five easy steps for painting a picture

One of my favorite things is painting a picture of the beautiful gifts of God that are all around us.

Painting takes practice. You learn the scale – composition, values, color ***, etc. Then you use these notes to share what you see in the world around you.

It takes practice just like learning to play the piano. But there is great joy as you see the beauty growing as you work on your painting.

painting a picture

When I first started painting I began to learn painting by doing landscapes.

We are familiar with our surroundings, so this is a good place for anyone to learn painting.

5 easy steps for Painting a Picture by artist Carol MayLandscape paintings are a good place to start painting a picture.

Someone asked me if I had any paintings of deserts. I have never lived in or around a desert, so I am not familiar with them.

We can do a better job of painting things we know and understand. Now barns I know, because I have spent most of my life living in the country.

After I learned how to paint landscapes, I took on the challenge of doing critters. I am not much for doing people, but I enjoy doing Critter Paintings.

first - i get an idea

I get an idea of what I want to paint. Sometimes God gives me a vision or a dream for doing something prophetic like the "Freedom" painting.

Or I see something beautiful like flowers or I have an idea.

Most times I will think about it for awhile to get the idea clear in my head. I thought about painting giraffes for quite a while before I painted "Spots".

Giraffe painting by artist Carol MayI thought about this painting for a long time before I did - Spots

Actually I painted several giraffe paintings.

I kept thinking about how they have spots on them to camouflage them into their surroundings. Under the trees where they eat the sun and shadows land on them making spots.


After you select your subject.

  • Decide what size the finished piece will be. 

When I do small things like hummingbirds or another of my favorites - butterflies I put them into small-scale paintings.

I put most landscapes and critters into larger sized artwork.


Second - I do some small sketches

  • After you get the idea of what you want to paint, do some thumbnail sketches of your subject.

I do sketches to get the composition and values straight in my mind. Small sketches about the size of a postcard are fine.

There is no detail here, just sketch the large portions of the painting. You want to get their position and their value.

  • You may also want to do a small color sketch to work on the colors you have in mind.

Choose your painting colors *** before you start on your full size painting. It's much easier to change color on a sketch, than on a full size painting.

I don't always do a color sketch. But if I am using new colors or a combination that I don't normally use, a color sketch is a good idea.


third - i do a drawing to scale

If the painting will have a lot of detail, I do a drawing to scale before I start painting the picture.

  • Painting with watercolors

When I am using watercolor I don’t want erasures on the surface of the finished painting. So I do a drawing first on a separate paper.

If the painting does not have a lot of detail, you may sketch it onto the painting surface. Lightly use a graphite pencil without erasing.

Downy Woodpecker on Pine watercolor nature painting by Carol MayI did the drawing for this watercolor painting on separate paper first. Then I transferred it to the painting surface with graphite paper.

  • Painting with oils
  • If there will be a lot of detail, I would do the drawing on paper first.
  • If there is not much detail, I sketch the subject directly on the canvas with a thinned, light color paint like yellow ochre.

I do this quite often do this when painting a picture of landscapes or seascapes. Thin the yellow ochre with your turpentine or paint thinner.

If you don't like the place you have put a line with the thinned ochre paint, rub it out with a rag or paper towel.

The yellow ochre lines are easy to paint over with your other colors. So they will not show in your finished painting.

Beautiful painting of God's Lighthouse by Carol MayI sketched the drawing directly onto the canvas with thinned yellow ochre paint.

fourth - I transfer the drawing

I transfer the detail drawing to the painting surface with graphite paper.

If the painting does not have much detail, you may already have it on your painting surface.

  • Watercolor drawings may also be lightly sketched directly onto the painting surface with a graphite pencil.
  • Oil drawings may have been sketched directly onto the painting surface with thinned yellow ochre paint.

fifth - i lay in the colors

The previous steps lay the groundwork.

Now comes the fun part - the joy of painting a picture.

Select your colors before you start painting.

I limit my colors to three to five individual colors. Then I use those colors to mix additional colors and to mix my dark colors.

  • When painting oil landscapes I normally do the background first. This would include such things as the sky and distant hills or water.
  • If I am doing a close up watercolor painting, I will do the main subject first and then paint the background around it.

I lay in color after color, until it looks good to me. I totally enjoy the process.

For more detail about laying in the colors check out Painting Daisies with oils.

Or Painting Butterflies with watercolors. I show you step by step, my thinking and the painting process.

Koi painting in oils - art by Carol MayKoi Feeding - They just ate Jimmy the Cricket and the one with the white head is the ring leader.

painting a picture

How long does it take to paint a picture? Actually for me, it has taken a lifetime. I have been painting artwork and winning awards for many years.

I sign my paintings with my first and middle names - Carol May. My full name is Carol May Britton.

Link to the other paint pages to see more art pieces. Please inquire about anything you see that interests you. I have original paintings in both watercolor and oils available in the Art Store.

I wish you great success in painting a picture of your own.


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