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Painting Techniques of Art: From Paint Application to Color Technique

Painting is not the same as painting. There are numerous painting techniques in art that can produce very different results.

It depends mainly on two things: How to apply the colors (painting style) and which colors you use (color technique). Both aspects are often summarized under the generic term “painting techniques”.

Painting techniques Part 1: The color choice

Depending on which color technique he chooses, the artist can achieve very different results when painting. The individual paint properties of each color contribute to this, which leads to more or less deviant painting behavior depending on the technique of painting.

Popular color techniques in the art are:

Acrylic: Acrylic paints are very modern colors. They are also extremely versatile and can be used in almost all painting techniques. As a result, they resemble the oil colors but are easier to handle.

Watercolor: The watercolor painting works with strongly diluted colors. Its transparent painting technique, in which different layers of paint can blend visually with each other, creates an airy color scheme.

Oil: Oil painting is probably the most traditional painting technique and is closely linked to the art of the “old masters”. It is as versatile as the acrylic painting but makes higher demands on the painter.

Pastel: In the pastel technique, the artist works with pastel pencils, with which he draws first, before blurring the colors with his fingers or a special paper wiper.

Gouache: Gouache colors belong to the group of watercolors. Unlike watercolor paints, they are mainly used for covering painting techniques.

Mixed technique: When different colors and painting techniques are combined in art, one speaks of a mixed technique. Not all colors can be combined in any order, for example, oil paints can only be applied to acrylic paint and not vice versa. Drawing techniques are well suited for mixed techniques, and sometimes art forms such as collages are also included.

Painting Techniques Part 2: The Art of Painting

The way how to apply colors is called painting. Most painting techniques or painting techniques can be applied to virtually any color, but often with very different results.

There are countless different painting techniques in art. Some of them are closely linked to special styles of art, such as pointillism. Others find themselves distributed across all styles of art.

Some of the most popular painting techniques in the arts include:

  • layered painting
  • glaze painting
  • Alla-Prima technique (Prima painting)
  • Wet-on-wet
  • collage
  • impasto
  • Spachtel technique
  • airbrush

Different painting techniques and their special features

Various painting techniques can be used to achieve different results in painting.

The decisive factor is, above all, which colors are used ( color techniques ) and how to apply them ( painting style ).

Various painting techniques at a glance

For example, the type of paint application can be used to distinguish between the following different painting techniques or styles:

Alla-Prima technique (Prima painting)

The Alla-Prima technique or prima painting is a painting technique that dispenses with different layers and corrections. Instead, the painting is completed quickly in a single painting session. This makes prima painting a demanding painting technique, since the different aspects of the painting must be considered from the beginning: sizes, positions and shapes as well as light and shadow effects.

Laser technique

In contrast to the Alla Prima technique, the glaze painting is painted in different layers. The individual glazes (thin, (half) transparent layers of paint) first have to dry before another coat can be applied. The glaze technique works by shining through the individual transparent layers of paint and thus offers unique color effects. Depending on the color technique used, the glazed painting technique is therefore rather something for patient painters.


If you are not quite so patient, you may be more comfortable with the wet-on-wet technique. This painting technique also works with different layers, but already paints the new layer into the not yet dried color of the old layer. It is particularly suitable for slow-drying oil paints, but also for acrylic paints. The wet-in-wet technique with watercolors creates remarkable effects but must be done rather quickly due to the short drying times.


The Impasto technique works with very thick paint jobs and is mainly known from oil painting, but can also be implemented with acrylic paints. Typical features of the Impasto painting technique are the relief structures, which remain clearly visible even after drying. One of the great masters who particularly liked to use this painting technique is Vincent Van Gogh, among others.

Spachtel technique

The spatula technique is also one of the many different painting techniques in which you can work with several layers. It is particularly suitable for working with acrylic paints because acrylic dries quickly and also allows thicker layers of paint. Important for the spatula technique is a well-primed, solid ground.


A particularly creative painting technique is a collage. Different painting techniques are combined with other materials such as newspaper clippings, everyday objects or photographs. For this purpose, especially water-based painting techniques, ie acrylic, gouache or watercolor are well suited.


The painting technique of the airbrushing is not as new as it seems, but had to fight for a long time for their recognition as an art form. During airbrushing, a finely dosed paint mist is sprayed onto the ground by means of air pressure with a spray gun.

Different painting techniques for different purposes

You see – the different painting techniques are as different as the painters themselves. Just try out which painting technique suits you best. For this, you do not have to stop at this list, which could be continued almost endlessly. For example, with sponge or spray techniques, granulation techniques, stenciling, sgraffito, classical pointillism or numerous mixed forms.

The best painting techniques on canvas

You can paint on a variety of surfaces – from paper to wood to metal or stone. A classic and still popular painting ground is drawn on stretcher canvas. Which painting techniques on canvas are particularly well suited and what you should consider when selecting the canvas, we would like to introduce you to the following.

Short Material Science: The canvas as a painting ground

Canvases used to be made from hemp fibers. Today, they are mostly made of cotton or linen. Due to the higher load capacity, the higher quality linen fabrics are used, especially for larger images.

The fabrics are first stretched on a stretcher made of wood and then treated with a so-called pre-sizing.

The right canvas for the right painting technique

Canvases can have very different structures and different thicknesses – depending on the desired effect and the technique used, finer, sometimes coarser, malt cloths are better suited.

To impasto painting techniques, such as the impasto technique, coarse canvas structures fit particularly well. The finer the brushstrokes, the better a fine canvas structure fits. For glazed painting techniques, smooth canvases are the more suitable surface. But beware: the smoother the surface, the quicker mistakes or inaccuracies are visible!

Canvases and primer

Before it can be painted on a canvas, it usually has to be primed first. Whether you can do without a primer depends, among other things, on the color and the technique used: While acrylics also hold on non-primed surfaces, a primer is indispensable for painting with oil paints or watercolors.

You can buy already primed canvases from a retailer or prime the canvas yourself. If you want to go fast, ready-primed canvases are quite usable. If you want to have more control over the type and quality of the primer, you will usually want to prime your canvas yourself.

Popular painting techniques on canvas

Oil painting

A classic painting technique for canvases is an oil painting. Varied techniques offer experienced painters, as well as newcomers to oil painting, new creative challenges.


Acrylic paints can be applied to almost any surface – naturally also on canvas. If you would like to try painting with acrylics, you will probably start by using cheaper materials such as cardboard. For larger, more ambitious painting projects, however, canvases are better suited due to their special charisma.

Watercolor painting

With watercolor paints and the right painting technique, beautiful results can be achieved on canvas. Important is a suitable watercolor primer, which should be applied several times if possible. Since watercolors on canvas can not move in other than on special watercolor paper, you need a special watercolor primer for canvases. 

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