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How to Paint Texture 4 Different Ways

How does a beginning painter become a good painter? A good painter become a great one? It is all about understanding that paintings operate both optically and tactilely, and that the latter — paint texture — is a painter’s secret weapon.

What are the tactile components of a painting?

Surfaces.
Sheens.
Textures.

These qualities never get emphasized enough. Paint texture allows our eyes to “feel” a painting just as if we were drawing our fingers across its surface. The more we understand texture — or tactile variation — the more articulate a painting’s message.

If you ignore the tactile surface quality of your painting, it is the equivalent of thready whisper instead of a clear, gorgeous aria. You leave an incredibly sumptuous, sensual part of painting out of the conversation. Don’t make that mistake. Incorporate paint texture into the equation of your paintings from now on. Here are four ways to start.

Paint texture: Wheatfield with Cypresses by Vincent van Gogh, oil on canvas, ca 1889.
Wheatfield with Cypresses by Vincent van Gogh, oil on canvas, ca 1889.

Thick Relief Paint Texture

High-relief texture in this van Gogh offers a dramatic tactile experience and is one way to attract attention to the surface.

 

Paint texture: Shattered V (from the Grief and Praise Series) by Diana Ingalls Leyba, mixed media. acrylic and shattered glass on wood.
Shattered V (from the Grief and Praise Series) by Diana Ingalls Leyba, mixed media, acrylic, and shattered glass on wood.

With Tactile Materials

Unusual materials can add tactile interest. Here a painted image is overlaid with shattered glass, adding relief texture with reflective qualities.

 

Paint texture: Red Square (detail) by Nancy Reyner, acrylic, glass beads and gold (metal) leaf on panel.
Red Square (detail) by Nancy Reyner, acrylic, glass beads and gold (metal) leaf on panel.

Sheen Variation

Varying sheens using both gloss and matte in separate areas can also add surface interest. In this detail, glossy sheens contrast with matte areas using metal leaf, paint and glass beads.

 

Paint texture: Sofa Dreaming by Nancy Reyner, acrylic on canvas.
Sofa Dreaming by Nancy Reyner, acrylic on canvas.

Varying Paint Texture with Other Elements

This abstract background includes a variety of textures, providing contrast to the smoothly painted sofa.

Paint texture brings us one step closer to actualizing our own perfect paintings. And by that I mean–perfect for you, the individual artist. Nancy Reyner’s Perfect Paintings Collection is in lockstep with this idea: helping artists articulate what is “perfect” for them with exercises, techniques, and crucial info geared toward letting you shine through your art. So embrace the messy, creative tangle that is “art” and you are going to find your kind of perfection along the way. 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.   

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