How to Paint

When you want to learn how to paint, the best thing to do is buy some paint materials and start painting. Painting is a hobby that you only get better at by practicing. With a few instructions in painter techniques and time spent putting colors on a canvas, you’ll start to figure out how to paint.

How to Paint with Watercolors

Watercolors are a good way to learn to paint, because you don’t get bogged down in mixing paints too much. Watercolor pictures tend to have a dreamlike quality to them, because the water paints naturally fit with impressions, not details. Start painting watercolor landscapes, then move on to more detailed subjects.

Here are the materials you’ll need to do watercolor art.

Set up the Canvas

Tape your watercolor paper onto the piece of cardboard to make your painting canvas. Make sure the cardboard is at least slightly larger than whatever piece of watercolor paper you use.

Sketch Your Landscape

Using a soft lead pencil, sketch a rough outline of the landscape you’re wanting to paint. This doesn’t have to be precise or intricate, but a rough sketch. Draw from a photograph, if you have trouble envisioning the landscape you want to depict.

A lynchpin of a landscape painting is getting your horizon line set. A horizon line is where the sky and the earth meet. Place the horizon line low on the painting, if you want to paint the sky mainly. Place the horizon line higher on the painting, if you want to depict the beauty of earth’s nature.

Sketching Objects in the Landscape

Sketch the background landscape features, as well. To maintain the sense of perspective, objects in the background are going to be smaller and less detailed than objects in the foreground. This gives the painting a more realistic 3D quality.

After you have the background mapped out, sketch the objects in your foreground. These are going to be the objects (trees, ponds, etc) that are going to be featured in your painting, and therefore have the most detail.

Paint the Sky, Baby

Using water (only) and a flat brush, dampen the sky portions of your canvas. This is called a “wash technique”.

To paint a sky on sunny day, simply paint with blue watercolor over the sky portions of the canvas, while it’s still wet. To create cloud cover, blot the canvas with crumpled tissue paper as your paints are still wet.

Paint the Background

Use the wash technique to paint in the colors of the background. Remember to use appropriate colors to paint in the hills, mountains and lakes you’re likely to be painting.

Dry Brush Techniques

How to Paint

How to Paint

Now that you have the background of your painting set, it’s time to get to the main focus of your painting. Using a small round brush, paint in the foreground sections. For this part of the painting, you’ll use a “dry brush” technique.

Dry brush is painting watercolors when the canvas is almost dry, and the paintbrush itself is also almost dry. You’ll notice this technique gives you more control over the paint.

In watercolors, more water with the paint dilutes the paint, giving you lighter and softer tones. When you want darker colors and harder edges, use less water. If you believe there’s too much water on a canvas for what you want to do, let it dry.

Finished Watercolor Paintings

Once you finish painting, set the watercolor canvas aside and let it dry completely. When it’s completely dry, peel off the masking tape around the picture, leaving a precise white border around your painting.

How to Paint with Oils

Oil paints require more mixing and can be intimidating to new painters. Oil paints also take a long time to dry, which can be frustrating to young artists. At the same time, because oil paint takes so long to dry, you can keep applying paints to the painting, until you get the picture you want.

Here’s what you need for oil painting.

Sketch Your Picture

Sketch an outline of the picture you want to depict. Beginners should use a pencil, though experienced painters sometimes use a thin brush and brown paint thinned with turpentine.

When sketching an oil painting, make sure to get your perspective precise with all objects in the scene from the very start. Like in the watercolor painting, get your horizon line figured out, if you’re painting a landscape.

Choose Background Colors

Select the main background color for your painting, then paint the background. Squeeze about a quarter-sized piece of paint onto your palette. Use strokes to paint the background. Rock should be light brown or perhaps gray, while the sky should be a light blue.

Choose Subject Color

Squeeze out the paint you’re going to use to paint the subject of your oil painting. Dipping the brush into the paint and staying precise, stroke paint onto your subject carefully. Continue adding colors, until the entire canvas is covered. Try to have a plan for the color scheme, to make certain the scene you depict is pleasant.

Once you have your colors finished, you can proceed to more detailed work on the overall painting. Just like with watercolors, you start in the background, then move to the foreground and add details.

Use of Oil Paints

When painting an oil painting, use paints sparingly at first, then add more if the painting warrants it. This not only saves on supplies, but lets you continually add, instead of putting a bunch of color on the painting, then subtracting.

Remember that you can use a painter’s rag to wipe away oil paint from specific areas of the painting. While this is something you don’t want to do all the time (wasting paint), this is an option with oil paintings. If you want to keep the oil painting from drying, so you can make changes in the next session, consider placing the oil paint in your freezer.

When finished with watercolor paintings or oil paintings, clean out your brush fully. Watercolors need to be washed out, while oil paint needs to be washed with turpentine. If you don’t wash out your brushes, they won’t be usable the next time you paint.

Painting 101

Those are the basics of how to paint. Read books for intermediate instruction on painting technique. You’ll want to read about light sources and shadows, along with more detailed discussions of perspective. Finally, study brush strokes, to make your painting look better and to gain more control over your painting technique. But for now, learn how to paint by playing around on the canvas.

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