How to Get Better at Painting

Congratulations on your decision to take up a new hobby or continue working on an old one. Painting is a lifetime pursuit, and we can always continue improving our skills and understanding of the materials we use to produce work that is more in line with our aesthetic ideals.

There is an ingrained popular belief that painting, art, music, and other creative endeavors are talents that one is born either with or devoid of. The reality however is far from this, most accomplished artists, musicians, and writers spend countless hours and even decades perfecting their skills. Although some people have a greater innate aptitude for certain tasks most have a basic aptitude that can be developed over time, and so there is no need to be discouraged if your starting point looks like what your toddler produced, you only need to search Google or YouTube to view other people’s journeys to see that many others have made tremendous progress and that you can too.

We will not discuss specifics of any painting modality in this article, instead, we will focus on things you can do no matter what materials you like to use to help elevate your work even further. You can browse the topic headings and navigate to the section you’re most interested in; however, we recommend you read them all!

Learn Color Theory

Although it sounds difficult and can be rather theoretical learning even basic color theory can help your work really pop. By understanding color theory, you can create more vibrant mixes, or duller hues depending on what your painting requires. It can also help you choose a background color that will really make your forefront objects shine.

Beginner artists most frequently struggle with dull colors, these are often created by accidentally mixing colors with incompatible undertones. Does that sound like a foreign language? Then it’s definitely time to join the color wheel gang.

There are plenty of free resources you can try, this video right here, or this one here. The latter is aimed at artists and is created by a wonderful portrait painter Florent Farges, check out his site for inspiration and more tutorials and tools.

It may sound like a hassle, but we promise, it will be worth it once you’ve got more practice. One idea is to have a look through your current work, and choose a piece you are moderately happy with, learn color theory then try to recreate the piece and see if your newly imparted knowledge has improved your ability to express what you wanted with the piece.

Learn from People Who Inspire You

While the basics of painting can be similar in the end each person and artist have their own style, ways of using subject, color, and composition. Directly copying someone else’s work might be educational in some ways, and many artists try this at least a few times in their career. What might be more reward however is to find work you enjoy and really look deeply into it; what about it do you enjoy? What makes it special? Is it the color scheme? Or the masterful strokes? Or the way the artist captured a facial expression?

Once you’ve identified what you like, you can start thinking of how you can incorporate more themes of similar elk into your art. Some artists choose to have an inspiration source where they add things, they enjoy such as a folder on your computer or a Pinterest board. You can try this too!

Note how the artist has used rather few brushstrokes and gives the illusion of detail throughout the painting while maintaining a loose style, the eyes however are very detailed. This stylistic choice makes the painting seem more detailed overall and draws your eyes to the cats eyes which are the focal point of the piece.

Make it a Habit

If you make painting part of your weekly routine, you’ll find yourself improving in no time even if all you do is show up with your materials and try to enjoy yourself for a couple of hours, half an hour or however long you can dedicate. If you watch tutorials, attend a class, or sign up to an online class you’ll definitely see more benefit if you practice regularly alongside these things.

Practice Makes Perfect

Though striving for perfection rarely works out well, striving to improve and be better is a good thing. Having regular practice hours, with a clear plan can really help improve your work. Art is fun and should be fun so try not to only spend all your time trying to improve technically, though having some fixed practice time for working on certain skills with focus can really help things move forward even if it might not feel like it at the time.

For example, if you really want to learn to paint beautiful portraits but find that you really struggle with an aspect of this such as making a sketch of the portrait, mixing realistic flesh tones, painting the eyes in a realistic manner or any other part of the skill you can focus on this for your technical sessions and really just work on this one aspect giving it your full attention.

When you then go to do the work you want, such as a portrait of your sister, you’ll find that it has worked to your benefit to focus on the area where you struggled before.

Caveat: if you become too bogged down in something, sometimes the best thing to do is to let it be for a while, have some fun and get back to it when you’re less stressed about it.

The first time this artist tried to paint the sea was unlikely as beautiful as this execution, keep practicing and you’ll get there too!

Challenge Yourself

After a while you may find that you are becoming relatively good at some of this stuff! You can make beautifully blended backgrounds, lively looking florals and even mix your colors well so what now? – Well, that is completely up to you, if you are happy where you are then wonderful just keep enjoying yourself and your hobby. However, as part of being human is seeking new horizons, so in order to keep your painting practice lively if this is what you desire, we recommend challenging yourself.

Are you a realistic painter? Try something abstract once in a while! Do you only paint flowers? Try a different motif.

By pushing yourself out of your comfort zone once in a while, you can grow and learn skills that brought back to the original type of work you enjoy can give you a new fresh perspective.

Keep Track of Your Progress

Since you are in the middle of your journey you can easily forget how far you’ve come and lose motivation. Keeping an album with photos of your work from the beginning can help you see where you’ve come from and how much you’ve achieved, by looking back the painting you’ve been working on this week might not feel like a total disaster anymore but an incredible triumph, so what some detail isn’t quite there?

Also remember that progress tends to slow down the more experienced we get, let us for this analogy say you can be a level 0-100 painter. Starting at level 0, you can probably get to level 50 in one year, level 70 in another year, level 80 in yet another year and so on. Progress will diminish exponentially the better you get. At those times it’s better to remember that you were at level zero once rather than the fact that you’ve only gone from 77 to 77.5 in a year. That is totally normal.

Keep Track of Your Progress


Painting is a skill that requires interest and perseverance to learn well. Have fun with your work but also don’t let yourself become completely idle, try new things and new materials, look for inspiration from artists you love and if you’ve not already done so go learn a little color theory.

As the beloved Bob Ross would say, “Paint some happy little trees” and make yourself happy in the process.

Anything is possible on a canvas even making elephants fly.