Painting is the application of pigments come a assistance surface that creates an image, style or decoration. In art the term “painting” explains both the act and the result. Many painting is produced with pigment in liquid type and used with a brush. Exception to this are uncovered in Navajo sand painting and Tibetan mandala painting, whereby powdered pigments room used. Paint as a medium has actually survived for hundreds of years and also is, in addition to drawing and also sculpture, among the oldest an imaginative media. It’s used in some type by cultures approximately the world.

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Three that the most recognizable photos in west art background are paintings: Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Edvard Munch’s The Scream and Vincent valve Gogh’s The Starry Night. These three art functions are instances of exactly how painting have the right to go beyond a an easy mimetic function, the is, to only imitate what is seen. The strength in an excellent painting is the it transcends perceptions come reflect emotional, psychological, also spiritual level of the human condition.

Painting media are very versatile because they can be used to numerous different surface (called supports) consisting of paper, wood, canvas, plaster, clay, lacquer and concrete. Since paint is usually applied in a fluid or semi-liquid state it has the ability to soak into porous assistance material, i beg your pardon can, end time, weaken and also damage it. To protect against this a assistance is usually first covered through a ground, a mixture that binder and chalk that, when dry, create a non-porous layer between the support and also the painted surface. A common ground is gesso.

There room six significant painting media, every with particular individual characteristics:


All of them usage the following three straightforward ingredients:

PigmentBinderSolvent (also referred to as the “vehicle”)

Pigments space granular solids included into the repaint to add color. The binder is the really film-forming component of paint. The binder hold the pigment until it’s all set to be dispersed onto the surface. The solvent controls the flow and also application the the paint. The mixed into the paint, usually with a brush, come dilute it to the ideal viscosity, or thickness, before it’s applied to the surface. As soon as the solvent has actually evaporated native the surface ar the remaining paint is resolved there. Solvents selection from water to oil-based commodities like linseed oil and mineral spirits.

Let’s look at each of the six main painting media:

1. Encaustic paint mixes dried pigment with a heated beeswax binder. The mixture is climate brushed or spread across a support surface. Reheating enables for much longer manipulation that the paint. Encaustic dates earlier to the first century C.E. And was used broadly in funerary mummy portraits from Fayum in Egypt. The qualities of encaustic painting incorporate strong, resonant colors and extremely durable paintings. Since of the beeswax binder, once encaustic cools it forms a difficult skin top top the surface ar of the painting. Modern-day electric and gas tools permit for expanded periods of heating and paint manipulation.

Below is an instance of encaustic paint by José María Cano.

José María Cano, detail of painting made in encaustic, 2010

2. Tempera paint combine pigment with an egg yolk binder, then thinned and released v water. Favor encaustic, tempera has actually been supplied for thousands of years. It dries conveniently to a resilient matte finish. Tempera paintings are traditionally applied in succeeding thin layers, referred to as glazes, painstakingly accumulated using networks of cross hatched lines. Since of this an approach tempera paints are well-known for their detail.


Duccio, The Crevole Madonna, c. 1280. Tempera on board Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena, Italy. Image is in the general public domain

In early Christianity, tempera was used generally to paint images of religious icons. The pre-Renaissance Italian artist Duccio (c. 1255 – 1318), among the most significant artists the the time, used tempera paint in the development of The Crevole Madonna (above). You deserve to see the sharpness the line and also shape in this well-preserved work, and the information he makes in the face and also skin tones the the Madonna (see the detail below).


Duccio, The Crevole Madonna (detail), c. 1280. Tempera on board. Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena, Italy. Image is in the public domain

Contemporary painters still usage tempera as a medium. American painter Andrew cable (1917-2009) supplied tempera to create Christina’s World, a masterpiece of detail, composition and also mystery.

3. Fresco painting is used exclusively on plaster walls and also ceilings. The tool of fresco has actually been offered for thousands of years, but is most linked with its use in Christian images during the Renaissance period in Europe.

There are two forms of fresco: Buon or “wet,”and secco, definition “dry.”

Buon fresco an approach consists of painting in pigment combined with water top top a thin layer that wet, new lime mortar or plaster. The colors is applied to and absorbed by the wet plaster; after ~ a variety of hours, the plaster dries and also reacts with the air: the is this chemical reaction the fixes the pigment corpuscle in the plaster. Because of the chemical makeup the the plaster, a binder is no required. Buon fresco is an ext stable since the colours becomes component of the wall itself.

Domenico di Michelino’s Dante and the magnificent Comedy native 1465 (below) is a superb example of buon fresco. The colors and also details are kept in the dried plaster wall. Michelino reflects the Italian author and also poet Dante Aleghieri standing v a copy that the Divine Comedy open up in his left hand, gesturing to the illustration that the story depicted approximately him. The artist shows us four different realms linked with the narrative: the mortal kingdom on the right depicting Florence, Italy; the heavenly realm indicated by the stepped mountain at the left facility – you deserve to see an point of view greeting the saved souls as they go into from the basic of the mountain; the kingdom of the damned to the left – with Satan surrounding by flames greeting them in ~ the bottom that the painting; and the realm of the cosmos arching over the whole scene.


Domenico di Michelino, Dante’s divine Comedy, 1465, buon fresco, the Duomo, Florence, Italy. This image is in the public domain

Secco fresco describes painting picture on the surface ar of a dried plaster wall. This tool requires a binder because the pigment is no mixed right into the wet plaster. Egg tempera is the most typical binder used for this purpose. It was likewise common to use secco fresco over buon fresco murals in order come repair damage or do slight alters to the original.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s paint of The critical Supper (below) to be done making use of secco fresco. Since this to be painted ~ above a dry plastered wall, the pigments are just on the surface, not part that the wall surface like a true fresco. As you’ll notice in Da Vinci’s painting, the repaint is faded and flaking off as a result.


Leonardo Da Vinci, The last Supper, 1495–98, dried fresco ~ above plaster. Church that Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan. This image is in the general public domain

4. Oil repaint is the most versatile of every the painting media. It uses pigment combined with a binder the linseed oil. Linseed oil can likewise be provided as the vehicle, in addition to mineral soul or turpentine. Oil paint was assumed to have emerged in Europe during the fifteenth century, yet recent research on murals found in Afghanistan caves present oil based paints were used there as beforehand as the seventh century.

Some of the qualities of oil paint incorporate a wide range of colors choices, its capability to it is in thinned down and also applied in almost transparent glazes and used directly from the pipe (without the usage of a vehicle), collected in thick layers dubbed impasto (you can see this in countless works by Vincent valve Gogh). One drawback come the usage of impasto is that in time the body of the paint have the right to split, leaving networks the cracks follow me the thickest components of the painting. Since oil paint dries slow than various other media, it have the right to be blended on the assistance surface v meticulous detail. This prolonged working time also enables for adjustments and changes to it is in made without having to scrape off sections that dried paint.

In january Brueghel the Elder’s tho life oil paint you can see countless of the qualities mentioned above. The wealth of the paint itself is evident in both the resonant lights and also inky dark color of the work. The working of the paint allows for countless different results to be created, indigenous the soft of the flower petals come the reflection on the vase and also the countless visual structure in between.

Richard Diebenkorn’s Cityscape #1 from 1963 shows exactly how the artist supplies oil paint in a much more fluid, expressive manner. The thins down the tool to attain a quality and gesture that mirrors the sunny, breezy environment of a California morning. Diebenkorn supplied layers of oil paint, one over the other, to let the under painting show through and also a flat, much more geometric an are that blurs the line in between realism and abstraction.


Jan Brueghel the Elder, flower in a Vase, 1599. Oil top top wood. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien, Germany. Offered under GNU Documentation Licensing

Georgia O’Keeffe’s oil paintings show a variety of handling between soft and austere to very detailed and also evocative. You hardly ever see she brushstrokes, however she has a an introduction command of the medium of oil paint.

The abstract expressionist painters moved the limits of what oil paint can do. Their focus was in the act of paint as lot as that was around the topic matter. Indeed, for countless of castle there to be no difference between the two. The work of Willem de Kooning pipeline a record of oil paint being brushed, dripped, scraped and wiped away every in a frenzy of an innovative activity. This idea stays contemporary in the paintings of Celia Brown.

5. Acrylic repaint was emerged in the 1950’s and became an alternative to oils. Colours is suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion binder and also uses water as the vehicle. The acrylic polymer has characteristics like rubber or plastic. Acrylic paints sell the body, color, and durability of oil without the expense, mess and also toxicity problems of using heavy solvents come mix them. One major difference is the fairly fast dry time the acrylics. They are water soluble, but once dry come to be impervious come water or various other solvents. Moreover, acrylic paints adhere to plenty of different surfaces and are extremely durable. Acrylic will not crack or yellow over time.

The American artist Robert Colescott (1925-2009) used acrylics on large-scale paintings. He uses thin great of underpainting, scumbling, high-contrast colors, and luscious surfaces to lug out the full variety of impacts that acrylics offer.

6. Watercolor is the most sensitive that the painting media. It reaction to the lightest touch that the artist and also can end up being an over operated mess in a moment. There are two kinds of watercolor media: transparent and opaque. Transparent watercolor operates in a reverse connection to the various other painting media. The is traditionally applied to a paper support, and relies on the whiteness that the record to reflect light back through the applied color (see below), vice versa, opaque paints (including opaque watercolors) reflect light off the skin that the paint itself. Watercolor consists of pigment and a binder that gum arabic, a water-soluble compound made indigenous the sap that the acacia tree. That dissolves quickly in water.


Image through Christopher Gildow. Used here with permission.

Watercolor paintings host a feeling of immediacy. The medium is incredibly portable and also excellent for small format paintings. Transparent watercolor techniques include the use of wash; an area the color applied with a brush and diluted with water to let the flow throughout the paper. Wet-in-wet painting allows colors come flow and also drift right into each other, producing soft transitions in between them. Dry brush painting uses tiny water and lets the brush run throughout the peak ridges that the paper, bring about a damaged line of color and also lots of intuitive texture.


Examples that watercolor painting techniques: top top the left, a wash. ~ above the right, dry brush effects. Photo by Christopher Gildow. Used here with permission.

John Marin’s Brooklyn Bridge (1912) shows substantial use that wash. He renders the massive bridge nearly invisible except for the assistance towers in ~ both sides of the painting. Even the Manhattan skyline i do not care enveloped in the misty, abstract shapes produced by washes the color.

Boy in a Red Vest by French painter Paul Cezanne builds type through nuanced colors and tones. The method the watercolor is laid onto the record reflects a sensitivity and deliberation typical in Cezanne’s paintings.


Paul Cezanne, young in a Red Vest, c. 1890. Watercolor on paper. This picture is license is granted under the GNU cost-free Documentation License

The watercolors that Andrew Wyeth indicate the see with planet tones and localized color, often with dramatic locations of white record left untouched. Brandywine Valley is a great example.

Opaque watercolor, also called gouache, differs from transparent watercolor in the the particles are larger, the ratio of pigment come water is much higher, and also an additional, inert, white pigment such together chalk is likewise present. Because of this, gouache paint gives stronger shade than transparent watercolor, although it has tendency to dry to a contempt lighter ton than once it is applied. Like transparent watercolor, dried gouache repaint will come to be soluble again in water.

Gouache is a tool in timeless painting from various other cultures, too. Zal Consults the Magi, part of one illuminated manuscript form sixteenth-century Iran, offers bright colour of gouache together with ink, silver and also gold to build a colorful composition complete of detailed patterns and contrasts. Ink is used to develop lyrical calligraphic i at the top and also bottom of the work.

Other paint media used by artists incorporate the following:

Enamel paints form hard skins commonly with a high-gloss finish. Lock use hefty solvents and also are extremely durable.

Powder coat paints different from typical paints in that they execute not need a solvent to keep the pigment and also binder components in suspension. Lock are used to a surface ar as a powder climate cured with warm to type a challenging skin the is more powerful than most other paints. Powder coats are used mostly to steel surfaces.

Epoxy paints space polymers, created mixing pigment through two different chemicals: a resin and also a hardener. The chemistry reaction in between the 2 creates warmth that bonds them together. Epoxy paints, favor powder coats and also enamel, space extremely resilient in both indoor and outdoor conditions.

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These industrial grade paints may also be used in authorize painting, marine environments, and aircraft painting.