5 Ways to Boost Painting Skills for Expression
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. Experiment with different mediums
  2. Practice observational sketching
  3. Study color theory
  4. Take advantage of digital tools
  5. Engage in peer critiques

Imagine having a conversation with a canvas, expressing your thoughts, feelings, and ideas in vivid colors and evocative shapes. That's the power of painting for self-expression. Now, you might be asking yourself, "How can I improve my painting skills to communicate more effectively?" Well, buckle up, because I'm about to share five practical strategies. Let's dive into the first one: experimenting with different mediums.

Experiment with Different Mediums

Just as musicians play different instruments to create diverse sounds, painters use different mediums to bring out unique effects in their works. But where should you start, and how to improve painting for self-expression using different mediums?


Watercolors are known for their ability to create soft, flowing effects. They're great for painting landscapes, abstract works, or any piece where you want a certain level of fluidity. Here are a few tips:

  • Go easy on the water: Too much water can dilute your colors and make your painting look washed out.
  • Build up layers: Start with light washes of color and gradually add more layers to create depth.


With their fast-drying properties and bold colors, acrylics provide a unique platform for self-expression. Here's how to get the most out of them:

  • Work quickly: Acrylics dry fast, so you need to make your strokes with confidence and precision.
  • Mix your colors: Acrylics blend well, allowing you to create a wide range of hues for your painting.

Oil Paints

Oil paints are loved for their rich, vibrant colors and slow-drying time, which allows for more flexibility in the painting process. If you're new to oils, consider these tips:

  • Take your time: Oil paints take longer to dry, so you can take your time to perfect your strokes and blend your colors.
  • Experiment with textures: With oils, you can build up thick layers to create interesting textures in your artwork.

Remember, the goal is not to become a master in every medium but to find the one that resonates with your artistic voice. So go ahead, experiment, and see which medium helps you express yourself best on canvas.

Practice Observational Sketching

Now that we've explored different mediums, let's move onto another strategy: strengthening your observational sketching skills. This is a fundamental part of learning how to improve painting for self-expression. Observational sketching helps you understand and interpret the world around you, which is crucial when you're trying to express yourself through your artwork.

What is Observational Sketching?

Observational sketching is exactly what it sounds like: drawing what you see. It's not about creating a perfect replica of your subject, but rather capturing its essence and how it makes you feel.

How to Practice Observational Sketching?

So how can you hone your observational sketching skills? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Carry a sketchbook with you: You never know when inspiration will strike. Keeping a sketchbook on hand allows you to capture ideas whenever they come to you.
  2. Sketch regularly: Like any skill, the more you practice, the better you get. Try to sketch something every day, even if it's just for a few minutes.
  3. Draw from life: While photos can be helpful, there's nothing like drawing from real life. Try sketching a fruit bowl, a family member, or a scene from your local park.

Remember, observational sketching is not about achieving perfection—it's about learning to see and interpret the world in your unique way. The more you practice, the more your personal style will shine through in your paintings.

Study Color Theory

Moving forward, let's discuss another key aspect of how to improve painting for self-expression: understanding color theory. Colors evoke emotions and can tell a story all on their own. By understanding color theory, you can use color more effectively to express yourself in your paintings.

What is Color Theory?

Color theory is a set of rules and guidelines that artists use to understand and use color. It includes concepts like the color wheel, color harmony, and the meanings of different colors.

How to Study Color Theory?

So, how can you start to learn about color theory? Here are a few practical steps:

  1. Start with the basics: Learn about primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, and how they relate to each other on the color wheel.
  2. Explore color relationships: Look into concepts like complementary, analogous, and monochromatic colors. These can help you create balanced, visually appealing paintings.
  3. Understand color meanings: Different colors can evoke different emotions. For example, red can signify passion or anger, while blue can convey calm or sadness. Understanding the emotional impact of colors can help you express yourself more effectively in your paintings.

By studying color theory, you'll gain a deeper understanding of how color works and how you can use it to convey your feelings and ideas. It's another important step on your journey to improve painting for self-expression.

Take Advantage of Digital Tools

As we continue our discussion on how to improve painting for self-expression, let's explore the role of digital tools. Today's technology offers a wealth of resources that can enhance your artistic skills and give you more ways to express yourself.

Digital Painting Applications

One of the best ways to benefit from digital technology is by using digital painting applications. Here are a few that you might find helpful:

  • Procreate: This powerful, yet user-friendly app is a favorite among many artists. It offers a variety of brushes, layers, and effects that you can use to create stunning digital paintings.
  • Adobe Photoshop: While Photoshop is often associated with photo editing, it's also a fantastic tool for digital painting. It offers a wide range of brushes and tools, and its layer-based system allows for complex artworks.
  • Autodesk Sketchbook: If you're just getting started with digital painting, Sketchbook is a great app to consider. It's straightforward, easy to use, and it's free!

Online Art Communities

Besides applications, the internet also offers a wealth of online communities where you can share your work, get feedback, and find inspiration. Websites like DeviantArt, Behance, and ArtStation are all great places to start.

Remember, technology is just a tool—it's how you use it that counts. By integrating digital tools into your artistic process, you can explore new techniques, refine your skills, and develop your unique voice as an artist. This is another effective method to improve painting for self-expression.

Engage in Peer Critiques

Moving forward on our journey to learn how to improve painting for self-expression, we come across an important aspect: peer critiques. Engaging in constructive criticism with fellow artists can be a game-changer. It allows you to gain insights into your work from a fresh perspective and opens doors to new ideas and approaches.

Benefits of Peer Critiques

Here's why having your work critiqued by peers can be beneficial:

  1. Improves Perception: When you work on a painting for a long time, you might miss out on certain details. A fresh pair of eyes can help you spot these and enhance your pieces.
  2. Boosts Creativity: Hearing different perspectives and ideas can spark your creativity, prompting you to try out new techniques or styles.
  3. Develops Critical Thinking: By participating in the critique process, not just as the artist but also as the critic, you develop your ability to analyze and evaluate art, which can be beneficial to your own work.

How to Engage In Effective Critiques

Engaging in critiques is more than just giving and receiving feedback. It's about understanding, learning, and growing together. Here are some tips to make the most of your critique sessions:

  • Be Constructive: When giving feedback, focus on the artwork, not the artist. Point out what works, what doesn't, and suggest possible improvements.
  • Be Open: As the artist, be open to feedback. It might be hard to hear criticism, but remember, it's all part of the process to improve painting for self-expression.
  • Be Respectful: Art is personal. Always respect the artist's feelings and intentions when critiquing their work.

Remember, the goal of peer critiques is to help each other grow as artists. It's a collaborative process where everyone learns and benefits. So, reach out to your fellow artists, and start your critique sessions today!

If you're looking to further enhance your painting skills, especially in acrylics, we highly recommend checking out Rachel Christopoulos' workshop, 'Improve Your Acrylic Painting Skills.' This workshop will provide you with valuable techniques and insights to boost your expression in your acrylic paintings, making your artwork even more captivating.