Painting Tips for Beginners

Have Fun Creating an Original Painting

Basic information for beginner painters including painting tools, helpful hints, and simple techniques.

For many people, painting can be a relaxing hobby that helps them to express themselves. Professional paintings may intimidate beginners, as they are often detailed and realistic. However, anyone can paint a fantastic painting that expresses a part of themselves, or one that simply looks pretty. The following advice can help beginners to get going in the face of intimidation.

Painting Supplies to Have Before Starting to Paint

Before beginning painting, there are a few supplies that are very important to have. The following items are essential or near essential when first starting out:

  • A drawing tablet and pencils
  • Canvases
  • A variety of paint colors (usually either acrylic, oil, or watercolor)
  • Starter brushes
  • Medium (to mix with the paint)
  • Some sort of towel
  • A palette or palette paper
  • Paintbrush cleaner (for oils)

Easels, an apron, floor coverings, and other accessories are more optional.

In terms of what artist paint brushes to pick, it is often a good idea for beginners to purchase a wide variety of brushes. Large brushes are generally good for wide strokes, while thin, small brushes are better for details. Brushes vary greatly in quality, so it is important to choose how much time one wants to devote to the art. If one is simply experimenting, it may be best to choose cheaper, lower quality brushes. If someone is instead planning on painting much more in the future, it may be better to purchase sturdier, more expensive brushes.

It may also be wise to buy several canvases while one is at the art store. That way, he or she may be more inspired to paint on a whim instead of having to go to the store every time the urge to paint strikes. It can be fun to have, say, a big canvas for a large painting and several smaller canvases for less-detailed paintings.

When choosing what type of paint to use, it helps to have some experience working with different paint types beforehand. Watercolors, acrylics, tempera, and oils are vastly different paint types. Watercolors require a steady, careful hand, while oils are messier but more forgiving. Acrylics are somewhere in between, as they are not as thick as oils but they do allow for some mistakes. Taking a painting class or trying out a friend’s paints first can be a good idea before purchasing a whole paint set.

Basic Techniques for Painting an Art Canvas

Before painting, many professional painters draw their subject from many angles to get a good idea of how they will design the painting, and in order to get an intimate idea of what they are painting. It is important for beginners to get in the habit of drawing pictures beforehand so that they can figure out what they are painting before they paint it. This technique can lead to better paintings and less frustration.

After drawing sketches, many artists will draw a faint outline of their subject directly onto the canvas. Some artists will make the canvas into a grid so that all objects are lined up properly. These lines do not really show up for acrylics or oils, but they may for watercolors. They can be erased with a simple eraser, but an eraser can also remove some of the dried paint as well. Thus, it is best to draw the sketch with a light touch, to begin with.

Once the sketches are done and all items are prepared, painting can commence. When painting, artists can get as realistic or as abstract as they want. If painting a scene realistically, it is recommended that many colors be pulled out of the scene, rather than just the obvious colors. For instance, when painting a brown purse, colors like yellow, red, and purple may be added, rather than just using a plain brown (Bryce Vinokurov, U.C. Davis).

Helpful Tips for Beginners

When getting ready to paint, it is often helpful to set up the whole area first. It may be a good idea, especially if one is especially messy, to cover up the floor or table with old sheets or newspapers. Also, it is often a good idea to wear old apron or very old and ruined clothes. Paint can simply ruin good clothes, so it is important to never wear a favorite outfit while painting.

Also, for mixing “perfect” colors, a painter should squeeze a little bit every paint color out on his or her palette before beginning. This way, one can use all colors that he or she sees in a scene without having to squeeze out more paint every time a new color is needed.

When painting as a hobby, the most important thing to remember is to have fun. A painting does not have to be perfect. It can be anything that the artist wants it to be.

5 Simple Ways to Save Money on Art Supplies

Buy art supplies for less! Follow these easy tips to find cheap or free art supplies around town, in stores and online.

Buying professional quality art supplies can be expensive. Purchasing the finest brushes, paints, and canvas is unjustifiable except for established artists with consistent sales. Fortunately, artists of all abilities can find great deals on art supplies in a number of easy ways.

Scavenge for Free Canvas

Do not be bound by convention. Go to construction sites, abandoned fields or go dumpster diving for paper, posters, cardboard, plywood, mirrors, glass panes or fence boards. Right now, the “recycled art” and “green art” market is hot. Artists should use many different materials in lieu of canvas to set their work apart.

Go Garage Sailing for Cheap Art Supplies

Buying large, pre-stretched canvas can be costly. By priming used, mass-produced prints, artists can get blank canvases for pennies on the dollar. A canvas size that retails for $50 may only cost $10 at a garage sale. Moving sales or estate sales are typically the best places to find the recycled canvas. Often, frames are included, adding extra value.

Since it is illegal in many areas to dispose of unused paint cans, homeowners usually need to unload their leftover house paint. For mixed media artists, this can be a great way to pick up cheap art supplies. Spackle, caulk and glazing compound make great textures and unique 3-D effects.

Look for picture frames. Once primed with special paint, glass panes and mirrors make a perfectly usable canvas.

Buy Art Supplies in Bulk

Properly cared for, canvas, brushes, and paint can be stored for years. So plan ahead. Large art supply stores like Hobby Lobby routinely have 30% off sales on all canvas and paints. Since artists’ work typically has a high markup, waiting for great deals on already cheap art supplies only increases profit margins.

TIP: For online shoppers, Dick Blick and Cheap Joe’s offer great deals on art supplies. Additionally, both sites provide helpful tutorials and workshops to hone artistic skills and teach new techniques.

Buy Returned Paint

For action painters or drip painters (think Jackson Pollock), buying full retail is unnecessarily expensive. To avoid losing money on mixing errors, local paint stores, like Sherwin-Williams, usually sell discounted remainder paint. Many suppliers will happily notify artists when discounted quality paint and rare colors become available.

TIP: Large home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot will occasionally accept paint returns. Unique colors are routinely found for 50% off or more.

Maintain Artist Equipment

A good set of artist paintbrushes or pallet knives can last a lifetime. After each use, thoroughly clean artist utensils with either soap and water (for acrylics) or turpentine (for oils). Make sure paint caps and lids are airtight. Recycle old plastic tablecloths for extra-protection for studio floors.

Find Deals on Art Supplies

Professional artists can halve their costs by buying art supplies at the right time and from the right places. For those just starting out, painting does not have to be an expensive hobby. Free canvas is available in many forms and frequently found for free or sold in neighborhood homes and businesses. With a little imagination, artists can find deals on art supplies in a variety of places.