For any creative person who has ever been curious about painting, picking up a brush for the first time can be an exhilarating experience. The blank canvas holds endless possibilities.
But painting can also seem daunting for a total beginner. Where do you start? What supplies do you need? How do you translate ideas into artwork?
While the learning curve may feel steep at first, mastering beginner painting fundamentals opens up a lifetime of artistic rewards.
This comprehensive guide covers all the key basics for painting success as a novice, from what paints and brushes to choose, to technique tips, common mistakes to avoid, finding inspiration, and connecting with a creative community. Let’s get started.
What is the Best Type of Paint for Beginners?
When starting painting as a beginner, choosing the right type of paint is an important first step. The three main types of paint to consider are acrylics, oils, and watercolors. Each has its pros and cons for beginners to consider.
Acrylic paint is a great choice for beginners for many reasons. Some key advantages of acrylics include:
- Fast drying time – you can easily paint over mistakes or apply multiple layers in a short amount of time
- Versatile – can be used for many different painting techniques and styles
- Easy to clean up with just soap and water
- Non-toxic and low odor compared to oils
The main downside of acrylics is that the fast drying time can be challenging for blending and keeping paints wet while working. However, acrylic retarders can help slow the drying time. Overall, acrylics are an excellent starting point for new painters.
Oil paints provide beautiful color depth and saturation. They are also forgiving to work with given the slower drying time. However, oils have some disadvantages for beginners:
- Require solvents like turpentine for thinning and clean-up
- Can take days or weeks to fully dry
- More difficult color mixing compared to acrylics
- Potential health hazards from solvent fumes
While oil paints produce stunning works, the learning curve may be steep for a complete beginner. It may be better to start with acrylics and graduate to oils once painting skills develop.
Watercolor paints are highly portable and economical. They also facilitate very loose, expressive painting styles. However, watercolors have some specific challenges:
- Very fast drying time, making blending difficult
- Transparent nature requires learning how to layer and reserve whites
- Can be messy and require specialized paper/brushes
- Not very forgiving once a mistake is made
Watercolors are another option for beginners, but their unique handling may mean a steeper learning curve. Starting with acrylics and then exploring watercolors down the road is a good approach.
See Also: Is Art A Hobby? Here’s Why
What are the Essential Painting Supplies for Beginners?
Beyond just paints, beginning painters need a selection of basic supplies and tools:
- Paint brushes – A variety of brush types and sizes for acrylics or oils. Softer hair brushes work best for watercolors.
- Canvas or canvas boards – Pre-primed and stretched canvases or convenient canvas boards provide good painting surfaces.
- Easel – Either a standing or tabletop easel keeps your canvas upright while working.
- Palette – For mixing paints; disposable paper or reusable plastic palettes work well.
- Painting medium – Acrylic mediums help control drying time and add texture.
- Jars and cups – For holding water or other solvents needed to thin and clean paints.
- Paper towels, and rags – For cleaning brushes, blotting excess paint, and preliminary sketching.
- Primer/gesso – Can prime surfaces with white primer before painting.
Optional supplies that are nice to have:
- Artist’s palette knife for mixing paints and texturing
- Additional drawing materials like graphite pencils
- Spray bottles for watercolor blending
- Art sponges or specialty applicators
- Painting apron or clothes you can get messy
Building this essential toolkit helps beginners dive into painting without lacking supplies. Start with the basics, then add more specialized supplies over time.
What are Some Easy Painting Ideas for Beginners?
The most rewarding beginner painting projects are simple subjects that allow you to practice fundamental techniques. Here are some easy yet fun painting ideas to start with:
Still Life Paintings
Arranging a collection of household objects like fruit, flowers, books, or kitchen items provides an easy still-life setup. You can practice realistic rendering or loose, colorful interpretations of still-life subjects. Work on observational skills by accurately capturing lighting, shadows, textures, etc. Still, life is great for learning color mixing too.
Painting simple landscape scenes helps develop composition and perspective skills. Try painting landscapes in plein air by going outside and depicting what you see. Or work from reference photos of landscapes that inspire you. Landscapes are also forgiving for beginners since you don’t need to achieve photo-realistic precision.
Don’t limit yourself to representational painting as a beginner. Experiment with abstract styles focused on color, texture, shapes, and emotion. Try techniques like acrylic pouring or layering paint colors in intuitive ways. Abstracts are about creativity and getting a feel for paints.
Before tackling sophisticated color mixing, try doing a painting using only one color. For example, mix up a variety of red tones from dark to light. Or use only shades of blue and green for an ocean painting. These monochromatic paintings build valuable brushwork skills.
Creating a textured painting is another fun beginner project. Use heavy-body acrylics or gel painting mediums to sculpt textures like swirls and peaks on the canvas. then paint over the textures. Palette knives can add dimensional texture too. This explores how paints can create physical surface interest.
How Can I Find Inspiration for My Paintings?
Inspiration is essential to fueling the creative process for any beginning painter. Here are some top sources to spark painting ideas:
The natural world provides unlimited inspiration for painters. Head outdoors and find intriguing landscapes, flowers, trees, animals, clouds, or bodies of water to depict. Take reference photos or sketches on site. Let the colors, textures, lights, and darks of nature stir your imagination.
Artwork of Others
Visit museums, galleries, and online art platforms to soak up inspiration. Seeing how other artists interpret the world sparks ideas about subject matter, styles, and techniques you could try in your work. Let the paintings you love energize your artistic eye.
Your photographs or images in books/magazines offer a trove of painting inspiration. Flip through photos looking for striking subjects, color combinations, and compositions. Photos let you easily replay lighting, shadows, and details to incorporate.
Listen to new genres of music and reflect on the emotions or visuals they evoke. Upbeat songs might inspire energetic abstracts, while tranquil music could help envision a serene landscape. Let music spark feelings to channel into paintings.
Record your dreams upon waking to grab any subconscious images while fresh. Dreams have vivid colors, imaginative subjects, and abstractions that can spark unusual painting ideas. The surreal quality of dreams naturally translates into compelling artwork.
Stories, characters, places, and eras described in books provide vicarious experiences to inspire artwork. Imagine how you could represent beloved book passages in painting form. Literature expands perspectives and ideas.
Choose themes that interest you like change, hope, excitement, solitude, joy, or contemplation. How could you symbolize your theme through color, imagery, and texture? External concepts fuel fresh approaches.
What are Some Common Painting Mistakes that Beginners Make?
As a beginner, you’ll inevitably make some mistakes in your early paintings. That’s a natural part of the learning process! Being aware of common pitfalls can help you avoid developing bad habits that may hinder your progress. Some typical beginner painting mistakes include:
Not Having a Plan
It’s tempting to just start applying paint to the canvas without thinking it through. But lack of planning can lead to a muddled, unstructured painting.
Forgetting to Prime the Canvas
Failing to apply a primer/gesso coat first can make paint soak directly into the canvas unevenly. Always prime new canvases with a base layer before starting your painting.
Be careful not to add too much water or medium when thinning acrylics or oils. Overthinning can cause paint to lose its body and appear flat or chalky on the canvas.
Underestimating Difficulty of Color Mixing
Mixing colors accurately takes lots of practice and an understanding of color theory. Don’t get frustrated if your mixtures come out more muddy than vibrant. Experiment and you’ll improve over time.
Applying Paint Too Thickly
Using paint too thickly or heavily right out of the tube can overwork the surface. Apply in thin transparent layers first, gradually increasing opacity to deepen colors.
Not Allowing Underlayers to Dry
Build acrylic or oil paintings in layers, allowing each layer to dry thoroughly before adding more on top. Painting over wet underlayers leads to a muddy canvas.
Only Using Black Straight from the Tube
Premixed blacks can look flat. Instead, mix your rich blacks using dark blues, browns, reds, and greens to create more dynamic darks.
Not Cleaning Brushes Thoroughly
Always clean brushes thoroughly between colors, and at the end of each session. Dried acrylic or oil paint can permanently ruin brushes.
How Can I Improve My Painting Skills for Beginners?
Persistence, practice, and incorporating new techniques will help improve your skills over time as a beginner painter. Some top tips for honing your abilities include:
Keep a Sketchbook
Regular sketching and drawing strengthen essential observation and composition skills that translate to painting. Bring a pocket sketchbook everywhere to consistently capture ideas.
Stick to a Schedule
Painting a little each day makes progress easier than long, sporadic sessions. Schedule painting times as you would for other commitments to stay motivated.
Try New Subjects
Stretch your skills by tackling diverse subjects beyond your comfort zone. Paint figures, portraits, landscapes, architecture, animals, and more. Each subject teaches new lessons.
Explore Different Styles
Don’t just stick to one style. Experiment with realism, abstraction, impressionism, collage, and other modes to expand your artistic range. Different techniques strengthen new muscles.
Study Color Theory
Understanding how the color wheel, tints, tones, and harmonies work makes for better, more thoughtful color mixing. Invest time in color theory.
Take a Class or Workshop
Look for intro painting classes at local art centers, colleges, or online to benefit from skilled instructor guidance and community. Classes inspire breakthroughs.
Analyze Other Artists’ Works
Going to museums and consciously analyzing how great masters handled techniques provides useful lessons applicable to your work. Learn from the best.
Capture Accurate Values
Practice replicating the lights, darks, and gradients to capture accurate values. This builds form and realism. Use black and white photos for value study.
Learn Human Anatomy
Understanding bones, muscles, proportions, and structure allows for better portrait and figure painting. Study anatomy just like the classics.
Photograph Your Paintings
Taking photos of your finished work allows you to step back and assess what worked or needs improvement critically from a fresh perspective. Review for progress.
Where Can I Find Painting Classes or Workshops for Beginners?
Taking a guided class or workshop tailored for beginners provides helpful instruction as you’re learning to paint, as well as connecting you with a creative community. Here are some places to look for introductory painting classes:
- Local Art Centers – Community art centers offer a wealth of painting classes for total beginners through advanced students. Look for a class covering basics or your paint medium of choice.
- Adult Education Programs – Many school districts or community colleges have evening or weekend adult education classes focused on painting for beginners. These tend to be affordable options.
- Museums – Major art museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art or Museum of Modern Art in New York have begun painting courses. Get inspired by the collection.
- Arts/Crafts Stores – Retail craft stores frequently host painting technique workshops and classes or invite local artists to teach. Check calendars at Michaels, JOANN Fabrics, and Blick Art Materials.
- Local Painting Studios – Some working art studios open classes to the public targeting painting fundamentals. Ask resident artists if they teach or have recommendations.
- Online Painting Classes – Many online learning platforms like Skillshare, Udemy, and Domestika offer beginning painting classes you can take remotely via video lessons. Convenient for at-home learning.
Look for a class that provides enough structure to learn key skills but also allows flexibility for experimentation. A supportive teacher and the opportunity to connect with fellow students enhances the experience too.
How Can I Connect with Other Beginner Painters?
As a new painter, finding a community to connect with provides motivation, inspiration, and feedback. Here’s how to find your creative group:
Social Media Groups
Search Facebook groups, Reddit threads, or relevant hashtags on Instagram/Twitter to connect with fellow beginner painters online. Share works in progress and exchange tips.
Search the website Meetup.com for painting groups in your local area that host meetups, critiques, and painting sessions. Great way to link up with like-minded artists nearby.
Public Painting Events
Look on Eventbrite or local happenings calendars for public painting meetups in parks, bars, or cafes. A more casual way to commune over art.
Exchanging contact info with supportive classmates from any workshops or courses you take seeds connections. Plan painting sessions together after class.
Spending time among creative folks energizes me. Attend art museum events, gallery openings, live painting sessions, and more. Strike up conversations.
Open Studio Time
Some art centers offer open studio hours when artists can freely gather to work. Share workspace and exchange feedback as you create together.
Look for short-term artist residencies where you can fully immerse yourself in a creative community for some time. Collaborate on projects.
Online Art Forums
Join forums like WetCanvas or Tapatalk to converse about the challenges of learning to paint with peers farther afield. Share work and insights.
Developing connections, both locally and virtually, provides an essential community for growth on your painting journey as a beginner. Stay engaged and keep learning together.
Starting in painting feels like stepping into a vast, unexplored territory with so much to learn.
But keeping your goals simple, practicing consistently, learning from others, and staying curious will put you on the growth path. Trust in the creative process to lead you to places you never expected. Don’t worry about comparing your work to others or chasing perfection. Progress at your own pace and in your style.
Above all, remember that the joy of painting comes from the process, not just the final results. Mistakes inevitably happen, but with each one, you expand your skills. With an openness to explore and willingness to learn, the blank canvas holds infinite potential for beginners and experts alike. Simply taking the first steps to try painting unleashes your inner artist.
Grab your brush, open your mind, and enjoy the journey.
FAQs about Painting for Beginners
What should a beginner paint first?
For your very first painting, start with basic subjects like still-life objects, simple landscapes, or abstract shapes. Choose beginner-friendly paints like acrylics on canvas or canvas board. Avoid complicated compositions so you can focus on practicing techniques.
What is the easiest style of painting for beginners?
Acrylic painting tends to be the easiest style for beginners. Acrylics are forgiving and versatile. They allow you to build layers of color quickly. Acrylics are great for practicing blending, textures, and different painting techniques.
How do beginners practice painting?
As a beginner, practice painting by starting a daily sketchbook habit. Replicate artworks you admire to understand techniques. Set up simple still-life arrangements to paint from life. Take beginner painting workshops and classes to build foundational skills.
How can I teach myself to paint?
To teach yourself painting, follow online video tutorials, read technique books tailored to beginners, and experiment on your canvas. Set specific skill goals like learning color mixing. Paint regularly and analyze results to improve.
How do I find my art style for beginners?
As a beginner don’t worry about developing a distinct style yet. Focus on building painting fundamentals first. Experiment widely with different mediums, subjects, and techniques. Over time you will gravitate to a style naturally that fits your strengths.
Which painting is easy for beginners?
Some of the easiest beginner painting styles are abstracts focused on color, simple landscape scenes, still life arrangements of household objects, and basic line drawings building your comfort with brushwork.