Introduction: A Painting Everybody Can Do

About: I like building things mainly from wood or metal. Especially if they look complicated to make, then I like to think about how to make it. And I love it when the result looks good.

I really believe that you can make this painting.

In school every kid had to paint something so you must have done that too. And given the fact that you are reading Instructables, chances are high that you are a maker, so probably you have painted some other things too.

Now you might be thinking: "Yes, I have painted before and that is why I know that I cannot do it."

Well that is exactly what I used to think. I cannot draw anything just from my imagination, because it will look terrible. And handling a brush is even more difficult than handling a pencil, so for sure I cannot paint.

I was really wrong in thinking that. I made the painting you see on this photo and it is just my 4th painting ever, so I am not an experienced artist at all.

Some time ago I bought a painting-by-numbers kit, because I had to stay in a hotel for work and wanted to make something in the weekends, that would take some time to make and would not take up much space in my suitcase. Then I found out that filling the numbered areas with paint is quite relaxing and is not difficult. And the good thing about (acryllic) paint is that if you accidentally painted outside of the lines, you can easily correct it by going over it with another color after the first layer dried. I think the possibility to correct your mistakes is a big advantage of paint over pencils.

Painting-by-numbers gave me confidence, but the downside is that you are limited in what you can paint based on the available sets they have. (There are really a lot of those sets available, but I want to be able to paint also other things.) Nowadays with a camera on most phones and with access to a printer, we can make so much more. And it is not cheating to use a camera, printer and some carbon paper. Many professional artists do that too. It is just using the available tools.

Maybe your next objection is, that you say: I do not have the right materials to make a painting. Well, it does not take much. I also used only really cheap and basic materials to make this painting and as long as we are just beginners, I think the quality of the materials does not make much difference in the final result.


So which materials did I use?

  • You can buy a canvas, but I think it is not needed at all. I made my paintings on a piece of MDF which came with one side already painted white. Of course you could also paint that white layer yourself. Just make sure you use a water based (acryllic) paint.
  • I used the brushes that I got with the painting-by-numbers kit. They are just a really cheap kind of brush. The only thing that matters, is that the brush is quite small, so you can paint the details you want to paint.
  • I do not have a pallet. I just use the plastic lid from a Pringles container or any other clean plastic lid to mix some colours. And after using it I wash the lid with water so it is ready for the next time.
  • I use acryllic paint. It is widely available, cheap, can be dilluted and cleaned with water and most importantly: it dries much quicker than oil based paint. Acryllic paint will be dry between a few minutes and half an hour depending on the thickness of your layer. Oil based paint will take several days to dry. So with acryllic you can paint a next layer much sooner.
  • It does not require much paint to make a painting on the size of a regular piece of paper. I used left over bits of paint from the painting-by-numbers kit. We only need red, blue, yellow, white and black and we can mix all other colours from these 5 colours.
  • I used a paper towel and a small cup with water to clean my brush in between colours.
  • And I used carbon paper to transfer my design from paper to the MDF.

Step 1: Get Your Materials and Get Some Confidence

If you buy a painting-by-numbers kit with at least red, blue, yellow, black and white paint, you will have all you need. If you paint that kit first, you can get used to using the brush and you will see that it is not difficult.

I recommend that you also practise a bit in mixing colours:

red + yellow = orange

red + blue = purple

red + white = pink

red + black = dark red

yellow + blue = green

yellow + blue + red = brown

white + black = gray

By adding more of one colour than of the other, the mixed colour will be closer to the one you used most of.

If you want the colour to be lighter, add white or yellow.

If you want the colour to be darker, add more brown or black.

And be nice to yourself. Your colours do not have to be perfect. Maybe the car looks much better in the colours you mix.

Also accept that a painting is not a photo. So your lines also do not have to be perfect. If it looks acceptable from 2 steps away from the painting, you should be happy with it.

Some tricks:

If your paint does not flow very well, you can add a tiny amount of water. Just dip the brush in water and add that to your paint and it will flow better.

If your brush is too wet, whipe it off at the paper towel.

If your brush seems round and you want to paint a narrow line, dip it in some paint and use the edge of the plastic lid to squeeze some paint out. That makes your brush flat for some time, so you can paint some details.

Step 2: Get the Lines in Place

You can print the attached PDF document and use that as a template and use carbon paper to transfer it to the MDF.

Of course you can also decide to paint something else. What I did was find a photo and print it on the size I wanted. I choose this car because I made the painting for the owner of the car. I prefer to make a painting that mixes two images, so I first drew some circles to represent a steering wheel and then placed the car and the logo over it. Then I traced all important lines of the photo with a pencil and carbon paper to get the outlines on the MDF.

Step 3: Start Painting

Start with some black and white paint and mix it so you get black, dark gray and light gray and fill all the large areas that should get that colour. In the windows of the car I made some areas a bit lighter as the windows will reflect the light. It does not matter a lot if your reflections are different, because that varies depending on how the light falls on the windows of the actual car.

Step 4: Start Working on the Logo

Use some yellow paint to paint the base layer of the logo. If your yellow is too light or too bright add a bit of brown to make it darker.

Make sure you can still see the pencil lines through the yellow paint, so you can see where the next layers have to go.

Wait for the yellow paint to dry before you add the next layer. (I usually walk away and do something else while the paint dries. Alternatively you can already paint the red base layer of the car.)

Step 5: Continue With the Logo

Make sure the yellow base layer is dry before you add new paint.

Then add some blue and red stripes and paint the black parts. Use the photo with the printed logo as reference. And it does not have to be perfect. Not many people know exactly what the logo looks like in reality so it does not matter that the horse is not perfect and the colours are different.

Step 6: Add a Shade on the Steering Wheel and Under the Car (optional)

I doubted about adding a shade under the car. Of course there will be a shade if the car is on the street, but on the painting it is sitting on a steering wheel. I decided to add the shade, but if you do not like it, you can leave it out for now. You can always still add it later.

I did use a shade on the steering wheel. Paint the outside of the steering wheel black and when your brush is getting dry, pull it sideways in a curve to get some suggestion of a round steering wheel. (The gray layer has to be dry when you do this.)

I made the shade under the car by using a brush with only a tiny bit of black paint. Whipe of the excess paint on your paper towel if your brush is too wet. Then dab with the rather dry brush under the car to make the shade. Use more dabs directly under the car and less dabs when you get lower near the bottom edge of the shade.

Step 7: Paint Your Car Red

Use red paint to paint the car evenly.

Step 8: Add Some Orange

To get some reflection on the car, I added some orange paint to the car. If you do this when the red paint is still wet, the orange will blend in with the red. If you add orange when the red paint is dry, make sure your brush is quite dry so you so not add a lot of orange paint.

Step 9: Add Some White

Use some white paint to make some lighter areas to show reflection of the light on the car.It is best that the red paint is dry when you do this to prevent that you get pink paint.

Step 10: Correct Some Mistakes

On the steering wheel I coloured outsides of the lines with the gray paint, so I added some white paint over that to correct it.

Under the lowest light of the car, I had too much red, so I also corrected that with white paint. And some other areas also had imperfections, so I just went over that with the right colour.

Step 11: Add the Last Details

Use a dark red paint to add some details on the car, like the lines where the doors close. Also use some black to paint some final details. And again: it does not have to be perfect.

Step 12: Sign the Painting and Enjoy the Result

I usually add my name on a painting and then I enjoy the result.

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