It's always a good idea to get to know the types of supplies you can buy for painting before planning your purchases. For those with first hand experience with paints, you'll know how important choosing the right type is. This guide will explain the basics on oils, acrylics, and the other less common paint types.
The first thing to know about paints is what each type is for, how they perform, and which types are best for your needs. Don't get trapped by thinking that one type is better than the other. The best type for you is what best suits your painting style; whether you like to take your time and work on a painting over a long period of time, or if you prefer to get down to business and put your ideas out there immediately. Remember that to start you may want to experiment with a couple different types by buying primary colors and experimenting. It is more expensive this way, but you can get a good feel for which painting style suits you most. Here is what to expect from the different types of paints.
* '''Acrylics''' -- These are one of the most common paints for all skill levels. Part of their wide appeal stems from their versatility and their ease of use.
** Because acrylics have a water base, it makes them fast drying. This has pros and cons though. It's a great quality to have if you like creating depth and texture by letting one layer dry and then painting over again and again to form layers. However, once the paint dries, it turns to a waterproof solid that can't be dulled or removed.
** Acrylics are very versatile. They can be mixed with water to form a light wash and they can be loaded up thick like an oil for layering. In general, acrylics are translucent paints.
** Nothing is as easy to clean while it is still wet. Just gentle soap and water will do the job. However, once acrylic paint dries in your brushes, you can say ta-ta to them. That's why it's so important to keep rinsing off your brushes every few minutes.
*** '''Paint Grades'''
**** Besides costing less, student grade paints have less to offer than pro paints. They often use fillers, and thus don't offer the same clarity or lightfastness.
**** Artist's paints are made of pure milled pigments, making them richer and more vibrant.
**** Exterior paint grade is meant for use outdoors, and it is the only thing that will hold up to the elements.
**** Scholastic grade is for young artists, and it doesn't offer a very high pigment quality.
*** '''Best Painting Surfaces '''
**** Heavy, textured surfaces are the best types of medium on which to paint.
**** Canvas, heavy duty paper, masonite, or hardboard are good choices for most acrylics.
**** Craft acrylics are best used on fabric, wood, or metal.
* '''Oils''' -- Many famous painters used oil paints and they are often regarded as being of the highest quality.
** The oil base means that they take quite a long time to dry and that they may need a minimum of one or two months to fully dry before being varnished. Quicker drying hues contain cobalt, manganese, or lead. The slowest drying of the bunch is ivory black.
** Slow drying paint is the ideal quality to look for when you want to blend colors together for opaqueness or glazing.
** Oil paints are versatile, and can be used in a thin wash, but are most often used thick to create rich, deep color.
** In order to clean your brushes you'll need paint thinner, Murphy's Oil soap, alcohol, or some other type of solvent.
* '''Watercolors '''-- If you want to keep things simple and you don't want to spend a lot of money, then watercolors would be good for you.
** Watercolors are fast drying. You can layer lots of colors to get a very wide range of effects, from light, airy shades to richer, more intense hues.
** Just add water and you can lift away "mistakes" as long as they are subtle. Remember that the transparency of watercolors lets you see all the brush strokes with ease.
** Watercolors allow you to work differently with white space, since the white in your paintings comes from the paper, that will naturally show through the paint.
** Since watercolors come in solid form, they are easy to transport and take along in the field.
** Unlike oils or acrylics, watercolors are easy to wash off of your brushes; all you need is water.
* '''G''''''ouache''' -- This is a water-soluble paint that is often grouped with acrylics.
** Gouache dries quickly with a matter finish.
** Similar to watercolors but more opaque and reflective.
** Often used for folk art.
* '''Hybrids '''-- You might consider these a type of drawing supply, rather than one for painting since they don't require brushes.
*** Pastels ultra portable.
*** Easy to blend on paper but also adequate for building contrast.
*** You will need more than just primary colors to get a wide variety of hues.
*** Pastels are prone to smudging.
** '''Watercolor Pencils'''
*** Watercolor Pencils are easy to bring with you wherever you go.
*** Just draw like you would with colored pencils and wash over with a wet paintbrush. Using more water will create blended color, similar to watercolors, a little creates softer lines, and using just a tiny bit can make colors look more saturated if you wet the pencil before drawing.
*** Lots of layering capabilities, but mostly transparent.
*** Colors dry quickly.
*** Brushes, when used, just need to be rinsed in water.