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An Artist’s Review of Different Mediums: Ranked from Low to Medium to High

  1. Oil Pastels: A glorified version of crayons. These waxy pastels are less powdery than their chalk pastel counterparts, and consequently less messy. However, the waxy layers are difficult to blend together resulting in a less professional and less finished appearance for oil pastel works. On the brighter side, there are a vast array of vibrant color choices, and the sheer convenience of these adult crayons that need not be sharpened or even applied with another tool (eg. a brush) makes them a decent choice of medium.
  2. Colored Pencils: Although they may seem a bit childish or even outmoded, it’s hard to go wrong with using colored pencils. Although quality largely depends on the brand, colored pencils are easy to use, are accommodating of all skill ranges, and have minimal technical difficulties involved (such as needing to know certain techniques similar to the ones later discussed in the painting sections). In fact, you probably still have some of these handy dandy pencils lying around from the elementary school art days – why not use them?
  3. Charcoal: The perfect carry along companion for sketching! The different forms (rectangular sticks, long and thin cylindrical sticks, and of course, encased in a pencil) and neutral colors (black, white, that reddish-brownish burnt-sienna color) allow for anything from a detailed render to a quick sketchy outline. However, be very aware of smudging – one accidental swipe of the hand and your work might be drastically changed (lefties you’ve been warned).
  4. Watercolor Paint: Use it to achieve a very soft feel, especially great for painting nature-y scenes. However, watercolor has absolutely no mercy. Once you make a mistake, there’s no going back, and that’s that. You can’t even cover it up because each layer of watercolor is so thin (this sadly also applies to accidentally painting over the supposed-to-be highlights).
  5. Acrylic Paint: A solid (liquid?) place for beginning painters to start, as acrylic is a lot more forgiving than watercolor. Also, acrylic is relatively cheap (good for poor artists such as yours truly) and dries within minutes, so if you mess up you can cover your mistakes right up. I suppose this is at the same time the downfall of acrylic – once it dries, it dries. If you need to go back in and rework a part, you need to remix the same color and repaint the entire part.
  6. Oil Paint: Finally the big kahuna! Though much pricier than the other mediums, it certainly pays off. Since oil paints don’t dry for weeks, if there are certain details you want to fix in your painting, you can easily go back in and adjust things. The main issue with oils, however, is the nauseating smell that can’t be escaped. A recent modification of oil paints are their water-mixable relatives which are, as the name suggests, soluble in water. These paints are way more convenient in terms of the cleanup as well as holding all the benefits of traditional oil paints, but somehow still have a terrible odor.