8 must-know painting techniques for artists

If your armed with a paintbrush and ready to go, don't miss these must-know painting techniques to help get you started.

You've assembled all the necessary tools, set up your own workspace, got the best pencils and paintbrushes and you're ready to start your artistic journey. But before you do, it's worth knowing some fundamental painting techniques to help you along the way.

Here, artist Dave Kendall reveals eight painting techniques that will have you painting like a pro in no time.

01. General principles

Painting techniques: general principles

Experiment with as many different techniques and media as possible

Experiment with as many different techniques and media as possible. Choose your media to suit your subject matter. This is the first time I have used Artisan Water Mixable Oils. I found them to be rather nice to work with. You have the advantages of oils but without the need for spirits and solvents. They have buttery and smooth consistency, with the extended drying time of oils.

02. Foundation work

Painting techniques: foundation work

Work paint up from thin to thick, especially when using slow drying paints

I never work from white when using olis or acrylics. Create an underpainting establishing shadows and values with burnt umber or a mix or burnt sienna and phthalo blues. Acrylics are probably best at this stage as they're quick-drying and permanent. You can use almost any media on top of acrylic, but not oils.

Work paint up from thin to thick, especially when using slow drying paints. It's impossible to work on top of heavy, wet paint. In the same way, work up to highlights, adding the brightest and usually heavier paint at the end. Have a roll of kitchen towel to clean brushes and take excess paint off the surface if a mistake is made.

03. Brush types

Painting techniques: Brush types

Brushes come in a number of shapes and with different fibre types

Brushes come in a number of shapes and with different fibre types. Combinations of these will give very different results. The key is to try all of them as you paint. The most versatile of these are the synthetic/ sable mix. These brushes can be used with most of the different paint types. Brushes come in flat and round types and it pays to have a selection of both.

I work with a range of brushes. For most of the early work I find myself using larger flatter and broader brushes. A filbert is a good general brush for blocking in form and paint. It has a dual nature combining the aspects of flat and round brushes so can cover detail as well as larger areas. I find myself using smaller brushes only at the end of the painting process.

04. Texture

Painting techniques: Texture

Have a dry flat brush that you can use to blend and create smooth transitions

Have a dry flat brush that you can use to blend and create smooth transitions. I do tend to like lots of texture and like to see brush marks in my own work. Almost anything can be used to add texture to your paint. There are ready-made texture media available, but I have seen items such as egg shell and sand used to add interest to a painting. Use an old toothbrush to spatter your image with paint. This can be remarkably effective at suggesting noise and grain.

05. Dry brush

This is a method of applying colour I use that only partially covers a previously dried layer. You should use very little paint on the brush and apply it with very quick, directional strokes. This method tends to work best when applying light paint over dark areas/dried paint and is useful in depicting rock and grass textures.

06. Less is more

Painting techniques: Less is more

Removing paint can be as important as applying it

Removing paint can be as important as applying it. Sgraffito is the term used when you scratch away paint while it's wet to expose the underpainting. It's especially useful when depicting scratches, hair, grasses and the like. You can use almost any pointed object for this. In the Death Dealer painting I use rubber shaping tools or the end of a brush to create scratches through wet paint, for battle-worn armour or similar textures.

07. Glazing

The process of laying a coat of transparent paint over a dry part of the painting. Used for intensifying shadows and modulating colour. A light transparent blue over dry yellow will of course create green. Use successive glazes repeatedly.

08. Painting mediums

Painting techniques: painting mediums

Mediums are fluids that can be added to paint to modulate their consistency, drying time and texture

Mediums are fluids that can be added to paint to modulate their consistency, drying time and texture. In the case of acrylics you get different mediums that make the paint matte or gloss. However my greatest use of matte medium is sealing paper and board, so paint doesn't soak into it.

Words: Dave Kendall

Bristol-based artist Dave Kendall began his career by illustrating book covers, and more recently has worked on trading cards and comics. He works in both traditional and digital media. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX bookazine How to Paint & Draw.

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