A Beginner's Guide to Learning How to Paint

Essential Supplies and Helpful Tips

If you want to learn how to paint, have recently begun painting, or wish to refresh your knowledge on some essential technique, this is the place to start. We'll walk you through selecting paints, brushes, and other supplies, and review a few basic techniques you'll want to know to paint your first pictures.

  • 01 of 06

    Deciding Which Paint to Use

    Senior adults in painting class
    Ed Honowitz/Getty Images

    The first step is to decide what paint you're going to use. The four main choices are oils, acrylics, watercolors, and pastels.

    It's a very personal choice, and if you don't get on with one type of paint, be sure to try another. Each has its own advantages and some artists prefer one or two over the others. With some experimentation, you're sure to find a paint you enjoy working with.

  • 02 of 06

    Essential Art Supplies

    Keep in mind that it's often best to buy the best quality paint you can afford that still allows you to feel like you can play and experiment with it. You need to be able to paint over or scrape off something that's not working, rather than desperately trying to keep it and save a little money.

    Beyond the paint, you will need a few other supplies. Each type of paint requires different items and some things are universal.

    For instance, oil painting requires mediums and solvents that aren't needed when working with acrylics. Likewise, watercolors are best on watercolor paper and for pastels, you'll need a special paper, a pastel card, and a fixative to protect your work.

    Other than those few particular needs, many painting supplies used for acrylics can be used for other paints. These include easels, palettes, aprons, knives, and canvas, board, or paper.

  • 03 of 06

    Proper Use of Paint Brushes

    Paint brushes come in all shapes and sizes, with different types of hairs from soft to stiff. They're an essential and important tool, so selecting them should be done with care.

    You will not only use brushes to get paint onto the canvas or paper but also make expressive marks in the paint. To that end, it's key to choose wisely and treat you brushes with extra care. That means you need to know how to clean them properly according to the paint you're working with.

    Brushes are not your only tool, though. You can also use a painting knife, which is different than your palette knife. These can be used to add texture to your work and come in almost as many shapes and sizes as brushes.

  • 04 of 06

    Painting Techniques for Beginners

    ​​There are fundamental painting techniques that apply regardless of what type of paint you're using. First off, painting is all about color and you can't paint without a basic understanding of color theory. It will be the foundation for every brush stroke you make. ​

    Once you have that, dive deeper and learn why tones and values are just as important as color and how to blend paint colors together. You can also pick up a few tips for drawing your initial sketch and look into techniques like glazing and scumbling.

    Each of these bits of knowledge will build on your basic painting skills and help considerably with your first paintings.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Your First Painting

    Once you have your paints and brushes, you're ready to start painting. Paintings don't magically appear, they require forethought and planning. From the size of the canvas to the subject and color palette, there are a number of things you need to decide first.

    Artists take different approaches to their paintings. Some prefer to work on the background first while others like to block-in the basic shapes. Experiment with these techniques and you're sure to find one that works best for you.

    No matter what approach you take, there are seven essential steps to every successful painting. You can use these as motivation to finish a painting rather than abandon the canvas in frustration.

  • 06 of 06

    Discover More Painting Tips

    Artists of every level can use a few painting tips. Some will save you time and some will save you paint. All will save you learning the hard way.

    The more you paint, the more issues you will come across. Many seem mundane, but when the cap gets stuck on your paint tube you'll be happy to have a few tricks up your sleeve.

    Other tips will help you grow as a painter. For example, many beginners paint with very tight strokes, which inhibits creativity and flow. To overcome this, there are a few things you can do to train yourself to loosen up.

    Though it may seem overwhelming at first, all of these tips are meant to help you overcome some of the common hurdles in this art. After all, people have been painting for centuries, so it's likely there is not a problem you have that someone else hasn't already figured out.

If you need more resources to help you learn how to paint you can check out these helpful books.