Canvas Painting Ideas for Beginners: How to Get Started

Woman painting beautiful watercolor floral design on a canvas

Canvas painting is a fantastic way to exercise the right part of the brain and everyone should explore it. That being said, looking at a blank canvas can be a bit intimidating to the beginner. After all, not everyone can come up with artistic ideas without previous painting experience.

In this guide, we will explore a few methods of exercising the little grey cells in order to come up with simple and creative canvas painting ideas that will hopefully turn into works of art. Let us start with the basics.

Canvas Painting: The Basics

Closeup of female beginner artist with paintbrush in hand painting at home

These tips will be useful if you are just starting out with canvas painting.

Get your goal right

Why are you looking for canvas painting ideas in the first place? Are you looking to create a specific type of artwork? Do you have dedicated space and time for finishing such a project? How much money are you willing to spend on it? These questions can help you commit before you go any further. They will also help you select the right tools and materials that are necessary for your canvas painting ideas to come to life.

Get the medium right

There are four types of canvas painting media, namely oil, water, acrylic and pastel. Decide on the medium you wish to use in your canvas paintings. If you are a beginner, oil is an adaptable medium and it easily lends itself to a variety of painting styles. Oil paints also dry slowly, so you can take your time to make corrections if required. Most companies make oil paints in two grades: student grade and artist grade. The latter last longer and produce more intense colors on the canvas. Water color paints, on the other hand, are cheaper and are also recommended for children/beginners looking to paint.

Gather the supplies

Art equipment for painting. Easel, brushes and blank canvas

This includes, mainly, the brushes and the accessories like palettes, easels, canvas, palette knives etc. When buying brushes, make sure you experiment with the materials, bristles-shapes etc. Generally, for oil paintings, choose synthetic brushes with hog-filter tip. For water colors, choose sable or squirrel brushes and for acrylic paints, use synthetic brushes with flat tips.

Space and place

You do not need a professional studio for canvas painting. The kitchen/dining table is a good place to start. Make sure you have adequate room, especially for the larger canvases. Ensure that the place you choose has enough natural light and ample ventilation. Lamps with daylight simulation bulbs and comfortable chairs are other infrastructural needs that should be considered as well.

Know your basics

Basic know-how of mixing paints can come in handy. Also educate yourself on terms like painting thickly/thinly, dry brushing, blending and glazing, stippling, scumbling, spattering and sponging. Many art books and online study materials can guide you in these matters.

Tips When Looking for Inspirational Canvas Painting Ideas

Two women discuss paintings in the gallery of modern art
  • Keep a specialized journal or diary for noting the ideas you wish to use. These may come from your daily activities, nature walks, a visit to the museum etc.
  • If you see an interesting photograph in a magazine or newspaper, add a cutting of it to the inspiration journal. Always keep the journal at hand as you never know when inspiration strikes!
  • Thumb through various art books or browse online portals for creative canvas painting ideas.
  • Sometimes, visually intense or stunning films, documentaries and movies can also help you get some good ideas.
  • Artists are often inspired by music. Music can bring to mind strong emotions and words, and you can then translate these onto your canvas.

It is important to not get frustrated if your ideas do not work out in the beginning. You should keep looking for inspiration as it can come in many forms. Never throw out any initial ideas and try to remain calm and collected. Avoid becoming over-emotional as this can harm your chances of coming up with the right ideas to paint. Remember to enjoy the process and have fun!