How To Develop Your Painting Style

Learning to develop your painting style is not the same as learning how to draw or paint technically.

Often I am approached by the question - "How do I have my own style?", from students or other inspired artists who seemed to be stuck in their artistic journey. My answer is always this- your style will come naturally and easily, but only when you are not pushing it.

Inspiration By Other Artists' Painting Styles

I am a big advocate of copying other artists' works. You can learn a lot from this process-the color choice and composition, as well as improving your painting skills.

Don't worry- you are not going to be trapped in that artist's style for long. You can always bring something you learned from other artists into your vision. It is becoming part of you.

So I believe that there is no 'self taught' artist out there. We are always influenced by what is around us, and learn lessons from other artists even if we don't go to an art school for 'formal' education.

I liken the process of developing your 'style' to learning how to walk or dance. You first learn mechanics of how to move, and then your personality and unique body take over. Eventually, you are walking with your own special form.

Rather than being conscientious about whether you have an unique style, focus on solidifying your fundamental skills until you master them. This will most likely be a lifetime process, if you are motivated and hard working. The good news is, you will be rewarded by your efforts to improve. When you are comfortable and confident about your technical skill to some extent, then choose
  • color palette
  • composition
  • subject matter
  • the reason you paint the way you paint

Color Palette

Color choice says much about your preference and your personality. You can choose either a muted or a bright color scheme.

I started out as a classic realist trained in a darkened room with a dim northern light. The palette itself had only a few earth-tone colors and white. The only bright color was blue. Now I love the bright and colorful palette I choose for my paintings. It suits my personality and help me express my ideas in art better. I notice that I feel happier and less moody when I paint with a bold color palette.

Subject Matter

Your choice of subject matter largely determines your painting style as well. If you paint animals, the experience and the confidence enable you to develop a painting style with your animals.

For this reason, it makes sense that once you feel confident about your painting skills, making a body of works with the same subject matter will spawn your creative style.


Composition does not confine itself to framing a subject in front of you but also dictate the design element. How you juxtapose elements together on a two dimensional surface can break or make a good painting. To me, this is the most important thing you need to give attention to, when you develop a style of your own. It is how you see your subject matter; in sight or imagination.

It is not enough to paint what is in front of you. Good composition is how you as a "visual editor" arrange all the elements together to communicate your message.

Thankfully, you can easily learn the rules and principles of composition.

Test them and break them if you need to. But having a strong sense of composition will create your style.

Your Own Inspiration

Be clear of your own motive when you create an art work. Who are you after all? Your personality and vision drives the painting to where it ends. So if you are joy, it shows. If you are sadness, it shows. If you are enthusiasm and passion, it shows. Know who you are and bring that to your canvas.

In my opinion, you are likely to strive an authentic painting style if you can recognize yourself. And your painting journey would last long.

Sometimes it is good to change your style completely, just to break away from the creative hiatus. If your heart feels so, do it. Just don't strive to imitate a style because it is trendy or hot; it won't resonate with you. If you can stay true to yourself, the doors will open! So good luck with your search for your style.

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