Make paintings easy with these 5 steps!

Total Time Needed:



Total Cost:

40 – 65


Required Tools:

– Paints (preferably watercolors or acrylics)
– Paint Brushes
– Rinse Water
– Paper Towels
– Stretched Canvas or Canvas Panel
– Mixing palette

Things Needed?

– Easel (nice to have, but not mandatory)
– Painters Apron so you don’t ruin your clothes

1. What to paint – Looking for “paint ideas beginners”

Pick your reference(s). Photos, mood boards, and/or physical objects.
Choose one or more references, still-life objects, and/or mood boards. The more accurate and detailed your references are, the less you’ll have to guess later and get lost in the middle of your project. Think of references like the guided path to your final result, or the answer to questions you don’t even know to ask yet.

If you’re new to painting, it’s ok to start with simple references to get the hang of it. Beginner easy paintings can have a clear background, and silhouettes or an easy subject matter. This means pictures with one or two layers: a background color, and a simple focal point (and any variations of this). You don’t need complex ideas to learn how to paint!

how to paint, acrylic painting
You don’t have to be completely accurate – just use references to get you started!

2. Plan of attack – Make paintings easy

Take your references, and plan in what order you’ll paint each portion. Rule of thumb: always paint background to foreground. Here’s a breakdown of the process [using a photo with three layers, separate]

Get to know your reference and plan by sketching a thumbnail (small, simple drawing in pen or pencil) of your reference. This does NOT need to be pretty or entirely accurate! Your brain will become familiar with the concept and proportions, so you can get ahead of any upcoming challenges. This is the most skipped step, and one of the most crucial!

how to paint, acrylic painting
Dissect a painting into background, middle-ground, and foreground. You might need to ignore some details to make it this simple – you can add those details later!

3. Painting with acrylics – how to start with acrylics

We recommend acrylic paint for beginners, as they are fast-drying, easy to layer, and come in every color you can imagine. You don’t need any mediums or specialty supplies to start, just water. Painting with acrylics is the easiest medium to begin with!

When you’re a beginner acrylic painting student, you’ll need a few things to get started. Here’s what a basic set-up looks like:

– Optional table or floor protective cover/newspaper
– Easel (table-top or free-standing)
– Water cup (best to have one dedicated to paint, as it will get messy!)
– Paper or rag towel (to wipe brushes on)
– Paintbrushes and optional palette knife
– Paints and mixing palette
– Canvas (stretched or wood)
– Apron
You can purchase a starter’s paint set here.

how to paint, acrylic painting
New artists creating with an Art at Home kit and class!

4. Painting for beginners – layering

Now to get started. It can feel a little daunting to stare at that blank canvas. Even seasoned artists get that feeling when they start a new piece – there’s even a name for it: Process Anxiety! Rest assured, you’re not alone. The key is to push through the discomfort and keep going.

The easiest way to finish a painting is to have a couple tricks up your sleeve. Here are some tried and true ways to work through a project that will help you make painting easy:

Keeping your reference handy, start with the background and always paint the largest shapes first. Build up layers, don’t get caught up in details or accuracy until the end. Really! Don’t get distracted by your final touches until you’re finished with the big portions. Keep in mind, your art will look unfinished and maybe even a little weird until your final touches. Trust the process!

It’s best to start with your biggest brushes, and slowly work your way to smallest. You can find some additional tips and tricks in our How to Use Acrylic Paint – Beginner’s Guide to Acrylics article and vid. And again, trust the process! The beginning, middle, and most of the end of an art project is a work in progress – don’t get disheartened by your beginnings. That being said, take breaks so you don’t get burned out too quick. That’s explained in step 5!

5. Take breaks – when is a painting done?

As you work, take breaks. Step back from your work often to look at the whole picture. If you’re not sure what about your painting isn’t working, you need to away and get new perspective. Even better: ask for advice from someone you trust. It can be very nerve-wracking to invite someone into your creative process, but another voice will help you talk and think through what you’re seeing and trying to achieve. It can make all the difference. Choose friends or family who give positive and trustworthy feedback! If you don’t have anyone nearby, post to social media and you’ll be amazed at how supportive people are!

When you feel like you might be getting close to finishing, here are some good questions to ask yourself and your trusted friend/family: what about this do I like? What about this could use some refining? Do I like it as a whole? Do I have a good mix of bright and dark colors/values (light vs dark)? If you’re not sure what you want to change, you should leave it alone (for a while, anyway!)

Make your final decisions the next day. New perspective (and a little rest) brings new ideas!

Looking for beginners painting ideas?

Explore our Art at Home artist kits. These include all supplies and detailed video instruction – delivered right to your door!

Join a Sip and Paint class in the Tacoma area and learn how to paint with an artist guiding you step-by-step in person.

Don’t know what things to paint next?

Easy to paint canvas ideas can be hard to come by. But we’ve collected some for you! Here’s an inspiration board for you to get started:

Thanks for sharing! :)