What sort of paint should I start with?
By Eliza Leahy
Maybe you have been drawing for years and have completely mastered pencil drawing, charcoal, pen and ink, and now you want to try painting. Or maybe you have just found out you have a hidden talent for art, and want to try everything at once. Whatever the reason, you might find that you are a little confused as to just where to start.
Water colours as a starting point for painting have both good points and bad points. On the good side you can set yourself up with some water colour paints fairly cheaply and they will last you for ages. On the bad side using water colours correctly takes practice and can be frustrating for the beginner.
You can buy water colour paints in either tubes or as cakes. The tubes can be bought as sets, or individually and vary in price from very inexpensive student colours, to very expensive artist colours. As they do last a good while, something middle of the market, even for a beginner, is probably a good idea. Remember, if you buy tubes always use less then you think you might need or you will find yourself with more on your palette then you counted for. One of the excellent properties of water colours though, is that they can be reused even after they are dry. Squeeze some paint out of a tube onto the palette, let it dry, and you still have water colour paint, only in cake form.
It is a good idea, especially when you are starting painting, to buy more then just the basic primary colours. Yes, you can mix any colour you like if you get pure primaries, but when you first start mixing you are going to find that it's more difficult to get the colour you want then you thought, and much paint will be wasted in the attempt. That goes for all painting mediums!
Water Colour Brushes
Never skimp on the quality of the brushes. That doesn't mean that you have to buy the most expensive brushes either, but if you buy the cheapest brushes available you will probably find that you are going to have problems, especially with 'molt'. The last thing you want is stray hair all over your lovely painting. Go for a good quality middle of the range (price wise) set of brushes.
Water colour brushes are mostly round tipped and fairly full. This is so that they will carry the fluid paint to the picture and allow you to make a 'wash' with the least number of lines. You will need several sizes of brush – a large brush for doing background or large areas of wash, several middle sized ones and a few very small, for detailed work. You can buy brushes either as sets, or more commonly, individually.
Water Colour Paper
Water colour paper comes in different grades and types. You can buy it in different weights (gms) just like any other paper, and also either as Hot pressed or Cold pressed. You can purchase books of pre-cut water colour paper, but it is cheaper to buy it by the sheet which you can then cut to sizes that suit you. I would suggest a cold press (which has a slightly heavier texture then hot press) around 180gms.
Clean up with water colours is easy. It cleans up, as the name suggests, in water.
Ease of Use
The point of water colours is that they are transparent and flowing. They should be carefully layered, building from the lightest colour (leaving the paper clear for 'white') to the darkest. Because of this mistakes are very hard to hide, and a good technique can be difficult to achieve. This isn't saying that beginning painters should not use water colours though. Some people find they have an affinity for them.
Water Colour Pencils
Water colour pencils are an inexpensive way to 'paint'. Basically you colour in the picture then smooth and extend with a wet brush. You can buy packets of pencils fairly cheaply, or go for a more professional, and therefore expensive set. Like normal pencils, water colour pencils come in different grades of hardness, although that isn't always obvious on the packet. Ask the salesperson if that particular brand is hard, or soft. Soft is better for getting pigment on the paper. You will also need some brushes (same as for water colour) and some water colour paper.
Gouache, like water colour, is water based. Unlike water colour it is opaque and layered on thickly, rather then in washes. You can buy Gouache in either tubes or bottles, in both student and artist quality, and there is a variety of brands and prices. Once again, a middle of the road price is probably a good starting point. Gouache won't last quite as long as water colours because of the way they are used, but are still economical. Like water colour, once dried Gouache can still be used by re liquidizing with water. As with any paints, buying a larger variety of colours will save you the agony of wasting paint mixing colours.
Gouache is used more like oils then like water colours, and the brushes you use show this. Gouache brushes have flat edges. You will need a range of sizes, and again, never buy the cheapest brush possible.
You can use Gouache on just about any surface. If you are going to use paper, however, use the same water colour paper as mentioned in the section on Water Colour Paints.
As with water colours, Gouache cleans up in water.
Ease of Use
Gouache could possibly be the best for anyone just starting painting. Fast drying allows you to get on with it without losing patience, while it's easy to fix mistakes by painting over them. You can lay it on thick like oils, or wash it on, like water colours.
|Acrylics are very similar to Gouache except that they have a plastic added which means that when they are dry you can't re-wet them. Usually brighter in colour then Gouache as well. Technique is the same as Gouache or oils. The main thing to remember with Acrylics is clean up in water BEFORE they dry as it's much harder to do so after they have dried!
by Eissej the Rouske
I've only ever used two brands of oil paint, so I don't know much about how to select what paint you use. I assume cheap paint will not hold color as well as artist paints, and you sometimes have to mix it to get it the right texture to work with. I do know that most yellow, especially if it's cheap yellow, will turn green if you mix it with black so you ought to have a yellow ochre to mix for dark yellows. You also use a lot more paint with oils than you use with watercolors because you build up several layers of paint over time. White especially gets used a lot, you use some in everything you want light. I personally like to have pale blue, dark blue, yellow, yellow ochre, red, sap green, burnt ochre, burnt sienna, white and a small tube of black.
This is basically up to the artist. Stiffer bristled brushes are good for oil, but that doesn't mean that brushes that don't have stiff bristles are bad. I like to keep three medium stiff bristled flat-ended brushes for mixing paint and doing most painting, one or two small ones with pointed ends for detail and one big medium stiffness brush for doing large areas of solid color. Pallet knives can be useful for mixing if you don't want to pick up the color in a brush or spreading thick paint smoothly, but they are not required.
You can either purchase canvas already prepared, or buy the 'raw' material and stretch it and prepare it yourself. Buying it already prepared saves time, but not, unfortunately, money.
With the proper preparation you can also paint in oils on timber or just about any other clean surface. Careful preparation is needed, however, so that the paints don't soak into the surface.
You can use almost anything flat and clean for a pallet with oil paint. Because it will not dry for hours or days (depending on how thick it is) it is not important that the pallet have a lid, but if you plan on using thin paints or working for weeks it is nice to have a closed container. Plastic butter tubs or other similar containers work pretty well, if you don't mind their height. Professional oil pallets can be bought. If you put waxed paper in the bottom of your container, waxed side up, you will have a surface that will not absorb paint and can be thrown away instead of having to be washed. Because oil paint is oil based, not water soluble, it can be squirted onto smooth surfaces and submerged in water overnight to keep it workable.
Containers for Liquids
You need three containers to work with oil paint, if you have four it helps. Two can be fairly small but need to have snap on lid that are fairly tight. They are for the oil and the turpentine you use to thin the paint. Again, small butter tubs are great. The third container needs to be bigger, it's for brush-cleaning turpentine. I do not recommend using the brush cleaning turpentine to water paint because it will carry the pigment from the times you have washed your brushes into the new paint. If you have two containers capeable of holding your brush-washer you can keep it cleaner. If the turpentine sits overnight, the pigment settles and forms a thick layer at the bottom. You can pour the turpentine (clear again!) into another container and throw away just the pigment.
Turpentine is used mostly to clean up oil paint. Oils do not come out of or off of anything with water. Turpentine takes it off of most things, including counters, brushes and hands but not clothing. Turpentine is also used to thin paint. Thinning oils with turpentine makes them dry faster than they normally would.
This is the other thing you can use to thin oil paint. It won't make the paint dry more quickly like turpentine does.
Always have a large rag with you when you are painting. You can wipe your brushes, clean up spills, wipe off extra paint and any number of things that it's too late at night for me to think of right now. These are going to get messy quickly, so you ought to always have a couple of extras in case you use up the one you've got out.
FARP Article Guestbook
|27 Feb 2003|| Michelle Gonzalez|
Very informative, but half the examples are no longer available or they have been removed by the ERB
|3 Apr 2003|| Leslie|
this is a really good informative article. I mainly work with oil paints. I've done a few things with acrylics but I found I don't like them because they dry too quickly. Anyway, I started with oils, and I think that would be a great paint to start with! It's really easy! (If your patient)
|26 Aug 2003|| The Kat|
This is excellent. I kust wanted to tell you that all of your examples, when clicked on, present the 404 error. It would be excelllent if you could fix this, please. ^_^
|21 Sep 2003|| Sara A. Chow|
Well thank you VERY much for this! Gouache... never heard of it before this, now it's gonna be my main staple (so long as I can find some soon... of course). And watercolor pencils... those seems amazing too. Thanks again for showing me all this awesome stuff! *wanders off to local art store, flinches at big selection...*
|21 Mar 2006|| Alberto|
I'd like to start by thanking you for your valuable information. I am a beginner painter (sort of), the only experience I've had was in school. So now that I graduated in 05 I couldn't resist the urge to get back into my creative side (a high school art teacher ruined art for me by dictating me with rules of what I can and can't do, which is just plain wrong since I believe that art is pure freedom to express one's self, plus she gave the class writing assignments). Anyways, I sort of jumped the gun and went out to buy painting supplies uneducated. I found myself intimidated by the wide selection and my own ignorance to paints, which I unfortunately conceded. So I ended up buying acrylic paints, but before I got started I decided to do some research (those acrylic paints weren't cheap) and found your article, which I discovered to be very useful. So I saved money and paint by returning the acrylic paints and buying oils instead, which I find to be better suited for my slow work pace (I'm a detail freak). Thanks again.
|17 Jun 2006|| Liz|
This article has been VERY helpful, thank you so much. The only experience i've had dealing with painting is with watercolor pencils *which happen to be my favorite medium so far* and cheap watercolor's. I now know a little bit about what i want for my type of work!
|8 May 2007|| A painter|
Very good article, but I have one suggestion for oils... Out of all the paints you can use, they are by far the most 'dangerous.' Although many paints no longer contain heavy metals, there are still some pretty unsavoury things in there. Make sure you paint in a well ventilated area, and be wary of your oily rags! They generate heat at they dry, and can set your studio on fire if they aren't properly dealt with. Also... THERE ARE ALTERNATIVES TO TURPENTINE. It is a very unhealthy substance that has been banned in many art schools. Odorless mineral spirits are much safer, and equally effective (though sadly, more expensive).
|5 Oct 2007|| Christy|
Jerry's artarama has 18 colours gouache paints on sale for 4.99 through oct 26. It's my first purchase of this medium and i'm looking forward to experimenting! Thanks for your informative info!!
|8 Jul 2008|| Just a beginner|
and i am actually less afraid of painting thanks to this article
unfortunately i don’t have enough space, storage,time, courage to start learning painting hahaha...i stick to drawing, then lol
PS: it’s "gsm" Gram per Square Meter, not gms...it has its points to work in a paper factory...lol
|27 Nov 2013|| Art Storm|
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