There are lots of great paints to work with. Some require lots of practice and knowledge, and others can be picked up and used adeptly in very little time at all. Price ranges wildly, from dirt cheap to a significant investment to get started. Consider drying time, as well, when you decide what to try working with.
Watercolor paints are an excellent choice for beginner artists, because they are so inexpensive, and they are easy to work with, a forgiving medium. Because they are super transparent, it takes a little bit of practice working with the layering of color to get the hang of watercolor paints. Most opaque paints like acrylic or oils allow the artist to put the highlights (brightest and whitest) colors on last. Watercolors require highlights to be planned out first in the painting. Working with watercolor paper is a little tricky. The paper used for watercolors is usually heavyweight. If you don’t have pre-stretched watercolor paper blocks, you need to learn how to stretch your own paper, to prevent warping.
Gouache is as easy to work with for the beginner as watercolors, but is a much more opaque medium. The trickiest part of working with gouache is to get a uniform application of the paint. It isn’t traditionally meant to have the “washy” effect of watercolor but to have opaque areas of color that don’t appear muddy or textured in the same way as a watercolor. Graphic artists often learn to work with gouache early on, because it has useful applications in advertising art with its defined shapes and blocks of distinct color. Like all mediums, it requires practice to master the use of gouache paint.
Acrylic paint is one of the most popular mediums out there because of its ease of use and low cost. It is semi-transparent, can be applied while watery or when very thick, and is highly prized for versatility. It can be used for glazing, fine brushwork, water media techniques (when thinned with water), or many other looks. It can be applied to any number of surfaces, including paper or canvas. Like all other water-based media, it dries very quickly and allows for multiple layering effects.
Inks are very diverse and can be either water-soluble or not. They are prized for intensity in color and fluidity and can be used on many kinds of surfaces. Some are made with pigments that are suspended in shellac or other binders, which is why some repel water while others don’t. This is also why they work well with other media for multimedia effects. You can use ink for fabric painting, calligraphy, or traditional drawing and painting techniques. The drying time is very short, and they are an excellent choice for beginners.
Oil Based Paint
Oil colors are a fascination for most new art students because art museums are stuffed full of beautiful, luminous oil paintings. The transparency of oil color makes it ideal for mimicking tricky surfaces to paint, such as water and human skin. Oils are not a great beginner paint, because they require a broad knowledge of solvents and the various mediums that are used to create the paints and make them have different qualities. It is a moderately expensive medium, because of the pigments and mixing mediums, the brushes required, and the cost of canvas or prepared wood panels used to paint on. Drying time is extended, even with chemicals that are used to speed that process up. It is a beautiful, rewarding medium to master.
The final two types of paint we’ll talk about are Egg Tempera and Encaustic. These are both advanced methods, that require extensive knowledge of both pigments and mixing of mediums to achieve archival, lasting effects. They are both amazing in their own rights, when done right, but are not for children or beginning artists.
Once you have decided on a medium, don’t be afraid to mix different mediums and find your own style. Most artists do not limit themselves to one medium only. Explore the sale aisle of your local art store to grab up different paints to experiment with. Every new paint means a new learning experience.