Painting Basics: A Guide for New Artists

aqa painting tipsIf you are new to painting, it may seem that there are an endless amount of things you need to learn. Really, there are some simple basics that can send you from blank canvas to finished painting in no time. Read on!

Basic Color Theory

  • Contrast is made by using colors that are opposites on the color wheel. Contrast creates drama. 
  • Harmony in a painting can be created by using colors closer on the color wheel. 
  • A color’s hue depends on how much red, blue, or yellow was used to create it. 
  • Monochromatic paintings are painting where several hues of the same color is used. 
  • A painting should primarily consist of either “warm” or “cool” colors. Warm colors are colors with more yellow in them, such as a rust red or burnt orange. Cool colors have more blue to their hue, such as purple.

Color wheel by Peter Miller.
Color wheel by Peter Miller.

Mixing Paint Tips

  • The primary colors, or ones that cannot be made by mixing, are red, blue, and yellow. 
  • Secondary colors are colors made by mixing the primary colors. 
  • White can also not be made by mixing colors. Black can be made by mixing certain amounts of secondary colors. 
  • Only mix two secondary colors together at once. Over mixing your colors can make them muddy or dull. 
  • Only partially mix your colors. By doing this, the basic colors will still show when put on your canvas as well the mixed color. This adds visual interest to your painting. Also, it is better to mix your colors on your canvas as you paint than on your pallet. 

Paint Brush Tips

You get what you pay for. The more expensive a brush, the better it will work and the longer it will last. Don’t worry about dishing out tons of cash for brushes, though. Usually, brushes better than “student” quality will work just fine for the beginner.
Do not leave your brushes bristle down in water basins or holders. This splays the fibers and will ruin the effect of the brush.
Roll your brushes in fabric before transporting them to protect the bristles.
Wash your brushes with warm water and mild dish soap.

Choosing a Canvas

The type of canvas you use will depend on the type of paint you use.

  • Watercolor typically requires paper for “canvas”. To learn more about types of papers see Art Paper Terms and Uses. Canvases that are used for oil and acrylic painting come in many types. Cotton duck is generally used for acrylic painting, while linen and cotton duck is used for oil. 
  • If you don’t want to frame your work, use a gallery wrap type canvas where the canvas itself stretches around to the back of the frame so that no staples are visible. This way you can paint on the edges of the canvas as well. This makes the painting look finished even without a frame. 
  • Canvas board, or canvas glued across cardboard, is not acid-free and warps easily. It is not used for art that is meant to last longer than a few months.

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