As an artist, I know when I began painting I was a bit confused by the different kinds of paint, different brands, and what kind of surfaces each paint would work best for. I had questions about drying time, which paints were easiest to use, and where I could find them. After taking many art courses, working for an art store, and trial and error, I learned a lot of tips for how to select the right paint. Follow my guide below to help you start your project with the right paint for you.
Watercolor paints are the first kind of paint I remember using in school. Water colors usually come in a pan or a tube, and use water as their medium to make the paint flow. The colors are transparent, which means light can pass through them. Think of it this way, if you drew a line with a black marker, you could paint over it with water color, and still see the line. The amount of water you add to the paint or surface you’re painting on, the more see through the color is. However, watercolors are not very forgiving. If you mess up, you will have to find a creative way to cover your work or dilute the spot with a lot of water and blot with a towel to remove the paint. A student or beginners pan watercolor can cost anywhere from five to ten dollars, with more advanced styles and tube-style watercolors running a bit more.
Watercolor paints work nicely on watercolor papers or watercolor canvases. You will need a special canvas that is designed for watercolor if you want to use it, however, as regular canvas will just soak up the paint. I find that paper is the easiest product to use, and provides the most versatility. Watercolors are not very light fast, and can fade very quickly. It is best to display them out of direct sunlight and put them under a frame when you finish.
Acrylics are my favorite type of paint to recommend to a beginner. Acrylic paint is made from plastic polymers mixed with pigments. They are usually very opaque and have good color saturation. This means if you put that black marker line on your canvas, the acrylics would cover that completely. Acrylics are very inexpensive and forgiving to a certain extent. If you make a mistake, you can sometimes scrape the paint away from the canvas or cover it easily with a darker color or multiple layers of another color once its dried.
Acrylics work well with paper, canvas, plastic and almost any surface. Using a clear coat spray you can find at most hardware stores, you can seal acrylic paint to any surface and it will not chip. I have used acrylics to paint patio furniture, and with a sealer, they still look brand new. If you are painting on canvas, it is important to coat the painting with a liquid sealer to keep the paint from being damaged by the elements. Acrylics are also very inexpensive and can be found at nearly any retailer for as little as one dollar or less per bottle.
Oil paints are by far the most difficult to work with, as they require a lot of extra steps to use. Oil paints come in tubes and are mixed with various oils to help the paint flow. You can make the paints as opaque or transparent as you like by adding more or less of the mixing oil. The paints do often contain toxic elements, so you don’t want to let children paint with them or have them around pets. You can add mediums that make the paint thicker, thinner, or add different textures, which makes it very versatile. If you make a mistake, you can often scrape the paint off using a palette knife and start from scratch. Oils tend to be the priciest choice, as you will need to buy paints and mixing oil to use them.
Oils have a very long drying time, depending on the thickness of your layer. Thin layers of oils can take about a week to fully cure, but may be dry to the touch after twenty-four hours. Thicker paint and bigger canvases can take several days to dry to the touch. Additionally, the paint isn’t fully cured for about six months. However, oil paints look beautiful on canvas and can also be used on special oil papers and boards. The will flow easily on the canvas and are very vibrant, and will last the longest on the canvas. Many classic paintings are oil, and have lasted a long time due to the longevity of oil paints.
Now that you have selected the right kind of paint for you and your project, you can get started. Make sure to have plenty of light and work space for your painting, and maybe put on some relaxing music. Most importantly, remember to have fun and don’t stress, and be proud of the work that you produce. With a little practice, you’ll have art that you can display in your home or even give as gifts. You’re an artist now!