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Artists’ Essential Painting Techniques

Understanding some basic painting techniques will help you experiment with various styles and create your unique artistic voice if you want to improve your painting abilities. Different painting techniques can enhance your practice and give you the confidence to paint, whether you prefer working with oil, acrylic, or watercolor.

Exploring how an artist produced a specific effect or finish will help you comprehend and appreciate art by utilizing your knowledge of various painting techniques. If you’re curious about how to interpret art, you may get suggestions on where to start by reading our guide on how to interpret art.

Regardless of your level of experience or knowledge, we’ve put together this guide to provide you with a quick introduction to 10 fundamental painting methods to attempt.

Getting going

Forget about the “rules” and experiment with various styles and techniques to improve your painting abilities. According to Theo Carnegy-Tan, Arts Academic and UAL short course tutor, “painters looking to enhance their processes have done so by twisting the rules and expectations established by previous generations. It might mean using extreme impasto or vigorous gestural strokes as the Expressionists and Impressionists did in the early 20th Century.

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all the options and methods, keep in mind what Theo, the instructor of our short course on understanding contemporary art, says: “Even in an amplified form, you are not required to adhere to standard methods at all. Famously, John Baldessari commissioned a third party to create a picture for him that was made completely of text phrases that were all taken from instructional textbooks. For post-war painters of all stripes who completely abandoned form, gesture, and colour, this method of thinking opened up new possibilities.”


The first coat of paint that is placed on a canvas or board is referred to as “underpainting.” This coating or layer is a foundation for other paint coats and can add contrast and tone to a painting. This straightforward technique may significantly alter an image’s mood by bringing brightness to sections that could otherwise look flat and uniform, like a section of sky or sea. To highlight specific colors and attract attention to certain details, such as light or shadow, artists may decide to experiment with the underpainting’s tone.

Dry brushing

In the process known as “dry brushing,” artists occasionally use a paintbrush that is mostly dried to the touch but still holds paint to create artwork. This method will give your brushstrokes a rough, scratchy appearance that is challenging to produce with a wet brush or when using a lot of paint. To accurately portray the texture of the natural environment, including clouds, trees, and hedgerows, use dry brushing.

Intricate examples of this painting technique can be found throughout ancient Chinese art. A brush would create a softer, lighter look that was frequently intensely atmospheric by dipping it into black or colored ink.


The word “sgraffito,” which means “scratched” in Italian, refers to a painting method that involves scratching away a layer of paint to reveal what is behind it. Artists can successfully scratch off the superficial layer to reveal distinctive patterns or shapes by covering a previous surface with another layer.

Any item that enables you to scratch a line into the paint can be used. To practice making marks, you could try using the pointed end of a paintbrush, or you might like to explore with a piece of card, a palette knife, a comb, or a fork.


By adding a thin, transparent, or semi-transparent paint coating to a painting, the glazing technique brings out the work’s brilliance. A large, soft-bristled brush is frequently employed in the glazing process, which can be pretty challenging. By adjusting the amount of pigment you apply, you can change the color of your glaze. You can also select to add more glaze layers for a darker result. When done correctly, glazing can produce a subtle balance between color and tone by bringing the contrast of colors together.

During the Renaissance, glazing was a popular method of paint blending. Over the primary color, a thin layer of paint would be placed, changing the color underneath and creating a variety of soft, rich tones.


Painting done in free-form, sweeping gestures is referred to as gestural painting. This painting is adopted by artists committed to physically expressing themselves via their work. When perceived by a viewer, this method could reveal something about the artist’s emotions or mental state.

Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Robert Mother well were all abstract expressionist painters noted for their interest in gestural painting.


If you like working with complex patterns and producing detailed paintings, you might want to try stippling. Small circles or dots are used in the stippling process to make a picture. Using a pen or brush, one pigment color is applied to create bubbles. The arrangement of the dots may imply shapes, forms, and areas of contrast that can be interpreted in various ways.


Pouring is a straightforward but powerful method that works best with acrylic paint. This method includes pouring paint directly onto a surface and tilting the canvas at various angles to activate the color and move it around, as opposed to using painting equipment like brushes or sponges to create a work of art. With this technique, the colors can naturally meld together to produce colorful, one-of-a-kind artwork that reflects the interactions between colors.


Splattering is an excellent technique to explore if you want to unwind and put all your attention on painting as an outlet for expression. This method is about accepting the unpredictable nature of the image and reveling in a degree of spontaneity that is challenging to create when utilizing other, more systematic processes. Your brush should be wetted with water before being dipped into an acrylic color and brushed onto the canvas.


This simple method entails dabbing paint onto a surface using a paper towel, sponge, or stiff bristle brush. Applying the color should be done fast and lightly. Painting treetops or other greenery to reflect a sense of movement is an excellent idea because dabbing can help to create texture and training in composition. Look through some of Claude Monet’s examples of work for ideas.

Palette knife

A palette knife can be utilized to produce some distinctive effects in your work that would be challenging to replicate using a brush, despite what you might believe. Palette knives are very helpful for blending edges since they may create a rough, grainy appearance by sliding one color into another. A palette knife can also add little bursts of color to a painting by dabbing paint onto the canvas with its loaded tip.