4 Tips to Help with Your Next Painting

Making art is something that can be an incredibly rewarding experience, or it could leave you feeling frustrated and ready to give up on pursuing anything remotely creative. In particular, it can be hard to keep trying an artform when it seems like nothing turns out the way that you had imagined it would when you started the project. I, unfortunately, cannot give you the solution to this problem. Every piece of art I have ever created, from minor sketches to my largest painting project, has flaws that I spent as much effort and time fixing as I could before giving up on them. None ever looked quite the way that I was expecting them to when I began the project. They are “finished” only because I have made the conscious decision to say they are done and walk away.

Luckily for me, I took a painting class a few semesters ago with a wonderful professor. She was supportive, all while teaching us new techniques for improving our paintings and pushing us to do the best we could with our expanding abilities. The best part of the class for me, however, were all the tricks she taught us to help us reach the point where we were satisfied with how our painting turned out. Though I’m not nearly as skilled or experienced with the concepts as my professor, I thought I’d share a few of her tips so that you, too, can feel better about any paintings you create in the future.


1. Make a Border with Tape

Before even setting out any paint or getting a water cup, consider putting masking tape around the edges of a flat canvas (if that is the type you are using). This automatically creates a nice border around your painting, giving it a finished appearance even without a frame. Plus, if you accidentally paint a little outside of your designated area, then you get paint on the tape rather than the surface on which your canvas is sitting. Taking the tape off is also a great final act to really reinforce the decision that you are finished with the painting.


2. Tone the Canvas

One of the hardest parts of painting (which is really saying something) is to mix the right colors to use. This is especially true when the colors are always viewed in reference to white. As such a bright color, a fully white background tends to confuse a person’s perception of what the color they are mixing actually looks like. A way to get around this is to initially paint the canvas a darker shade. This is easiest to do with gray, as you want the paper to have a tone halfway between white and black, but can be used with pretty much any color. This helps with mixing paints, but it also automatically fills in any blank spots that you may miss while painting.


3. Identify the Shadows

A nice way to feel like you’re making early progress on your painting is to fill in the darker sections early in the painting process. By filling in areas that you can see are shadows with a darker tone, the shapes in your painting immediately take on more form and the painting feels more complete.


4. Tone is Important

As previously stated, color is incredibly difficult to get right. So, it’s a lucky thing that getting exactly the right color is not generally necessary to make a painting look good. More important is the tone of the color that is used. In an area with more light, mix a color with a lighter tone. In a more shadowy area, mix a color with a darker tone. I know, easier said than done. It will take some trial and error to find combinations that work together, but you’ll find that it matters more that the tone is right than the color.

These are only a few tips to help out your painting process, but consider trying them out the next time you pick up a paintbrush. Maybe they’ll help you as much as they have helped me. Happy painting!


Images: Cover, 1, 2, 3, 4