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5 Types of Art

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Everyone enjoys art. And, I think it could be said that almost everyone has some type of art hanging on their walls. Depending on personal taste, this may include any one - or maybe all - of the following:

  • Oil paintings
  • Prints
  • Lithographs
  • Pastels
  • Watercolors

Whether these pieces of art are antique or modern, it helps to know the differences. This is especially true if you are buying from someone other than an expert or a dealer you trust.

Oil Paintings

This type of art is painted in oil paints that have been mixed with a medium. The paint is then applied to the canvas using either brushes or palette knife. Some artists even use a combination of both. These works of art are usually painted on stretched canvas or board. Once completed - and dry - the painting may be finished with a clear coat of sealer (usually a type of varnish). The sealer not only protects the surface paint but will often give it a more vibrant look.

You may find that older paintings will have fine cracks to the surface. This is due to the drying out of the varnish and/or oil paints. You should never try to repair or clean a painting that has this type or any other type of damage, but rather take it to someone certified to conserve art work.

When shopping for an oil painting, you should be cautious of paintings that are not really paintings but prints (sometimes on stretched canvas) that have had a thick, clear coat of a sealer applied with a brush. Doing this gives the effect of raised brush strokes in an attempt to make the picture appear to be hand painted. If you think this may be the case, check closely and look for each color to have it's own individual brush strokes. If you see wide brush strokes covering multiple colors or large areas - you are looking at a - craft project-


Prints are 'copies' offering people an affordable work of art for their home. A print can be a well known masterpiece or it can be an offering of any other artwork. A print is not a photocopy you might get from a copier, as there is some originality involved in their production since each print is unique to itself - as such they are often referred to as impressions. Multiple impressions printed from the same print-process (matrix) are called editions. In this case, prints may be limited to a certain production number and signed in pencil by the artist making them even more desirable.

You'll find prints are comprised of fine, tiny dots. To determine if a picture is a print, use a magnifying glass to look for these fine dots. You may see them closer together or further apart depending on the density of the object, shading and hue.


Invented circa 1798 this process involves the use of a porous surface onto which the image is drawn. Through further steps in the process, the image to be printed is ultimately left exposed ready to be printed. Once the image is complete, ink is applied with a roller and a press is used to transfer the image to paper. Lithographs are known for showing fine shading and excellent detail.

One primary difference between a print and a lithograph, is that in the case of a lithograph, the art work will have been drawn onto the surface by the artist where as with a print an existing piece of artwork is used as the ‘master’. In lithographing , the process of pressing may leave slight impressions of the press edges, and the lines in the artwork will have a more solid look versus the mechanical dots used to create a print.


These are works of art created by the use of pastels which are comprised of colored pigments with a dry binder. Unlike oil paints, which use the same pigment but in an oil base, pastels are dry and need a ‘rough’ acid-free paper surface to adhere to. To maintain the integrity of the artwork, you’ll find most finished pastels have been framed behind glass. However, the glass should not be touching the surface of the artwork because on completion of a project, most artists apply a fixative to the completed work to set the pastels. Having the glass touch the surface may cause damage.


One of the more difficult mediums, watercolor artists have to be talented in their use of various pigments suspended in water as well as have the talent to know where to leave white space as needed in their final work. Water colors are typically painted on paper, however, you may find some very old watercolors painted on one of the following:

  • Papyrus
  • Bark paper
  • Vellum
  • Leather
  • Fabric
  • Canvas
  • Wood

Like oil paintings, watercolors will have brush strokes – even though they may not be as obvious as with oil – you will be able to see them if you look closely. In some cases, rather than brush strokes you’ll notice that the paint seems to flow. In either case, you’ll not see any dots as in a print.

When shopping for watercolors, clean the glass if it is dirty. Dirty glass can hide a lot of problems like insect damage, water damage, tears, holes, etc. If you have an unframed watercolor, you will need to take care until you get it framed.

  1. Do not place anything on the surface
  2. Avoid touching the surface
  3. Keep it out of direct sunlight (this is true for framed watercolors too)
  4. If you mat or place colored paper behind the watercolor, make sure it is acid-free.
  5. Don’t display watercolors in damp areas of the house like kitchen or bath.
  6. If they must be stored, store in a climate-controlled location.

These aresome basic thoughts to familiarize you with the more common types of art and give you some things to think about when you go shopping. If you looking for more in depth information, try searching for the individual art category on wikipedia.org.



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