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  • Writer's pictureVishakha

A Beginner’s Guide to 5 Different Types of Art Paint

Updated: Apr 1

If you are new to the world of art, you may find it quite daunting to choose the right type of paint for your next creation. Different types of paints give you different results and can entirely change the finishing of an artwork. Not to forget that each paint also requires different brush techniques to attain the desired results. Hence, anyone who has recently embarked on their artistic journey must know their art supplies well. 

Different types of Art Paint

Being an art gallery, we at TERAVARNA understand this struggle of artists. Therefore, in this blog, we will cover the different types of paints that you can use to create your next masterpiece.

 Oil  Paints

One of the most widely used mediums in paintings is oil paint. It is created by mixing powdered pigments with vegetable oils - mostly linseed because of its rich oil properties. Oil paint gained massive popularity in the 15th century around the Italian Renaissance period. It’s a long-lasting paint and gives a glossy finish to your work. 

If you want to alter the viscosity of an oil paint, you can add solvents such as turpentine or alkyd mediums like Liquin. There are also water-mixable oil paints that can be mixed with water instead of other solvents. However, oil paints take much longer to dry, thus giving artists the leeway to make corrections much later. 

Advantages of using oil paint

  • Given the slow drying process, it leaves more room for artists to make corrections and alterations to the artwork. 

  • Oil paints do not change their vibrancy or intensity upon drying. 

  • If you add more layers to an oil paint after it has dried, it won’t affect the previous coats. 

  • A good choice for creating subtle color variations and effects of light or shadows because they blend quite well together.

  • Allows you to blend your colors directly on the canvas, thus adding a painterly finish to the work.

Disadvantages of using oil paint

  • Oil paints can take months to dry depending upon the thickness of the paint. This increases the time to finish and varnish an oil painting.

  • If you apply oil paints improperly it can result in cracking after a few decades. 

  • These paints are expensive to begin with, and adding drying mediums can shoot the cost higher.

  • You can’t clean your paint brushes with regular water and require solvents or dishwashing liquids.


Watercolors are probably one of the most commonly used art paints and most of us have used them as children. These are made with finely ground paint pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder like gum-arabic. Due to the suspension of pigment in water, these paints leave a translucent effect upon drying. Hence, a beginner lever artist may require some prior knowledge of watercolor techniques to prevent mishaps. 

The pigments in watercolor are surrounded by water which leaves the paint stain behind upon drying. You would also need watercolor paper, which is a thick, textured paper, or otherwise vinyl, papyrus, or fabric to paint upon. Another point you should know is that a white watercolor isn’t made due to the thinness of the paint. Instead of painting a surface white, you can simply leave it blank if you are using watercolors.

Advantages of using watercolors

  • These art paints are quick to dry so you don’t need to wait for long to add another layer. 

  • If the previous layer has dried thoroughly, you can easily add a new layer of paint. 

  • The dried paint can easily be reused by simply adding water to it. 

  • The opacity of these colors can be easily changed with the amount of water you use to mix it.

  • These are easy to find and also economical media for artists. 

  • They are compatible for use on various surfaces.

  • The paint brushes used with watercolors can easily be washed with plain water.

Disadvantages of using watercolors

  • Watercolors dry too quickly and because of their translucent nature, they leave very little room for mistakes. 

  • One can see all the layers including errors so rectification can be difficult.

  • It requires some practice before beginners can learn to manipulate watercolors.

  • These colors fade very quickly, so you can’t leave your watercolor artwork under direct sunlight. 

  • The colors get lighter once they dry up. 

  • You don’t get a white color. 

  • Over-layering of paint can lead to a loss of luminosity and darken the hue. 

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic color is another water-based art paint that was developed in 1934. It’s a versatile media and also one of the easiest to use. You can use them thickly as oil paints or create thin washes like watercolors. They can also be mixed with a variety of materials such as rice, or sand to play with the texture of the paint. It’s a quick-drying media, suitable for multiple painting techniques such as glazing, brushwork, staining and so much more. 

Although it can be used on multiple surfaces, by adding a primer like Gesso you can use it on almost anything from canvas to plastic. Another interesting property of this color is that even though it is a water-soluble paint, it becomes resistant to water once it dries up. Therefore, if you paint clothes using acrylic paint, it might be almost impossible to entirely wash off the color. However, it may start flaking off and stiffen the cloth after several washes.

Advantages of using acrylic paint

  • These are non-toxic paints, making them safe for direct contact.

  • As they dry quickly, you can safely add new layers in a very short time.

  • Acrylic paints are durable with great color strength. 

  • Can be mixed with several mediums such as gels, water, or other materials.

  • You can easily alter the density of the paint by altering the quantity of water.

  • You can use the paint as glue for collages because of its strength.

  • It doesn’t lose its vibrancy after it dries. 

Disadvantages of using acrylic paint

  • If your paint has dried already, your only option is to add another layer for rectifications.

  • If you have applied thick strokes of paint, they may dry darker.

  • It can be difficult to clean your brush if the paint has dried up.

  • You cannot mix your colors on the canvas because they dry too quickly.

  • It takes a deeper understanding of additives and acrylics if you wish to increase the drying time.

Gouache Paints

This art paint is a versatile and fun medium to work with. It’s a mix of pigment, gum arabic as the binder, water, moisturizer, preservatives, and matting agents.  It has the same binder as watercolors, but with a higher pigment-to-water ratio, thus making it thicker in comparison. The paint also consists of white chalk pigments which makes it opaque, unlike watercolors. Therefore, you won’t see the surface color when using gouache.

Gouache paints are water-soluble and have a creamy consistency. Working with it can be tricky because these colors absorb light instead of reflecting it. This means the lighter tones dry darker whereas the darker ones turn light upon drying.

Advantages of using gouache paint

  • The paint can be reactivated with water post-drying, thus making corrections easier. 

  • It has an average drying time which isn’t too short or too long.

  • Adding layers is easy because of its opaque finish. 

  • The velvety finish of the paint can add so much depth to a painting. 

  • A good choice for texturing your paintings.

  • You can mix it with acrylic paints to add to the versatility of gouache art paints.

Disadvantages of using gouache paint

  • Good quality gouache is quite expensive.

  • The difference between dry and wet pigment can throw off the color balance in your painting. 

  • It is not a very beginner-friendly medium and takes time to learn your way with it.

  • Every new layer increases the drying time of the paint.

  • The paint can start cracking on the surface due to the lack of some rigid support. 

  • Your gouache paintings need varnish or glass coverage for durability.

Encaustic Paints

Encaustic paints are one of the oldest types of art paint and have been around since the 1st century. These are made using wax which is colored with pigments and needs to be heated before you can use them. They are often suitable for painting on wooden surfaces, but can also be used on canvas.

Encaustic is a water-repellant paint and therefore cannot be mixed with water. Once you heat your pigment, you will either need some metal tools or a brush to apply it. You would again need to heat the entire painting upon completion so that the paint fuses with the surface. If you want to add more layers, you will need to add heat so that the new layer fuses with the previous one.

Advantages of using encaustic paint

  • It’s a very durable paint and doesn’t need varnishing. 

  • You can buff the pigments upon drying to give it a satin finish or leave it matte.

  • It’s a durable art paint and doesn’t discolor over time.

  • It's a sustainable painting practice that uses renewable resources.

Disadvantages of using encaustic paint

  • It’s a laborious process with multiple layers, heating and reheating. 

  • Requires a lot of experience and is not suitable for beginners.

  • Carries the risk of burning yourself during heating. 

  • The paint gets brighter upon drying which can offset the color balance. 

  • Leaves very little room for correcting mistakes.

  • Requires a lot of tools and the skills to use them.

  • Can only be used on a limited number of surfaces. 

Art Paints are a World of Wonder

What we have covered in this blog are just the 5 most commonly known paints, but there are several more. Colors like tempera, spray paint, fabric, glass paints, etc. are also some options that you can experiment with. However, the paints mentioned above can be used on a variety of surfaces and be employed with different painting techniques, giving you enough room to experiment with. 

Before you make your choice of paint, keep in mind the cost factor and the level of toxicity associated with each of them. Some of them can be difficult to work with, but a little bit of patience and some practice will get you accustomed to these paints in no time.

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