types of painting

Types of Painting: Mediums, Techniques & Styles

There are a variety of different types of painting mediums that artists use to create beautiful artworks. Some of the most popular types of painting mediums include oil painting, watercolour painting, and acrylic painting. Each type of painting has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. In addition to the mediums that artists choose to use in their art practice, painters can also choose to paint in a particular art style and with a set of techniques.

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Oil painting

oil painting: types of painting

Oil painting is one of the oldest and most popular types of painting medium. Paint manufacturers make oil paint by mixing pigment with a drying oil. Drying oil acts as a binding agent for the coloured pigments. The most commonly used drying oils include linseed oil, walnut oil, and poppyseed oil.

Oil paint is a naturally thick medium that dries slowly. The slow drying property of oil paint means that artists can blend colours on the canvas for a day or longer, until the paint film has dried. Artists who paint with oil paints typically use a stiff brush brush to apply the paint to their canvas, like a hog or synthetic brush, but some artists paint with palette knives.

This painting medium can feel difficult for beginners wanting to learn, as it is more expensive than other mediums and the set up and clean up process can take some time. Plus if you’re an artist that likes to paint in multiple separate colour layers, it requires waiting a few days for layers of paint to dry. However, once you have learned some of the basic oil painting techniques and have some oil painting supplies you love using, it’s possible to improve quickly. The benefits of oil painting really do outweigh any obstacles you may feel in the beginning, the luminous colours, the luxurious feel of the paint, the blendability and stunning surface finish all make the effort you put into learning worthwhile.

Check out our oil painting for beginners tutorial if you’re interested in learning more about how to get started with the wonderful painting medium.

Watercolour painting

watercolour painting

Watercolour painting is another popular type of painting medium. Gum arabic and pigment make up the paint mixture. The pigments in watercolour paint are usually very fine and transparent in colour. Watercolour paint is water soluble, but it is also soluble once dry. This means that artists can lift some colours from the painting to create white space.

When artists dilute the paint with water, it’s the amount of water in the mixture that will determine how translucent the paint will be. More water will make the paint more transparent, while less water will make it more opaque.

Watercolour painting is a popular choice for landscape painters because the medium allows artists to easily create soft transitions between colours. Many painters opt to take their watercolour paints outside with them to paint en plein air.

Because watercolour painting is relatively inexpensive to get started with and because it’s so easy to set up and clean away, it’s a great choice for beginners. However, watercolour isn’t the easiest paint medium to learn. The transparent nature of the colours means that mistakes are difficult to correct. Artists paint light to dark, so with each consecutive layer, increase the shadows in the painting, leaving the white paper bare for the brightest highlights. This is a painting method that can be difficult to adjust to for painters that have experience with other mediums. If you want to learn how to paint with watercolour, check out our beginners guide! In it, you will find everything you need to know, from the supplies you need, to the basic techniques.

Acrylic painting

Acrylic paint is a relatively new medium, compared to oil painting, but it is fast becoming a favourite amongst painters. The paint is made from pigment suspended in acrylic resin, a synthetic polymer. The paint dries quickly, which makes it perfect for artists that like to work fast. Artists can dilute acrylic paint with water to create different effects. However, acrylic paint is not soluble when dry, as it dries to a waterproof film.

Acrylic paint is an incredibly versatile medium. Depending on the type and brand of acrylic paint you choose, your medium may have different attributes. For example, heavy body paint is thick like oil paint and is perfect for creating textured paintings with. Soft body and fluid acrylic paints are runnier in texture and are great for creating more detailed works.

Paint with acrylic on canvas, paper or wooden panel using synthetic brushes. You may need stiffer synthetic brushes to move heavy body acrylic paint across the surface.

Acrylic paints are generally cheaper than oil paints to buy. Plus, artists can clean wet paint with just water and a little bit of brush soap. If you want to increase the open working time of paint, you can get an acrylic paint medium to extend the working time from half an hour to a few hours. We have a comprehensive tutorial on acrylic painting for complete beginners, if you feel like this might be the medium for you, check it out! For a rundown of the best acrylic painting tutorials, check out our guide. Pick and choose a tutorial you want to learn from the list.

Gouache painting

Konstantin Gorbatov: Autumn Landscape with Birches

Gouache paint is similar to watercolour in that it is a water-based medium. The paint consists of pigment suspended in gum arabic, but the ratio of pigment to gum arabic is much higher than it is in watercolour. This gives gouache paint a much more opaque quality. Artists can reactivate gouache, much like watercolour.

Illustrators use gouache to create vibrant, colourful designs. Paint with gouache and a small brush to create detailed paintings, or with a large square brush to make more expressive style works.

It is one of the easiest types of painting mediums to learn for beginners. You don’t need many materials to get started, the materials are inexpensive and it’s easy to set up and clean away. It’s water soluble, so simply clean materials with water. The attribute that makes gouache easier to paint with than watercolour, is the opacity. With the addition of opaque white pigment, tint mixes and increase the opacity of other colours. This means that you’re not restricted to working with the lightest colours first and the darkest colours last, as you would with regular watercolour. Instead, you can paint small highlights and details last with the addition of white. Learn how to gouache paint, with our guide for complete beginners. If you’re looking for some painting inspiration, check out our gouache painting ideas.


pastel painting

Pastels are both a drawing and a painting medium. Pastels are made from dry, powdered pigment that is held together with a binder. The type and quality of the pigment determines the colour of the pastel.

There are two different types of pastels, oil pastels and soft pastels. Oil pastels are made from an oil binder and soft pastels are made from chalk and gum arabic, However, some brands of soft pastel include other binding agents. The two types of pastels are different and don’t work well together.

Pastels come in a wide variety of colours and artists can achieve expressive, painterly effects with the medium. Because soft pastels have a high amount of pigment in them, it means that they are very colour-saturated.

To use soft pastels, apply the dry sticks of colour directly to the paper or canvas. You can use your fingers or a variety of different types of pastel tools to create different effects. Blending and smudging are both easy to do with a soft pastel.

If you’re looking for a new painting medium to try, soft pastels are a great option! They are easy and fun to use and the results can be beautiful and expressive.


Tempera paint is a fast-drying, water-soluble medium. It was the primary painting medium used before the advent of oil paint and is still in use today, particularly in educational settings.

The pigments are suspended in an egg emulsion, which gives the paint its fast-drying quality. Tempera paint dries to a matte finish and is not as durable as oil paint. It can crack if it is applied too thickly or if it undergoes significant temperature changes.

Despite its drawbacks, tempera paint has some advantages. It is very easy to clean up, since it is water-soluble. And, because it dries quickly, it is possible to paint several layers in a single session.


Encaustic types of painting

Artists make encaustic paint from beeswax and colour pigments. The wax is melted and combined with the pigment, then cooled and re-melted to create a solid block of paint.

Apply encaustic paint to a surface with heat, using a brush, palette knife, or other tool. Keep wax molten while working; encaustic painting requires the use of a heat gun or other heating element.

Once the wax is applied to the surface, it can be sculpted and molded. Encaustic paint dries to a hard, glossy finish.

Encaustic painting is a unique and interesting medium. It takes some practice to get the hang of it, but it can be very rewarding.

Ink painting

types of painting ink painting

Use a brush to apply ink washes to paper or other surfaces. Artists can apply ink very thinly for a delicate effect, or more thickly for a bolder look.

Ink paintings are often characterised by their simplicity and minimalism. The focus is on the flow of the ink and the beauty of the line.

Premix colours on a palette before applying to the paper and make sure to dilute the colours with water to achieve transparency in your paintings.

This is a popular type of painting medium in Japan, where ink wash painting is also called sumi-e. Sumi-e is a type of whimsical style ink painting that uses mostly black ink.


Fresco is a painting technique in which artists apply pigment to wet plaster. The plaster must be wet when the pigment is applied, otherwise the colour will not adhere properly.

Fresco painting was popular in the Renaissance period and was used to decorate the walls and ceilings of churches and other public buildings.

The word “fresco” comes from the Italian word for “fresh”. Artists usually apply Frescoes on fresh plaster, but there is also a variation called secco fresco, in which artists paint pigment on dry plaster.

Fresco painting is a challenging but rewarding medium. The results can be very beautiful and long-lasting.

Digital painting

digital painting

This is not a traditional painting medium, but still a painting medium! You can use a variety of digital tools to create paintings, such as an iPad, or computer and graphics tablet. You can also get 2 in 1 tablet and laptops for artists, where you can draw straight on the screen. For a review of the best graphics tablets for artists, check out our guide.

There are many software programs available that allow you to paint digitally. Some of the more popular ones include Corel Painter, Adobe Photoshop, Clip Studio Paint and Procreate for iPad.

Digital painting is a great option if you already have software like Photoshop, or if you have limited space for traditional painting mediums. The great thing about painting with Photoshop is that you can download brushes, or customise brushes yourself that emulate the texture and appearance of traditional painting mediums. Get brushes that blend easily or appear textured. You can download brushes and many other design assets for Photoshop from Creative Market.

Types of painting applications and methods

Aside from the types of painting mediums available to artists, there are also multiple different painting applications, methods and techniques that can make a painting experience and the results feel and look unique.

Paint pouring

Pour painting types of painting

Use acrylic paints with a fluid medium to create pour paintings. Add a pouring medium to the paint to make the colours less viscous and easier to pour. Fill a cup with the paint, then when ready, pour the paint onto the surface from a height, or use a squeeze bottle to apply the paint in a controlled manner. Tilt the surface to help the paint spread out evenly. Check out our pour painting supplies list to find the other essentials you need. Experiment with different acrylic pouring techniques, like dirty pour, string pull and Dutch pour.

This is a fun and easy way to create abstract paintings with interesting patterns. If you want to find the best paints for acrylic pour painting, check out our guide.


Artists use acrylic paints for the airbrushing technique. Airbrushing is perfect for painting smooth gradients and soft edges. Use an airbrush to create very fine details.

You will need an airbrush gun and compressor, and you may also need to thin the paint down with a flow improver before using it in the airbrush. Get fluid acrylic paint and a medium to thin the paint down. The Golden Airbrush medium works fantastically for the job.

Palette knife painting

palette knife painting

Traditionally, oil paints are applied to the surface with a brush. However, you can also apply oil paint with a palette knife. This will give your painting an interesting textured effect. Thicken paint with a medium like cold wax to retain texture on the canvas.

You can also paint with heavy body acrylic paint and palette knives to create bright, expressive effects on canvas. The great thing about palette knife painting with acrylics, is that the paint dries so fast. You may have to wait weeks or even months before a thick layer of oil paint becomes dry and solid enough for varnishing.

Canvas painting

Paint with oil or acrylic on canvas It simply means painting on a canvas surface instead of paper or another type of surface.

Painting on canvas is a popular choice because it’s durable and easy to frame. Canvas is also a good choice if you’re planning to use heavy body paints or layer multiple colours.

Avoid painting on regular canvas with watercolour. Instead, get a watercolour canvas, as the manufacturer primes these with absorbent ground that is suitable for painting with runny watercolour washes.

Types of painting styles

There are different ways to approach painting, and each one can result in a very different painting style.


In abstract paintings, the subject matter is often simplified or broken down into basic shapes and colours. The focus is on form, colour, line and texture rather than on the literal depiction of an object or scene.


Edvard Munch: White Night

Expressionist paintings are often emotionally charged and express the artist’s feelings about the subject matter. The colours are usually bright and intense, and the brushstrokes are often visible. This is an art movement that developed in the 19th century.


Realistic paintings try to depict the subject matter as accurately as possible. The colours and details are meant to look lifelike and true to nature.


Claude Monet: Banks of the Seine at Jenfosse – Clear Weather

Impressionist paintings and Post-Impressionist paintings are often soft and blurry, with visible brushstrokes. The colours are usually light and delicate. This painting style is meant to capture the fleeting effects of light and colour.


Now that you know about the different types of painting mediums, applications, methods and styles, you’re ready to start painting! Experiment with different mediums and techniques to find the ones that you like best. And don’t forget to have fun!

If you want some tips on how to improve your art skills, check out our guide!

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