A Paintbrush Is Only As Good As…

Look at that paint texture! Full Sail Ahead by Suzanne Yost McCourt, acrylic painting.
Full Sail Ahead by Suzanne Yost McCourt, acrylic painting.

Fun Techniques for Paint Texture

What you make it do! A paintbrush isn’t animate. It isn’t going to teach me how to paint or go about painting art when no one is looking. It needs the hand of the artist to do its job. But one thing a brush—by its very nature—is made for is emphasizing paint texture. Just think back on how early Renaissance artists worked through decades in which a smooth glossy surface was tantamount. That changed dramatically when artists like Titian and Rembrandt came on the scene. All of a sudden, paint techniques grew to encompass how the paint sat on the surface. Paint texture came to be analyzed like it was true writing on the wall.

The marks of the brush provide endless painting lessons for us. As contemporary artists, we are lucky because there are tons of strategies (acrylic painting techniques especially!) for texture because surface quality has become paramount over the decades.

How to Paint Sure Strokes

See all that paint texture! Antique Landscape by Suzanne Yost McCourt, acrylic painting.
Antique Landscape by Suzanne Yost McCourt, acrylic painting.

Dabs of color that dot a painting make us see leaves, pebbles, rain or snow. A long vertical stroke that widens at the bottom becomes a tree trunk with one controlled swipe. A gestural curving stroke becomes the shape of a reflected piece of light on a glass bottle.


By putting form to function. That is the single most important painting lessons dealing with brushwork that I’ve learned. Make marks that describe the shapes you are painting.

Short dabs can be ripples of water.

Broad strokes can follow the motion of drapery.

Thick curls of paint can make the petals of a flower come true.

You can use your strokes to describe whatever you want—the point is that we are all cognizant of how the stroke in essence becomes the form. That’s the greatest reward to learning how to handle a paintbrush in varied ways—the stroke you make come together with your intention to (hopefully) create the object you see in your mind’s eye! But remember–strokes are an opportunity to create so many types of texture and shape. Experiment fully and see where your it takes you!

If you are an acrylic artist, then this article has probably resonated a little extra for you because paint texture is such an exciting part of this medium. I actually started exploring paint texture more fully with the resources found in the AcrylicWorks Collection. They’ve definitely helped me hone my sense of gesture and mark-making. All in all, I’ve found the collection is worthwhile to keep nearby and reference often for inspiration. Enjoy!


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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.