Monday, October 26, 2015

5 Painting Techniques You Should Know

What is a Painting Technique vs Painting Technology?

Painting techniques are commonly assumed to be specific styles adopted by individual artists. But this assumption is WRONG. In order to under to understand what painting technique really is, let’s define painting first. Painting is application of paint, color, pigment, dye or any other medium to a surface (also known as base). The medium is applied to the base with a brush, but other implements (sponges, airbrushes, etc) may be used. That said, the term “painting technique” refers to the peculiar use of different kinds of media, implements and bases to create a final piece.

In his book “Painting Technology and Painting Techniques,” Prof. Jan Hoplinski said, “while painting technology allows painters to become familiar with the materials used for painting, painting techniques allow them to get to know the ways of using the inventions of painting technologies to create a painting.”

To begin work, an artist need to make appropriate choices and selections. Oil paints, tempura, encaustic or watercolor produce very different effects, contributing to a specific character and strength of a piece. Kurt Herberts asked, “does it matter to an artist which technique they are going to use if they have something to say?” But he quickly answers, “this something that an artist desires to present cannot be expressed without ‘how.’” That ‘how’ is the ultimate explanation of what painting technique is.

Painting technologies

Coloring substances, usually inorganic, both natural and artificial, indissoluble in water and other organic solvents, which with binders make paints.

Coloring substances, usually organic, which become indissoluble in water and other organic solvents when placed on a surface. Glazes produce distinctively stronger colors, but do not cover as much. They are used to produce paints, graphic paints, etc.

Coloring organic compounds both natural and artificial, usually easily soluble in water and other organic solvents, which have a feature of coloring other materials They are typically used to color cloths, fibers,  plastic, paper, foods, cosmetics, etc. By deposing on the inorganic substrate (aluminum hydroxide or chalk), you may use the material used for production of paints and graphic paints.

Painting Techniques

Acrylic Painting

Acrylic Painting is a popular painting technique, which utilizes acrylic paints. Acrylic painting is a convenient alternative to oil painting, watercolor, and gouache since it allows for easy mixing of different colors, and making retouches on a final version of a painting. Acrylic technique works spectacularly well for the composition of grand spaces (especially landscapes), and intermingling of colors. However, just like watercolor, acrylic painting does not do a good job with airy and fuzzy objects on canvas.
Acrylic paints may be applied on different bases, such as: canvas, paper, particle board, wood, metal, walls, and murals. Waxed or oily surfaces require prior acrylic priming. Acryl dries very rapidly, between 15 to 60 minutes. Another advantage of acrylic paints is their capability to be removed with water while being painted. There is no need to use solvents, which typically damage brushes. However, as soon as the paint dries, it is no longer removable. It does not crumble nor lose the strength of its color. Pieces done with acrylic paints are very durable, and show with very intense colors and hues.
This technique has been used by some of the most accomplished artists:

  • Mark Rothko: Yellow and Gold
  • Jackson Pollock: Number 1
  • Andy Warhol: Campbell’s Soup Cans
  • Roy Lichtenstein: “Whaam!”


Deriving from the Italian word “fresco” (translates into fresh), this technique relies on covering wet walls, or more specifically plasters, with a special type of paint resistant to calcium. In everyday use, frescos refer to any and all paintings on walls, regardless of the technique used. However, it is important to remember that this is an inappropriate use of vocabulary.

Fresco is considered to be the most difficult painting technique, since it does not allow for any retouches. That said, such paintings are very durable

Wall fresco is a few layers of different ingredients. Firstly, there is arriciato, a thick mortar with slaked lime, sand, pieces of broken bricks and stones. Secondly, there is intonaco, a smooth layer, which is a basis for a fresco. Its ingredients include slaked lime, and fine grained sand or marble dust. In the course of paint application, the chemical reaction of slaked lime and carbon dioxide produces crystalline calcium carbonate. Therefore, the fresco is very durable, and colors are extremely intense. It is important that fresco is done gradually, so that the contours of the work can be emphasized. As such, the time needed for completing the work can be long.

Fresco technique was known and used ever since the Antiquity. Some of the most popular pieces performed in fresco include the following:

  • Giotto: Scrovenich in Padua
  • Masaccio: Branccacich in Florence
  • Michael Angelo: “The Last Judgement”
  • Michael Angelo: “The Creation of Adam”

Oil Painting

Oil painting is one of the most popular painting techniques across times. It has been practiced by some of the most famous artists across centuries such as:

  • Jan Van Eyck: “Portrait of Margaret van Eyck”
  • Hieronymus Bosch: “Garden of Earthly Delights”
  • Claude Monet: “Poppy Field”

In this technique, an artist applies special paint on a previously prepared canvas. Paints are usually made of linseed oil, and less frequently other plants, like poppy seed. Paints are also combined with pigments in order to get appropriate color. They can be also mixed with wax, which extends durability of the mix. As a base for the painting, one could use a wooden, regular and smooth board.
Not every artist can afford to use oil technique on their canvasses since it is a very expensive form of art. However, this technique produces quite interesting effects. Oil paints can be mixed to produce various colors, dimness, and glossiness. Artists also use oil technique to get translucent patterns, complicated textures and intermingling of colors.

Oil technique require knowledge and practice. They will allow for freedom of creation through the possibility of multiple retouches by adding additional layers of paint. Oil paintings are specifically durable and color-intensive. For the past 300 years, oil paints have been produced in the same way. At the beginning, they were made in tubes made of lead and tin. Later, the packages were made of aluminum. In 19th century, natural pigments were replaced by synthetic pigments. In late 20th century, waterborne oil paints were introduced.

Tempera Painting

Tempera is a popular painting technique. Known since antiquity, it has recently become more popular due to its practical paints. Tempera does not require priming, and paints dry relatively quickly. They cover canvas, wooden board and regular paper. The majority of tempera paintings were produced in the Medieval Ages.

The most characteristic feature of tempera painting is the utilization of tempera emulsion, a specific paint binder.

Tempera paints was popularly used in the Medieval ages, and possibly in the Antiquity. This classic technique is especially popular in sketches and “grounds.” Despite its advantages, acrylic painting is more popular.

Some of the most famous artists used this technique:

  • Lorenz Frolich: Sweyn Forkbeard
  • Sandro Botticelli: “The Birth of Venus”
  • Sassett: “Madonna”
  • Andrei Rublev: “St. Paul from Tarsus”

Watercolor Painting

Watercolor is one of the most popular techniques. Among professional painters, it is known as the technique for “tough guys” because the final effect depends on both a) abilities of an artist, and b) selection of appropriate substances.

Watercolor utilizes pigments diluted in water. Paintings are oftentimes done on porous paper, because it quickly absorbs water. Watercolors paints do not cover the entire surface fully. The color and texture of paper remain visible, contributing to the overall artistic impression. And, this kind of effect is at the core of this kind of technique.

The most common themes of watercolor paintings include romantic landscapes and delicate forms. Therefore, landscapes and portraits are the best choices for this technique.

Watercolor does not require lots of financial resources. It requires a lot of patience since watercolor is a very demanding art for genuine perfectionists. Watercolor paintings are very unique, and any retouches may damage the entire effect. Retouch is based on adding elements, but covering previous surfaces is not possible. Watercolor painters do not use white dye because it’s not visible on white paper.

Watercolor takes a significant amount of time. Drying of the paper takes a lot of time. Round brushes are the most convenient. Palette should be white so you can see the real hue of the paint.


What are your most favorite painting techniques?

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