60+ Painting Ideas That Will Inspire You to Pick Up a Brush Right Now

Person Painting on a Canvas

Stock Photos from RossHelen/Shutterstock

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.

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 over 60 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.

As you begin to tackle this list, make sure you’ve got your paint supplies on point. 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.

Painting Palette

Stock Photos from Kuznetcov_Konstantin/Shutterstock


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
Person Painting on a Canvas

Stock Photos from Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

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
  • 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


Looking for others who love drawing? Join our Art, Design, Photography, and Drawing Club on Facebook!


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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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