The Art of Painting

An easy-to-understand description of painting media and techniques for art students, self-learners, and art collectors.

Basic Terms

Paint is a fluid substance made of pigment suspended in a liquid binder that is used to cover or decorate a surface.

Painting is the process of applying paint to a surface using tools such as brushes, a roller, a painting knife, or a paint sprayer.

Medium or media(pl.) is the material and tools used to make a work of art.

Technique is the method and procedure used with an art medium.

Craftsmanship is the skill with which the media and techniques are employed.

Painting Media and Techniques


  • Binder: acrylic polymer
  • Vehicle (solvent): water
  • Ground: prepared(gesso) or raw canvas, paper, wood, glass, etc.
  • Drys fast/permanent
  • Opaque/transluscent/transparent
  • Versatile media - can mimic oil, tempera, and watercolor


  • Binder: linseed oil
  • Vehicle (solvent): turpentine, mineral spirits
  • Ground: prepared canvas, paper, wood,
  • Drys slow/permanent
  • Opaque/transluscent/transparent
  • Versatile media


  • Binder: gum arabic and water
  • Vehicle (solvent): water
  • Ground: paper, prepared wood panel
  • Drys fast/water soluble
  • opaque
  • dry, matte surface
  • Egg Tempera: egg yoke can be added to make it enamel-like and permanent


  • Binder: gum arabic and water
  • Vehicle (solvent): water
  • Ground: paper
  • Drys fast/water soluble
  • transparent to transluscent

Painting Color Theory

Basic Color Concepts
  • Hue - Primary/secondary/intermediate colors
  • Value - Low/high key - Light/dark - Shades vs. tints
  • Intensity - Chroma - Dull/Bright
  • Transparent/transluscent/opaque
  • Temperature - Warm/Cool
  • Unifying Relationships - Monochomatic, Analogous
  • Contrasting Relationships - Complementary, Polychromatic,
  • Local/Arbitrary
  • Juxtaposed colors - Pointillism/Divisionism
  • Symbolic color
  • Expressive color
  • Texture - impasto/collage/trompe l'oeil

Featured Artists

Gary Freeman
Representational landscapes, acrylic on canvas

Andrew Wyeth
Egg tempera and watercolors

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