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Though just about everybody plays with watercolors at some point in their childhood, most of us don’t have any idea what we’re dealing with the first time we walk into an art shop as an adult intending to try our hand at the fine arts. Here is a short run down of all the different ways you can put art on canvas, what they are, and what they’re for.

Watercolors are made by simply suspending pigment in water and comprise a medium that has existed on every continent since prehistory. They’re a favorite for kids because they’re very cheap and easy to clean up since they can be thinned or washed out with water. Unfortunately, they’re not very forgiving when you’re actually trying to seriously paint. Watercolors will bleed outward slightly, giving them their distinctive fuzzy texture. Because the paint tends to absorb into the surface fairly quickly it’s difficult to blend colors upon application.
The Anatomy of Paint
Photo Credit: Fondosya

Oil Painting was invented in Asia during the dark ages, but didn’t make its way onto the European art scene until the 15th century. Oil paints are made by suspending a pigment in oil, occasionally along with a resin to act as a gloss when the paint dries. Oil is special because as far as the painter is concerned it never dries. That is to say it takes several weeks, meaning that the artist has plenty of time to mix and blend colors on the painting surface during and after application. The biggest drawback of this is that the only way to cover up a mistake is to scrape unwanted paint off of the canvas before covering it with fresh paint, because otherwise it will mix together and mess it up.
The Anatomy of Paint
Photo Credit: eHow

Acrylic is the new kid on the block as far as painting goes, having been invented in the 1950s. Acrylic is easy and fun, and comes in a variety of textures, with some looking a little bit like oil or watercolors depending on the type. Unique to acrylic, however, is that it dries very quickly, forming a thin layer of plastic. If you don’t like something you can easily paint a layer over it without any worries about paint mixing. Additionally you can scratch layers with a needle or other sharp implement to expose the layers underneath.
The Anatomy of Paint
Photo Credit: Good Wallpapers

Tempera is an egg-based paint that’s been around for several thousand years, dating way back to the Egyptians. It’s made by mixing powdered pigment with egg yolks and water. It dries very quickly and the mixture needs to be constantly adjusted in order to keep it at the right consistency as it thickens on contact with air. Because it’s so difficult to work with and because it spoils quickly it’s not terribly popular.
The Anatomy of Paint
Photo Credit: DC Cifrus

Encaustic painting is a technique that’s also several thousand years old, and is made by mixing pigments into hot wax. It provided artists with a few extra options because it could be altered even after application using heated metal implements, and it could be layered more effectively and more quickly than other old methods. Unfortunately it’s been rendered mostly obsolete by acrylics, and is now a refuge for hipsters and overzealous art nerds.
The Anatomy of Paint
Photo Credit: About.com

{Written by Edward Stuart}