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I want to learn basic painting. I need some suggestions on how to learn basic painting strokes and where a beginner...

Updated on April 14, 2008

Some Painting Basics: mediums, brushes, color, strokes

There are a number of things you need to know or decide before starting to paint. Probably the most important thing is what medium you will use:

Acrylics. Acrylic paint is a plastic based paint and is easier to clean and cheaper to buy. The main benefit to acrylic paint is how it can be used. Acrylics are mixed with water for different consistencies, so they can be applied thickly like an oil paint, or be diluted with water, like a watercolors. Acrylics can also be painted on thick paper, not just canvas.

There is a drawback to acrylics, however; they dry very fast. Even if you do purchase a solution to slow the drying process, it only adds ten minutes or so. That means blending is often compromised, and paint that you have squeezed on your palette is hard to reuse.

Oils. Oil paint obviously has an oil base, which give it many desirable qualities. Oil paint is very slow drying, often taking a day or so to dry once it's put on canvas. This allows you to blend more easily, getting mixed colors directly on canvas as well as on your palette. Rendering will be simplier, and you won't have to worry about applying paint quickly. Time is on your side.

Oil paint is also more expensive and harder to clean. You cannot clean your brushes in water, but turpentine. So if you spill on your clothes, you're not going to remove the paint. You'll also be limited to canvas.

Watercolors. Some of the most beautiful paintings (in my humble opinion) are done in watercolor. The paintings are free, clean, and crisp. If you can master the watercolors, then a painter you most certainly are.

Unlike oil or acrylic, watercolors have rules. Where with oil or acrylic if you make a mistake you can paint over it, you cannot with a watercolor. The lighter values must go on your paper first, then the mid-tones, then the darks. Your pencil marks need to be light or not at all visible.

Watercolors can be unpredictable. It takes a great deal of skill to get just the right amount of paint to water ratio to get the mark you want. Go too dark, and it's all over. Sometimes too much water runs or splotches. However, this may be something you want. Watercolors have affects that the other paints do not. You can get beautiful spectrums and random colors with this paint type.

Brushes. Once you have picked your medium, that will determine which brushes to use. Go to a local art store, and try to avoid the chains like Michaels. A local art store will have employees who are probably artists and know what they're talking about (not to say Michael's employees don't, mind you). Tell them you want to be a painter, and they will help you with which brushes you need.

When you see the brushes, NEVER GO CHEAP! Yes, brushes can be expensive, but you get what you pay for. Cheap brushes lose their bristles, they bend out of shape easily, and don't last long. You want brushes that will stand up, bounce back, and won't leave bristles on your canvas.

Color. After you buy your paints, brushes, and canvas, now you need to learn color. While many of the paints you will buy are already premixed, there is an almost endless spectrum of color you can get from them. My suggestion, if you don't know much about color, is to play for a while and see what colors you get by mixing.

The Primaries

Your primary colors are RED, BLUE, and YELLOW. From these three colors, all colors are made (theoretically speaking).

The Secondaries

The secondary colors are colors made from mixing two primaries together: PURPLE = Red + Blue

ORANGE = Red + Yellow

GREEN= Blue + Yellow

To get more colors, you mix and match. Experiment!

Brush Strokes

It may sound like a cop-out, but there's no wrong way to apply paint. It all depends on how you want to blend the colors. The best thing you can do here is drop all painting How-to books and find what works for you. Sometimes the most fun is using the pallete knife and spreading the paint all over. Or you maybe a control freak and insist on using a small brush to make detailed marks. It's all up to you. Go have fun.

Color Wheel
Color Wheel


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    • mabmiles profile image


      7 years ago

      Color wheel is such a great help especially for beginners. Nice hub!

    • profile image

      Steve Simon 

      9 years ago

      I like the recommendations listed above. There is one area I would like to expand upon and that is color. Once you have established the medium you are going to use and gain some familiarity with it, there is nothing as important as learning color. Color is broken down by value, hue, and brightness. The value is how light or dark the overall pigment is, hue defines which color family the pigment is in, and finally brightness refers to how intense the pigment is within the particular color family.

      Color wheels are great tools to learn from and I recommend creating your own color wheel from your own pallette of paints. In other words, start with primary colors. Next, create secondaries from the primaries. Brush these pure pigments (full brightness) on blank paper or canvas to create the outer circumference of your own color wheel. Familiarize yourself with how much paint to mix with another to create your secondary. When making green, for example, you will find you need only a small amount of blue added to a larger portion of yellow, and so on. Also become familiar with each hues complement (directly opposite on the color wheel). These partners form the duality of your particular hue. Green, for example, is the complement of red. Since red usually does not naturally occur as 100% red hue in the real world around you, whenever you use red, you must ascertain firstly if its hue is affected by the colors adjacent to it on your wheel and then secondly how neutralized it is by is complement, and then lastly its value (light and dark).

      All of this takes some practice. The experience of working with your colors in this fashion cannot be replaced. Using correct color is equivalent to using correct notes in music. It is critical. It is also the interface by which you are able to express. If you struggle intellectually with creating the color you want, you will find your mind preoccupied with the analytical thinking of color and your creative mind will be crowded out.

      Learn your color wheel!

    • C.S.Alexis profile image


      10 years ago from NW Indiana

      crkirchoff, My paint of choice is acrylic but I like the speed of it. Oil has the best color values for sure, richer and deeper by far.There are some good programs on the tube that teach painting techniques as far as brush strokes and blending color. I think you should investigate that in your area. I would suggest that you get some cheap paint and practice and practice some more. Do not take it too serious but have fun and experiment. You can teach yourself. I have learned most of my techniques from watching others and loads of practice. I have been an artist for some 40 plus years. Good luck! C.S.Alexis


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