How to painting

get ready to start a painting

  • Learn how to confidently start a painting.
  • What do you need for your how to painting lessons?

The how-to painting pages have painting techniques for either oils or watercolors. There are photos of each step and the painting process is carefully explained to guide you on your painting journey.

Your how to painting checklist on how to start a painting by artist Carol May"Going Places" with your paintings!
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what do you need to start painting?

Know the basic steps to start a painting. Use them for your own paintings and the how-to paintings.

pick a time and a place

  • Have a special place to paint.

If it's possible, have an area where you can leave your paintings things out.

You are more likely to paint, if you don't have to put them away between sessions.

  • Set aside time to paint.

Painters make the most rapid progress, when they paint regularly.

There is a new trend of Daily Painting. Actually dedicated artists have painted daily for generations. It's just like learning to play the piano. The more we practice the better we get.

choose your subject

A good place to start is to choose something around you. We are familiar with our surroundings. We do a better job of painting things we know.

You may have photos you took on your vacation, a photo of your pets or your flowers, etc.

  • A Word of Caution - If you use a photo from a postcard, calendar or a magazine, they are covered under copyright laws. Do not copy them directly without giving credit to the photographer.
  • Artist's paintings are also covered by copyright laws.

get your supplies ready -

do you have everything?

  • Your subject
  • Drawing paper, pencil, eraser and graphite paper
  • Paint and brushes for your media
  • A support to paint on
  • Clean-up materials for your media, including a rag or paper towels
  • Good light and ventilation in your painting area

 Are you ready to have fun?

what paint will you use?

Choose your painting media (watercolor, oils or acrylics) and the brushes suited to your media.

Professional artist grade paints have more pigment and cover better than student grade paints.

what will you paint on?

Choose a painting support suitable for your media - paper, canvas or panels.

what size will your painting be?

Small things like hummingbirds or butterflies normally go into small sizes. Landscapes and seascapes usually are larger.

you have your subject, now -

select your colors

A painting with too many colors is disconcerting. The viewer's eye doesn't know where to go.

So we don't use all the palette colors in each painting.

Use a color scheme to give cohesiveness and punch to your paintings.

Three to five colors will make a harmonious painting. Mix additional colors from the selected 3-5 colors.

That's how to painting commonsense.

Select your painting colorsChoose Your Painting Color Schemes

draw your subject

Do some thumbnail sketches about the size of a postcard.

Sketch the large portions of the painting to lay out the composition. Pay attention to the values of the painting.

If the subject has a lot of intricate detail, do a drawing to scale.

  • When you are satisfied with your composition put it on your painting surface.


Do your drawing on a separate piece of paper.

Transfer the drawing to your selected painting surface with graphite paper.

Alternately, if you are good at drawing, you may lightly sketch the drawing on the watercolor painting surface.

Use a graphite pencil and do it without erasures, so you don't damage the surface of watercolor paper.

Erasures on the watercolor support may damage the painting surface.

watercolor painting of Leafy Sea Dragons by Carol MayI did this drawing on a separate paper first.

oil paintings

If there is a lot of detail, do the drawing on paper first.

If there is not much detail, sketch directly on the canvas.

Do an outline sketch with thinned yellow paint like yellow ochre or raw sienna.

If you don't like a line you made, rub it out with a rag or a paper towel.

Yellow lines are easy to paint over with other colors.

They will not show in the final painting.

God's Lighthouse oil painting by artist Carol MayI did the drawing directly on the canvas.

how-to painting a picture

The groundwork is laid. Now comes the fun part - the joy of painting a picture!

how to painting - landscapes

Paint the background first. This would include such things as the sky, distant hills or water.

Then come forward in the painting and paint the middle ground.

Lastly paint the foreground and the details.

how to painting - portraits

When you are painting anything close up like birds, flowers, etc., paint the main subject first.

Then paint the background around the main subject.

learning how to paint is a journey

Painting 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 to paint? Actually it has taken a lifetime and I am still learning.

Follow these how to painting steps to start all of your paintings.

I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with you.

Try some of the paintings on the how to painting pages.

Have lots of fun - Paint and Enjoy!

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