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When it comes to improving your painting skills, it is important to experiment with different styles and techniques and forget about the rules. Across history, we can see that from one generation to the next, painters look to improve their techniques and have done so by twisting the rules and expectations of the previous generation. Having a basis in fundamental painting techniques and styles is going to drastically help you as an artist when venturing out on your own. In an essence, this means logging some knowledge of color, tone, and texture to empower you to create your masterpieces with confidence.

1. Underpainting

The term underpainting refers to the first layer of paint that is applied to a canvas or board. This layer or coating functions as a base for other layers of paint and can create a sense of contrast and tone in a painting. This is a simple technique that can have a huge effect on the overall feel of a painting, allowing an artist to brighten areas that could otherwise appear flat and uniform; eg - the area of a sky or sea. Artists can choose to work with the tone of an underpainting to bring out certain colors and draw attention to specific elements such as light or shadow.

2. Blocking in

Brushes come in several shapes and with different fibers. Each gives a different result. The key is to try all of them one by one as you paint. The most versatile is a synthetic brush which can be used with most different types of paint. It is useful to work with a range of brushes. For most of the early work, use larger, flatter, broader brushes, and small ones towards the end of the process.

3. Dry Brushing

This is a method of applying color that only partially covers a previously dried layer of paint. You need to add very little paint to your brush and apply it with very quick, directional strokes. The method tends to work best when applying light paint over dark areas and is useful for depicting rock and grass textures. The brushstrokes appear to have a more textured, scratchy finish which is difficult to achieve using a wet brush or when working with large amounts of paint. There are many intricate examples of this painting technique in ancient Chinese art. Dry brushing can be an effective way to capture the texture of the natural world, from clouds to trees.

4. Glazing

Glazing is the process of laying a coat of transparent paint over a dry part of the painting, and it is used for intensifying shadows and modulating color. For example, a light transparent blue over a dry yellow will create green. It is also known as a technique used to draw out the luminosity of a painting by applying a thin transparent or semitransparent layer of paint. Many artists used glazing during the Renaissance as a way of mixing paints. A thin layer of paint would be applied over the main color which would alter the color beneath and produce many soft and saturated shades.

5. Sgraffito

Removing paint can be as important as applying it. It comes from the Italian language for "scratched" and refers to a technique used in painting that involves scratching through a layer of paint to expose what remains underneath. By covering a preliminary surface with another layer, artists can effectively scratch off the superficial layer in a way that will expose unique patterns or shapes. It is possible to use any object which will allow you to scratch a line into the paint. You would try to use the pointed end of a paintbrush, or a piece of card, a palette knife, or even a fork to practice.

6. Gestural

Gestural painting refers to a technique in which paint is applied in a free, sweeping gesture. Artists who choose to work this way, paint intuitively and are focused on expressing themselves through the physical act of painting. It can be seen to reveal something of the artist's emotion or state of mind when interpreted by the viewer.

7. Stippling

Stippling is a form of painting that involves working with intricate patterns and creating detailed paintings. It utilizes small circles or dots to create an image. Dots are made using pigment of one color which is applied using a pen or a brush. The shapes created can be interpreted in many different ways.

8. Splattering

This is a free-hand technique that allows the artist to embrace the unpredictability of art and enjoy a level of spontaneity that is difficult to achieve using other more controlled methods and techniques. The artist generally starts by wetting the brush in water, dipping it into acrylic paint, and flicking the brush directly onto the canvas!

9. Palette Knife

The use of a palette knife is not only to mix paint. It can be used to create some unique effects in your work which would be difficult to achieve using a brush. A palette knife is particularly useful for blending edges by dragging one color into another to create a tough, textured look. It is also used to create small bursts of color in a painting by loading the tip of the knife with the painting and dabbing it onto the surface.