How to start
a painting

how do you start an art painting?
use the principles of good art and
start your paintings with these 5 easy steps

How to start a painting - Your how to painting checklist by artist Carol MayYou are "Going Places" with your art!

how to start a painting

  • Learn how to start a painting and get ready for your how to painting lessons.
  • You may also use these steps to confidently start your own beautiful creations.

#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.

  • Set aside time to paint.

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

Learn how to start a painting and practice.

The more we practice the better we get.


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


paint often


#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 copyrighted.
Cedar Key Canal an oil painting by artist Carol May"Cedar Key Canal" from my photo

You may 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 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 are usually painted larger.

WC or oil Paints


WC paper or canvas


#4 draw your subject

  • Do some sketches the size of a postcard.

Sketch the large portions of the painting to lay out the composition. Pay close attention to the values. Contrasting values create stunning paintings.

  • 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.


Drawing is an important step of how to start a painting.

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 painting surface.


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

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 directly on 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 additional colors from your selected colors.


how to start a painting

  • 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.


now, how do you paint your painting?

  • Guidelines for painting with oils
  • What about watercolors?

painting is lots of fun - enjoy!

  1. Home
  2. >
  3. Start A Painting

visit these popular pages

  • Painting Watercolor Flowers

    The most important thing about painting watercolor flowers is - watercolor is fun and exciting! Learn how to paint watercolor Iris, Poppies and Echinacea flowers.

  • Daisy Painting with Oils

    Confidently do an easy daisy painting of white daisies with oils. Speed up your art journey while learning how to paint daisies with this step-by-step tutorial.

  • Critter Paintings

    Critter paintings are lots of fun! Oil and watercolor paintings of all the intriguing animals God created; dolphins, koi, giraffes, sea turtles, birds and more…

  • How to Oil Paint - Answers to FAQs

    Answers to frequent questions about how to oil paint. What you need to oil paint, how to use oils, best paints, brushes, colors, drying time, cleanup and more …

  • How to Paint Watercolor

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

Recent Articles

  1. How to Paint a Painting

    Jul 10, 20 02:09 PM

    You will amaze your friends when you learn how to paint a painting! Use the basic steps of painting a picture plus, get tips on painting watercolors and oils.

    Read More

  2. Happy Easter Everyone!

    Apr 12, 20 09:30 AM

    A prophetic watercolor painting by artist Carol May Today is a special day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This prophetic painting the "Rose of Sharon" is from a few years ago. But it is timeless, it still applies to today. Look up, J…

    Read More

  3. How to Paint Ocean

    Feb 25, 20 11:01 PM

    Learn how to paint ocean. Understand what makes waves. Follow simple steps to create your own seascape paintings. Then you can enjoy the beach at home anytime.

    Read More

Recent Articles

  1. How to Paint a Painting

    Jul 10, 20 02:09 PM

    You will amaze your friends when you learn how to paint a painting! Use the basic steps of painting a picture plus, get tips on painting watercolors and oils.

    Read More

  2. Happy Easter Everyone!

    Apr 12, 20 09:30 AM

    A prophetic watercolor painting by artist Carol May Today is a special day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This prophetic painting the "Rose of Sharon" is from a few years ago. But it is timeless, it still applies to today. Look up, J…

    Read More

  3. How to Paint Ocean

    Feb 25, 20 11:01 PM

    Learn how to paint ocean. Understand what makes waves. Follow simple steps to create your own seascape paintings. Then you can enjoy the beach at home anytime.

    Read More