When it comes to painting, everyone starts out on an even playing field—those that paint well have built their skills over time. Doing so, however, requires patience, and for you to put brush to canvas (or paper) and increase your aptitude stroke by stroke. We’ve seen this happen in a drawing; just a few years of drawing practice can mean the difference between a sketch that’s just okay and one that shows extraordinary talent.
What type of paint should you choose?
Choosing a type of paint for your work can be quite overwhelming at times given all the varieties out there. Some paint types can be more durable than others or can completely change the look of your final work of art. The right paint choice can be very important in accomplishing your artistic goal, depending on what you are creating. The different paint types vary in style and properties making a big impact on your next painting quest. Some popular types of paint are watercolor, acrylic, oil, and gouache. Read our comprehensive list of types of paint to get a better idea of which one is right for you and your project.
What supplies will you need?
Once you choose the paint type you want to work with, you can focus on other supplies. Outside of your paint set, you will need brushes, possibly a canvas or painting paper, and maybe even an easel if you're feeling fancy. We have recommendations for three of the most popular types of paint. Check out our guides for the best watercolor paint sets, top acrylic paint, and best oil paints that beginners and pros will love. Although these paints are the most popular, you can go beyond a brush and pick up a paint marker. We even have a guide for the best paint markers, too.
Once you’ve got your watercolor, acrylic, or even oil paint, you can get started right away on honing your craft. But even having all the right supplies can’t save you from the dreaded creative block; sometimes, you just can’t think of anything to paint! Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of prompts that are jumping-off points for your work. The easy painting ideas are divided into two lists—one is inspired by life while the other challenges you to use your imagination.
When looking through the list, consider the following: what sounds like fun to paint? What will challenge you to get better? Are there certain techniques you’d like to try? A leafy tree, for instance, gives you the opportunity to experiment with texture, while imagining these subjects in monochrome is a great exercise in understanding tonality, light, and shadow.
Painting Ideas That Anyone Can Try
Easy painting ideas inspired by real life:
- Your favorite coffee mug
- A prickly pear cactus
- Your furry friend
- A tranquil lake scene
- Your eye and eyebrow (try observing from real life)
- A leafy tree
- Your childhood home
- A piece of cloth draped over a chair
- Fluffy clouds
- A bouquet of flowers in a vase
- A cardinal on a branch…
- …or a wise owl
- A curling ocean wave (check out Ray Collins’ wave photographs for inspiration!)
- Copy a masterpiece painting of an artist you admire
- A bowl of fruit
- Fish underwater
- A portrait of yourself when you were a kid
- Your hand or foot
- Your favorite collection of things
- A building facade you’ve always admired
- Someone standing under an umbrella while it’s raining
- A streetlamp illuminating a dark street
- A peacock’s colorful plumage
- The Eiffel tower, or any other memorable landmark
- Decorative tiles you’ve admired
- Your mode of transportation (car, bike, scooter, skateboard…)
- A reflective object such as an orb
- Your favorite insect
- A collection of seashells
- An old pair of shoes
- Take your art supplies outdoors and paint a park en plein air
- Your bedroom
- Paint the night sky
- Mountain landscape
- The moon
- The beach
- A butterfly
- A cherry blossom tree (with q-tips instead of a brush)
- A pumpkin
- The sunset sky
- Paint on rocks instead of on canvas
- Paint your lunch or dinner
- A shiny balloon
- Someone who is doing an everyday activity such as sleeping, cooking, putting on makeup
- Go big: show peonies blooming on a giant canvas or piece of paper
- Knot some rope and paint what you see—it's trickier than you think
Good painting ideas inspired by the imagination:
- A person with flowers growing from their head
- Create an image inspired by your favorite song
- A majestic unicorn with a rainbow-colored mane
- Create a self-portrait in a Cubist style
- Reimagine a scene from your favorite Disney film
- Imagine a dog could walk and talk like a human. What would they say and do?
- Create your own repeat pattern…
- … or mandala-inspired design
- A cat in a fancy hat
- Your dream home
- Try painting with your fingers
- The sky imagined in colorful swirls like in van Gogh’s Starry Night
- A scuba diver swimming through outer space instead of the ocean
- A person made out of balloons
- Tiny people moving throughout a regular-sized world
- Create a repeat pattern of your favorite kitchen appliance
- A spooky scene in the woods (try painting it on a wood slice)
- Animals in the place of humans
- Salvador Dali-inspired interior
- Living underwater
- Paint a fantastical garden of imaginative plants
- Merge two of your favorite animals into one
- Try painting in an Art Deco style, like Tamara de Lempicka
- Imagine you can fly…
- … or that you’re a giant
- A person whose skin cracks like porcelain
- Create your own fairytale
- Fuse day and night into a single scene
- An easy quote
- Metallic abstract
- Geometric art
- Splatter art
- Animals outside of their natural habitat (look to Marina Kusraeva for inspiration)
- An enchanted forest
- Life in the future
- Combine a realistic subject with abstract elements
- Create a painting just of loops. What designs can you make with that?
- Something that slithers (doesn't have to be a snake or a slug!)
- Two or more things that are about to collide, or have collided
If you don't have a vast knowledge of painting, any one of these ideas can be daunting to start putting pigment to canvas. Here are some painting tutorials to try which will teach you how to paint a particular subject while giving you confidence for future works of art.
Dappled Light: Learn Abstract Paintings With Acrylics — Have you always admired the light as it shines through the trees? In another on-demand class on My Modern Met Academy, artist Megan Elizabeth shows you all you need to know about painting these beautiful scenes.
This Step-by-Step Tutorial Shows You How to “Grow” Watercolor Flowers on Paper — Get a supplies list and a look at all the steps involved in bringing flowers to life on the page.
Learn How to Paint a Colorful Sunset in Easy to Follow Steps — Want to recreate the beauty of the setting sun? Here's another step-by-step painting tutorial that will give you the foundation for it.
Fluid Art: How to Start Acrylic Pouring & Create Psychedelic Abstract Paintings — Pour your way into a masterpiece when you get the proper tools and practice the techniques of fluid art.
15+ YouTube Channels to Teach You How to Paint for Free — As expected, YouTube is chock-full of videos by artists who want to help you learn to paint. Here are 15 of our favorites.
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