5 Practical Tips for Using Painting in Your Short Film
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. Use painting to set the mood
  2. How to incorporate painting into the plot
  3. How to use painting to develop characters
  4. Use painting as a metaphor
  5. How to film painting scenes effectively

Imagine this: you're putting together a short film and you're looking for that extra something to make it stand out. The solution may be simpler than you think—painting. Yes, that's right, painting. It's a creative tool that's versatile, expressive, and can add depth to your film in ways you might not have considered. So, how do you use painting for a short film? Let's explore.

Use painting to set the mood

In the world of filmmaking, setting the mood is everything. It's the difference between an audience feeling indifferent and being totally immersed in your film. Let's see how painting can help you achieve this.

Choosing the right color palette

Color is a powerful tool that can evoke emotions and set the mood. Think of a sunset painting: warm oranges, deep purples, and soft pinks instantly create a sense of calm and serenity. On the other hand, a painting with stark blacks and whites can instill a sense of tension or suspense. Choose colors that align with the mood you want to convey and incorporate them into your film's setting or props.

Utilizing painting styles

Just like the brush strokes of a painting tell a story, so can the style of painting you choose to incorporate in your film. An Abstract Expressionist painting, for instance, is known for its emotional intensity—perfect for a dramatic scene. Or a serene Impressionist landscape could set the stage for a romantic encounter. The trick is to select a painting style that enhances the mood and tone of your film's scenes.

Creating a visual metaphor

Paintings are much more than pretty pictures—they can be visual metaphors that enrich your film's narrative. Consider a scene where a character is looking at a painting of a turbulent sea—it could signify their inner turmoil. Or a vibrant floral painting in a dull room could symbolize hope in a bleak situation. Using paintings in this way not only sets the mood but also adds layers to your film's story.

So, there you have it: three practical ways on how to use painting to set the mood in your short film. Remember, painting is an expressive tool, so don’t be afraid to experiment and see what works best for your film. Stay tuned for the next tip: how to incorporate painting into the plot.

How to incorporate painting into the plot

Now that we've set the mood, let's delve deeper into the narrative. Weaving painting into your film's plot can add depth and intrigue. Here's how you can do it.

Painting as a plot device

Ever thought of using a painting as a plot device? It can be the mysterious object that drives the story forward. For instance, a lost masterpiece that your protagonist is trying to recover. Or a cryptic painting that holds a secret clue. Incorporating a painting into the plot in this way can make your film more intriguing and captivating.

Incorporating a painter character

Imagine a character who is a painter. This immediately adds a unique dimension to your narrative. The character could be struggling to complete a masterpiece, or perhaps they discover something unusual in their painting that leads them on a journey. The possibilities are endless, but the result is the same—a richer and more engaging plot.

Using painting as a transformative experience

Painting can also be a transformative experience that propels your story. A character could take up painting as a form of therapy and through this, they undergo a major change. Or maybe a character sees a painting that profoundly alters their perspective on life, leading to a significant decision.

As you can see, weaving painting into your film's plot can make your narrative more compelling. It's a creative tool that can add intrigue, depth, and transformation to your short film's story. So, why not give it a shot? In the next section, we'll explore how to use painting to develop characters.

How to use painting to develop characters

Character development is a key element in any film, and using painting can add layers of depth to your characters. Here's how you can make it happen.

Painting as a character trait

Introducing a character who paints can tell you a lot about their personality without saying a word. Is your character an abstract painter who sees the world differently? Or a realist who pays close attention to detail? The type of painter your character is can reveal their perspective of the world, giving your audience an inside look at their mindset.

Painting as a reflection of inner struggles

Painting can also be a powerful metaphor for a character's internal struggles. Maybe your character is painting the same scene over and over again, unable to move past a certain event. Or perhaps their painting style changes dramatically over the course of the film, mirroring their internal transformation. These visual cues can provide a deeper understanding of your character's mental and emotional journey.

Painting as a way to express emotions

Another way to use painting for character development is by using it as a form of emotional expression. A character might paint a bright, cheerful scene when they're happy, or a dark, stormy one when they're upset. This can be a subtle and powerful way to convey your characters' feelings to the audience, adding depth to their personalities.

Utilizing painting in these ways can help your characters come alive on screen. They can show, rather than tell, their personality traits, internal struggles, and emotions, making your film more engaging and emotionally resonant. In the next section, we'll look at how to use painting as a metaphor in your short film.

Use painting as a metaphor

Painting is an art form that is ripe for metaphorical interpretations. Let's explore how you can use painting as a metaphor in your short film to create deeper meanings and connections.

The Canvas as a Life's Journey

Consider the canvas. It starts blank, much like a newborn child. As the painter adds strokes, the canvas begins to take on a life of its own. You can use this metaphor to represent life's journey, with each brushstroke representing different life events. The finished painting can symbolize a life fully lived, or the still-blank areas can suggest unfulfilled dreams or potential.

The Colors as Emotions

Colors have a significant emotional impact. Reds for passion, blues for tranquility, blacks for sorrow—each color can represent a different emotion. By using specific colors in your film's painting scenes, you can subtly convey the emotional state of your characters or the overall mood of the scene.

The Brush Strokes as Decisions

Each brushstroke on a canvas is a decision made by the artist. Bold, large strokes may signify confident, decisive actions, while smaller, hesitant strokes might represent uncertainty. You can use this metaphor to mirror your character's decision-making process, adding a layer of visual storytelling to your film.

Employing painting as a metaphor in your short film can help you communicate more complex ideas and emotions to your audience in an engaging and visually compelling way. But how can you make sure these painting scenes translate effectively on screen? We'll tackle that in our next section.

How to film painting scenes effectively

Filming painting scenes can be a challenge. It's not just about capturing the painting process; it's about creating visually engaging sequences that add value to your story. So let's break it down:

Camera Angles and Movements

How you position your camera matters. An over-the-shoulder shot can place the viewer in the artist's position, while a close-up of the brush hitting the canvas can emphasize the physicality of the painting process. Experiment with different angles and movements to find what works best for your story.


Lighting plays a key role in painting scenes. A soft, diffused light can highlight the texture of the paint and the movement of the brush, while harsh, directional lighting can create dramatic shadows and contrast. Adjust your lighting based on the mood you want to convey.


Don't forget about sound. The scratch of the brush against the canvas, the stirring of paint—these sounds can enrich your painting scenes and make them more immersive. Consider using a directional microphone to capture these sounds in detail.


The magic often happens in the editing room. You might want to speed up the painting process for dramatic effect, or cut between close-ups and wide shots to create a dynamic sequence. Remember, editing is a creative process—don't be afraid to play around with it!

When you film painting scenes effectively, you make the most out of this powerful storytelling tool. But remember, it's not just about the technical aspects—it's about how these scenes serve your story and your characters. So keep that in mind as you plan your next short film featuring painting.

If you enjoyed our blog on using painting in your short film and want to learn more about filmmaking, we recommend checking out the workshop 'How To Get Your Start As A Filmmaker' by Alex Kahuam. This workshop will provide you with essential tips and guidance on how to kickstart your filmmaking journey and bring your creative vision to life.