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Painting Art Ezine: What is the best painting medium?
July 15, 2022

- Welcome to the Ezine!

What is the Best Painting Medium?

What are the popular and best painting mediums for today's artists?

Artists have been creating for centuries, ever since our caveman days. Humans have had an innate desire to express how we feel and what we see around us.

The term "medium" is used different ways.

Medium is the type of art such as carving, printing, painting, etc.

Medium is the material used to create the artwork such as acrylic, oils, watercolor, etc.

Also, a painting medium may be mixed into the paint to thicken, thin, extend it, slow down or speed up the drying process.

The plural of medium is "mediums" or "media".

The Types of Painting Mediums

Art paints all use the same pigments. The only difference is the vehicle, the medium that carries the paint pigments.

Over the centuries mankind has used various types of painting mediums. Early paints were made from earth minerals like ochre, sienna and umber.

Some of our oldest paintings are over 40,000 years old.


Tempera has the paint pigments mixed with egg yolks. So it may also be called, egg tempura.

Tempera is fast drying and permanent. It is not flexible, so it needs to be painted on a rigid surface. It has been used for centuries, as far back as the third century. The Egyptians used tempera and casein for their murals and paintings.

Casein is a similar painting medium mixed with milk instead of eggs. It is thinned with water. Today it is still used for painting murals.

Oil Paints

Oil painting medium became popular around 1500. Oil paint pigments are suspended in linseed oil, hence the term oil paints.

Oils are a versatile painting medium that may be reworked until they dry. They are slow drying. If you don't like something, you can scrape it off and repaint it. You may paint over a dry oil painting months later.

Alkyd paint is modern type of painting medium. The paint pigments are suspended in an alkyd resin. They dry completely overnight to a uniform matte finish.


Watercolor paint pigments are mixed with gum arabic. The paint is formed into either dried cubes or kept moist in tubes.

Most children in the United States use watercolor paints in grade school. It is thinned and cleaned up with water. Watercolors dry quickly.

It is difficult to adjust watercolor after it has been applied to the painting surface, especially if it has already dried.


Gouache is another painting medium that has been around for centuries. Their pigments are combined with gum arabic (or dextrin) and white paint. This makes gouache is an opaque medium.

Many modern artists consider gouache the best painting medium for design work, comics and illustrations.

It is a water-based medium that dries fast. Gouache is used in airbrushes.


Acrylic is a newer painting medium developed in the 1940s. The paint pigments are mixed with an acrylic resin.

Acrylic is a water-based paint that dries very quickly. Slow drying mediums may be used to slow the drying time.

This medium may be painted in thin layers to resemble watercolors. It can be painted thick to resemble oil paints.


Pastels have been used by artists since the 1400s. They are come in a stick form similar to crayons. There are soft pastels and hard pastels depending upon how they are manufactured.

Pastels produce a lot of dust while you are using them. Their paintings are subject to fading. However, they are fast and fun to use.

A spray fixative may be used, but the fixative will dull the colors slightly. Finished pastels need to be framed under glass.

What is the Best Painting Medium?

The choice is up to the artist. Watercolor, oils and acrylics are all good choices for the beginning artist.

Most artist try several different painting mediums. A little experience helps us decide on the best painting medium for our personal painting goals and expression.

Create some awesome mixed media paintings!

Next month “How to Paint Good Art."

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