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can anyone learn to paint

Can Anyone Learn To Paint? Here’s How I Did.

I’m going to get straight to the point. If you have three good brushes consisting of one small, medium, and large with a few tubes of paint, anyone can learn to paint.

You might be gazing at a particular artwork and thinking, wow I could never do that.

Well, maybe you can.

Painting can be considered subjective. It often is. 

There are many different kinds of art styles, and techniques and some are easier than others. 

Learning how to paint has mostly to do with skill building and there’s a certain process to painting.

It’s a lot like dancing. 

Sometimes you just have to sway to the music and figure things out while other times, it may require guidance and feedback.

The process of painting can be broken down into these main features: shape, light and shadow, values, drawing, and color mixing.

If you just grasp these essential components of making just about any art, painting becomes way easier.

As a beginner, these concepts are going to feel strange and overwhelming. You might be thinking: Values? Shape? Light and Shadow? 

Well, let’s slow down. We’ll get to that in a bit.

For now, let’s take a deep dive into what the process of painting involves:

Here’s How Anyone Can Learn To Paint

Painting Style

The type of art and style you want to make is important. This should indicate and narrow down the specific skills and techniques you will need to learn to paint something that pleases you. 

Are you aiming for photorealism? Abstract? Modern Art? Impression? 

The next thing you’ll want to consider is the medium. 

If you’d like to dabble in a little bit of each, no problem. There’s no harm in trying different things out. 

I started with watercolor, then acrylic, and finally had a calling to oil paints and gouache. 

Out of all mediums, my heart is naturally drawn to oils and gouache. 

Here are a few oil paintings I did once I started to get the hang of it:

learning to oil paint

You find yourself drawn to one specific medium over the other but this can only be discovered once you begin painting.

So, think about the kind of art you want to be able to paint and then you can go from there.


Art supplies are just as important as skills to a certain extent.

Indeed, the tools don’t quite make the artist but having brushes that give you beautiful applications and surfaces that are primed makes it easier to work it.

Imagine learning watercolor on printer paper. That’s a surefire disaster with loads of hair pulling in tow.

Bad supplies can also put you off. Trust me, this is coming from first-hand experience. 

Art supplies aren’t cheap but you don’t need top-level artist-grade supplies to make good art. 

Student grades or at least decent-quality paints, surfaces, and brushes are the best way to go when you’re learning. 

Any beginner fresh to paint should have these supplies to get started.

But if you’re uncertain whether to invest in painting surfaces so soon in the journey, there are canvas pads that are a cheaper alternative that usually come in a pack of 10 sheets.

I’ve also discovered a neat hack that involves priming cardboard with gesso those dollar-store canvases for a cheap yet usable surface. 

The primer will help protect the painting and ensure the paint doesn’t get sucked dry into the surface and it makes it a more pleasant experience to paint. 

Tutorials & Guides

As a beginner, it’s not such a good idea to just wing it or try to figure it all out on your own. 

What I found the most helpful for learning how to paint and upgrading my painting skills is by watching painting tutorials on Youtube or reading books. 

An acrylic painting I did when I was a beginner after following CorreaArt’s tutorial on Youtube

This is an incredible source of information and guidance that beats having to pay for expensive classes or a single painting DVD. 

Since most of these artists have already grasped the concept and skills of painting, it’s incredibly useful to take these skills and knowledge and use it to create your artwork.

Following tutorials to the best of your ability will help prove that you can paint. This should also help you gain confidence along the way.

With that in mind, tutorials can be tricky. 

If you’ve never really painted before and you’d like to get a taste of painting, then pick any tutorial that you feel will suit your level or interest.

But if you’re serious about painting, I highly recommend that you pick at least two artists who have multiple painting tutorials. 

Every painter has their way of doing things and this can get confusing fast. 

This is why you’re bound to learn how to paint better if you stick with one instructor rather than 10 random tutorials from different artists. 

See also: Acrylic Painting Tutorials And Tips That Are Perfect For Beginners

Permission To Mess Up

Here’s where I went wrong when I was a newbie learning how to paint. 

I didn’t allow myself to just enjoy the process of painting. 

This is vital as painting for the finished product can often fail to meet your expectations and lead to disappointment. 

It’s easy to feel like you’re not cut out for this when you keep making bad paintings and funny enough, you’re probably going to have tons of bad paintings.

Give yourself the time and permission to do a bad job. A bad painting means something and you should take them lightly. This is an awesome opportunity to learn from your mistakes.

You should also consider playing around with the colors and the medium. Get familiar with your paints and how to work them. 

If all you want to do is paint, just pick the brush up and smear some paint on the canvas.

You don’t only have to follow tutorials all the time at the beginning when you’re just getting friendly with your paints. 

There’s so much enjoyment in mixing different colors on the palette, applying different brush strokes, and filling a black canvas with colors. 

As you paint, you’ll instinctively know what I’m talking about.

A gouache sketch from a Sarah Sedwick reference:

gouache painting sketch

Main Essential Features of Painting Anything

Now the following stuff may be a bit more advanced but I think having this knowledge of the essentials of painting can be incredibly useful to have in your mental toolkit.

This is what painting mostly consists of:

A Toned Canvas

A toned canvas involves staining or tinting the canvas or surface to a warm color like a light brown. 

Most artists prefer to tint the canvas with a light wash (a watered-down version of the paint) so that it gets rid of the white.

You’re probably wondering why? 

Well, it makes it easier to match and compare the values (how light or dark) a color is whereas a white surface can often trick you into thinking a color is darker or lighter than it actually is.

Another bonus to toning a canvas is that it helps get rid of that fear of ruining the blank page. 

You could also consider this as a starting ritual when you tone a canvas every time you begin painting. 

This should help quickly get you into the flow.

Break The Subject Down

The most important thing you will ever do when painting a subject is to figure out the main components and this can be broken into shapes of light and dark. 

Here’s what to look for:

Think Big Shapes – Try to find the main shapes of the subject and remove all detail. An easy way to do this is to squint your eyes so you only see the big main shapes or you can blur the photo. Once you get the big shapes down, you can go back and add smaller shapes as this helps turn the image into a 3D form.

Paint The Darks First – Finding your darkest dark and your lightest light in the painting can be a useful guide and an awesome starting point. Also, if you’re working with oils, painting your darks first makes it way easier as it’s much harder to darken the color over light paint. With acrylics, since it drys so fast, you could probably paint dark over light but generally, painting the shadows first helps define the image as this helps the painting to come together faster.

Leave The Lights For Last  – This applies to the lightest or brightest highlight. Before grabbing that white paint, you’ll want to make sure the highlight is white. Most of the time depending on the subject, the white is never pure. It usually has a slight tint of another color in it.

Also, as tempting as it is to pack a painting with detail, it’s best to hold off. 

If the painting and drawing are off, the detail won’t save it.

Practice Your Drawing 

Drawing is one of the most important components of any painting. 

Yes, drawing! You might have aced the colors, brush strokes or interesting designs of a painting, but if your drawing is wonky, this is what’s going to determine if it fails or not.

Now you don’t need to be a pro at drawing and nor do you need to feel like you need to master drawing before you can even learn to paint.

You can always practice drawing and painting at the same time. 

But if you want to jump right into painting and maybe you’re not confident about your painting skills, here is what you can try: using a grid. 

This grid will help you figure out where everything goes and it just makes the whole process of getting down an accurate drawing quick and easy. 

Learn Color Mixing With A Limited Palette

Before you go buy every color there is, there’s a much easier and better way to paint just about any color there is. 

Start with a limited color palette. These should be the primary colors: red, blue, yellow, white, and brown. 

In your journey of painting, you’ll learn why a limited color palette works so well and you’ll also have loads of fun mixing and matching colors.

If there’s a really important tip I can give you is to avoid using black to darken your colors. Opt for blue or red instead. 

Follow And Learn From A Competent Instructor

Make the process of learning to paint easier on yourself. Get a good instructor.

As mentioned before, I learned so much valuable information which in turn I’m sharing with you from instructors on Youtube and painting guides.

This is a golden tool that will speed up the process of learning. 

Closing Thoughts

There’s no right way or just one way of painting. You just go with what feels right to you.

As you can see, there’s no need to fear painting or doubt whether you can do it. 

With time, effort, and skills, painting does get better over time and you do end up gaining more confidence with the more art you produce. 

In fact, for me, it’s quite a satisfying feeling to look back at those days when I just started and where I am now. And it can happen to you too. 

I hope this article helped convince you that anyone can learn to paint and that these tips nudged you to get started.

It would be a shame not to make an attempt because this could be the best possible thing you’ve yet to discover.

I wish you all the best and if you’re interested in learning more tips and ideas from me, here are a few topics worth reading:

Should I Learn To Draw Before Painting?

How To Get Better At Painting: A Complete Guide

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