Paint Your Numbers

Understanding Different Painting Techniques

As a beginner artist, trying to research all the different types of painting techniques and styles in the world to decide which one best suits your needs can be overwhelming. Every blog post, YouTube video, and Pinterest pin recommends something different. Where do you start? We’ve compiled this handy guide to break down the most popular painting techniques, as well as the pros and cons of each.

Oil Painting 

Oil painting is the most popular and widely-known painting technique in the world. It dates all the way back to the 7th Century AD! Oil paints are made up of pigment mixed with a drying oil, such as linseed oil, to help the paints dry and set properly. Paintings like Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and Klimt’s The Kiss were all painted using oil paints.

Working with oil paints comes with a ton of benefits, making it obvious why most artists choose to work with it. Since oil painting is so popular, tons of tutorials exist on how to properly work with them, including step-by-step guides for creating beautiful pictures (Bob Ross famously used oil paints in his tutorials). Oil paints create bright, luminous colors and are easy to blend since they don’t dry quickly. True oil paints are also user friendly in that they can be left open for weeks at a time without drying out, so you don’t have to worry if you forget to secure the cap when you finish.

The only real drawback of working with oil paints is that they take a very long time to dry when compared to other mediums. Depending on the thickness of the paint layer, drying time can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Because of this, it can be hard to move on to the next stage in the painting, and beginners might accidentally smudge or blend two colors that they didn’t intend to blend. 

Oil paints are popular and extremely fun to work with, but you definitely need to employ some patience while you wait for your artwork to dry.

Watercolor Painting

Watercolor painting is a method in which paint pigment is mixed with a water-based solution. Watercolor paints have been used since ancient times, and can be traced back to Ancient China and Japan. Vincent Van Gogh was a fan of working with watercolors in addition to his better-known oil painting works and created almost 150 watercolor paintings during his lifetime.

Watercolor paints can create stunning works of art. Since they are mixed with water, the artist has full control over how bright or opaque the color is, making them extremely versatile. Watercolor paints are also transparent, so they work well for artists who like a softer, brighter feel to their art. The light, softness of watercolors make them very therapeutic to work with

Watercolors are also relatively inexpensive compared to other mediums, and the cleanup is super easy (they come off with just water). Watercolors almost never dry out; just mix them with more water, and you’re good to go.

There are a few drawbacks when working with watercolors. Since they are so transparent, it can be difficult to get a strong color payoff. They also require a special watercolor paper to make them look their best. Watercolor paints have a bit of a learning curve since the artist has to learn how to mix the correct amount of water with the pigment. If you use too much water, your painting will look muddy, and all the pigments will blend together. Since watercolors are extremely liquid and runny, it can be hard to get precise shapes and sharp lines.

Watercolor paints can produce gorgeous works of art. They can also be tricky to work with, and they definitely take a long time to master. 

Acrylic Painting

Acrylic paint is an artificial paint pigment that is relatively new to the art world, as it was only developed in the late 1930s. Acrylic paints are water-soluble when wet and water-resistant when dry. Depending on how the paint is mixed, an acrylic painting can be made to look like a watercolor or an oil painting. Famous artists who enjoyed working with acrylics include Andy Warhol and David Hockney.

Acrylic paints are super versatile. An experienced artist can mimic the look of tons of other paint mediums just using acrylics. They are also quick-drying, meaning you can paint layers on top of other layers without having to wait days. Acrylic paints are synthetic and easy to produce, so they’re pretty inexpensive. Acrylic paints work on almost any surface, from canvases to fabric to wood to glass. 

Since acrylic paint is so fast drying, you need to work quickly to place them in the desired position. They are water-resistant when dry, meaning they stain easily and can be difficult to remove from skin, nails, or clothing. Some acrylic paints also darken as they dry, so the color you see when you apply the paint might not be the color you’ll end up with.

Since acrylic paints have been around for less than 100 years, it’s unclear how they’ll hold up over long periods of time. Acrylics are extremely versatile and quick-drying, so they do allow artists tons of flexibility to carry out their visions. 

Gouache Painting

Gouache paints are similar to watercolor and are made up of water, a natural pigment, and a binding agent. The binding agent allows gouache to be much more opaque and vibrant than watercolors. Gouache paints date back over 1,200 years and are now commonly used by commercial artists for posters, illustrations, and comic books. 

Some people prefer gouache to watercolor because it is much more opaque, leading to more vibrant colors. Gouache dries quickly, making layering a cinch. It also doesn’t bleed and is easier to control than watercolor. Gouache is also versatile and can be used on a variety of surfaces, not just watercolor paper. 

The major drawback to gouache is that it is more expensive than most other mediums, so beginner artists may not want to invest in it. Gouache also sets once it’s dry, so it can’t be reinvigorated with more water as watercolors can. It’s easy to waste this type of paint since it has to be either used or thrown out once it’s mixed. 

Gouache can create beautiful, vibrant pieces of art, but the materials are expensive, and it can be hard for beginners to learn to control. If you’re a brand new painter, we recommend starting with another medium and building up to gouache.

Spray Painting 

When you think of spray paint, you might picture painting a piece of furniture or a graffiti artist painting a wall. In reality, many artists use spray paint for its unique look and ability to cover large areas quickly. Spray painting can use many different types of pigment, including paint and ink. It then uses compressed gas or air to atomize and direct the paint particles onto a surface. Spray paints have been used since the early 1880s.

Spray painting allows artists to cover large surfaces quickly and is commonly used by graffiti artists since their canvases tend to be large walls. It is quick-drying and water and weather-resistant, meaning it is great for outdoor uses. It is also easy to store since it usually comes in pre-packaged cans.

Spray paint can be difficult to control and doesn’t usually lend itself to small details. Spray paint fumes can also be toxic, as the paint particles are airborne and can be breathed into the lungs, so it’s important to wear a mask while using it and work in a well-ventilated area. 

Pastel Painting

Pastel painting is also known as “dry-painting” and has been used since the Renaissance. Pastels don’t look like traditional paints and are instead sold in small sticks made up of a powdered pigment and a binder. They don’t require brushes and instead can be applied directly to the paper from the stick. 

Pastels are very easy to control since they can be used directly on the paper like crayons. They require no drying time since the pigment is applied dry. The pigment you see when applied to the paper is the same as the final product. Pastels are also extremely portable.

The major drawback to pastel paintings is their fragility. The pigment can be lifted off the paper, so it’s important to take steps to preserve the piece if you want it to last long-term. Pastels should be displayed under glass to keep them looking new and to avoid transferring.

Pastels are portable and convenient but can be very fragile. If you work with pastels, make sure to be careful with your final piece. 


There are so many types of painting techniques in the world, each with their own unique benefits and drawbacks. When choosing what type of painting you want to try, consider your timeframe, your budget, and the look you want to achieve. No matter what you choose, you’re sure to create a beautiful piece of art.

If you still don’t know where to start, check out our custom paint by numbers kits. They are affordable, fun, and suitable for any skill level. Make sure to visit our website for more art inspiration, tips, and tricks!