How to Get into Painting: Unlocking your Artistic Dreams

Are you wondering how to get into painting?

Aspiring artists, regardless of your age, career or location, anyone can start painting. It's a universal language that uses the senses, emotions and mind to create something beautiful.

This is your introduction to painting mediums, selecting art materials on a budget, the basics of color, composition, values and ideas of what to paint.

Art by Carol May is your go-to platform for painting, the principles of art and painting tutorials.

How do we get into painting?You can enjoy the art of painting!

how to get into painting: Art Mediums

Here in the United States the most popular painting mediums are oil paint, watercolor and acrylics. Each medium has its own characteristics and requires a slightly different approach.

  • Oil paint is thicker, provides a textured appearance and has a slower drying time which allows you to work gradually.
  • Watercolor is a light, delicate medium that's great for capturing the subtleties of light and color.
  • Acrylics are versatile, providing the ability to paint in thin washes like watercolor or thickly like oil paint.

oil paint

Oil paints were the classic medium of the old masters. Oils can be painted smooth or with lots of texture for added interest. When the paintings are well cared for, they last for centuries.

Oil paint is made by mixing pigment colors with linseed oil. The paint is slow drying. This is an asset because it gives plenty of time to change things before the paint dries. They are cleaned-up and thinned with odorless mineral spirits.

Many people think oil painting is difficult. However, myself and all my family learned how to paint with oil paint. If you have a good teacher, you can begin painting with any medium.

alkyd paint

Alkyds are a relatively modern paint. Their paint pigments are mixed with alkyd resin.

Alkyds have been my go-to since the 1980s. My mom and I both switched to them because of their short drying time. They dry overnight or at the most within 24 hours.

They provide time for blending, but dry fast enough to paint layers in a short amount of time.

Finished alkyd paintings look exactly like an oil painting. They are also thinned and cleaned-up with odorless mineral spirits.


Watercolors are an easy, portable medium that many of the old masters used for painting on location. A little tin of colors, some water, a brush and paper and off you go paint anywhere you desire.

Get into painting watercolor.Flowers are a good subject for watercolor paintings.

Many of the colors are transparent and let the white of the paper show thru. It gives it a light, luminous appearance. As the name implies, the paint is thinned and cleaned up with water.

It is somewhat unpredictable in the way it moves and blends with other colors on the paper. But that's the joy of painting with watercolor. The key is learning how much water to use.

Finished watercolor paintings on paper are framed under glass.


Acrylics are often chosen by beginners. It thins and cleans-up with water.

They dry very fast so additional layers may be painted quickly. The down-side is they dry so fast that blending and transitioning the colors is quite a trick.

The colors are bright and durable. They may be painted on various surfaces like rocks or wood. I painted fruit and flowers on my kitchen cabinet doors and then varnished over the finished paintings for protection.

Regardless of the medium you choose, learning how to paint requires practice and patience. Let your art journey be guided by your love of the process and not just the end result.

As your artistic confidence grows, you can explore other painting mediums.

Selecting the Right Painting Materials

Equip yourself with the supplies for your art journey. We can spend a lot of money at the art store, but what do we really need to get into painting?

Basically, we need: paint, brushes, a palette, something to paint on and clean-up materials.

how to get into painting on a budget

Paint: 3 primary colors; Cadmium Light Yellow, Cadmium Red Light and Ultramarine Blue - Oil, alkyd and acrylic artists also need a tube of white and a palette knife for mixing the colors.

Only 3 colors, but look at what you can paint with 3 colors.

Brushes: Oil and alkyds need #8 and #12 flat hog hairs brushes / Watercolors need #7 round brush labeled for watercolor / Acrylics use synthetic brushes #6 round and a 3/4" flat brush.

Palette: Oil, alkyds and acrylics can use a Styrofoam plate and dispose of it after painting. / Watercolors can be mixed on an old kitchen plate and wash it after painting.

Painting surface: Oil, alkyds and acrylics may be painted on a stretched canvas or a canvas panel. / Watercolor can be painted on 140# watercolor paper.

Clean-up:  Rags or paper towels for everyone. Oils and alkyds use a covered container of Gamsol odorless mineral spirits. / Watercolor and acrylics use a container of water.

All artists need good light and ventilation.

The most expensive products are not always necessary. The best approach is to stick to the basics and then slowly build your collection as you progress.

Begin painting with an easy subject.

color: a vital concept for every artist

Have you ever marveled at the vibrancy and harmony of the colors in a beautiful painting?

Color theory involves understanding primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, warm and cool colors, how they interact with each other and the effect of light on colors.

An important aspect of color is the emotional effect they have on the viewers.

Get into painting with color.Color is fun!

A color wheel can be handy when we first get into painting. It can help in identifying colors and selecting pleasing color combinations.

Learning how to mix colors is important for all painters. Different color are different values, yellow is the lightest and violet is the darkest value. Artists use different values to make objects look three-dimensional.

The wise artist uses color temperature in their paintings. Warm bright colors like red, yellow make objects appear closer. Cool colors like blue, green and purple make objects recede.

Color is a powerful tool in the hands of an artist. Once you understand colors, they will become your most precious tool.

good Composition creates good paintings

The rule of thirds is easy composition.Composition is easy.

Composition provides the framework of our artwork. It's how the elements are arranged in the painting.

A well-composed painting is balanced, and each element harmonizes with the rest.

A good composition draws the viewers in and guides them throughout the painting.

The rule of thirds makes composition easy. It's a no-brainer.

It always creates a good composition, so we can concentrate fully on the process of painting.

Divide the painting surface into nine equal portions.

Place the main elements of the painting along these lines or their intersections.

This automatically creates energy and interest in our paintings.

Learn more ways to use the rule of thirds.

values in painting art

Contrast is another key element that can make your painting stand out.

Light and dark values are the backbone of our paintings. They can direct focus, add depth, and increase visual interest. A painting without sufficient variation in values will look flat and dull.

Learn to see and use values in your paintings.

There are many other principles of painting. But color, composition and values are the most important foundations of successful artwork.

Learn and practice painting with the rules. Then you can bend the rules and find your own style.

Sparking your Inspiration: What to Paint?

Now comes the fun part, deciding what you want to paint.

You may want to paint landscapes, people or animals or share your feelings with abstract art.

It's a good idea to start simple. A piece of fruit or a simple landscape scene would make a good start. As you progress and build confidence, then start painting more complex subjects.

Choose subjects that excite you, intrigue you, or calm you. The joy you find in painting will inevitably reflect in your artwork, and that's the beauty of learning how to get into painting.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. Keep a tablet to jot down ideas and sketch things to paint.

More places to get painting ideas

are you ready to start painting?

Every great artist had to once start with a blank canvas.

Painting can seem daunting at first, but with the right tools, knowledge, and a spritz of passion, anyone can learn how to get into painting.

This guide is your stepping stone, a friend to aid you as you chart your unique artistic pathway.

Build connections with other artists. Art associations can provide feedback, inspire new ideas, and keep your motivation high.

Get into the art of painting.Painting is an expression of ourselves.

Creativity has no boundaries

So, keep exploring, keep creating, and most importantly, enjoy the journey.

As we start painting art, we start to see the world with a fresh, new light. Pick up a paintbrush and start your wonderful painting adventure.

The real joy of painting lies in the process, not just the results. It's about expressing ourselves and enjoying the process on the way.

Discover more tips and inspiration on the other pages of Art by Carol May. Let this journey of how to get into painting change the colors of your life!

Picasso once said that every child is an artist. Reconnect with your inner child.

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