Art tips from the Art shed team
Author: Dana McGorlick-Appelman Date Posted:15 March 2022
The team at Art Shed are a talented and knowledgeable bunch, so we thought we’d pick their brains for the best art tips they’ve picked up over the years. Keep reading to discover the Art shed Teams need to know advice on all things art.
Acrylic paints are arguably one of the most popular and well-loved creative mediums out there. Its quick-drying nature and easy clean up using water make it a great beginner-friendly paint. While acrylic paints are easy to pick up, there are a few tips and tricks that will improve your painting practice:
- “Use flow medium instead of water to spread your acrylics further”
- “If you want to slow down the drying time of your acrylic paints to help them blend further, use an acrylic retarder”
- “If you’re looking to create textured art, use impasto or modelling paste. Impasto dries clear, and can be mixed with your acrylic paint, while modelling paste dries white, and is best applied first, and then acrylics painted on top”
Oil paints have been the medium of choice for many artists for hundreds of years. While the medium may seem intimidating to many starting out, with various chemicals and rules that need to be factored into consideration, oil painting is actually a very relaxing and enjoyable art practice that can lead to stunning results. The slow drying nature of oils allows for a wide variety of painting techniques to be used and offers more leeway to amend any mistakes you might make while painting. So what are the Art Shed teams must-know tips when it comes to working with oils?:
- “Use a tear off paper palette as a colour chart when mixing colours, and keep it in your sketchbook once the oil paints have dried completely as a reference.”
- “Mix paints together with a palette knife rather than a brush so washing between colours is easier”
- “Don’t forget about your safety when using oils! Keep the windows open for ventilation and wear a mask if necessary”
- “If you don’t like the smell of turpentine, opt for odourless solvent instead”
Watercolour is a type of water-soluble paint, that is slightly transparent in appearance and typically used on paper. It is made of fine particles of pigment suspended in a water-soluble binder often made from glycerine, gum arabic, glucose and wetting agents.
Watercolour is often used for its naturally luminous finish, and comes either in a liquid state or in cakes of dry paint, and can be applied with a variety of techniques.
- “Use porcelain palettes over plastic when using watercolour because they are water-impermeable, so easy to clean and don’t stain.”
- “If you want to leave some areas of your work clear from the watercolour paint, use masking fluid. Think of masking fluid like a liquid version of masking tape. Use a silicone brush or tool when applying masking fluid so it doesn’t clog up your brushes.”
- “When it comes to choosing your watercolour paper, remember hot pressed= smooth and cold-pressed = rough. The higher the gsm, the thicker the paper will be.”
There are a few different types of clay available, including Raku Clay, Polymer Clay and Air Dry Clay. Raku clay is great for wheel spinning and hand building, and needs to be kiln fired to set. Polymer Clay can be baked in a standard household oven, and is great for small sculptures and jewellery. A great option for experimenting with sculpture is Air Dry
Clay. This will naturally harden when exposed to air, and can be sealed and painted on using acrylic paints.
- “When using terracotta or paper clay, it will dry out when left out in the air for too long. If you wish to leave the sculpture or 3D work but also want to continue sculpting on it whilst it is in a mouldable state, store the clay you are working on a board in a plastic bag with a wet rag. This will ensure that the clay stays moist and you can continue to work on it later.”
- “You can varnish most air-dry and polymer clays with PVA or Mod Podge. This will seal your work and add a nice gloss or matte finish over the top.”
When it comes to drawing with pencils, there are a few tips that can really help level up your art practice:
- “Use clear gesso to cover sketches in your sketchbook to create a barrier before you draw”
- “Use a paper stump to blend out the pencil or graphite to create more depth, shadow and tone. Alternatively, you can also use your fingers but the oils on your skin may leave some marks on the paper (also it won’t look as smooth as using a paper stump”
Charcoal is a unique medium that can be used to create detailed or more expressive sketches and drawings, predominately in grey and black tones. Enabling levels of smudging and blending, this drawing medium is a great place to start when drawing from life. Charcoal is made when twigs of vine or willow are heated at a high temperature and deprived of oxygen, creating a stick that spreads rich black marks when applied to paper or canvas. The use of charcoal in art dates back thousands and thousands of years, with evidence of its use in cave paintings. Charcoal was used by Renaissance artists to create sketches for paintings, however it is loved and used by many artists today for its value as a fine art medium and for its ability to create a contrast between light and dark values (also known as chiaroscuro). Charcoal can also be used in conjunction with other mediums such as pastels, and produces beautiful effects when applied to toned papers.
- “Fixative is not only used for fixing charcoal, pastels and pencil, but can be used to ensure sketchings on canvas don’t smudge when you are painting”
- “Use willow charcoal as a soft base to create highlights and shadows, then go in with compressed charcoal to create harder and darker lines.”
- “Use a water and soft brush over the top of your willow charcoal to create a soft blended wet pigment.”
Alcohol inks, like the name suggests, are an alcohol-based ink that is translucent, fast-drying and that can be used on various non-porous surfaces. They are available in a variety of colours and finishes and are great for creating incredible fluid forms. With a variety of techniques and tools, both stunning abstract artworks and realistic renditions of a variety of subjects can be achieved!
- “While alcohol inks work best on Yupo paper, you can experiment with inks on canvas by using a triple-thick varnish to prime canvas for alcohol ink. Ensure you use at least three layers of kamar varnish”
Markers are such a versatile art medium, and there are a few tips to making the most of your marker collection:
- “Blending paper is recommended as the surface that is best for alcohol markers and regular markers. This paper is smoother and less absorbent so you will use less ink and the colours will blend together as they should.”
- “Posca markers are a very versatile marker, they have been tested on 50 different materials, such as cardboard, plastic, metal, wood (set with a spray varnish), terracotta, ceramic, glass (baked in oven) and fabric (set with an iron).”
- “Copic are the top of the range when it comes to alcohol markers, the alcohol inks helps the colours blend together in a seamless way and stops the markers from ever drying out. The markers are also refillable.
- “A really handy thing to remember is that the Copic numbers are a code to help you use the colours to your best advantage. For example, BG15 tells us that the aqua colour is part of the blue-green colour family, the number 1 is the blending family it belongs to and the 5 best represents the level of saturation of the colour. This lets us know that BG15 will blend best with any colour that also has a 1 as the first number, such as Y13 or YR18.”
- “The copic blender marker is a great way to create a single colour gradient effect or to push back over the line mistakes.”
- “The copic white opaque is great for fine white highlights.”
Fluid Art, which is also known as flow art, liquid art or acrylic paint pouring, is a fun and popular abstract painting technique that involves the use of fluid art mediums, such as free-flowing acrylic, or very runny acrylics, powdered pigments or inks.
Acrylic Pouring and Fluid Art use these mediums to create gliding organic and hypnotic free-flowing abstract compositions on canvas or art boards. The acrylic paint is often disrupted by the use of silicones that when combined together creates unique aesthetic reactions and achieves marbleized cells and structures. Acrylic pouring is a stunning technique that's accessible and easy for everyone, so you too can create beautiful fluid works in your very own home!
- “Use panels for practice pours, as they may warp. The silicone oil will rise to the top and does not dry. If you are varnishing, remember to wipe down the surface to ensure the surface is clean.
- “If you would like smaller cells, add the silicone oil to your colours and mix and tilt fast. If you prefer larger cells, stir the silicone oil in slowly/lightly. Fluid art has a mind of its own, so don’t feel discouraged if the first few tries are not perfect”
Pastels are a fantastic medium for achieving brilliant artworks with rich and vibrant colour effects. They are applied dry, primarily to pastel paper, and produce a lovely buttery and ‘soft’ aesthetic quality. There are four main types of Pastels, including oil pastels, soft pastels, hard pastels and pastel pencils.
- “Use sandpaper to sharpen pastels, pencils and charcoal. It can also be used to create pastel powders for spreading and blending, This can then be applied using a brush to create light shading effects.”
- “You can also draw with soft pastels directly onto paper and then blend it in with your fingers to create a smooth blended finish.”
- “With oil pastels, a method of blending some people use is mixing linseed oil and a form of solvent (1:1 ratio) and brushing it over the oils to blend them together. This leaves a finish similar to oil paint”
Calligraphy is both a beautiful and practical art form that can be used to create a variety of lettering designs for artworks, invitations, cards, letters and so much more.
- “Practicing in the Mont Marte Calligraphy book, with its slanted lines, will help with the consistency of letters and shapes used in the traditional calligraphy style”
Think of Gouache like the middle ground between watercolour and acrylic, with a flat matte finish. This is a super versatile medium as you can achieve so many different opacities and can utilize a plethora of techniques to create unique artworks.
- “You can use liquid latex for the same properties as you would use for watercolour, to block out areas if you’re wanting to create more tone and definition use dilute layers to build up varying colour and tone. If you’re working on paper, use fabriano or archers because it will hold the water and pigment, otherwise anything that thick (300gsm +). Using a thick paper will avoid pilling and buckling”
Screen printing, also known as silkscreen printing or serigraphy, is a widely used technique that involves printing, often onto fabric or paper, by pressing ink through a stencilled mesh screen with a squeegee to imprint a design.
You’ve probably even used or worn something screen-printed at some point, as the process can be used to create artwork and posters on clothes, fabrics, canvases, plastic, glass, metal or wood with specialised inks. It is an efficient means of producing vivid, intense colour replications of a design multiple times on various garments or papers, and is great for creating vibrant designs in bulk by hand on T-shirts, tote bags, flags, banners, jackets, signs, scarves and more!
- “Mix screen printing gel with any acrylic paint to create your own inks. Use acrylic retarder to slow the drying time of your inks so it doesn’t dry and ruin the screen”
Resin is a durable and strong medium, leaving a high gloss, protective finish that allows for a variety of effects to be achieved in art. Epoxy resin is commonly used in art in a variety of ways, from expressive, hypnotic and magnetic fluid artworks, to use with silicone moulds to cast objects such as coasters, dishes and jewellery, as well as sealing other works like drawings, watercolour works, oil paintings, and photographs, creating a beautiful, high shine, ultra-glossy protective varnish.
- “Mix really well! The 1:1 ratio needs to be 100% accurate! Don’t use too much pigment, as it can harden and go lumpy. For a solid block of colour, use dry pigments, for a more translucent look use alcohol inks. Use disposable containers for mixing, and don’t re-use. Be prepared to fail as it is very hard to perfect on the first go”
What are your must-know art tips? Share them in the comments below.
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