how to start a painting: Use five easy steps to start any art painting

  • Learn how to start a painting with a few basic steps that get you ready for the actual process of painting.

You can will use these five steps to start painting the how-to tutorials.

Also, you will confidently start your own beautiful creations with these easy steps. The process is the same.

How to start a painting - Your how to painting checklist by artist Carol MayYour art is "Going Places"

how to start a painting

  • Use these easy steps to start any painting.

#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 will be more likely to paint more often.

  • Set aside time to paint.

Painters progress rapidly when they paint regularly. Dedicated artists have painted daily for generations.

After you learn how to start a painting, practice. Painting daily is a great way to learn.

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.
Cedar Key Canal an oil painting by artist Carol MayPainting from my own photo

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

  • Please Note: Photos from a postcard, calendar or a magazine are under copyright laws.

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

Artist's paintings are also copyrighted.

The best bet is to use your own photos, or 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.

Student paints are less expensive, but professional artist paints contain more pigment. Artist paints cover better and provide more color than student paints.

what will you paint on?

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

Watercolors are most often painted on paper. Oil and acrylic are generally painted on canvas or panels.

what size will your painting be?

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

  • Think about how much time you are going to spend painting.

If your time is limited, smaller paintings may be a better choice. That way can have the satisfaction of completing a painting. Large paintings will often take several sessions before the painting is complete.

#4 draw your subject

  • Do some sketches the size of a postcard.

Lay out the composition by sketching the large portions of the painting. Pay close attention to the values. Contrasting values create stunning paintings.

  • Draw detailed subject to scale.

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

Learning to draw is a part of learning how to start a painting.

drawings for watercolors

Watercolor painting of Leafy Sea Dragons by Carol MayThis drawing was done on paper first.
  • 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 painting surface.

drawings for oil paintings

God's Lighthouse oil painting by artist Carol MayThis drawing was done on the canvas.
  • Do an outline sketch with thinned yellow paint directly on the canvas.

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

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

If there is a lot of detail, do your drawing on paper first and then transfer to the canvas.

#5 select your colors

  • Three to five colors will give you a harmonious painting.

It's good when you learning how to start a painting to not use all your colors.

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.

Mix any additional colors from your selected colors.

5 easy steps to start your paintings

  1. Pick a time and place to paint
  2. Select your subject
  3. Get the materials for your media
  4. Draw your subject
  5. Select your color scheme

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

now, how do you paint a painting?

what do you paint first, second, etc?

  • Learn the logic of what to paint when.
  • Get some guidelines for using oil paints. 
  • How do you approach painting with watercolor?

painting is fun!

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