How to paint a beautiful picture

Some of the most gifted painters in history created vibrant pieces with the strokes of their brushes, pieces which have stood the test of time and remain priceless in this modern day and age.

Painting a beautiful picture can seem a bit difficult for beginners who have never stood in front of a canvas before, but it’s not. However, simple steps need to be followed to ensure painting is enjoyable and flows smoothly.

Type of paint to use

There are two major types of paints that are used on canvas, acrylic and oil paints. Acrylic paints dry fast and you can do many layers or apply crisp lines. Acrylic paints have no smell, they come off the brush after washing with water and they appear darker when they dry on the canvas.

Oil paints take longer to dry and allow a longer working time. They easily blend and allow a smooth transition. Oil paints smell because of the turpentine used to thin the colours. The colour of the oil paint remains the same when it dries.

Types of brushes to use

The types of brushes to use depend on the type of paint you’ve chosen. For acrylic paint use synthetic brushes. For Oil paint, use natural fibre brushes because the bristles are harder and make distinct marks on canvas.

Big brushes are used for a wide area and a loose painting style while small brushes are used for small areas and to put details into the painting.

Prepare your canvas.

Choose a pre-stretched canvas, meaning it has been stretched on a wooden frame.

Get a palette

This is the surface where you will be mixing your paint colours. You can use a flat plastic object as your palette.


Fill two tins with water. Use one to rinse your brushes as you transition from colour to colour and the other to dilute the paint or moisten the brushes during the painting process.

Use a cloth rag to clean your hands.

Position and Lighting

Position your painting opposite you in order to look at it proportionately and clearly. If you want the canvas to slant a little bit you can use a stand-up easel. The source of light should be higher than the canvas. It should not come from behind as this may cast shadows on your painting.

What to paint.

Start with a simple picture that has few shades of colours or does not have intricate details. You can begin with a big simple colourful fish.

Make some sketches

Make some sketches before you start painting. The sketches will be used as reference and for layout. They will prevent mistakes which will be difficult to correct when you are halfway through.

Apply a background colour to the canvas.

A plain white canvas is not conducive when you want to paint a foggy day. A grey tone is better.

Paint the focal point first

Paint a rough shape of the focal point of your painting. Move to an object adjacent your focal point and paint a rough shape of that as well.

Shadows and highlights will be added at a later stage.

Add shadows

After you have painted the focal points, add the smaller shapes and details. Begin with light values and move on to dark values. Add shadows at this point. Add the highlights with your end-goal in mind.

If the painting has not turned out the way you expected, don’t despair. Keep practising. The mistakes may end up being what artists call “Happy accidents”, which can create a beautiful and unexpected masterpiece.

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