Fundamental Art Techniques, Processes & Materials

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  • 0:04 Many Ways To Make Art
  • 0:39 Drawing
  • 1:18 Painting
  • 2:48 Scuplture
  • 3:26 Printing
  • 4:20 Photography
  • 5:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Do you like making things? Have you ever painted a colorful picture or doodled in pen on a notebook? If so, then you've used an art technique! In this lesson, you'll learn some of the basic methods, processes, and materials used to make art.

Many Ways to Make Art

People have made art as long as they've been on the planet. In fact, paintings in some Spanish caves are thought to be 42,000 years old. As soon as men and women could pick up something like a stick or piece of burnt wood from a fireplace, they used it to mark something else, like a wall or a rock. There are many ways to make art, and in this lesson I'm going to introduce some of them, along with the tools and materials artists use, but I also want you to remember that you can make art from anything, so these are only a few ideas and methods to consider as a starting point.


Many art techniques start with drawing. At its most basic, drawing is using any implement (tool or utensil) to mark a surface. Common tools include pencils, charcoal, and ink pens. Sometimes people use erasers to remove lines if they're using a substance that is reversible. Drawing can be done in one tone (like a graphite pencil) or color (colored wax pencils or pastels) in lines of varying darkness or in contour, where images are created by line rather than shading. Surfaces you can draw on include many kinds of paper, fabric, animal skins, or even walls.

Examples of a pencil contour drawing (left) and pen line drawing
Examples of drawing methods


Think of Leonardo DaVinci, Picasso, or Jackson Pollock. Their art was very different, but they had something in common: they were all painters. Many famous artists have been painters who created large colorful images and small precise pictures of life.

In painting, you use a substance that consists of a pigment (dry ground-up natural and man-made materials that create specific colors) and a binder (a substance like oil that holds dry ingredients together in a solution) to leave a film on a surface. Paints can be watercolor, oil paint, acrylic paint, or even encaustic, a type of paint made of wax. The binder is different in each. Each kind of paint is different and has its own techniques, but some basic painting techniques include washes (a thin transparent layer of paint that allows the surface to show through), impastos (thick layers of paint that stand up from the canvas), and glazes (brilliant transparent layers of paint that add color and intensity). Painting techniques change over time with new tools and materials.

Watercolor paints and a wash image of a tree (left) and acrylic paints with an acrylic painting of a tree
Example of watercolor and acrylic painting

Detail, acrylic paint thickness from tree image
Detail, thickness of acrylic paint

Painters use many tools, including brushes that come in many sizes and may be made of natural and artificial bristles; palette knives, used to push and manipulate thick paint; and sometimes their fingers. Painting can be done on stretched canvas, a piece of canvas or linen fabric held in tension with wooden stretcher bars; paper; metal; or even wood panels.

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