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12 Things to Plan Before Starting a Painting and How to Do It

Robie is an artist who loves sharing what she has learned about art and painting in the hope that it might help other creatives.

Learn the 12 things you need to plan before starting a painting. What to paint? How? With what techniques and styles? Learn how to take the most important decisions before and during the painting process.

Learn the 12 things you need to plan before starting a painting. What to paint? How? With what techniques and styles? Learn how to take the most important decisions before and during the painting process.

How to Plan a Painting and Paint it Successfully

From finding a subject to paint, to deciding what to focus on, what colors to mix, and where to place the focal point, the painting process presents a lot of decisions to make and problems to solve.

Let's talk about the 12 main decisions that you'll have to make as you get ready to start a painting.

Artists Have a Lot of Decisions to Make

Before any paint even touches the surface of your painting, you need to make some decisions that will be your guide throughout the creative process. Your creative process will be smoother if you plan your painting in advance, deciding the wanted outcomes before you get started.

Look at the following table to get some useful ideas of things to consider during the planning stage.

12 Things To Plan Before Starting a Painting

Your creative process will be smoother if you plan your painting, deciding the wanted outcomes before you get started.

On Each TopicAsk Yourself...

1. Inspiration

Why do I want to paint this?

2. Subject Matter

What am I going to paint?

3. Star of the Show

What will my focal point be?

4. Mood

What mood and feelings am I going to convey?

5. Structure

What kind of shapes and lines will I use in my composition?

6. Shapes

What are the main shapes of the painting?

7. Value Structure

Which value distribution looks best?

8. Size

What size will my painting be?

9. Medium

What paint medium(s) will I use?

10. Tools

How am I going to apply the paint? (Brushes, knives, bryer, etc.)

11. Color Scheme

What colors will I include?

12. Techniques

What techniques and textures will I incorporate?

Keep reading for more information on each topic.

1. Finding Inspiration for a Painting

There are all sorts of reasons to start painting. One of the most important elements is the desire to paint. You may have lots of ideas about what to paint and not enough time, or you may struggle to find inspiration. Wherever you are in the spectrum between lots of ideas and stuck with no creativity, here are some tips that may help you finding inspiration for a painting.

  • Have a collection of reference images, like photos you like or other artists’ work that you admire. Some people create folders on their computer, others use Pinterest folders. Following artists you like on Instagram is also a great way to be constantly tickled with inspiration.
  • Keep a sketchbook handy and use it for jotting down ideas about future paintings and taking notes about what you see. Then, use it as a reference for your new work. Keeping a sketchbook also makes you draw and experiment with subjects, color schemes, and compositions. A sketchbook is a very precious tool that keeps your artistic skills trained and serves as a reference when hungry for painting ideas.
  • Don’t worry about the final result, it does not matter if it's going to be a masterpiece or just a practice piece. Get to work, be creative, take chances, make mistakes. Enjoy the process.

You May Find Inspiration in a Group Painting Challenge

I painted this from a photo referece provided by an online painting challenge. Rich Peonies, Acrylic on Canvas by Robie Benve

I painted this from a photo referece provided by an online painting challenge. Rich Peonies, Acrylic on Canvas by Robie Benve

2. Deciding the Subject of a Painting

When choosing a subject to paint, the majority of artists turn to the classic themes: still life, landscape, interiors, wildlife, portraits, and figure painting.

Avoid setting yourself up for disappointment: choose a subject and a medium that you feel comfortable with, one that you feel you can handle.

If you are a beginner, start from a simple subject matter, focusing on learning the basic skills of painting. Learn by doing, experiment with colors, techniques, and composition. Most of all have fun. Even if your painting does not come out as you expected, even if you need to wipe it off and start again, I assure you it was not in vain. Every brushstroke teaches you something.

Whatever you decide to paint let it be something that excites you and make sure to express your personal interpretation of the subject.

Painting is an opportunity for you to be yourself, using paint and color to express feelings and passion. Find your fun and gratification in the journey, not the destination.

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