Independent Design Magazine

The Definitive Guide To Painting Types


Painting is the craft of sprinkling hues with the assistance of brushes to show a bit of a soul. To illustrate, it is the expression of ideas through aesthetic qualities of a visual language. The elements of this language are: lines, colors, tones, and textures. They blend together in a magical way to create sensations of volume, space, movement, and light on a flat surface. So, yes, painting is basically a world on its own! Come with us in this article to discover this world and see diverse painting types.

Oil painting

Above all, oil painting dates back for centuries and is an incredibly far-reaching artistic practice. It originated in northern Europe in the 15th century where its stability, textural variety and slow-drying nature allowed it to become the favorite medium of artists all over Europe. Oil paint is comprised of colored pigments suspended in a drying oil, usually linseed oil. The quality of oil paint varies based on the quality of the pigment used and the medium as well. Oil paint is often used to create wonderful textured effects thanks to its thick consistency and very rich colors. So, it should come as no surprise that it’s one of the most popular types of painting.

Garland of Fruit and Flowers by Jan Davidsz. de Heem (1650-1660)

Watercolor Painting

Interestingly, watercolor art dates back to the Stone Age and cave paintings. later, it became very popular in Ancient Egyptian art after the discovery of papyrus. Also, In traditional Chinese art, watercolors developed around 4,000 BCE, primarily as a medium of decorative art. However, modern watercolor painting emerged in Europe during the Renaissance period with advancements in papermaking. Here, paints consist of pigments suspended in a water-soluble medium that can work on everything from paper to canvas and from wood to fabrics. Watercolor is one of the painting types that produce a beautiful fusion of colors that are radiant and powerful.

Original Digbeth Tripe House, Birmingham by Allen Edward Everitt in the 19th Century.

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Acrylic Painting

Compared to oil and watercolor, acrylic painting is a relatively modern medium for artistic expression. It can be traced back as far as 1940s. So, in terms of art, it is fairly new. Created by a German chemist called Otto Rohm, this chemist developed an acrylic resin that was quickly transformed into paint. This painting type  has so many fantastic attributes! These paints are capable of giving both the transparent brilliance of watercolor and the density of oil paint. In addition to that, they are affordable and non-toxic.


Pastel Painting

Pastel is a dry drawing medium executed with fragile, finger-size sticks. They appeared in the Renaissance era where masters as  Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo favored them. Initially, pastel was only available in red, black and white. However, today, there are now more than 1600 different hues and shades available, all of which claim to have an almost limitless shelf-life.

Portrait of a woman holding a book by Amélie Valentino in the 19th Century. Photo Courtesy:

Gouache painting

Gouache resulted from the eventual distinction between transparent and opaque watercolors. Gouache-style paints have been in use since at least the 9th century, often appearing in Persian miniatures. Above all, the term “gouache” was first used in France in the eighteenth century to describe a type of paint made from pigments bound in water-soluble gum, like watercolor, but with the addition of a white pigment in order to make it opaque. The easiest way of explaining the appearance of gouache is to say it is a fine-art quality tempera paint; it dries very quickly to a very matte finish. Overall, gouache colors appear deep and saturated yet soft and velvety.

Singing Round the Star on Twelfth Night by Cornelis Troost (1696 - 1750).

Encaustic Painting

Originally, the word “encaustic” comes from the Greek “enkaustikos” which means to burn in referring to the process of fusing with heat. Ancient Greeks used this technique to paint and decorate their ships. It is also worth mentioning that the “Fayum Portraits”, these are the only surviving encaustic paintings from ancient times. Above all, encaustic painting is also known as hot wax painting and involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. The liquid or paste is then applied to a surface that is usually prepared wood. Encaustic is as versatile as any 21st century medium. To illustrate, it can be polished to a high gloss, carved, layered, collaged, sculpted, textured and combined with oil. Although it cools immediately so that there is no drying time, yet it can always be reworked.

encaustic painting on sycamore wood, 2nd century AD, Roman Egypt. Photo Courtesy:

Enamel Painting

The earliest known enameled pieces dated back to the 13th century BC, when Mycenaean goldsmiths inlaid enamels into gold rings. Since then, cultures all over the world have incorporated enameling into their art forms. While there is no standardized definition, enamel paint is essentially any paint designed to produce a durable, hard, and usually glossy finish that stands up extremely well to traffic and wear. They are available in several types, including oil based or alkyd based, which have the features of slower drying times in addition to being harder than that of water based enamel paints. Finally, enamels are available in a wide spectrum of colors and a number of sheens, including eggshell, low luster, satin, flat finish, gloss, semi gloss and high gloss to name a few.


Digital Painting

Digital painting is the process of painting on a tablet and creating artwork digitally on a computer. That is to say that instead of painting on canvas or paper, artists create their artworks using computer, phone, or tablet.  So, this type is a lot less messy due to the lack of using oils or ink. In short, this is one of the painting techniques that are actually pretty simple: painting, digitally! Here’s a link to see the best apps for digital painting: Best Drawing Software Apps


Ink Painting

Many think of a very fluid, intensely color saturated liquid that consists of a dip pen and brush. However, the term ‘ink’ actually covers a widely diverse set of art materials, including fabric printing inks, calligraphy inks, drawing inks and relief inks. Above all, the intense colors, transparency and fluidity of ink makes it well worth a try.


Finally, painting types are boundless and plenty, so pick your favourite technique and get to working. If you’re into art, check our: Persian Miniature Art to know more about this amazing skill.

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Ambitious architect, eccentric writer and a lifelong learner. Fascinated by the world and always in search of new adventures and experiences to tell. The dream is to inspire people to pursue new perspectives through the splendid art of writing.