Painting: How to choose your medium to start or explore?

"To choose, the deal is to try."

Like many materials, there is a wide variety of types of paint: acrylic, watercolor, inks, oil, pastel, foxglove, gouache... If at this point some of them don't speak to you, don't worry. We will explore some of them throughout the article.

SPOILER ALERT: There is no single methodology. First and foremost, it is important to be able to distinguish between each mediumand this, by inquiring about their characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. This choice must be made according to its own experience, and above all, of its needs and preferences.


First of all, what is painting? Besides the action of painting, painting is defined in many ways. For now, we will focus on this one: "A mixture of pigments and binder and/or thinner." It can have a consistency light, thick or compact and can also create different textures (marbled, granular, smooth, spongy ...) depending on its support. Don't panic, we will see these different terms later. To make it simple : color + texture = paint.

Let's look at a few types:





The main property of watercolor is its transparencywhich gives it a certain lightness. It also consists of a binder (gum arabic) as well as an thinnerwhich is none other than water, as its name indicates. The action of this one is thus toactivate the paint. Water being a big part of this medium, painting with watercolor requires a minimum of patience between layers. In general, the drying time is fast. However, depending on the desired result, it is sometimes necessary to wait for one layer to dry before moving on to the next. The ratio of exposure and drying time allows a better work of colors (intensity) and shapes.

NB: Be careful not to overflow because no overlay (see image/video below) possible with this medium. Watercolor is odorless and is available in several forms such as dry cup, tube, or liquid. It is easily transported for outdoor use, stored and cleaned easily.




Try to remember your list ofplastic art. In addition to the sheets of Canson paper, colored pencils or markers, there was always this inevitable palette of gouache. Isn't it so? So we all know this "school painting" by name. Yet it is the medium we think of least often when you want to get started or explore. I consider gouache to be the big sister of watercolor. It is almost as slight because it is also a water-based paint with the same components, but with a little extra: a opacifying agent (ex: chalk) It is thus covering, allowing the famous overlay which is not found in watercolor. This is an interesting fact when you want to change a color, modify or delete an element afterwards. Gouache is also odorless and is available in tubes and in wet cups (jelly gouache). It is easy to transport and can be used outdoors without difficulty. It is also easy to clean.





As its name suggests, the binder of this painting is theacrylicwhich is a soft resin. It sometimes contains water or can be mixed with water to change the texture or effect. It is simple and flexible to use. Ideal for beginners**. Drying is relatively fast and the overlay is also possible. Like the ones mentioned above, it is odorless and can be found in tubes, jars, bic and/or markers. Acrylic is a paint that requires a high degree of special attention for outdoor use. It requires a little more tools and space to handle it at best (risk of soiling, drying etc..) as well as for cleaning the brushes.



The oil paint is of a consistency thick. This allows for an infinite number of textural modifications when mixed with other products. Regarding its binder, it is a drying oil (catalyst for a better drying) often of purified flax or poppy. Contrary to the other types we have seen, the drying time or siccativation of oil painting is longer. The pigments as for them keep their intensity, contrary to the watercolor for example. The latter requires special attention for its use outdoors. It will be preferable to adapt your work according to this detail.

It also gives off odors and fumes. Its composition of share its binders and modifiers can be "toxic" if used indoors. For its use, a ventilated room or an outdoor space are then required. For the cleaning of the brushes, it is recommended to make a dipping in a diluent. It is found in the form of tubes.




Of course, digital painting is different from those that precede it. It requires a material much more current and less conventional. With a good drawing software/application, a graphics tablet and computer/Ipad and a pencil, it is quite possible to be able to explore it. No drying time, no smell, no need to buy new material. With the arrival of digitalization, access to colors (infinite), shapes and textures is much easier. And this, thanks to many tools integrated directly into the software/applications. For more information on digital painting, a more detailed article is available right here:  Start digital painting.   




There is no real secret, to find out, you have to try, get involved, get wet.
My advice? Take the time to talk to the textures, colors, yourself and the world around you.

If you are based in / visiting the Ile de France region, please do not hesitate to book a 2-hour workshop to familiarize yourself with the different types of paints without having to buy them all first. It may also be a way to determine your style and explore your artistic sensibility. 

To discover my work go to Instagram or on my Portfolio 

Until then, I wish you unlimited creativity and expression. 
See you soon for a new article.


Some sources to dig deep: pigment wetting agent ,chalk talc kaolin...)