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Painting/Acrylic Painting Development Ideas

Crystal Clear app kfm home.pngPainting with the Pro's: Acrylic Painting Development Ideas


  • Step 1 - The Idea

Choose subject material that is colourful, varied and appeals to you. Like a writer is taught to write about what they know, a painter also paints best when the subject material is familiar or has special meaning to the painter. Keep a list of keyword themes and choose ideas from this for sketch development.

Examples of keywords to trigger ideas for a painting with subject material to do with hockey might be:

  • Hockey on the Pond
  • Outdoor Rink
  • Street Hockey (winter)
  • Street Hockey (summer)
  • Team Spirit
  • The Winning Goal!
  • Team Sweaters


  • Step 2 - Pencil Sketch

Sketch the idea on paper using a 2B Pencil (soft pencil lead). Pre-rule a border outline on the sketch paper into the same ratio dimensions that will later be transferred to canvas. This saves time and insures that no drawing effort will be wasted. It is best to learn to draw a complete drawing at one sitting and when this drawing is enlarged it will make the complete outline for a painting. In other words do not waste effort in drawing only components or pieces of your idea and then think at some later date you will put them together somehow. Learn to draw the whole idea as one unit. It is a very good habit to draw one scene a day. This practice will quickly sharpen your drawing skills and provide much drawing material for future paintings. Do not be critical of your drawing abilities. The important thing is to capture your idea on paper, from this perspective it becomes a very original piece of artwork with absolute integrity, two very important elements when creating artwork.

Drawing Tips

  • Draw something everyday for practice and future painting material.
  • Never place any importance on how good or bad you think your drawing abilities are; focus on the task of capturing the idea on paper.
  • Do not over draw - stop drawing when the idea seems complete and any more said would only add clutter, too much detail and confusion to the viewer, resulting in a loss of clarity.


  • Step 3 Transfer to Canvas

Select a canvas size proportionate to the drawing. For example if the pencil sketch in step 2 is done on ruled paper in the dimensions of 8 x 10" a compatible ratio size of canvas would be:

  • 4 x 5"
  • 8 x 10"
  • 16 x 20"
  • 24 x 30"

Once canvas size is selected coat the entire surface in a light to medium wash of paint which can be any colour of your choosing. I prefer an amber shade which is a fairly warm tone. This is made by using 5 parts of burnt sienna to 1 part of medium cadmium yellow. The under painting will show through slightly here and there in the finished painting. The idea is to get rid of the white of the canvas, when the white of the canvas shows through it tends to make the painting look weak and amateurish. After the underpainting is dry, take a pencil and ruler and make a grid on the canvas using the following intervals: if the canvas is 16 x 20" create 4" x 5" squares by drawing solid pencil lines at quarter, half and three-quarter points on all sides of the canvas. Take a pencil and ruler and create a grid on the pencil sketch from step 2 using the same type of interval system: If the sketch is 8 x 10" create 2" x 2.5" squares by drawing solid lines at quarter, half and three-quarter points on all sides of the sketch. Once grid lines are in place, transfer the sketch to the canvas using a 2B pencil. This is probably the most difficult part of the whole painting process. Be prepared to transfer the sketch to the canvas square by square if necessary. When the sketch is successfully transferred to the canvas, outline the pencil markings, using a good quality drawing brush and ultramarine blue thinned with a little water. Go over the entire canvas pencil sketch using brush and ultramarine blue. Once done this will tremendously strengthen the original drawing and form a structure for the paint to be applied to.

Tips for Transferring Sketch to Canvas

  • If drawing seems very complicated always think, one square at a time, this can always be achieved.
  • When outlining the pencil canvas drawing with ultramarine blue, remember to outline only what is already there, do not make any changes or additions to the existing pencil drawing.


  • Step 4 Painting the Canvas

Finally the fun part! If you have persevered through the first 3 stages of painting development, you will now be ready to start painting your canvas. Choose a fairly limited palette of colours to begin with. I suggest the following palette to begin with:

  • Titanium White
  • Medium Cadmium Yellow
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Medium Cadmium Red
  • Napthol Red
  • Alizarine Crimson (Windsor Newton Infinity Acrylic)
  • Permanent Green Deep
  • Thalo Green (blue shade)
  • Thalo Blue
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Umber

Using the outline of the painting as a guide, begin filling in the areas created by the outline with colour. Be creative but respect the outline. This part of the process is pretty much trial and error, as you learn colour combinations and compatibilities that you are happy with. Once you understand the colour relationships of your selected palette, more colours can be gradually introduced. Apply the paint fairly thickly so that is has a nice sheen when dry. Start at the top of the canvas and work down. Always follow the same order of paint application in subsequent canvases. This will insure that your painting style develops with continuity. Always fully blend paint on the palette, insufficient blending will make the painting appear streaky. Do not use black, create black by mixing ultramarine and napthol red or burnt umber. Correct painting mistakes as you go. If you are not happy about the way a certain colour looks, do not think that somehow it will magically improve by the end of the painting, get rid of it by removing with a soft cloth. Acrylic paint dries quickly, but do not be tempted to paint over mistakes, that always ruins the painting, try to remove paint down to the under painting and re-apply.


I hope that you will be able to apply some of these basic painting techniques and that you will experience
more success in your efforts as you create great works of art!