Different types of painting mediums in art

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There are many different types of painting mediums used all over the world during different time periods. Different mediums are used for different purposes and give different results. It is important to understand the differences in the mediums to be able to select the most suitable one for your desired style and work.

In this post, I will be talking about different types of painting mediums normally seen in art. I will give a short introduction to the medium, its ingredients, the basic material needed to get started and the pros and cons of each medium.

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acrylics

Acrylics

This medium is fast drying, water-soluble in liquid state and water-resistant when dried. By varying the ratio of acrylic paint and water, acrylic painting can have results similar to watercolour or oil painting. Acrylic paints are usually water-based, meaning soluble in water. Depending on the concentration of acrylics in water, the drying time of acrylic paint can vary from a few minutes to a few days.

Ingredients

  • Acrylic binder
  • Pigments

While mixed with water, the binder and pigments are suspended in water. As water evaporates out of the mixture, the pigments and binder bonds together, forming a solid layer. This is why acrylic paint should be stored in closed containers to prevent them from drying.

Materials

You will need a few materials to start painting with acrylic paint, the basic ones you’ll need are:

You can paint with acrylics straight out of the tube, it can create a painterly effect like oil painting. You can also add mediums or water to dilute the paint to make them thinner.

Remember to keep your paint which you’ve squeezed out on a palette wet to prevent them from drying during your painting process

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Fast drying. Unlike oil paints, they can dry very fast. So you can apply new layers without having to wait for too long.
  • Non-toxic. No harsh chemicals since you can just mix the paint with water.

Cons

  • Fast drying. Some people like to work slow using certain painting technique that only works for slow drying mediums. In this case, oil painting may be a better option. However, there are mediums out there that you can get to slow down the drying time of acrylic paint.
oil painting

Oil

When you see or hear ‘oil painting’, you’d automatically think of all the great artworks done by many masters in the past. To those who’ve never tried oil painting before, they’d normally associate oil painting with messy workplaces and complicated procedures. However, that’s not (entirely) true. Oil painting is one of my favourite mediums and I’ve written a post on oil painting for beginners here.

Ingredients

  • Pigments
  • Drying oil, usually linseed oil

The thickness or the consistency of the paint can be changed by adding solvents like turpentine for smoother application of paint.

Materials

The basic materials you need to start oil painting are:

There are different mediums you can use to make the paint dry faster or slower depending on your prefered working pace.

When you are done with a painting and it’s completely dried, you can cover the whole painted area with a layer of varnish for better protection and different types of finishes (eg: glossy or matt finish).

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Slow drying time. Good for people who like to work slowly
  • Forgiving. It is easy to correct any mistakes you’ve done due to the slow drying time, you can simply wipe it off and repaint the area.

Cons

  • Slow drying time. Sometimes you will have to wait for days for a layer of paint to dry before you can start working on a new layer.
  • Solvents may contain smelly and toxic chemicals in them, need to work in a well-ventilated room. There are also variations of solvents that contain less chemical and are gentler on the nose.
watercolour

Watercolour

As the name suggests, watercolour is literally painting with coloured water! They are compressed pigments in high concentration, so are small in size. They are good for painting outdoors due to their ease of carrying. All you need is a paintbrush and some water to activate the pigments. There are even brushes that can hold water in them, making it even more convenient to paint outdoors with watercolour.

Ingredients

  • Pigments
  • Binder to hold the pigments
  • Additives to control properties

Water is used to activate and dissolve the bound pigments. You can adjust the transparency of the paint strokes by changing how diluted the pigments are in water.

Materials

The basic materials you’ll need to start watercolour painting are:

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Easy to carry around, good for outdoor painting
  • Easy to clean up.
  • Cheap to start out

Cons

  • Difficult to control. It can be hard to work with and difficult to control the amount of water in your brush
  • Can wrap the paper if too much water is used
gouache

Gouache

Also known as opaque watercolour, Gouache may be an unfamiliar term to you. It is similar to watercolour, but less transparent; like acrylic paint, but less opaque. Like watercolour and acrylics, water is used to to activate the paint. Gouache is like the middle of watercolour and acrylic paint. Painting in gouach will result in a matt finish.

Ingredients

  • Pigments
  • Binder
  • Chalk (increases opacity)

Materials

Some basic materials you’ll need to start painting in gouache are:

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Dries quickly, less waiting time between new layers
  • Can achieve the look of watercolour or oil paints

Cons

  • Not water-resistant, dried gouache can be reactivated by water, thus proper framing and protection will be needed
  • colours can get darker when it dries
egg tempera

Egg Tempera

Egg tempera has existed for a long time. They were there before oil painting was invented, it is one of the oldest painting mediums, used by a lot of great masters in the past. It is water-soluble. Most artists like to make their own egg tempera paint as it is very easy to make, the ingredients are easy to find. Being able to make them yourself also allow you to control its consistency.

Ingredients

  • Egg yolk (act as a binder)
  • Pigment
  • Water

As you can see, the ingredients are pretty easy to find in our everyday life.

Materials

Some basic materials you’ll need to start painting with egg tempera are:

  • Egg tempera paint
  • Wood/ hard support
  • Paintbrushes

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Very cheap, can make them yourself easily
  • Non-toxic
  • Permanent, will not yellow or change colour over time

Cons

  • Brittle when dried, will flak off on a flexible surface like paper, must use a hard solid support
ink

Ink

Ink is a medium used in various ways such as calligraphy, drawing and painting.  You can use it straight from the bottle or dilute it with some water for more transparency. You can also smudge the painted ink using some water.

Ingredients

  • Pigments/ dye
  • Various solvents

Materials

Some materials you’ll need to start painting in ink:

  • Ink
  • Brushes
  • Paper

There are also ink brush pens out there for more convenience

 

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Easy to clean ( just use water! )

Cons

  • Not good for fine details
  • Ink will reactivate with water so much be framed/ kept your work properly.

Conclusion

So those are some of the different types of painting mediums that exist. They each have different properties and produces different results. Depending on the art style or look you are going for, a painting medium can make or break your artwork. Therefore, choose your painting medium wisely!

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14 Responses

  1. I love reading articles about art and reading this just gave me butterflies. I love what i just read on this article and i really appreciate for bringing this. I have increased my knowledge of things that have to do with art and also painting medium and materials. I will share this article with one of my art friends. Thanks so much

  2. Hello. Wow I really love also Arts, Great niche you have created there. I don’t see any negative on your website, Content and designs and information was very good. I will look forward more of your post in the future, I cannot wait to read more of your post. Keep up the good work and you will reach your goal.

    Best wishes.

    Jheba

  3. You have so much interesting information here, and I really have learned some things which I did not know before.

    I had heard of Gouache before, but I really had no idea what it was, so many thanks for enlightening me.

    I have never really tried to paint ever since I was told at school that I was no good at Art. As a teacher myself, I think that that was an appalling thing to say to any child because that sinks deep into the subconscious, and I am still convinced that I cannot draw or paint so I never tried, as I said! What do you think about that.

    I really enjoyed your article, thank you so much.

    Chrissie 🙂

    1. Hi Chrissie! I think what your teacher said to you was really wrong. Teachers are supposed to inspire and support children, not discourage them. I personally believe that everyone can draw and improve. I think that you don’t have to have talent to draw well. As long as you work hard, keep learning and are passionate, anyone can improve and draw well!

  4. This was a great and simple to follow guide on different types of painting medium in arts.

     You laid it all out clearly and showed examples that helped emphasize your various points. This guide will be very useful for people like me because I am a seasoned painter.

    I am familiar with acrylics paints and I can easily recommend to any one because they are highly durable. I haven’t tried out other different types of paints but I hope to lay my hands on them anytime soon

    1. Thankyou for the comment! It’s always exciting trying out different mediums, I hope you’ll enjoy them too.

  5. Acrylic paints are good for anyone who has a fast work speed. The oil is good as well but I may only choose the oil if I don’t feel like to work faster and probably exhausted. Every type of these painting style is good but it all depends on what you want and how you want it. 

  6. Thanks for this article.

    I paint during my spare time, to let go of stress. I found this too be an effective method for me to relax when I have the time. I use water color to make my painting for now, because it is easily affordable. Lately, I’ve been reading about acrylic painting, and I like the texture of acrylic painting. In acrylic and ink painting, which do you think will be the next step for me?

    1. Thankyou for the question! I think since you are already experienced in watercolour, it will be easier for you to learn or transition into ink painting as they are similar in their watery consistency. However, it is always interesting and fun learning a whole new medium like acrylics.

  7. Nice post. Before reading this article I only knew oil paints, acrylic paints and water color because in my secondary school, that was what we used during art classes. No I know about other forms and their advantages over the others. Well I particularly am interested in the egg Tempera and would love to be able to make my own paint.. I feel I’ll appreciate my work more knowing that I made everything down to the paint. Thanks for the article

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