How to painting

get ready to paint

start your art paintings with 5 easy steps

  • Get ready for your how to painting lessons
  • Confidently use these steps to start painting your own beautiful creations
How to start a painting - Your how to painting checklist by artist Carol MayYou are "Going Places" with your paintings!

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How to painting

get ready to paint

start your art paintings
with 5 easy steps

  • Get ready for your how to painting lessons
  • Confidently use these steps to start painting your own beautiful creations
How to start a painting - Your how to painting checklist by artist Carol MayYou are "Going Places" with your paintings!

As an affiliate of Amazon I earn from purchases. There is no additional cost to you. Learn More



how-to start painting a picture

#1 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 things away between sessions.

  • Set aside time to paint.

Painters progress rapidly when they paint regularly.

Dedicated artists have painted daily for generations. It's just like learning to play the piano.

The more we practice the better we get.

#2 choose your subject

  • A good place to start painting is to choose something you see around you.

We are familiar with our surroundings. We do a better job of painting the things we know.

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

  • A Word of Caution - Photos from a postcard, calendar or a magazine are covered under copyright laws.

Do not copy them directly without giving credit to the photographer.

  • Artist's paintings are also covered by copyright.
Cedar Key Canal an oil painting by artist Carol May"Cedar Key Canal" from my photo

Alternately use Free Images that have no copyright restrictions.


#3 get your supplies ready

what paint will you use?

Choose your painting media (watercolor, oils or acrylics) and the brushes suitable for the 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.

WC or oil Paints

what size will your painting be?

Small things like hummingbirds or butterflies normally go into small sizes.

Landscapes and seascapes are usually painted larger.



#4 draw your subject

Sketch the large portions of the painting to lay out the composition.

  • Do some thumbnail sketches about the size of a postcard.
  • If the subject has a lot of intricate detail, do a drawing to scale.

When you are satisfied with your composition transfer it to your painting surface.

Pay close attention to the values of the painting. Contrasting values create stunning paintings.


drawings for watercolor

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 your watercolor support may damage the painting surface.


watercolor painting of Leafy Sea Dragons by Carol MayThis drawing was done on paper first.

drawings for oil paintings

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

When there is not much detail, do an outline sketch with thinned yellow paint directly on the canvas.

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

Pale yellow lines are easy to paint over. They will not show in the final painting.


God's Lighthouse oil painting by artist Carol MayThis drawing was done on the canvas.

#5 select your colors

  • Don't use all your colors in each painting.

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

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

Three to five colors will give you a harmonious painting.

Mix additional colors from your selected colors.

This is how to painting commonsense.


Select your painting colorsChoose Your Painting Color Schemes



now comes the joy of painting a picture!

painting landscapes

  • Paint the background first. This would include things like the sky, distant hills or water.

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

Lastly paint the foreground and the details.

painting portraits

  • Paint the subject first, when you are painting anything close up like birds, flowers or people.

Then paint the background around the main subject.


the how to painting steps

  • Pick a time and place to paint
  • Select your subject
  • Get the materials for your media
  • Draw your subject
  • Select your color scheme

Enjoy painting with good light and ventilation in your painting area.


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 to learn to paint?

Actually it has taken me a lifetime and I am still learning.

I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with you with the step-by-step paintings on the How-to Tutorial pages.

You can paint everything from flowers, to butterflies and giraffes and even ocean waves.

have lots of fun and enjoy your painting journey!



visit these popular pages

  • How to Paint Watercolor

    How to paint watercolor and preserve the white of watercolor paper while you paint a lovely butterfly. Use the paper because there is no white watercolor paint.

  • Artists Mix Paint Colors

    Artists mix paint colors and make your paintings sing with color. Painting is fun and you’ll save money by mixing your own greens, blacks, warm and cool colors…

  • Nature Paintings

    Beautiful nature paintings of my favorite things like butterflies, flowers, dragonflies, birds, animals and interesting sea life.

  • Daisy Painting with Oils

    Confidently do an easy daisy painting of white daisies with an oil painting tutorial. Speed up your art journey while learning how to paint daisies.


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Recent Articles

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  1. Why do artists paint?

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    Fun Color a watercolor painting by artist Carol May Artists paint to share what is in their heart. We may paint to share the things around us. We may paint to record history. We may paint to share with others. We may paint for practice or to learn n…

    Read More

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    Read More

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