Painting in the Visual Arts


Is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color, or another medium to a solid surface. The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used. The final work is also called a "painting."

Painting is defined as:
1. a painted picture.
2. the process or art of using paint, in a picture, as a protective coating, or as decoration.
1. an act or instance of painting.

Materials or Supplies

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Terminology & Techniques

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What is Viscosity?

It refers to the state of paint being thick, sticky, semi-fluid, or fluid in consistency. For example, honey has a higher viscosity than water.

How to work with Viscosity?

Viscosity affects the value or tone of paint. The more the paint is thinned down with water or mineral spirits, the less viscose it will be, i.e., if working on a toned paper or canvas, the more the paper or canvas will show through.

Opacity or Semi-Opaque

What is Opacity?

In painting, opacity is defined as a pigment or paint that one can not or is not able to see through. Opacity describes hiding strength or whether the paint will cover what it has been painted over.

When light waves strike a surface coated with paint, it affects the pigment's degree or opaqueness or transparency. Each pigment has specific attributes that affect how it interacts with light waves. A pigment's degree of opacity directly correlates to its particle's ability to scatter light waves.

Note that watercolor does not use additives (such as chalk or white) and always allows previous layers of paint to show through.

What is Semi-Opaque?

Paints that are not fully clear or transparent

How to Work with Opacity or Semi-opacity?

Use a black magic marker to find out the opacity of your paint in any medium. Draw a line on the paper or canvas with a black sharpie, paint over the line, then you can tell the opacity of the paint. You can check the tube to see if it is opaque; however, different manufacturers vary even if it is the same pigment.

Transparent or Semi-transparent

What is Transparency?

It refers to transparent paints that allow light to pass through them so that the objects underneath can be distinctively seen.

What is Semi-transparent?

It refers to pigments that are partially or imperfectly transparent. These pigments allow light to somewhat pass through so that the objects underneath may be seen.

How to Work with Transparency or Semi-transparency?

Use a black magic marker to find out the transparency of your paint in any medium. Draw a line on the paper or canvas with a black sharpie, paint over the line, then you can tell the transparency of the paint. You can check the tube to see the opacity; however, different manufacturers vary.


What is Impasto?

It is the process or technique of laying paint on thick to physically stand out from the surface. The word 'impasto' (n.) is Italian for 'dough' or 'mixture.' The term 'impastare' (v.) means to 'to paste.'

How to Impasto?

Use a brush (with little to no medium) or a palette knife. Apply the paint thickly to the surface.


What is Scumbling?

To modify (a painting or color) by applying a very thin coat of opaque paint over it to give it a softer or duller effect. This creates a "veil' of color over the previous layer.

What is Staining?

When paint pigments are finely ground, they adhere to paper or canvas and cannot be removed with lifting or scrubbing. These are known as staining paints.

How to Scumble?

Use a DRY brush (without water or medium). Apply a small amount of paint on the brush, and use a paper towel to remove the extra paint. It's not good to have a mass amount. Lightly "dust" the surface with the brush.


What Is Glazing?

It is a layer of semi-transparent paint laid over another painted surface, so the original colors still show through.

How to Glaze?

Practice only when the paint is dry. Use a THIN wash with color and a soft brush. Drag the brush over another color once or twice, then let it dry.


What Is Veiling?

Also referred to as "Illuminism," primarily used in watercolor, veiling involves the build-up of color with several thin layers of transparent paint.

How to Veil?

A transparent watercolor wash or an extremely thin layer of paint is "veiled" or laid over another. Each paint layer must be completely dry before applying the next layer. The layers of paint may be painted with or without using a pattern.


What is a Wash?

A technique primarily used in watercolor, where pigment is applied with a lot of water. In oil painting, a wash refers to the initial toning of the canvas or diluting the paint with mineral spirits.

How to create a Wash?

The most basic watercolor technique is the flat wash. It is produced by wetting the area of paper covered by the wash, then mixing sufficient pigment to quickly fill the entire area. The pigment is applied to a sloping surface (i.e., the drips or water will run down the page) in slightly overlapping horizontal bands from the top down.


What is a Gradation?

It refers to a change in value from lighter to darker (or darker to lighter), i.e., a change in tint or shade. It may also refer to a change in color or hue (from one color gradually to the next) or a change in temperature from warm to cool or vice versa. Space, distance, atmosphere, volume, and curved or rounded forms are visual effects created using a gradation.

How to create a Gradation?

Gradation is the technique of gradually transitioning from one hue to another, shade to another, or texture to another. Create a wash in watercolor. Add in other colors while it is still wet from left to right or vice versa. In oil painting, leave openings to see through to different colors, especially in the beginning stages of the painting.


What is a Color?

'Color' is all around us. It adds excitement and emotion to our lives. Everything from the clothes we wear, the pictures we paint, and the environment we live in revolves around color. Without color, the world would be a much less attractive place.

How to Navigate Color Space?

There's a whole section on how to navigate color and color space. Click to learn more.


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