Learn The Beginners Process for Painting


Students often get lost in their work because of a lack of clear thinking. In their effort to remember “everything”, they end up muddying the waters to the point that they lose a sense of where they are at in the process. So, what is the process?

There are many variations to the way artists work. Almost as many as there are artists. However, I believe firmly that art students benefit if they have a simplified procedure that clearly separates the various stages of a painting. In this way, they are able to focus solely on the job at hand without the confusion of trying to remember “everything”. It simplifies the work and keeps it organized.

Because unskilled students have no procedure of their own, I provide them with the following handout. It obviously doesn’t answer all questions that they will encounter but by following it, it helps establish a procedure that will allow them to grow in skill over time with a bit less anguish and confusion.  As they mature and skill and confidence grow they eventually begin to tweak this and find their own process.

If you are new to painting, I hope this will help you as well. It is a wonderful path you have chosen to follow. I wish you much joy in each and every brush stroke of your creative journey. Cheers!



1.            Beginning in class # 3, bring to class a toned canvas.

2.            With a small flat or round brush that is slightly dry, establish the shapes of your subject on canvas. Remember, the background  shapes are just as important as the element shapes in your subject. Wipe off and redraw as necessary to arrive at a pleasing  composition that supports the idea of your theme. Step back and make sure the subject is placed for distant viewing on the canvas.


                Begin the block-in of your subjects by placing the shadows with paint that has been slightly thinned with medium. Be sure to  include all shadows, even those in the background. Mix the shadow colors that are close to the value and color in the still life. Getting the value correct is far more important that getting the color correct at this stage of the painting. Keep ALL EDGES  ROUGH. No hard edges at this stage. Check progress by stepping back to view the painting from a distance.



                Repeat # 3 but block-in all light-truck surfaces. Keep the values correct according to the still life. Again, value is far more  important that getting the color correct at this stage of the painting. Keep ALL EDGES ROUGH. No hard edges at this stage.  Check progress by stepping back to view the painting from a distance.



                Once both the shadow and lights are established the next step is to begin working in each of those shapes to make them visually  exciting. Colors may be adjusted as well as values where necessary. Within each shape you will see variations which may include  half-tones, reflected light, reflected images, irregular colors, etc. These are the ADDITIONS to the space being worked that make it  believable and exciting to look at. Fussy patterns and detail are reserved for Stage Five. DO NOT ADD THEM HERE.

                Step back from the easel FREQUENTLY during this stage to make sure the painting is progressing well and is consistent with the  idea. Do not allow one element of the painting to be completed before all other elements. Work on the painting as a whole.


                This stage completes the painting. At this time, turn the painting upside down and step back. If something is not correct or not  pleasing, it will usually show up when you are not looking at the painting as a subject. Based on your observations, turn the painting right side up and make any value, color, size, texture, brush work adjustments, edge control, etc. adjustments necessary to  correct and finalize the painting.  Sign the painting (usually in the lower right-hand corner placed so that the frame does not  obscure the signature.


                Allow the painting to dry approximately 6 months then add a thin layer of varnish (Gamblin’s Gamvar recommended) to the painting.  Follow the instructions and make sure the varnish gets into all the crevices. Once it is dry it is ready for framing. A good frame supports the idea of the painting without being visually intrusive and in conflict with the work.

Blog Source: THE PAINTED CANVAS | The Beginners Process for Painting


I’m Joseph, and I started this blog as a way to share ideas with others. I wanted to create a space where people could share their thoughts and feelings, and where we could all have a good laugh. Since then, the blog has grown into something much larger than I ever imagined. We have posts on everything from humorous essays to comics to interviews. And our weekly columns cover sports, video games, college life, and software.
No Comments

    Leave a reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.