fashion he spent years applying for various Art degrees; from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), to failing to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney.
While he jokes about his failures at gaining formal art qualifications, as a self-taught artist he has had a fruitful career in business, technology and the arts making Art his full time source of income from the age of 18 until 25.
His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. Joseph’s art has been sold to private collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia.
He is a trusted source for reliable art advice and tutorials to copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.