do you want to know how to paint a painting?

  • You want to learn how to paint a painting.
  • You chose your subject and got all your painting supplies.
  • You put the drawing on the painting surface.

Now comes the joy of painting a picture!

how to paint a painting

Every artist has their own method of painting a picture. One way is not better than any other, as long as you get to a finished painting. 

A simple one, two, three method is my favorite.

  1. Block in an underpainting. Cover the painting surface with the general color and value for each area of the composition.
    An oil underpainting is quickly scrubbed without trying to make it smooth or perfect.
    A watercolor underpainting is done with the lighter colors of the composition.

  2. Paint the painting. Paint the subject and the background.
    Oil paintings will now painted the way you want it to look in the finished painting. Use the color variations and the brush strokes you desire.
    Watercolor paintings will start painting the colors darker where appropriate for the composition.

  3. Detail and finish the painting.
    In oil painting apply the highlight colors and final details of the composition.
    Watercolors will paint the darkest darks of the composition, erase pencil marks and scratch out any desired highlights.

Use these guidelines when you are learning how to paint a painting. After you are comfortable with painting, you can bend the rules and do your own thing.

When you first start - begin with easy subjects.

Start painting with simple subjects.Speedy and Tuna

When I was giving my sister an early painting lesson, we painted her goldfish, Speedy and Tuna. Lots of fun!

painting a landscape

  • The logical order of landscape painting is to paint things behind or underneath first. Paint from the back of the painting to the foreground.

Look at the painting below and imagine yourself painting it in the order of the numbers.

   1. Paint the background things like the sky, distant hills or water.

   2. Come forward in the painting and paint the middle ground items. They are closer than the sky or distant hills, so they overlap the background.

   3. The water needs to be painted before the buildings, boat or bushes because they all come up out of the water.

   4. Next the buildings are painted. Note how the buildings overlap the background foliage of step number 2.

How to paint a painting with artist Carol MayPaint the background first, then paint forward.

   5. The boat and its reflection are painted on and into the water.

   6. Paint the foreground foliage on the sides of the painting. They overlap the water.

   7. Lastly paint the details and make any corrections. For example, the base of the grasses would be in shadow. So you may want to darken the base of the grasses.

The rule of painting from back to front is a good way to start painting landscapes.

After you know how to paint a painting, you may approach each painting differently. For example, the sky may be the last thing you paint.

painting close-up subjects

  • When you learning how to paint a painting of anything close up like butterflies, flowers, people, etc. - paint the subject first.
  • Then paint the background around the main subject.
When painting a portrait, I like to paint the subject first.Paint the subject first.
Painting the background around the subject.Paint background around the subject.

This is my preferred method of painting a close-up subject. If the subject is painted first, then I have a better idea of how to use values and color contrast to highlight the subject.

Many artist do it the other way around. And, sometimes I do paint the background first and the subject second.

Either way is correct. It is just a matter of personal preference.

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how to paint a painting with oils

Paint oils: fat over lean

The first layers you paint will be mixed with medium or thinners like mineral spirits or turpentine. This makes the paint lean, thinner.

The top layers of the painting are painted with little or no medium or thinner. Oil paint contains linseed or other oils, that's the fat.

Paint oils: dark to light

It is fairly easy to paint light colors over dark oil paint.

However, it is difficult to paint a dark color over a light oil color. Especially, if the color has been mixed with white.

It is not impossible, but difficult. You may let the light color set up awhile, then paint a dark color on with a very, very soft touch.

When you are painting with oil paints, paint the darks first.Paint the dark colors first.
If you are painting a picture with oil paints, paint the light colors after the darks.Then paint the light, white colors.

watercolor painting tips

paint Watercolors: light to dark.

The light colors are painted first. Then paint another layer on top or around the first layer.

You may use transparent colors painted on the top of the first colors. This traditional way of painting watercolor is called glazing.

Watercolors are layered on from light to darkPaint watercolors light to dark

It took a second layer of paint the get the butterfly wing tip dark enough.

Use less water to make your colors darker and/or more vibrant.

Watercolors are often painted light to dark.Layering darks onto the light colors.

The light flower colors were painted first.

While the colors are still damp, add darker or different colors. The colors will softly blend.

what makes a good painting?

Values are the backbone of strong, attractive paintings.

Choose colors for harmonious paintings.

Composition is easy using the rule of thirds.

Create a focal point to attract the viewers.

learning how to paint is a journey

  • Painting a picture is not a one-time adventure.

The more you paint, the better you will be. And the more you will enjoy it.

How long did it take me to learn how to paint a painting? Actually it has taken me a lifetime and I am still learning.

It is a privilege to share my experience with you.

You can learn to paint anything from flowers to butterflies, giraffes to ocean by following the step-by-step tutorials.

Enjoy your painting journey!


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