11 Different Types of Painting That Every Artist Should Know

More Types of Painting



Fresco Definition Fresco Painting Fresco History of Frescoes

Detail of the Sistine Chapel ceiling (Photo via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

Fresco is an ancient technique that is perhaps best-known thanks to Michelangelo's iconic Sistine Chapel Ceiling. Buon fresco involves mixing pigment with water and applying it to a still-wet layer of plaster. Used for ceiling and wall decorations, the water helps the pigment merge into the plaster, creating a permanent bond when dry. Buon fresco—or true fresco—requires artists to work quickly, as the surface is no longer paintable once the plaster dries. Another method—fresco secco—requires a binding agent such as egg, glue, or oil to attach to a dry plaster surface. This method works better on a rougher surface, but is less durable.

Discover more about the history of fresco painting.


Spray Paint

Spray Paint and Graffiti

Work in progress by Brus. 2013. (Photo: Jessica Stewart)

Aerosol paint—or spray paint—was first invented in 1949 and became popularized in the 1970s, when graffiti artists took advantage of this new technology. Adhering well to nearly any surface, it's most commonly used by mural artists and graffiti artists on plaster, brick, and metal. Spray paint dries quickly and is fairly weather resistant, making it a durable choice for urban artists. Today, there are many spray paint brands specifically for artists, such as MTN, Ironlak, and Belton. Available in an array of hues, artists pair the cans with special caps that control the width of the spray. It's possible to find spray paint with different effects and finishes, as well as different pressures and coverages. As spray paint does contain toxic substances, it’s always recommended for outdoor use with a mask. Several companies have also created water-based spray paint more suitable for working indoors and on canvases.

See how spray paint helped graffiti artists transform their passion into art.


Ink Wash

What is ink wash painting?

“Pine Trees” by Hasegawa Tōhaku. 16th century. Ink on paper. (Photo: Wikicommons)

Also known as literati painting, ink wash finds its origins in China and East Asia. The use of black ink in calligraphy led to the popularity of brush painting using the same inks. Artists achieve different tonalities by varying the amount of ink on the brush and the pressure with which the stroke is applied. Brushstrokes are carefully studied, with calligraphy masters spending years perfecting their strokes. Though today colored inks are widely available, black is still the most common ink used.

See the wide variety of inks that artists currently use to create works of art.



Botticelli Primavera Botticelli Paintings Italian Renaissance Art

“The Birth of Venus” by Botticelli. circa 1486. Tempera. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Though less commonly used today, tempera is one of the oldest types of painting and was traditionally created by grinding pigments into a binder. The most common type of tempera is egg tempera, which typically uses egg yolks mixed with a solution of vinegar or water as a binder. Tempera was quite popular until oil paint came into wide use in the 16th century. The fast drying paint is applied in thin, transparent layers and is notable for its lack of color deterioration over time. Tempera continued to be used by select artists throughout history, though most people know it from Medieval and Renaissance art. Today, it is still used in the Greek and Russian Orthodox church for religious icon paintings. In the US, poster paint is sometimes called tempera, though the binders are not the same.

Intrigued by tempera? Sennelier Egg Tempera is “the authentic formulation used since the Renaissance.”




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This oil-based paint is most often used by sign painters or for decorative painting and pinstriping. It dries to a hard, high gloss finish that is weather resistant. Enamel can be used on different surfaces like glass, ceramics, metal, wood, and canvas. Due to its toxicity, it's always suggested to work in a well-ventilated area with a mask on. There are also water-based enamels that can be used on heavier papers like cardstock. Aside from decorative work and sign painting, many fine artists have incorporated enamels into their work. Picasso and Jackson Pollack were both known to use commercial enamel paints in their work.

1-Shot, one of the most well-known types of enamel, has been a favorite of sign painters since 1948.


Related Articles:

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Learn to Paint with 403 Free Episodes of Bob Ross’ “The Joy of Painting” on YouTube

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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