Painting techniques: acrylic, oil, watercolor, pastel…

Knowing the different painting techniques at your fingertips is fundamental when learning to paint. In the painting course of Salir con Arte, as well as in our events, we use acrylic paint, since by its characteristics it is the most suitable for those people who are beginning in this art. However, there are many other painting techniques that we want you to keep in mind as you progress. You may not find your perfect painting technique at first, but if you have all the information you need about each way of painting, you will surely find it easier to improve as an artist. Before you begin, you should know that what differentiates one type of painting from another is the way in which the color pigment is dissolved and fixed. Depending on the solvent and binder material, we have different types of paint that have different qualities. There are no painting techniques worse than others, simply, each one of them offers us different results when it comes to learning how to make colors and how to apply them, with some aspects in favor and others against.

What are the painting techniques I can use?

Acrylic painting

In acrylic paint, the pigments are mixed with a plastic substance called acrylic polymer. Although acrylic paints dissolve with water, once dry they are resistant to water. This type of paint, which appeared in the first half of the 20th century, dries very quickly, changing its shade slightly when it is finally fixed. As we said, acrylic paint is perfect for learning how to paint a picture. Why? Basically for three reasons: It dries very fast, so we can "repaint" over it in a few minutes in case we make mistakes. It is quite economical and does not require extra materials. It dissolves with water. It is easy to handle and mix.

Oil painting

Oil paint dissolves its pigments in vegetable oils. The main peculiarity of oil painting compared to other painting techniques is that it takes a long time to dry. This makes it great for mixing and working with colors, but it can make the process very long. This type of painting has many possibilities, that is why it is the most used by art professionals. There are different methods and techniques to paint with oil: Layer painting vs. direct or wet-on-wet painting. Layer painting consists of first creating thin layers and then thickening them, waiting for the paint to dry each time. Direct painting, on the other hand, allows you to finish the painting in a single session since it adds paint layer upon layer without waiting for it to dry. To use this technique of oil painting it is necessary to have a lot of experience. Great impressionist painters such as Van Gogh and Monet used it in their works.

Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night

Optical techniques such as glazes or scumbling are very much used for oil painting. To create a glaze, a thin layer of semi-transparent color must be applied over an opaque and lighter one, always working on dry layers. The color is formed through the superposition of these layers, so the painter has to have some experience and know how the pigments will behave. Scumbling or scrubbing consists of applying a small amount of oil on a dry layer of paint without using thinner and with the brush dry, and then rubbing the brush with a paper to remove the excess paint. It is then gently applied to create effects such as clouds, rain or rough objects. Texture techniques. The best known is impasto, which applies generous amounts of dry paint to the painting using a brush or spatula. Another texture technique is rubbing, in which a paper is rubbed across the painting to create very interesting effects.


The watercolour fixes the pigments in gum arabic, a material extracted from acacia trees. It dissolves in water, and its composition makes it perfect to adhere to the paper. Watercolour builds light colours, not very saturated, as the pigments are very crushed and diluted.


Gouache is a painting technique similar to watercolor, also diluted in water, only it is less transparent than watercolor because the fragments of the pigments are larger. Another difference is that they include white pigment, which makes the colors more opaque and solid.


Airbrushing uses acrylic spray paint or enamels. When diffusers are not used, but simply the paint is dropped, we talk about dripping.


In pastel painting, the powder pigments are mixed with resins, forming a dry paste that is shaped like a Crayon or wax. Of all the painting techniques, this is the one that adheres the least, although the effect it leaves is very opaque. It can be used by painting directly with a pastel bar or use the powder that the bar releases when used (similar to chalk) to apply color.

Egg tempera

Believe it or not, egg yolk is still used today as a pigment binder. Together with water and oil, this food manages to fix the pigments, having survived this thousand-year-old painting technique until today. An example of a work of art painted with the egg tempera technique is The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli.

Chinese ink

Indian ink is mostly liquid, although it is sometimes marketed as a powder to be mixed with water. It is usually worked with black and sepia colors, and applied with a pen. Indian ink is used to make drawings or calligraphy.

Painting with Indian ink (author unknown)

Mixed technique

The mixed technique is that which employs in the same work two or more of the types of painting mentioned above. For example, when watercolors and pencil are used in the same work, or acrylic and pastel painting . Now that you know the different painting techniques you can use, we want to show you how to paint a picture, or rather, how to paint with acrylic, which is the type of paint we use in Salir con Arte. See how cool pictures you can get to paint in our painting workshops with a few brief notions and a step by step super easy with our painting case. Do you dare to live this experience or would you prefer to make an original gift inviting that special person? Also, if you prefer, we can send you our painting kit at home and you will be able to go out with Art without moving from the sofa by following our online video tutorial. Paintings, brushes, easel and a super cool apron to make you feel like an artist.
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