Painting is the process of applying paint or pigment to a surface, usually a board or canvas. There are a number of different types of paint, which create very different effects:

Acrylic paint is a fast drying water-based paint which is made from pigment suspended in plastic.

Watercolour paints are pigment suspended in water. Watercolour also describes the effect of these paints on a surface.

Oil paint is a slow drying paint that is made from pigment particles suspended in oil, usually linseed oil. These paints are not used with water. They must be thinned with oil.

Different styles/ways of painting

Paintings are categorised according to their style and their subject matter, for example figurative or portraiture.

Different styles of painting can be identified as:

Impressionistic: to give the impression of something, not clear, visible brushstrokes in dots or dabs, hazy

Realistic: an attempt at realism, to paint objects and/or people so that they appear real, true to nature

Expressionistic: to use colour in an expressive way/to express emotions or feelings         

Idealised: to make things look more beautiful than they appear in reality

Cubist: to reduce objects and people to geometric shapes

Abstract: non-figurative painting, an abstract painting does not contain recognisable or tangible objects or people   


Over the history of painting many different styles and methods of painting evolved. Originally painting was used in order to record or document an event or the appearance of a person. However, in the 19th century, photography took over and perfected this function. Painting was therefore, to a certain extent, moved towards another function. It became widely acceptable for the painter to visualise or express things that cannot necessarily be seen, using paint to describe emotions, feelings, moods, and atmospheres/environments etc.


Painting Methods

The way in which an artist paints can change the overall impact of their work. For example, through the use of:

  • Flat colourful brushstrokes (Pop Art)
  • Quick sweeping marks (impressionistic or expressive art)
  • Thick brushstrokes, using lots of paint, where every brushstroke is visible (impressionistic or expressive art)
  • Care taken to create the illusion of form



Painting does not necessarily require a paint brush.
Experiment yourself using some experimental paintings using different tools as your paint brush, for example:

Palette knife
Piece of cardboard
Tooth brush
Cotton bud
Cork from a wine bottle
A stick
Nail brush
Scrunched up newspaper


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