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Beginners Painting Tips for Acrylic and Oil

Posted by Neadeen Masters, CDA on 18th Apr 2016

Learning Painting as a Beginner Artist

Learning Painting can be easier when we understand how to use transparent colors. Most beginner artists start with wet in wet painting techniques. As they collect different colors, chances are they will unknowingly pick up a few transparent pigments. Unless one understands the purpose for transparent colors, frustrations will occur. So here are a few tips for using transparent colors that will make your paintings pop with extra excitement.

Make Warm Colors Exciting!

When painting with warm colors consider using warm transparent glazes (that's thin paint spread over a dry layer below) to add extra color to the edges of leaves, or flowers and foliage. Adjust yellows and warm oranges, add depth to the red skies of sunsets, and to boring greens. A little transparent color will punch up all your golden tones if you use a color like Quinacridone Burnt Orange

For many artists, both wet in wet and layering painting techniques are often combined for better visual effects. For wet in wet painting, mostly opaque and semi-transparent pigments are used. Naturally the opaque colors provide greater coverage.

We know oil or acrylic painting for beginners comes easier with more experience and as time passes. Using layering painting methods provide extra opportunities for adding color accents or making adjustments after the initial painting has dried. The beginning artist can now turn to use transparent pigments to add greater color variety and depth of color to make parts of a DRY painting stand out.

Why Transparent Pigments?  

Because these allow light to pass through the paint layers creating a translucency that is often desirable and or provides additional depth and dimension. In the image of the Jelly jars above, light passes through the jelly creating beautiful effects. In similar ways, creating the illusions of light with transparent colors will also produce beautiful results for beginners who are still a bit unsure and still learning painting.

When using a layering method, we use glazing techniques to do many different things to our paintings. To do so, we layer or spread a thin transparent color over a dried color. In the more advanced painting below by Sue Pruett, the deeper red-orange hues on the shadow side of the lemons were applied with TRANSPARENT glazes of Quinacridone Gold which is a popular warm transparent color.


Transparent pigments are usually rich in hue, and have the natural ability to allow light to pass through them. Imagine looking at the world through colored lenses, or looking through a stained glass window as seen in the image below. Transparent glazes work in the same way. These transparent colors will affect your paintings in a similar way or allow you to adjust in a more controlled manner.


Painting for Beginners Acrylic or Oil Applications

Here are important things to consider when glazing with transparent colors:

  1. Do we want to change color? i.e. – Shift the hue from yellow to orange.
  2. Do we want to darken color? – All glazes will lower the value, making it darker.
  3. Do we want to add an accent color? – Usually warm colors.
  4. Do we want to carry color to another location? – From flower to flower.
  5. Do we want to create color harmony and balance? – So no colors are isolated.
  6. Do we want to adjust the color temperature of an object? – From cool to warm or warm to cool.
  7. Do we want to change the color of the light source to create a specific mood? – This is related to color temperature.

Each of the above must be considered if you wish your painting to be successful. When one decides on a plan of attack, this makes selecting your acrylic transparent glazing colors easier to do.

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