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Do you ever feel the urge to be creative but don’t know how to find painting inspiration? 

If you’re completely new to painting, you might wonder “what should I paint as a beginner?” If you’re experienced and have solid painting skills but don’t know how to get inspiration for painting, you might ask yourself “how do I get my artistic inspiration back?” 

Everyone’s creative process is different, but studying other artists’ paintings and creative projects is a surefire way to feel inspired. 

35 Ideas to Spark Painting Inspiration

From new media and techniques to subjects you may have never considered, here are 35 ideas that are sure to spark creativity and inspiration for painting.

1. Practice Color Mixing

color mixing
Color mixing skills allow you to create your own color palettes.

Effective color mixing is an essential skill to master. There’s no need to use paints as they are when they come out of the tube if you can mix them and create your own colors.

2. Learn to Use Watercolor Paints

high heel
Student work by Paola Silvera for Art Essentials: Learn Watercolor Painting Basics.

Different paints have different properties, and watercolors are very different from oil paints or acrylics. If you haven’t already tried watercolors, take a tutorial on how to use them to feel confident with this new medium.

3. Learn to Use Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints are a favorite of many artists because of their versatility and ease of use, and acrylic painting ideas, inspiration, and subjects are easy to find.

4. Learn to Use Gouache

Wondering how to get inspiration for painting? Try gouache paints.

If you’ve tried painting with watercolors and acrylics, gouache is a good medium to experiment with. It’s like a combination of watercolors and acrylics, and many artists like it for its vibrant, opaque colors.

5. Learn to Use Oil Paints

Student work by Francesca Bucci for Introduction to Oil Painting.

Some people are afraid to try painting with oil paints as they’re under the impression that they’re difficult. They do require some special handling, but the texture and finish of oil paintings is worth the effort.

6. Learn to Use Spray Paint

Spray paints can be used to paint a variety of subjects.

Painting with spray paints in a can is a totally different experience from painting with a brush. While often associated with mural or graffiti art, you can paint all kinds of subjects and surfaces with spray paint.

7. Use Reference Photos

refrencee photos
Paint from reference photos.

Not everyone has a photographic memory, so reference photos from your travels or everyday life are really handy.

8. Paint an Abstract Landscape

acrylic landscape
Abstract acrylic painting ideas, inspiration, and scenes can be found in landscapes.

While artistic subjects are usually described as abstract or figurative/representative, the beauty of an abstract landscape is that it combines elements of both. You can capture the light, mood, and shape of the landscape without being distracted by minute details or making it look too realistic.

9. Try Digital Painting

A landscape painted digitally.

Although nothing beats old-fashioned paints and paintbrushes, many artists also enjoy the versatility of digital painting. You can create incredibly detailed scenes with tools like Procreate and Photoshop, as well as more abstract and impressionist works that don’t look like they’ve been anywhere near a computer.

10. Paint in the Style of a Famous Painter

art supplies
Learn to paint in the style of Paul Klee.

While it’s important to develop your own style, studying the style, color work, and motifs of famous painters is a good way to learn. This course guides you through learning to paint in the style of abstract painter Paul Klee.

11. Paint a DIY Mug

painted mug
Paint a mug that you can reuse every day.

Look beyond standard paper and canvas and try painting something different, like a porcelain mug. You’ll need special paints, but this course teaches you all you need to know.

12. Paint a Portrait

Portraits are an intimate form of painting.

If you’ve been painting abstract or landscape scenes and want to broaden your subject matter, why not try painting a portrait? You can paint yourself, someone you know, or a celebrity from a photo.

13. Paint Crystals and Gemstones

Gemstones and crystals are fun to paint.

Who couldn’t use a bit more sparkle in their life? Try painting natural crystals or gemstones found in your jewelry box.

14. Paint Detailed Flowers and Plants

Botanical subjects are a good way to practice painting details, shadows, and white spaces. You can use various media for botanical illustrations, but watercolor paints are popular.

Painting Inspiration Ideas From Folk Art

Modern Botanical Folk Art: Draw and Paint Whimsical Flowers and Leaves

15. Paint a Colorful Garden

Student work by Mina T. for Botanical Illustration: Paint a Colorful Garden with Watercolor and Gouache.

You don’t need to go far from home for painting inspiration. If you have a garden or live near a park with trees and flowers, have a go at painting that.

Observe Botanical Textures

coral texture
Capture the texture and details of the natural world through paint.

To take your botanical or garden paintings to the next level, paint the rich, detailed textures you observe. This might be the surface of a leaf, the bark of a tree, or the patterns on a rock.

17. Paint a Fashion Illustration

fashion designs
Stylized fashion models can be a fun way to practice painting skills.

You don’t need to be an aspiring fashion designer to enjoy painting fashion illustrations. Painting clothing is a good way to practice painting details, draping, and shadows.

18. Incorporate Watercolor Pencils 

Watercolor pencils combine the benefits of pencils and paint.

Watercolor pencils are a fantastic medium to add to your painting toolkit because they combine the benefits of drawing with colored pencils with painting with watercolors paints.

19. Paint With Coffee

Expand your definition of “paint” and try painting with instant coffee! Instant coffee is even easier to paint with than watercolor paints, and is great for beginners because it’s simple to erase mistakes.

20. Create Surface Patterns

Patterns can be used on greeting cards, wrapping paper, fabrics, wallpaper, and more. Using a combination of traditional painting methods and technology, patterns can be reproduced and easily fine-tuned.

21. Mix Your Media

A bird created using mixed media.

There’s nothing in the artists’ rulebook to say you can only create a work of art using one medium. Mix different paints, pencils, charcoals, pastels, and pens (OK, maybe not all of them!) to add depth, detail, and richness to your artworks.

22. Take a Meditative Approach to Painting Landscapes

bridge painting
A watercolor landscape painting alongside the real landscape.

Artist Rosalie Haizlett teaches a meditative approach to painting landscapes. This means taking your time, tuning in to your senses, and really observing what you see, rather than taking a quick photo and moving on.

23. Try En Plein Air Painting

painnting outside
Student work by Eva Garmendia for Watercolor Painting En Plein Air.

En plein air means “in the open air” in French. You don’t need any special equipment to paint en plein air, just an interesting scene to paint.

24. Watercolor Paint a Galaxy

The way that watercolor paints blend and bloom make it an ideal medium for depicting galactical scenes. This class teaches both beginner and more advanced watercolor painting techniques.

25. Hand Paint Lettering

Personalize text with hand painted lettering.

Posters, invitations, cards, and more can be personalized by hand painting lettering.

26. Paint a Bouquet of Flowers

How to find painting inspiration among a bouquet of flowers.

Flower still lifes have long been a popular subject for painters. Unless you’re already a trained florist, learning how best to arrange your flower bouquets (whether shop bought or from the garden) will enhance the composition of your flower paintings.

27. Paint a Mural

Whether an indoor or outdoor wall, painting a mural is making a bold statement. Get some pointers on brushes, paints, and other preparation tips from a tutorial before transforming a real life wall. 

28. Learn to Paint Black Animals

black dog
Learn to paint at the black end of the color spectrum.

Painting at either end of the color spectrum can be tricky as you’ll need to create the impression of black or white while limiting your reliance those paint colors. Artist Denise Soden teaches how to paint black animals using watercolor paints, and her methods can be used to paint other dark-hued subjects.

29. Paint the Sea

water watercolor
The sea contains numerous textures and colors.

There’s more to painting the sea than simply applying blue paint to your page. Practice painting the effects of the sea using a variety of colors, textures, and lights. 

30. Paint a Rock Mandala

rock painting
For rock painting ideas, inspiration, and subjects, look no further than a mandala design.

Among rock painting ideas, inspiration, and subjects, circular mandala patterns are a favorite.

31. Paint a Map Keepsake

map of cuba
Student work by Amy Lagers for Paint a Map Keepsake with Watercolor.

Next time you travel, instead of stuffing your suitcase with souvenirs that you won’t use, paint a map as a keepsake.

32. Create a Collage With Painted Paper

Create collages from pieces of painted paper.

Unused scraps from previous projects or practice paintings can be used to create attractive abstract collages.

33. Try Extreme Painting

Painting inspiration ideas can be found in extreme conditions.

Artist Ron Mulvey’s process of sitting outside in freezing temperatures (what he calls “extreme painting”) may not be for everyone, but it certainly invigorates his painting practice. Why not give it a go?

34. Try Speed Painting

Paint with as little as 12 minutes.

The aim of “speed painting” is to bypass the thinking parts of your mind and stimulate your imagination and intuition.

35. Paint With Thread

This embroidery technique—what professional embroiderer Danielle Clough calls “thread painting”— might not fit most people’s definitions of painting, but  . Embroidery silks can be used to stitch the impression of painting onto canvas.

Painting With Technology

Art Made Easy: Draw and Paint With the IPad Pro