Getting Started with Painting

Getting Started with Painting


So you want to get into painting, but you’re not sure where to even begin. Well, look no further. We are going to go over things you’ll need to get started into painting.

Painting, and knowing what to use with what medium, can be daunting. That’s what we're here for.

Firstly, we’re going to be talking about general supplies. These are the staple items you’ll want to grab, and you may already have them lying around the house.



One of the most important parts of painting supplies are palettes. These can be anything from wooden palettes with a thumb hole, to plastic flower palettes, to the large palettes with huge wells and air-tight lids.

Another option is palette paper, for when you only plan on painting in one session, and want to quickly and easily discard the paint afterwards. Or you can even create your own depending on the way you like to paint will depend on the type of palette you use. After all, you’ll want to use what you’re comfortable with. Test out different types, and see how they work for you.



Since this is all about painting, of course you’re going to want something to paint with.

Here, we’ll be talking about 4 different types of paints: oil, acrylic, watercolor and gouache. I plan on going more in depth with each type of paint, but for now, I want to give you a brief overview of each type.

Oil paint is, of course, made from a mixture of oil and pigment. It is a very slow drying paint, great for blending your paints together without worrying about them drying too quickly. Plus, you can come back to it after a day or two, and it’ll still be workable.

Acrylic paint is a mixture of pigment and an acrylic polymer emulsion. They are water soluble when wet, and water resistant when dry. They are very opaque, so much so, that it makes fixing mistakes on dried layers quite easy.

Acrylics are relatively quick-drying so if you want to blend, you will have to work quickly. Because of how quickly they dry, you won’t have to wait days to finish a painting.

Watercolor paint is a mixture of pigment and a water soluble binder. As their name suggests, watercolors are a water soluble paint, and can be reactivated once dry.

Watercolors are a transparent paint, so any time you let a layer dry, and paint over it, you’ll be able to see the previous layer underneath. They also dry relatively fast, so you’ll want to work quickly.

Gouache paint is very similar to watercolor, in that it is made with the same materials, and is water soluble, and reactivated when dry. However, gouache is similar to acrylic, in the fact that it is a very opaque paint. They also dry to be a nice matte finish, great for photographing.


Painting Surfaces

There are many types of painting surfaces, and it all depends on the paint you’re using.

With acrylic and oil paints, you’ll want either a canvas or a canvas panel. Canvases come in a lot of different textures, so you’ll want to experiment to see what is best for you, and your art.

Another option is canvas paper, a thick, coated paper designed to emulate the texture and feel of a canvas.

For watercolor and gouache, you’ll want watercolor paper. Watercolor paper is very thick, and has a special coating, called sizing. It can also have a smooth texture, called hot pressed, or a rough texture, called either cold pressed or rough.



Since you’ll be needing water to clean your brushes, and to thin down paint, I think we should also talk about a container to hold your water in. This isn’t going to apply to oil paints, but we’ll get to them later.

You can use almost anything that doesn’t have a leak, to hold your water- anything from cleaned out peanut butter jars, to expensive name brand water buckets.

If we’re counting, I’d recommend you either have two water containers, or you have a water bucket that has multiple sections.

You’ll want one jar of water to clean out your paintbrush, and the second one for clean water. The clean water will be for cleaner mixes when mixing your paints, and it’ll make sure that if you water something down, it doesn’t get muddied.

Speaking of water, another item you might find yourself wanting, is a spray bottle. This is a super useful tool for keeping your paints nice and moist, and making sure acrylics don’t dry out. Again, this doesn’t apply to oil paint, because they have no problems with quick drying, and you don’t want to be mixing oil and water.



If you’re planning on using oils, this is a must have for cleaning your brushes between colors. Since most oils are not water-soluble, you’ll need something to break down the oil paint.

This can also be used for thinning down paint, just as water does for acrylic, watercolor and gouache.

A lot of solvents nowadays are odorless, but still harmful if consumed. They also have all natural types of solvents, which aren’t harmful, made of lavender and smell quite pleasant.


Rags and Paper Towel

Another supply you’ll want to keep handy is some type of rag or paper towel. These items are really handy for when you get too much water or paint on your brush, and you need to wipe some off.

They’re also really handy for small messes you might make as you paint. You may want to keep a rag or paper towel around while painting. They’re really helpful for when you need to clean up a spill, or clean your brushes.



After you’ve finished a painting, and it’s completely dry, you’ll want to varnish it. Varnish is a top coat that you put onto your painting, so that in 100 or so years the varnish layer will yellow, but your actual painting will not.

It can be removed and reapplied. Plus, they come in different finishes, so you can make your paintings have a glossy, matte or satin finish.



Now that we’ve talked about paints and surfaces, you’ll want something to apply your paint with.

Paint brushes come in many different shapes, sizes, and hair types, and each can change the way a paint looks on the paper or canvas. You’ll want to make sure you’re using the right brush for the paint you’re using or you may find yourself getting frustrated.

For watercolor, generally you’re going to want a soft paint brush that holds a good bit of water, and holds its shape well.

For acrylics and gouache, holding water in the bristles is less important, but you’re still going to want a brush that can hold its shape.

With acrylics, you can use either soft or textured brushes, depending on whether or not you want brushstrokes in your painting. However, I’d recommend a soft brush for gouache.

Lastly, for oils you can either use a soft or textured brush, again, depending on whether you want minimal or maximum brush strokes. Also, as with the other mediums, you’ll want a brush that can retain its shape.


Brush Cleaner

When it comes to maintaining paintbrushes, along with proper care, you’ll definitely want a good brush cleaner.

Water/solvent won’t be able to completely rinse the paint out, and plus you don’t want to ruin your brushes, so that’s where brush soap comes in.

Most of them also help condition your brushes too, so be sure to get some and use it after every painting session.

Now keep in mind that these are just the basics that you’ll need to begin your painting journey. There are plenty to learn and lots to experiment with, so happy painting!


Article by McCaela Gates
Made especially for MyArtscape

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