Getting into painting as a hobby can be a lot of fun. You get to flex your creative muscles, relieve yourself from stress, and get a nifty painting to decorate your home.
Thinking about the sheer breadth of what you can achieve with this hobby can be daunting as a beginner. There are just so many painting mediums, materials, and tools to consider – not to mention skills and techniques to learn – that it can be overwhelming.
How You Can Start Painting
Learning to paint is just like learning to dance: If you want to get better at it, you need to practice, practice, and practice your skills. With enough time and effort, you'll be surprised at just how good you can become.
Here's how you can start:
Beginner Painting Materials and Tools
First things first, you need materials and tools with which to express yourself. Our prehistoric ancestors used their hands and simple tools to paint cave walls with clay and ash. While you can certainly go old-school and do the same, here are the painting supplies we recommend you start with instead:
- Acrylic paints - Acrylic paints are very beginner-friendly, compared to oil and watercolor paints. They come in a variety of brilliant colors, they dry relatively quickly, and don't require toxic solvents to thin or clean.
- Synthetic brushes - Synthetic brushes can be used with any paint but are perfect when paired with acrylic paints. Professional-grade synthetic brushes pick up acrylic paint very well, leave a smooth finish, are easy to clean, and are cruelty-free.
- Canvas paper - Canvas paper has the same texture and feel as stretched canvas without the high cost. With this, you can feel free to develop your skills and techniques – all without breaking the bank.
The above-mentioned materials should cover your basic painting needs. There are a lot more painting materials out there (like acrylic mediums, additives, etc.) that can help you achieve various interesting effects. You can read more about them in Our Blog. Feel free to try them out as you get further along your painting journey.
For now, though, let's start your journey with these first steps:
1. Perspective: The Road Ahead
One of the most important painting skills to learn as a beginner is the use of perspective. This fundamental concept lets you use lines and other techniques to create a sense of depth and space in a 2-dimensional space. Mastering this skill makes 2D objects in your painting seem like they're nearer or farther away in space, thereby helping you make a more realistic effect.
Find more examples using Wikipedia.
1 Point Perspective is a great starting point for beginners, and as you get more comfortable you'll be able to tackle 2 and even 3-point perspectives. 1 point perspective is just like it sounds in that it uses one point, called the vanishing point, to direct your lines to and create the illusion of space.
The horizon line is the line that represents the horizontal space where the Earth begins to bend past our ability to see.
The vanishing point is used by placing it on the horizon line to create images where the view of the painting appears to be looking at something head-on. It’s like staring directly inside a tunnel or down a neighborhood street.
To use these two concepts all you need is a straightedge and a pencil. Starting at the vanishing point you made on the horizon line, hold the edge at any angle and make a mark.
Next use vertical and horizontal lines only (as in they are parallel to the horizon line and 90 degree vertical lines) to carve out the edges of a cube.
This can be repeated infinitely, so draw many cubes for practice. Then try other shapes using the same principles keeping in mind the way those forms will change based on the perspective.
2. Determining Shapes and Value: Monochrome Fruits
Another useful painting skill you have to learn is how to identify the shapes that make up what you're trying to paint. Identifying the correct shapes not only lets you paint simple objects like spherical balls, pyramidal house roofs, or triangular mountains but also lets you grasp the form of more complex objects, like hands and feet. Mastering this skill can help you immensely when trying to mimic how colors change depending on where the light hits an object.
Speaking of light:
It's always a good idea to learn how to determine an object's value, which is the perceivable lightness of tones in an image. Value applies to all the elements of art (color, form, texture, etc.), so correctly determining it can help you direct a viewer's eyes through your artwork as well as helps you achieve more depth in your painting.
You can practice both skills by painting a still life painting of different fruits using just one color.
Without the distraction of needing multiple colors, focus more on identifying spots of light or shadow and see how the color value changes along each fruit's surface. Also notice the way light will reflect off of the surface the fruit is on.
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3. Choosing a Color Palette: Butterfly on a Flower
Picking colors for your palette is definitely a skill every budding painter needs. If you're trying to represent a subject in your painting, your color palette should depict local color, along with the shadows and highlights formed by the environment (e.g. yellow or blue tones depending on the time of day for outdoor scenes). For more abstract paintings, this skill lets you know which colors go well together (this is where understanding color theory comes in).
A fun way to practice picking your palette is by painting a butterfly on a flower.
You can paint from reference images or just go with your imagination. The important thing is that you slowly develop an eye for color harmony and balance. Eventually, you may notice that you actually don't need so many tubes of paint and can just mix and blend colors to get the color you need.
4. Blending and Mixing: Sunset at the Beach
In the previous entry, We mentioned mixing and blending a palette of fewer colors to produce middle tones. This blending technique can also be achieved with paints on the canvas itself.
Blending lets you transition colors into each other, thereby producing a more realistic result. Achieving this color transition effect is especially useful if your painting is dreamy, surreal, or abstract.
You can practice your blending skill by painting a sunset at the beach. Like this one:
Find more examples using Wikipedia.
Notice how the colors seem to move from the bluish-gray of the sky to brilliant orange and yellow tones as you get closer to the setting sun? Also, see how sunlight illuminates the underside of the clouds which also range in color from dark purple-violet to orange tones.
5. Directional Brushwork: Daisies in the Grass
Learning to properly use your paintbrush is an essential skill for any painter. As a beginner, you may think brushwork is just for filling in a painting but that's just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. You can achieve various effects just through brushwork techniques alone.
One of the most fundamental brushwork techniques, though, is directional brushwork. This technique lets you give your painting a sense of movement based on the direction of your brush strokes. You can also use this technique to create the illusion of texture and 3-dimensional form
Try out this technique yourself by painting some daisies blooming among blades of grass.
Notice how the daisy petals and blades of grass seem to follow a direction. Try brushing in different directions and see how it changes the scene.
We actually delve deeper into brush techniques in 7 Brush Techniques For Acrylic Painting. Feel free to check it out.
Getting into the painting hobby is fun and getting better and better at it is even more so. Improve your painting skills by practicing these essential painting techniques.
We hope We've inspired you here today with the courage to take the next few steps in your painting journey. Remember that practice makes perfect and what's important is to enjoy every little step of the way.