Scared to Start Painting?

Painting for Beginners Starts with 3 Simple Things

Experienced artists don’t remember what it was like when they were just starting out. Painting for beginners can be intimidating! There are a few key tools and so many options. It is easy to be overwhelmed, but I’m here to tell you that you won’t feel timid about putting brush to surface after reading this article, which is about the most important things (and there only three!) to decide when you are starting out.

And enter your email to download your free eBook on Learning How to Paint now — with step by step painting techniques you can build on to make great paintings and fix your mistakes when you make them!

Painting for Beginners — Your Surface

What to paint on is not a trick question. There are a lot of surfaces out there and painting for beginners is all about discovering what kind of surface attracts you.

Like paper? You might be into watercolor painting or ink drawing, but acrylic painting on paper works too. Just look for a heavier grade paper so it doesn’t buckle or ripple under your pigments. Also, paper can be super smooth or have lots of texture. Textured paper is more suited to loose, gestural painting. Smooth paper is much easier to work with when you want to paint a lot of detail.

Painting for beginners: You can cover lots of surface with the broad side of a filbert brush, but it is also good for thin, detail lines when you use the side or tip of the brush.
You can cover lots of surface with the broad side of a filbert brush, but it is also good for thin, detail lines when you use the side or tip of the brush.

Like cardboard? Cardboard is great for acrylic painting. It is cheap, you can recycle it if you have some on hand, and it comes in tons of unique sizes or can easily but cut down to the size you want. It does have a more “outsider” appearance than a classic canvas, but maybe that suits you. It does me–cardboard is my fave.

Many avant-garde artists have painted on loose canvas tacked to the wall or placed on the floor. That is always an option, too. But overall buying a pre-primed canvas already on stretchers is going to be ideal if you want to start painting right away and don’t want to waste any time having to stretch your own canvas or prime it after.

Painting for Beginners — Your Brush

Painting for beginners is all about not wasting time or money and buying tons of brushes is quite the opposite of that, which is why I recommend starting with one brush. That is why I have one word for you: filbert. A filbert brush has a round tip, soft edges, and an almond shape. It is ideal because it allows many strokes:

-Broad rectangular strokes with a softened edge

-Thin lines using the side of the brush

-Super fine lines come from painting with the tip

-Large swaths of color with the broad side of the brush

-Details and highlights with the tip

Have faith in the filbert. Use it, really figure out what it can do, and learn from that. Then add on.

Painting for Beginners — Your Palette


Choosing the colors for your palette is all a matter of choice. Some artists work with 30 or more colors, many of them very specialized pigments or simply favorites. Some artists work in grisaille, which is just black and white and shades of grey. For an artist just starting out, seek out a ready-made kit of pigments from any number of painting manufacturers. You’ll get 6 to 10 paint tubes, including black and white, that come recommended as a set and that are guaranteed to play nice together.


Black. White. And the primaries. This amounts to a handful of colors that you can use, through trial and error, to get pretty much any color you want. Just remember–always set up your palette the same way. Putting the colors in the same order will allow you to start memorizing where each color is so you can instinctively reach for what you want without dipping into a color you weren’t after.


I didn’t start adding color for a long, long time when I started painting. Painting for beginners means starting simple and working with black and white alone is the simplest “palette” you could choose.

Painting for beginners is all about what you want in a surface, what brush you use, and how to set up your palette. That’s it. That’s it? That’s it!

You are ready to start painting, and the next logical step is to download your free eBook on How to Paint so you can learn more about the art materials you use, how to fix mistakes when you make them, and how to build texture in a painting–all key for starting out! Download your eBook now!





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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.