6 Simple Painting Principles Every Artist Should Use

Naturally, many great artists urge their colleagues to break the rules and letting loose and being in the moment can absolutely set a solid foundation for a successful painting session. But before you start breaking any rules, we must know the principles, so we can break them with purpose. These six simple principles are geared to help you boost your creative process and consider where you can start breaking the norm and creating your own unique rules.


Italian painter Giorgio Morandi

  1. We can break painting down to the four basic stages of creating which are placement, background, shadow and light. So when working on your latest masterpiece, ask yourself where you are and what you’re trying to accomplish in that moment.

  2. Fantasy is fabulous, but sometimes we want to create an authentic piece of work that our viewer can relate to. To paint something convincingly, you have to decide on the local color, shadow color, turning color and highlight color and apply them! That doesn’t mean you can’t veer away and add in twist, but this is generally a great place to start!

  3. There’s beauty in dynamics. Using different elements like high contrast, color variants, paint thickness, and so forth help bring a different type of depth to your paintings and create a tangible experience.

  4. Paint relationships — not isolated things or people. We are a connected world, now more than ever, and people want to see and feel that connection between objects in the real world, people and the ever-present connection between them.

  5. In simplest terms, everything is either light against dark, dark against light or same against same. Contrast and dynamism in art is what draws us to it, the sense of familiarity that is just different enough to entrance us.

  6. Play with the light and dabble with the shadows. When you’re working on your master piece and in the shadow and light phase of painting, remember that light turns gently into shadow and emerges crisply from the shadow.


Italian painter Giorgio Morandi

What’s your favorite painting principle? Do you have any different rules you try to keep in mind and abide by? Share them with me, and be sure to share any painting must-dos that weren’t listed!