When it comes to learning a new skill, most of us have the same goal in mind – to improve over time. Whether you’re learning a new language, playing an instrument, or painting, seeing yourself get better at something gives you confidence, and the satisfaction of having a finished product is rather rewarding.
But if you’re just getting started, developing your painting skills can feel daunting. There’s an enormous amount of information available out there—so much so that it can be difficult to know where to start. Plus, if you’re just starting out, the thought of creating your own painting from scratch can be intimidating. Fears of making mistakes or not being able to produce a good piece are common but don’t let that hold you back. The journey of learning how to paint is all about embracing and learning from mistakes to push past your comfort zone. As long as you keep showing up, you’ll see that progress is definitely possible with enough practice. But what is the right way to go about practicing? In this blog post, I’ll be covering 14 simple painting tips that will help you improve your painting skills.
1. Learn About the 7 Elements of Art
Although painting seems simple at first glance, there are several elements you need to understand and take into consideration within your art practice. The 7 elements of art include color, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value. Each element plays a vital role in creating a painting that is visually and technically good. Each element can be seen as an ingredient in the art skills mixing bowl. Different combinations of these elements produce different effects on the viewer.
Color and Value
When color is used correctly, it can create a sense emotion in paintings. For example, by adding strong colors to a painting, you create drama, while soft colors may have a more subtle effect. Color and value go hand in hand in art. A well-balanced combination of light and dark values creates depth and shadows in the painting. Color theory is a vast subject, so if you aren’t yet comfortable with it, there are tons of resources out there from which you can learn! I’ve put together another post on finding color palette inspiration which also covers color theory, so check that out if you’d like to learn more.
Form helps artists organize their ideas and create visually appealing and meaningful compositions. Without form, a painting would be just a pile of colors thrown together without any order or structure. Understanding form helps painters control their viewers’ attention by directing it where they want it to go.
As one of the key elements of art, line is essential for creating a balance between form and content. There are many different types of line that can be used in painting: soft lines, cross hatching, fine lines, strong strokes, etc. The way you use line to create effect is up to you, but understanding how it impacts your artwork is an important skill.
Shape helps to create balance and harmony in a painting. When everything in a painting is organized according to shape, it becomes easier for viewers to understand and appreciate the artwork. Shape is also essential when it comes to creating tension and drama in a painting. By arranging different shape elements within a frame, you can create an intense visual experience that draws viewers into your work-of-art.
Space allows us to see the entire composition as a whole, and helps us understand how each element affects the rest. Artists use line and shape to fill space, but also strategically leave negative space, or empty space, to create visual interest.
Texture can give a painting depth, richness, and dimensionality. It can also add complexity and interest to a composition by providing variation within a single image.
2. Improve Your Drawing Skills
If you want to improve your painting skills, improve your drawing skills. Learning to sketch will help you learn how to capture the complex shapes and forms of the world around you, but with a simpler medium. Practice drawing simple objects on a daily basis. This will help you develop your observational skills. Also, use sketching as a tool for developing your creative ideas. By spending time sketching ideas, you can develop an eye for detail and familiarity with different aspects of a subject before you even start painting.
3. Practice Painting in a Sketchbook Regularly
One of the single best ways to become a better painter is by showing up often. However, the cost of canvas can add up with daily painting practice, as well as the space it takes to store it. Practicing painting in a sketchbook is an approachable, economic way to increase the frequency that you paint, accelerating the growth of your skills. Sketchbooks come in different sizes, but be sure to get one with thick enough paper for painting practice so it doesn’t warp with the moisture. The best part about a sketchbook is you can truly paint freely like no one will ever see it, because you can rip the pages out and throw them away if you don’t like it!
4. Get Warmed Up Before Starting Your Painting
Before you begin a painting, it can be helpful to warm up and practice your skills. This helps take the edge off when staring at a blank canvas. You can use your sketchbook to practice drawing shapes and lines and making meaningless marks as you work out nervous energy. I personally prefer to do my warmup on the canvas or paper on which I am planning to paint, as it helps me start the underpainting. Those abstract and energetic first marks and layers can add depth and interest to the final painting, helping to create a unique and authentic piece of art.
5. Paint Subjects You Find Interesting
If you’re not sure what to paint, try painting from photos. This will help you get used to drawing from reference material and develop your skills quickly. Plus, it’s a great way to practice different genres of art and explore different styles. Work from your own photos, or search free stock photography websites like Pexels or Pixabay for reference photos of subjects you are interested in.
You can also challenge yourself by following artist’s prompts. Search for “artist prompts” or “painting prompts” on Google and Pinterest, and find a list of different prompts you can paint from each day. They might consist of single word topics or a question to inspire your painting. But when you are short on ideas and want to practice, artist prompts can be just the nudge you need to tackle that blank canvas.
6. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone With New Painting Mediums
As you learn to paint, it can be easy to stick with the same mediums and techniques in which you’ve grown confident. But there are many other painting mediums out there that can give your artwork a fresh and vibrant finish. If you’re like me and typically paint with acrylics, you might find that oil painting will stretch your creative limits in a fun new way. Try experimenting with different media, such as oil pastels, watercolors, and charcoal pencils to expand your palette and create unique artworks. Once you’ve experienced different art mediums, you can even combine them to create unique mixed media artworks.
7. Experiment With Different Painting Tools
Similar to playing with new mediums, change the tools you are working with to expand your painting skills. Instead of your paintbrush, try using a palette knife to paint details or a brayer for uniform coverage. Try different size and shapes of paintbrushes so you can create varying effects. It’s also fun and interesting to try non-traditional painting tools from random objects to see what kind of strokes and textures you can make. As you explore different ways to create marks with different tools, you will grow in your skills as a painter and gain more confidence with your favorite tools.
8. Look at Your Painting From a Different Point of View
Sometimes while painting, we start to notice things that aren’t right with the painting or feel stuck on how to proceed further. This is when it is helpful to stand back and view the painting from a different angle or from above or below. By shifting your point of view, you can get a better sense of the whole picture and see where you need to make improvements. Also, try rotating your canvas or paper. This can help spark new ideas and encourage you to look at the painting in different ways. Finally, consider using your phone camera to check values by converting the image to grayscale, or mock up the painting in a virtual room app. When you see how the painting looks in a room setting, it can help you see areas that need work or confirm that the painting is finished.
9. Let Go of Your Fear of Painting
Have you ever thought of painting as a scary or difficult process? Do you feel that you are not good at painting and you don’t know how to get better? Fear can be paralyzing, so it’s important to learn to paint like no one will ever see it. As you paint, free yourself from the constraints of perspective, color, brushstrokes, etc. Let the painting unfold naturally and trust your creativity. If you don’t think too much about each step, chances are you’ll do better. Once you’ve pushed through the fear and established your painting, you can start to consider the previously mentioned elements of art as you figure out how to bring your painting to a finish. The more often you practice painting, the better you will get at overcoming your fears. Just show up with the goal of having fun or releasing some tension, and eventually you’ll find a comfortable groove to paint.
10. Nurture Your Creativity
In order to become a better painter, you must nurture your creativity. There are so many ways to do that, and it’s different for every person, but here are some ideas to get those creative juices flowing.
- Meditate – ideally when you are preparing to paint, to clear your mind and focus on the present moment.
- Take photos of interesting things you encounter in your environment, such as flowers, buildings, or objects you see out-of-the-ordinary.
- Getting out in nature will likewise help you get creative ideas flowing.
- Paint to music – choose your favorite tunes or select an artist or playlist to go with your current mood
- Write in a journal. Get as much of your thoughts out with words as possible to clear the way for you to get into the flow.
- Visit art museums and galleries to see other artists’ work in person and experience different styles and techniques firsthand.
11. Follow Painting Tutorials on Youtube and Pinterest
If you’re new to painting, consider watching painting tutorials on Youtube. There are numerous artists sharing their experience for free on Youtube. These videos are a great way to learn about different painting techniques and how to improve your skills. Plus, they’re an easy way to practice and develop your creative abilities. By watching painting tutorial videos, you can learn the basics of painting and practice these skills until you’re comfortable with them.
12. Try Imitating Artists You Admire
If you want to become a better painter, it’s important to learn from great artists and study their work. One way to do this is to copy famous paintings by great artists. After studying the work of a particular artist, try to create something similar using your own style and unique elements. This will help you develop your creative abilities and improve your painting skills quickly.
Another way to learn from great artists is to follow them on social media platforms such as Instagram. By following artists who share artwork you enjoy, you can get ideas for your own art projects. This approach helps you develop your creativity and improve your art skills through constant practice and experimentation. However, imitating others should be done purely for learning and practice purposes; it should go without saying, but never market an unoriginal piece as your own.
13. Read Art Books
If you enjoy reading, art books can help improve your painting skills by providing you with a better understanding of the techniques and concepts that are used by other artists. Some books are more technical, providing detailed approaches to different painting techniques, while other books by artists are more philosophical with information about mindset and daily practices. Not only will reading from other artists’ experience give you an idea of how they approach their craft, but it can also teach you new techniques and help you develop your own style. There are many great modern art books available on Amazon, or else through libraries or other book retailers. Be sure to check out some reviews first to find the best ones for your needs.
14. Sign up for Local Art Classes
Sometimes, there’s nothing quite as effective as learning from another artist in person. Local art organizations, community centers, and colleges offer art classes that you can attend, often at very reasonable prices. This will also give you an opportunity to network with other painters in your community. Having a community of people with similar interests can provide encouragement and inspiration as you grow as an artist.
To summarize, painting is a skill that can be developed over time with practice and patience. If you have a passion for painting, you will surely find the process of learning to paint enjoyable. If you are just starting out, take things slowly and don’t compare your skills to those of professional artists. Remember that everyone was a beginner at some point! Just keep showing up, and you will soon see an improvement in your painting skills. Embrace the process, and know that the practice of improving your painting skills is an important part of your well-being.