8 Commonly Asked Questions by Painting Beginners

Looking at a great painting, it can be hard to remember that every artist was an absolute beginner at some stage. But everyone has to start somewhere, and it’s perfectly okay if you don’t know what kind of paint to use on your first canvas. This list of 8 commonly asked questions can help you get started learning to paint and have fun while doing it.

1. Do I Have to Know How to Draw?

If you were to attend a traditional art school, you would spend a year or two learning to draw before you touched paint. Just like learning a new language, many teachers believe in learning the basics of perspective and shading first. And there is value in this approach.

But you don’t need to know how to draw in order to paint. All you need is the desire to create and the discipline to practice and develop your technique. You’ll make plenty of mistakes, but that’s part of the learning process. Ultimately, the creation of art is what’s important, not the road you take to get there.

2. What Kind of Paint Should I Use?

The most common types of paint used are acrylic, oil, water-mixable oil, watercolor, and pastel. Each has its own characteristics and properties to master, and they all look unique. Oil paint has been used for hundreds of years and is known for its deep, rich hues. Watercolors, on the other hand, are translucent and delicate.

Many artists recommend using acrylics if you’re new to painting because they dry quickly, mix and clean up with water, and they’re easy to paint out and hide mistakes. Acrylics can also be used on just about any surface, so you can paint on paper, canvas, or board.

3. What Brand of Paint Should I Buy?

It depends on your budget. A good rule of thumb is to buy the best-quality paint you can for a price that you still feel able to experiment with and “waste” it. Try various brands and see which you like using. There are two basic types of paint: student-quality and artist-quality. Student-quality paints are cheaper and may not be as rich in hue as more expensive paints. They have less pigment and more extender or filler. That said, there’s no reason to spend the extra money on artist-quality paints when you’re just starting out.

4. Can I Mix Different Brands of Paint?

Yes, you can mix different brands of paint, as well as artist-quality and student-quality paints. Be more cautious mixing different types of paint or using them in the same painting. For instance, you can use oil paints on top of dried acrylic paint, but not acrylic paint on top of oil paint.

5. What Colours Should I Get?

For acrylics, watercolors, and oils, if you want to mix colors, start with two reds, two blues, two yellows, and a white. You want two of each primary color, one a warm version and one a cool. This will give you a larger range of colors when mixing than just one version of each primary.

If you don’t want to mix all your colors, also get an earth brown (burnt sienna or burnt umber), a golden earth brown (golden ocher), and a green (phthalo green).

6. Do I Have to Learn Colour Theory?

Color theory is the grammar of art. Essentially, it’s a guide to how colors interact, complement, or contrast with one another. It is one of the fundamentals of painting, and the more you know about the colors you’re using, the more you can get from them. Don’t let the word “theory” intimidate you. The fundamentals of color mixing aren’t particularly tricky to understand.

7. What Should I Paint On?

You can paint on practically anything, provided the paint will stick and won’t rot the surface (or, to use art-speak, the support).

Acrylic paint can be painted on paper, card, wood, or canvas, with or without a primer being used first. Water colour can be painted on paper, card, or special water colour canvas.

A support for oil paint needs to be primed first; otherwise, the oil in the paint will eventually rot the paper or threads of the canvas. You can buy pads of paper primed for oil paper, which are perfect for doing studies or if your storage space is limited.

8. How Many Brushes Do I Need?

As few or as many as you like. If you’re just starting out, a No. 10 Filbert brush with bristle hairs is a good choice. Remember to clean your brushes regularly and to replace them once the bristles begin to lose their snap. As you become more skilled, you’ll want to acquire different types of brushes for different kinds of paint and to produce different kinds of lines.

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