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Fundamental painting techniques to get you to create your own masterpiece.
Painting techniques: a sketch
That means storing some knowledge of tone, color, texture, brushwork, and composition, as all this will help you to create your own masterpieces with confidence.
This article sets out seven essential painting techniques that will have you painting like a pro in no time. It’s also worth checking out the best how to draw tutorials, to make sure you’ve got the basics covered there. And if you want to learn more about art terminology, then see our piece on common art terms.
Painting techniques: foundation work
I never work from white when using oils or acrylics. Create an underpainting in burnt umber or a mix of burnt sienna and phthalo blues to establish shadows and values. Acrylics are probably the best medium to use at this stage as they’re quick-drying and permanent.
Work paint up from thin to thick, especially when using slow-drying paints. It’s impossible to work on top of heavy, wet paint. In the same way, work up to highlights, adding the brightest (and usually heavier) paint at the end. Have a roll of kitchen towel to hand to clean brushes and remove any excess paint.
Painting techniques: Brush types
Brushes come in flat and round types and it pays to have a selection of both. Check out our guide to picking the right brush to learn more.
I work with a range of brushes. For most of the early work, I use a larger, flatter, and broader brushes.
A filbert is a good general brush for blocking in form and paint. It has a dual nature, combining aspects of flat and round brushes so it can cover detail as well as larger areas. I tend to use smaller brushes only at the end of the painting process.
Building up texture
Painting techniques: Texture
Have a dry, flat brush that you can use to blend your paint and create smooth transitions. I tend to like lots of texture and like to see brush marks in my own work.
Almost anything can be used to add texture to your paint. There are ready-made texture media available, but I have seen items such as eggshell and sand used to add interest to a painting.
One tip is to use an old toothbrush to spatter your image with paint. This can be remarkably effective at suggesting noise and grain.
This method tends to work best when applying light paint over dark areas/dried paint and is useful for depicting rock and grass textures.
Painting techniques: Less is more
You can use almost any pointed object for this – try rubber shaping tools or the end of a brush.
Painting with mediums
Painting techniques: painting mediums
In the case of acrylics, you get different mediums that make the paint matte or gloss. However, I tend to use the matte medium mainly to seal my paper or board, so the paint doesn’t soak into it.