The A to Z of Painting Styles, Techniques, and Movements

Welcome to "The A to Z of Painting Styles, Techniques, and Movements!" Get ready to dive into the exciting realm of art and explore a wide range of painting styles, techniques, and influential movements that have shaped the art world. In this comprehensive guide, we'll take you on an immersive journey through the fascinating world of painting. From differentiating a painting style to the different art movements that span across time, we'll unlock the secrets behind various types of paintings and techniques used by artists throughout history.

A beautiful gouache painting of a beach landscape

Artists' Gouache Set - Strolling Through New York

Whether you're an artist looking to brush up on painting techniques, a beginner learning more jargon, or just someone wanting to be more interesting in your next art-themed conversation, this blog post is for you!

What Is the Difference Between Painting Style, Type, and Technique?

You've probably seen those three words thrown around in the art industry. Techniques, style, and type - when analyzing a painting, these three terms are essential to fully appreciating its meaning and the work that the artist put in. If you are curious to know the differences between them, refer to the table below: 

Painting Technique
Painting Type
Painting Styles
refers to specific methods, processes, and approaches used by artists to apply paint to a surface
encompasses various categories based on subject matter, purpose, or context
refer to the distinctive approaches and visual characteristics of a painting
play a crucial role in determining the texture, depth, and overall appearance of a painting
focus on the subject matter of the painting as the category
art movements relating to social issues, periods of time, and eras in history
where the discussion of certain painting supplies and tools is involved
can be categorized according to the 7 types of paintings
easily remembered as the “isms” of art
techniques depend on the painting medium used by the artist
can vary greatly in terms of a painting’s level of realism, abstraction, or symbolism

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The Different Types of Painting and Their Definitions

A group of famous self-portrait paintings made by various artists

When referring to types of painting, it focuses on the subject matter being portrayed. Here are the seven commonly recognized types of painting:

  • Abstract: Abstract painting emphasizes non-representational forms, colors, and lines, often departing from recognizable objects or subjects. It is more concerned with conveying emotions, ideas or exploring formal elements of art, such as color, shape, and texture.
  • Genre: Genre paintings depict scenes from everyday life, including domestic, social, or recreational activities. They offer insights into cultural and historical contexts, and they can vary from intimate interior scenes to bustling street scenes.
  • Historical or Narrative: Historical or narrative paintings depict historical events, myths, or stories, often capturing significant moments or conveying a narrative through visual storytelling. These paintings often involve multiple figures and intricate compositions.
  • Landscape: Landscape painting focuses on depicting natural scenery, such as mountains, forests, rivers, or seascapes. It often aims to convey the beauty, mood, and atmospheric elements of the outdoors.

A wall displaying the different landscape paintings made by famous artists

  • Portrait: Portraits are paintings that depict individuals or self-portraits, capturing a person's likeness, facial expressions, and personality. Portrait painting has been a popular genre throughout history, serving as a means of commemoration, documentation, and artistic expression. 
  • Religious: True to its name, religious paintings are artworks that depict cultural beliefs, myths, and pastoral scenes, such as those from the Bible or other religious texts and stories. 
  • Still Life: Still-life paintings portray inanimate objects, such as fruits, flowers, everyday objects, or arranged compositions. Artists often use still life as a way to explore composition, light, texture, and symbolism.

The Various Painting Styles That Shaped Art

Painting styles and art movements have played a significant role in the evolution and development of art throughout history. They reflect the changing attitudes, beliefs, and artistic approaches of different periods and groups of artists. 

Because of specific movements and social themes that arose during eras, different painting styles have allowed artists to express themselves in new and creative ways. Now, artists like you can get to explore them and use them in your artwork too!


The Renaissance, originating in 14th-century Italy, marked a revival of interest in classical art and humanism. Renaissance paintings emphasized naturalism, perspective, and the representation of the human figure with anatomical accuracy. 

Notable Artists: Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo 

The Creation of Adam by Michaelangelo  Buonarroti


Mannerism is a painting style that emerged in the late Renaissance period, primarily in Italy during the 16th century. It is characterized by a departure from the balance, harmony, and naturalism of High Renaissance art. Mannerist painters aimed to create art that was more artificial, imaginative, and intellectually complex.

Notable Artists: Parmigianino, Jacopo Pontormo, and Rosso Fiorentino


The Baroque period emerged in the 17th century, characterized by ornate, dynamic compositions and dramatic use of light and shadow. Most artwork created in this period aimed to evoke intense emotions and create a sense of grandeur.

Notable Artists: Caravaggio and Rembrandt


Neoclassicism is a painting style that emerged in the late 18th century as a rebellion against the excessive nature of the Baroque style and as a revival of classical Greek and Roman art and ideals. It sought to emulate the aesthetics and ideals of ancient Greece and Rome, placing emphasis on simplicity and moral values such as virtue and patriotism. Most neoclassic art portrays noble and heroic subjects in mythological scenes. 

Notable Artists: Jacques-Louis David and Angelica Kauffman


Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich

Romanticism painting style emerged in the late 18th to mid-19th centuries as a reaction against the rationality and order of the Enlightenment era. It highlighted intense emotion, individualism, and the sublime in nature and the human experience. Romantic painters sought to evoke strong emotional responses from viewers and often explored themes such as awe, wonder, passion, and the supernatural. 

Notable Artists: J.M.W. Turner, Caspar David Friedrich, Eugène Delacroix, and Francisco Goya


Realism is a painting style that emerged in the mid-19th century as a reaction against the idealized and romanticized depictions of the previous periods. Realist painters sought to represent the world with a high degree of accuracy, often focusing on ordinary subjects and everyday life. The goal was to create a faithful representation that closely resembles what is observed in reality.

Notable Artists: Gustave Courbet, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Honoré Daumier, and Jean-François Millet 

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Impressionism, a revolutionary art movement of the late 19th century, sought to capture fleeting impressions of light, color, and atmosphere. This movement, which created plein-air painting, enabled artists to use loose brushwork, vivid colors, and an emphasis on capturing the effects of light on their subjects.

Notable Artists: Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir

The Boulevard Montmartre at Night by Camille Pissarro


Pointillism is a painting technique and style that emerged in the late 19th century. In pointillism, instead of mixing colors on a palette or canvas, the artist applies individual dots or strokes of pure, unmixed color side by side. When viewed from a distance, these dots visually blend together, creating the illusion of different colors and tones.

Notable Artists: Georges Seurat and Paul Signac


Cubism, which arose in the early 20th century, revolutionized artistic representation. It shattered traditional perspectives and depicted objects from multiple viewpoints, using geometric shapes and fragmented forms.

Notable Artists: Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque


Dadaism is an avant-garde art movement that emerged during World War I and significantly impacted the art world. It originated as a response to the horrors of war and the societal norms that Dada artists believed had led to the conflict. Dadaism rejected traditional aesthetics and sought to challenge and disrupt established artistic conventions by creating "nonsense" art.

Notable Artists: Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst


Surrealism emerged in the 1920s as an exploration of the subconscious mind and dreams. Artists created dreamlike, illogical compositions, often combining unexpected objects and elements in surprising and thought-provoking ways.

Notable Artists: Salvador Dalí and René Magritte 


Fauvism was an influential painting style that emerged in the early 20th century, primarily in France. The term "Fauvism" originated from the French word "les fauves," meaning "the wild beasts," which was coined to describe the unconventional and untamed approach of these artists. It is characterized by bold, vibrant, and non-naturalistic use of color, with intense brushwork and simplified forms. 

Notable Artists: Henri Matisse, André Derain, Raoul Dufy, and Kees van Dongen


The Scream by Edvard Munch

Expressionism is a painting style that emerged in the early 20th century as a reaction against traditional art forms and sought to convey deep emotional and psychological experiences. It originated in Germany and quickly spread to other parts of Europe and beyond. Expressionist artists aimed to explore the inner workings of the human mind, express intense emotions, and challenge the conventional representation of reality.

Notable Artists: Edvard Munch, Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde, and Egon Schiele

Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism, prominent in post-World War II America, emphasized spontaneous, gestural brushwork and non-representational forms. This painting style focused on the immediacy and directness of the artwork, with the goal of staying true to the artist's identity and signature.

Notable Artists: Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko

Pop Art

Cans of Soup by Andy Warhol

Pop Art, emerging in the 1950s and '60s, drew inspiration from popular culture, consumerism, and mass media imagery. Artists using this painting style incorporated everyday objects, advertising, and celebrities into their vibrant, often larger-than-life compositions.

Notable Artists: Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein

Contemporary Art

Contemporary art is not a specific painting style but rather an umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of artistic practices and styles created in the present time. It refers to art produced by artists living and working in the current period.

Contemporary art embraces a diverse array of approaches, techniques, and mediums, reflecting the ever-evolving nature of art and its engagement with current issues, ideas, and cultural contexts. 

Notable Artists: Yayoi Kusama, Louise Bourgeois, and Damien Hurst

The Most Popular Painting Techniques Used by Artists

With the emergence of new art forms and mediums, alongside the continued evolution of painting, the number of painting techniques grows daily! However, some painting techniques will always stay ever-green and are used by many artists today. Here are some of the most used painting techniques at the present time: 

  • Alla Prima - a painting technique where the artwork is completed in one session, often using wet-on-wet paint application.
  • Acrylic Painting - painting with acrylic, which is water-based and known for its versatility and quick drying time.
  • Blending - the technique of smoothly mixing or transitioning colors together to create a seamless effect.
  • Blocking - the initial application of broad areas of color or shape as a foundation for the painting.
  • Broken Color - the application of small, distinct brushstrokes of different colors, which visually blend when viewed from a distance.
  • Chiaroscuro - the use of strong contrasts between light and shadow to create a sense of depth and dramatic effect in a painting.
  • Dabbing - lightly tapping or pressing a brush or sponge onto the painting surface to create textured or stippled effects.
  • Decalcomania - a technique where paint is applied to one surface and pressed or rubbed onto another surface to create random patterns or textures.
  • Dry Brushing - the application of paint with a relatively dry brush, leaving behind a rough, textured appearance.
  • Encaustic - a painting technique that involves using heated beeswax mixed with pigments, often applied in layers and fused together.
  • Feathering - softening or blending edges of colors or strokes by gently feathering them together.
  • Fresco Painting - a technique where pigments are applied to wet plaster, allowing the colors to become embedded and chemically bound to the surface.
  • Glass Painting - a technique where mixed-media paint is applied to glass surfaces to create decorative or illustrative designs.
  • Glazing - the application of thin, transparent layers of paint over dried layers to create depth, richness, and luminosity.
  • Gouache Painting - the use of opaque watercolors, often mixed with gum Arabic, resulting in a matte, velvety finish.

A beautiful gouache painting of a girl strumming a guitar

Watercolor Paper Pad (9"x 12")

  • Grattage - the process of scraping or scratching the surface of a wet oil painting to create texture or reveal underlying layers.
  • Grisaille - a painting technique that uses shades of gray to create a monochromatic, grayscale image.
  • Impasto - a technique where paint is applied thickly and heavily onto a surface, creating texture and three-dimensional effects.
  • Lifting - the act of removing wet or dry paint from a surface using various tools or materials, such as water.
  • Oil painting - a technique that uses pigments mixed with oil as a binder, resulting in a slow-drying and versatile medium.
  • Paint-by-number - a method where pre-drawn or numbered sections are filled in with specific colors, making painting more accessible for beginners.
  • Plein-air painting - the practice of painting outdoors, capturing scenes and landscapes directly from nature.
  • Pointillism - a  technique where small dots or points of color are applied to a surface, which visually blends to create the illusion of a complete image.
  • Porcelain painting - the art of decorating porcelain or ceramics with paint and glaze to create intricate designs or patterns.
  • Pour painting - liquid paints are poured or dripped onto a surface, creating abstract patterns or effects.
  • Reverse painting - a technique where paint is applied to the backside of a transparent or translucent surface, viewed through the front, creating a reversed image.
  • Sgraffito - similar to grattage, it is the process of scratching through layers of dry paint to reveal underlying colors or create textured effects.
  • Scumbling - the technique of applying a thin, translucent layer of paint in a circular motion to soften or modify the colors beneath.
  • Splattering - flicking or splashing paint onto a surface to create random or controlled splatter patterns.
  • Wash - a thin, transparent layer of diluted paint or water that creates a smooth, even color or tone on a surface.
  • Watercolor Painting - painting with watercolor, water-based pigments, typically applied on watercolor paper, creating translucent, delicate, and fluid effects.
  • Wet-on-Dry - applying wet paint onto a dry surface, allowing for more control and defined edges in the painting.
  • Wet-on-Wet - usage of wet paint onto a wet surface, enabling colors to blend and create soft transitions and subtle gradations.

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In learning more about the different painting styles, techniques, and types, we hope that you are able to appreciate the thought and process that goes into every project of an artist even further. Here’s to using this knowledge to create and fuel your own artwork! 

If you want more in-depth tutorials on specific art techniques, drop by our Creative Corner for more inspiration. Stay creative!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Paintings can be classified based on genre (landscape, portrait, still life, etc.), style (Renaissance, Impressionism, etc.), medium (oil, acrylic, watercolor, etc.), period (medieval, contemporary, etc.), technique (plein-air, chiaroscuro, etc.), and purpose (decorative, commissioned, religious, etc.).
A painting is a form of visual art where colors, pigments, or other mediums are applied to a surface, typically a canvas, paper, or panel, to express an artist's ideas, emotions, or observations. Paintings can be made using various techniques, such as brushwork, palette knife, or even unconventional methods, and can encompass multiple styles, genres, and subjects.
Painting is a way for artists to express their innermost thoughts and emotions. They are a way of producing powerful messages and themes that can create massive social impacts and movements. Paintings inspire and encourage people to reflect, take action, and widen perspectives. It preserves history, memories, and ideologies.They often serve as a means of communication, storytelling, or aesthetic enjoyment, inviting viewers to interpret and engage with the artwork on an emotional, intellectual, or sensory level.It is the necessary outlet for us not merely to survive every day but to live.
The most common painting mediums are oil, acrylic, gouache, watercolor, pastel, and ink. These are the most common painting mediums, each offering unique qualities and effects. Artists choose their preferred medium based on personal preference, desired effects, and the specific requirements of their artwork

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