“Paintings have a life of their own that derives from the painter's soul.” - Vincent Van Gogh

There are very few people in this world who don’t like music.

What about painting?

Painting is a great way to unwind during your free time. You can either paint in silence or listen to music while you do it.

But which technique should you use? Oil paints? Watercolours?

Which paintbrush should you use? Which painters should you copy?

If you're an absolute beginner, here’s our guide to the different painting techniques, tricks, and methods!

You need to be careful when choosing which paints to use as you need to consider their consistency, whether you need solid colours, translucent paints, subtle colours, or bold strokes, and how they act once they've dried!

Painting with Oil Paints

When we think of painting courses, we often think of our classes at school with poster paints and thick sheets of paper.

How do you paint with oil paints?
Oil painting is tricky but can have amazing results when done right. (Source: freephotocc)

However, very few artists use poster paints since they prefer oil painting techniques.

Oil paints were invented in the 15th century by the Van Eyck brothers and oils have been used throughout the ages and are found on a lot of pieces in a lot of museums. Artists like Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Braque, Monet, Courbet, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Delacroix all used oils in their work.

Oil paints are made from pigments and a drying oil. That said, when we say oil paint dries, we should actually say that it hardens. That’s what makes using it quite complicated.

If you want to learn how to paint with oil paints, there are few you’ll need to follow to stop your work from cracking. You need to understand the characteristics of oil paints.

One of the most important rules is to wait for a few weeks for each layer of paint to dry. A lot of artists also start with an underpainting. This acts as a foundation for their work.

This means it’ll take several sittings to complete a piece. You’ll need to sketch out your ideas with charcoal and start with very thin layers before painting over your artwork with thicker layers later on. Artists also sometimes add a glaze to their oil painting. Glazing can give you some excellent results in terms of lighting.

Waiting so long to fix any mistakes might seem quite mad. However, the artists who don’t follow this rule will end up with a canvas covered in cracks.

The surface of the painting will harden quicker than the layers underneath because it’s in contact with the end. This means that over time the upper layer will crack. This is why you can’t immediately paint over a layer.

Painting with oils is a technique that can take some time to get used to. You’ll need to learn how it works and the possibilities it offers.

You’ll soon see why a lot of artists chose this medium for their masterpieces. With oils, the paint can achieve incredibly realistic tones and transparent effects. Impressionist painters worked out how to create impressive finishes with oil where you could see each tiny brushstroke and where every bristle touched the paint.

If you visit an art museum, you're probably going to see plenty of canvases using oils.

Find painting classes near me on Superprof.

How Do You Paint with Acrylics?

Acrylic painting is often chosen by artists because of how easy it is to do and how well the paints work with oil paints, which can sometimes be quite expensive.

Acrylics were initially designed for buildings and cars rather than decorative painting in the United States before they made their way into Europe and the UK. Andy Warhol did a lot of acrylic art.

You can use acrylics for a variety of different pieces: portrait painting, still lifes, landscapes, etc., anything goes! The techniques are often taught alongside the techniques for using poster paints, Indian ink, dry pastels, charcoal, watercolours, etc.

How do you paint with acrylics?
Don't forget to buy the right brushes. (Source: kboom831)

Acrylics dry very quickly. This means you can create pieces without having to wait as long as you have had to for an oil painting to dry.

Acrylics can be simple to use. However, it’s often impossible to retouch certain colours because they dry so quickly. This means that you can be left with all the brush strokes visible on your easel.

It can be useful when studying other artists and copying famous pieces by artists like Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Dali, Picasso, Monet, Manet, etc.

Acrylic paint is great for adding texture to your work. While you probably think that you have to paint with brushes, you can paint with a palette knife, giving you wonderful textured results. In fact, there are plenty of acrylic painting techniques you can use and you can paint on most surfaces.

To learn about painting with acrylics, there are a few steps you should follow. You should pay a visit to local art schools, associations, or workshops to get some practice in.

You can also get private art tutorials to learn how to use acrylics. You can get tutorials at home, online, whatever you fancy! You can find art tutors on Superprof, of course, as well as through bulletin boards in local businesses.

If you prefer working alone, you can teach yourself a bit by watching online video tutorials, practising, and correcting your errors. However, if you want some good acrylic painting tips, you should get private painting tutorials.

However you decide to learn to use acrylics, don’t forget to enjoy yourself when you’re painting! They're great for an abstract painting composition, especially if you're using the impasto technique where you can see each stroke and end up with some fantastic textures. When you're finished, make sure to varnish your paintings to get a bit of gloss out of them.

If you want acrylic painting lessons, you should get in touch with a private tutor to help you with a demonstration of how to get the most out of these paints.

Check out the best oil painting classes in the UK.

Learn to Paint with Watercolours

Watercolours are popular amongst travellers and are a medium that’s growing in popularity. However, this wasn’t always the case. Watercolour paints have been around for ages and were often seen as a way to study art. They were often used to prepare works that would be later painted in oils or acrylics. Nowadays it’s recognised and used as a medium in its own right again.

There are often painting lessons for those wanting to do landscape painting (or cityscape), a still life, or portraits in watercolours.

Which are the best watercolour painting techniques?
Watercolours will often give you pastel tones. (Source: ulleo)

Watercolours are different because you’re painting with water, basically, because it's the only thing you add to the pigment. While watercolours are soluble in water, the binder stops the pigments from dissolving in the water.

That’s what’s different about watercolours classes. To paint with watercolours, you need a bit of paint and lots of water. The great thing about watercolours is the lack of materials you’ll need. You just need a tub of paints, sheets of paper, and a paintbrush, and you’re ready to go.

However, be careful when using watercolours. The paint reacts to the water and means if you put water back on a layer of dry paint, it’ll start mixing with the next layer of paint you’re adding. As a general rule of thumb, start with larger lighter areas and build up layers of darker tones and shadows over the top.

This is both an advantage and disadvantage of using watercolours as it allows you to touch up your painting whenever you want.

To learn the techniques you’ll need to use watercolours, you can get in touch with private tutors or pay a visit to an art school or workshop. Teachers in art schools normally have a good understanding of a variety of styles and mediums. While beginners are often taught to use watercolours, you can get some great results with them.

Don’t forget to invest in an art pad to protect all your works from the rain on the way out of class! A bit of water and your painting can be ruined as the paint washes away.

How Do You Use Pastels?

Pastel painting is one of the less common “painting” techniques. Some consider it a drawing technique while others are happy to consider it a type of painting.

You can use pastels both when you’re drawing and when you’re painting. It completely depends on the type of pastels you’re using.

There are different pastels for different tastes. You can use dry pastels (soft pastels or hard pastels) or oil or wax pastels.

Some pastels can be used with water while others are better used on their own.

Which are the best types of pastels?
What type of pastels should you buy? (Source: stux)

Whatever you’re doing, you’re going to have to decide which pastels are the right ones for you. Of course, a private tutor or art teacher could help you decide, too.

A good teacher will also help you with other techniques (pencils, charcoal, poster paints, watercolours, sanguine, Indian ink, coloured pencil, markers, etc.) as well as how to use all the different types of pastels. However, you have to use pastels in layers. This is because pastels won’t mix on a sheet of paper.

You need to build up layers to achieve different colours. The simplest way to improve is by regularly practising at home until you’ve got the hang of how to use them.

Pastels are very versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. You can use them for sketching out painting ideas, you can use the edges to make bold lines, the side to cover large areas, and blend them with your fingers to create areas of solid opaque or matte colours. However, don't overuse blending as it can very quickly turn defined shapes and shades into a childish looking mess.

Practise by copying famous works and images. Some teachers carry a box of postcards for source material. You can use them for inspiration or copy them directly. When it comes to painting for beginners, it always helps to have some source material.

If you need help or advice, you should look for teachers or tutors that focus on using pastels. Don't forget that pastels will stain so always keep your works in an art pad so they don't rub against each other.

It can take time to master art techniques. You won’t become the next Picasso or De Vinci overnight! While this isn't probably what beginners want to hear, with a bit of instruction from a professional, you'll soon get the hang of applying paint to surfaces and start making decent progress.

As the old adage goes, different strokes for different folks so go check out some online art galleries for inspiration. There are also plenty of art videos on YouTube, too!

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.