How to Choose Painting Materials

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Choosing the right paints and mediums is a big part of the creative process. When you are just starting out, you don’t know what will work best for your project, so it helps to have a variety of products to experiment with. Here are a few tips to help you choose the right paints and mediums for your project…

I’m gathering a collection of art-making materials for my son, who is five. I’ve been buying artists’ supplies for myself for years and would like to pass some of it along. But how do you choose the right paints and mediums?

There is a bewildering variety of paint out there, but many of the choices boil down to a few simple principles.

What do you want to use it for? Are you looking for permanence, or are you just trying to put on a show? (If you’re an adult artist, the answer may be “both.”) How much money do you want to spend?

Will you be using it with more traditional mediums like oil or acrylic paint, or are you planning to make your own materials out of things like coffee grounds and glue? Finally, what kind of container — tube, jar or other — do you want it in?

If you are looking to learn more about painting, there are a lot of different ways to go. You can talk to your friends and neighbors, watch videos, read magazines and books, or just try out whatever interests you. And inevitably, each person will recommend their own favorite brands of paints and mediums and canvases.

This is great for having lots of choices, but it can also be overwhelming. How do you know which paints or mediums are best for each job? And once you choose some, how do you know if they are going to work well together?

As with many questions in life, the answer is: it depends. What kind of painting do you want to do? What kind of surface are you using? What colors and textures do you want to create?

In general, though, I have found that a few major categories of paint and mediums work well for most paintings: oil paints and linseed oil for thick surfaces; acrylic paints for thin surfaces; casein for smooth surfaces; gouache for textured surfaces; colored pencils or markers when all else fails. While there are certainly other good options out there that might work better for your particular situation (I even have my own personal recommendations), these five paint types cover a huge

Choosing the right paints and mediums can make all the difference in your art. Even if you are not an artist, you probably have a few favorite colors that you like to wear or to decorate your home with. But why do you like them? What makes one color more appealing than another?

Is it just because they are brighter or more intense than other colors? Not necessarily. In fact, there is a lot of evidence in nature that shows the opposite: animals and plants often use colors in ways that aren’t the most intense, but which instead appear to be designed to attract mates or avoid predators.

Tropical fish are colorful because they live in brightly lit coral reefs where they need to be highly visible to avoid predators. The school of blue tusk fish (Choerodon anchorago) shown above is designed so that each fish has a dark back and a light belly, so that from any angle the fish looks somewhat like a single large fish viewed from below. This design helps them work together as a team of hunters.

No matter what paint you use, the basic technique is the same. You start with a blank canvas and make marks on it. You can use any kind of paint. Oil paint is usually the most permanent, so it’s good for murals or large paintings meant to last a long time. Acrylic paint covers more surface than oil does and dries more quickly, but it’s not as permanent as oil. Watercolor paint covers little surface area and dries fast, but it’s also fragile and if you add too much water you can erase part of your painting.

A lot of people who try water colors in school give up because they find that, unless they work very fast, the colors don’t blend well, which means you can’t get smooth gradations from light to dark colors. But I think this is because most water colors are designed for kids–they’re not meant to be used on large areas where smooth gradations are important–so they have a lot of filler in them. I started out using Winsor & Newton water colors, which are good quality–nice pigments, lightfast (won’t fade over time), etc.–but they still weren’t high-grade paints and they were filled with all kinds of junk: dyes, ext

My favorite new product for watercolor is the Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolors with built in mixing. They come in 12 colors:

Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor are very finely ground, and that makes them very transparent. The watercolors come in a set of 6 colors and a set of 12 colors (the colors are different, but the tubes are the same). I like both sets. Each tube has 2/3 oz (18 ml or 5 fl.oz.) of paint, so the sets have a total of 15 oz. (425 ml) of paint for about $30.

Titanium White — This is a beautiful opaque white with a bit of texture to it, so you get some nice variation in the thickness of your washes. It isn’t as thick as Gamblin’s Zinc White, but it’s not watered down like some other opaque whites such as Winsor Newton’s Chinese White and Sennelier’s Parisian White.

I used Titanium White on the left side of this portrait:

It worked really well for this portrait because I wanted an even light wash over the whole thing that was smooth enough that I could easily blend it with my fingers without leaving brush marks or streaks as I

I’m going to take a minute here and explain some of the choices I’ve made in my own painting mediums, and how it relates to your own choices.

Tinted varnish: I use tinted varnish for every miniature I paint. But why? Sure, it makes the miniature look good to start with. But if you paint it ugly, it’ll still be ugly underneath. Why would I want to waste the time?

That’s a good question. And because I can’t give you a good answer, I’ll give you three bad answers instead:

1) It’s faster, which is especially important for me when painting large numbers of similar miniatures.

2) It’s cheaper.

3) It’s better for your health.

Let me explain each of these in turn.

Painting is not as much fun as playing with nice, new minis that are shiny and clean and smell like nothing, which is why we spend so much time caring for our minis before we use them in games. The temptation when starting a mini is always to dive right in with the brush and slap some paint on it—everybody does it! But if you do that, you’ll never get any better at painting;

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