Painting Techniques to Get You Started

painting techniques for beginners

Tim Arterbury / Unsplash

If you're just learning how to paint, there are several different painting techniques that you can work on in your spare time. These techniques will help add depth and interest to your paintings and make your artwork look more advanced.

These painting techniques work with a variety of mediums and cover a wide range of styles. If you want to learn how to paint like an artist, practice at least one of these methods until you feel confident.

  • 01 of 10

    Practice Differing Opacities Using Water

    opacity painting technique

    The Postmans Knock

    When you first start painting with watercolors, it can be hard to get the right color and consistency you desire. Artists will use differing degrees of water to make watercolors either lighter or darker. Get a palette and practice with one color first. Put three equal dabs of paint on the palette. On the first dab, add one dab of water and blend together. On the second dab, add double the water, and so on. With a clean brush, make strokes from each mixture and notice how the tone changes.

  • 02 of 10

    Use a Sponge to Dab Paint

    dabbing and sponging painting

    Damask Love

    It's a common misconception that a paintbrush is the best tool to create a painting. One popular painting technique for acrylic paint is known as dabbing or stippling. To do this, you simply need to dab or press your painting tool into the canvas to create circular shapes. In this case, you can use a sponge tool to dab different colored acrylics into one another. For more details on how to create a galaxy using this technique, visit Damask Love.

  • 03 of 10

    Layer in Variations of the Same Color

    layering painting technique

    Vladimir Vladimirov / Getty Images

    Layering is one of the most fundamental painting techniques for beginners to learn. The basic premise is simple. To layer paint, you paint one layer on top of another dry layer by working from the bottom up. The bottom layer is going to be your largest section. This section is generally painted in a solid wash of color. The upper layers are smaller and work to add depth, detail, and shadow to the painting.

    This flower started as a wash of red and has since had both lighter and darker variations of red added on top to create the petal shape. Try out this painting technique with any type of paint.

  • 04 of 10

    Splatter Paint with a Toothbrush

    splatter paint technique

    A Piece of Rainbow

    Splattering paint is a fun technique that can get a little messy if you're not careful. Find an old, clean toothbrush and dip it in some slightly watered down paint. Splattering works well with watercolors but thinned out acrylic paint will work, too. Take your thumb and press down on the ends of the bristles and then release your grip. Make sure you have plenty of newsprint down protecting your work area in case there is overspray. Use this painting technique to add detail to trees or create stars in a galaxy.

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  • 05 of 10

    Mix Up New Colors on a Mixing Chart

    mixing chart painting technique

    The Artisan Life

    Many people create mixing charts with watercolors, but this is a common technique for any type of paint. When you first buy a set of paints, you are given a set number of colors and have no clue what they look like on paper. A mixing chart lets you see these base colors dried down then lets you experiment with creating new colors with your current palette. It's better to get this mixing done my making a chart than play a guessing game when you want to sit down to paint a piece of art.

  • 06 of 10

    Learn How to Paint Two Paintings at Once

    clean brush painting technique

    Persia Lou

    This painting technique is a clever way to make two paintings at once and practice your brush strokes. The first painting can be anything you want, whether it's realistic or abstract. The second painting uses what is known as the clean brush technique. To do this, paint a painting as you usually would. Every time you need to clean off your brush to switch to a different color or brush, take the excess paint and rub it off on a blank canvas. Practice different types of brush strokes with this excess paint without concern for the end result. For more details and tips, check out this tutorial from Persia Lou.

  • 07 of 10

    Create a Glaze Using Watercolors

    glazing water color wash

    Elise Engh Studios

    There are several different washes you can create using watercolors. The variations involve different amounts of water and time. For this glaze, you paint an even stroke and let it dry completely. Slightly below that, you'll paint that same color again over the dry paint. Use this wash technique if you want the edges to be more defined and sharp. If you want to speed up the process, you can use a hairdryer to dry the paint in-between each layer. To learn several other watercolor wash methods, head on over to Elise Engh Studios.

  • 08 of 10

    Mask Off Geometric Sections

    masking painting technique

    Delineate Your Dwelling

    One popular painting technique is known as masking. This is where you take artist tape and section off your canvas or paper. In this example, the tape is used to create a geometric diamond shape. Each shape is painted in a slightly different way. This method is commonly used with watercolors that are known to bleed, but it would also work with other types of paint, too.

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  • 09 of 10

    Use a Palette Knife to Add Texture

    painting technique with palette knife

    Sergey Ryumin / Getty Images

    Adding texture to a painting is a simple way to make your piece look more advanced and thought out. To do this, place a small amount of paint on a palette knife and rub it onto the canvas like you were frosting a cake. The harder you press, the smoother the paint will look.

    This technique is versatile for abstract paintings but can also be used for details on more realistic paintings. Add small bursts of color and texture in elements like clouds or water. This painting technique works best with acrylic or oil paints.

    Palette Knife Techniques

    • Use the edge of the palette knife to create sharp, defined edges.
    • Place down one color. Before the paint dries, go over the top with another color. The paint won't blend like it does with a brush but will instead create a unique multi-colored effect.
    • Take a clean palette knife and use it to scrape away paint to show layers underneath.
  • 10 of 10

    Paint a Piece of Art With Negative Space

    negative space painting technique

    Kiley in Kentucky

    When you create a negative space painting, your main element of the painting is not painted at all. In this case, the lettering of the artwork is going to be left unpainted. This tutorial will show you how to master using masking fluid to section off the letters so that paint won't seep underneath or bleed into the word. Masking fluid works well with watercolors and brush markers.