The Different Types Of Mediums Art: A Comprehensive Guide

An artist sitting on the floor while painting on canvas

Mediums art is a broad and diverse category that encompasses many different styles and techniques. Artists have used a variety of mediums throughout history, from oil paint and charcoal to more modern materials like digital art and photography.

This comprehensive guide will explore the history of mediums art, the different types of mediums artists use, and some famous artists who work in this medium. We will also discuss the benefits of learning mediums art and how you can get started!

The History of Art Mediums

An Egyptian artwork on stone

Art mediums have a long and fascinating history that dates back thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians were some of the earliest pioneers of mediums art, producing stunning pieces in various mediums such as stone, wood, and metal.

The Renaissance period saw an explosion of mediums art with the introduction of oil paints and other new materials. During this time, art mediums became increasingly popular and were used to create some of the world’s most famous works.

Painting and Drawing Mediums Art

Common art mediums include oil paints, watercolor, pastels, acrylic paint, pencils, and charcoal. Artists often combine different mediums to create unique works of art. For example, an oil painting may be augmented with watercolor washes, or a charcoal drawing may have pastel highlights.

Oil Paints

a painting of nature

Characteristics: Durable, Steadfast, Classic

Oil paints have been around for centuries and are one of the most popular mediums due to their versatility and rich color.

It was the preferred medium in the “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo Da Vinci, the most expensive painting in the world. Oil paint was also used to create Da Vinci’s masterpiece “The Last Supper” and Pablo Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” adding popularity to this art medium as a whole.

It combines a pigmented color with a drying oil, such as linseed oil. This type of paint is great for creating smooth, even brushstrokes, and it dries slowly, giving the artist time to work.

Oil paints can be used on various surfaces, including canvas, wood, and metal. They are also well-suited for painting outdoors, as they do not require water for cleanup.

Related: The Best Paper for Oil Pastels


a flower painting

Characteristics: Emotional, Transparent, Whimsical

Watercolor is a type of mediums art that uses water-soluble paints to produce stunning pieces of ethereal quality. The paint is typically applied in thin layers, allowing the colors to blend and create unique effects.

It has been around for centuries and is popular with artists of all skill levels. They are relatively easy to use and forgive mistakes, which is ideal for beginners.

Famous painters like Vincent Van Gogh, John Constable, and J.M.W. Turner are renowned for their stunning watercolor artworks.

Because watercolor is a fast-drying medium, many artists claim its spontaneity necessitates quick, confident brush strokes. The more water added to the pigment, the lighter the shade.

Related: The Best Watercolor Palettes


a portrait of a woman

Characteristics: Vibrant, Intense colors

Tempera uses pigments mixed with egg yolk or some other binding agent. It was the preferred medium of many famous Renaissance painters, including Michelangelo and Botticelli.

Tempera has a thick, glossy finish that produces vibrant colors and unique textures. It is often used for detailed painting or on porous surfaces like wood or plaster. This paint dries relatively quickly, making it a popular choice for artists who want to work fast.

However, it is relatively delicate and can crack or flake off surfaces over time. Despite its drawbacks, tempera remains a popular medium for those who appreciate its unique properties.

Acrylic Paints

a painting of sun and flowers

Characteristics: Vibrant, Sturdy, Versatile

Acrylic paint was first developed in the 1940s and quickly became a favorite medium among artists. British artist David Hockney is renowned for his colorful abstract works made using acrylic paints.

This art medium is water-based, so it dries quickly compared to oil paints. It is versatile and can be used for thick and thin brush strokes and to create various effects.

Acrylic paint is also very durable, making it a good choice for paintings that will be hung in high-traffic areas or exposed to sunlight.

It is less messy than oil paint and can be easily scraped off the floor if you spill it. And if you accidentally get acrylic paint on your clothes, you can peel it off by hand.

Related: How to Paint Bottles with Acrylics


a painting of a man

Characteristics:  Dries quickly, Versatile

Ink is a popular art medium for sketching, hand lettering, calligraphy, and even painting. It is a powerful medium that can be unforgiving if you don't have the skills to control it.

Many of the world’s most famous mediums artists used pen and ink to create detailed and dynamic works of art. Some notable examples include Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Albrecht Durer.

One thing that makes pen and ink artworks so expressive is the ratio of blank space to ink-filled space on paper. This contrast creates a sense of depth and movement in your artwork.

Graphite Pencils

a painting of a woman

Characteristics: Smooth, Forgivable, Versatile

If you've watched "Titanic" and seen Jack draw a portrait of Rose, then you've seen graphite pencils in action. Graphite pencils, also known as lead pencils, are made of fine graphite powder and clay.

Graphite is one of the oldest and most popular art mediums because it’s affordable and easy to use. It is perfect for drawing compositions, sketches, and shading.

It is also one of the most forgiving art media available because you can erase your mistakes and try again until you get the desired effect.

Colored Pencils

a painting of a one eye

Characteristics: Versatile, Portable

Colored pencils are a type of mediums art that uses wax or oil-based pigments held in wooden, metal, or plastic barrels. This art form has been popular for centuries and offers artists an incredibly versatile medium.

Colored pencils come in many colors, from 24 to 72 sets. They can be used to produce intricate details, blend colors seamlessly, create a unique texture, and layer colors to create depth and dimension.

Related: The Best Pastel Pencils


a painting of a black dog

Characteristics: Rich, Vivid colors, Blends easily

Another great example of a dry medium, pastels are made of pigment held together with a binder. They come in both stick and pencil forms and can be used to create soft and bold strokes.

Claude Monet primarily used oil paint in his artwork, but he also used pastels to create stunning landscapes that still inspire many mediums art lovers today.

Pastels are available in various colors, perfect for mixing and matching to create your desired effect. However, pastels are more delicate and easily damaged because they don't have a protective layer like paint or varnish.

Related: The Best Oil Pastels for Beginners and Art Students


a painting of a dog

Characteristics: Intense, Versatile, Raw

Charcoal is one of the oldest and most commonly used mediums of art materials. It’s a soft, black form of carbon produced by burning wood in an oxygen-free environment.

Charcoal has been used for centuries to create works of art due to its ability to produce bold shades and dramatic tones. It’s also easy to work with and can be used to create both light and dark images. You can use it on various surfaces, such as paper, fabric, and even skin.

Popular charcoal artists include Rembrandt, who created the famous painting “The Night Watch” using charcoal on paper.

One of the most striking things about charcoal is its raw quality. When you draw with charcoal, you can see and feel the texture of the medium, which adds a lot of character to your drawings.

Related: The Best Charcoal Pencils for Drawing


a painting of a rooster

Characteristics: Soft, Crumbly

Chalk is a soft, crumbly art medium used for centuries. It's made from natural materials like limestone and can be used to create stunning art in various media.

Chalk's bright colors and versatility make it an ideal choice for artists looking to create vivid works of art. Additionally, it is easy to use and requires minimal supplies, making it a great medium for beginners.

Three-Dimensional Mediums Art

3D is a relatively recent trend in mediums art. It involves using clay, silicone, and plaster to create three-dimensional forms, such as incredibly detailed sculptures and objects that can be used for decorative and practical purposes.


Various sculptures using clay

Characteristics: Pliable, Soft when wet

Clay is one of the oldest and most popular mediums in art, and many artists use it to create a variety of objects. From vases and sculptures to pots and dishes, clay can be molded into almost any shape imaginable.

Clay also allows artists to express their emotions and ideas in a unique way. It is easy to work with and provides endless possibilities for creativity.


a man creating a miniature house
Architecture - Image by: MonsterKook

Characteristics: Malleable, Durable, Inexpensive

Plaster is a cement-like material used to create unique shapes and objects. Artists often use molds or specially crafted tools to shape plaster into desired forms.

This versatile art medium can be used to create both two-dimensional and three-dimensional artworks. It’s a popular choice for sculptures, murals, and reliefs because it’s durable, malleable, and relatively inexpensive.


Crane Origami

Characteristics: Flexible, Thin, Lightweight

Paper as an art medium can include anything from drawing to creating intricate cutouts or collages from colorful papers.

Mediums artists often use paper to create unique and eye-catching works of art, such as origami, paper sculptures, and paper mache. Mediums art on paper also makes great gifts as it can be easily framed or hung on the wall.


Fabric art

Characteristics: Soft, Pliable

Fabric is a popular art medium, especially for those who want to create soft sculpture pieces or quilt designs. It is often used in interior design, fashion, scrapbooking, and home décor.

It is a versatile medium that can be manipulated in many ways, allowing for a wide range of creative possibilities. It is characterized by its soft, pliable nature.

Additionally, fabric has a unique texture that adds depth and dimension to the piece. The colors used can also affect an art piece's overall look and feel.


a miniature wooden car

Sculpture Art - Image by: Woodworking Art

Characteristics: Enduring, Durable, Versatile

Wood is another popular art medium that has been used for centuries. Whether carved or engraved, wood can be transformed into beautiful art pieces and sculptures.

This material is very durable, making it ideal for outdoor installations. Wood is also very versatile and can be used to create furniture, carvings, musical instruments, and more.


Jewelry made of metal

Characteristics: Strong, Durable, Flexible

Metal is a durable medium used to create sculptures, jewelry, and other decorative objects. It can also be shaped into intricate forms using techniques such as hammering, filing, welding, or soldering.

One of the most famous metal art pieces is “The Gates of Paradise,” a pair of gilded bronze doors created by renowned Italian artist Lorenzo Ghiberti for the Florence Baptistery in 1452. 

This masterpiece features intricate scenes from the Old Testament and remains one of the most impressive examples of mediums art to date.


An ethnic statue made of stone

Characteristics: Hard, Durable

Stone art involves cutting or carving into hard materials such as marble or granite. This type of mediums art is often used to create statues and other sculptures, as it can hold its shape better than other mediums.

Stone is characterized by its durability, strength, and ability to take detailed and intricate designs. Additionally, the stone's color can range from white to black, depending on the type used.

One of the most famous stone artworks is the "David" sculpture by Michelangelo. This iconic sculpture, carved from a single piece of marble, has captivated art lovers worldwide for centuries.

Types of Mixed Media Art

Mixed media art describes artwork created using a combination of two or more mediums. This style has become more popular in recent years, and many artists are using it to create unique and interesting pieces. Examples of art using mixed media include collages and assemblages.


Merz Building - Image by

Merz Building - Image by

This technique involves putting together different objects to create a new piece of art. The concept of this art form is layering, which can create a sense of depth and intrigue.

Instead of creating a 2-D piece, the assemblage will have three-dimensional elements projecting from a surface.

One of the famous artworks created using the assemblage technique is the “Merzbau” (Merz Building) by Kurt Schwitters.


A trendy collage artwork

A collage is an art form created by gluing different materials onto a surface. This could be anything from fabric, paper, photographs, or even leaves to create a new image.

Artists use textured materials such as paper, photographs, and other diverse objects to construct three-dimensional works of art on a supporting surface. 

Types of Digital Mediums Art

Digital mediums art uses digital technology to create art. This could include digital painting, 3D modeling, and other forms. It is becoming increasingly popular as it allows for more flexibility in creating artwork and producing intricate details that would not be possible with traditional art mediums.

Digital Photography

A man taking photographs of the sunset using a digital camera

Thanks to digital technology, photographers can now create, edit, and retouch their work with the help of advanced programs and apps (i.e., Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, etc.), giving unprecedented control over the final product.

Digital photography has opened up new possibilities for creating unique and captivating images. Whether it's manipulated photography or a novel take on traditional photography, the sky's the limit for this art form.

Digital Painting

An artist using a tablet and stylus to draw

With digital painting, artists can easily add color, texture, and shading to their work while being able to preview their results before committing them.

Digital artists use tablets, styluses, and other tools to create art directly on their computer screens. This new style of art offers a variety of advantages over traditional methods, including unlimited creative possibilities and instant access to software for editing and manipulation.

Digital Installation Art 

This is a modern form of art that uses digital technology to create interactive artworks.

One of the most popular examples of digital installation art is teamLab Borderless in Japan. It is an interactive digital art museum where visitors can explore and interact with various digital artworks created by innovative artists worldwide.

Using digital equipment such as computers, projectors, and sensors, digital installation artists create immersive environments that combine sound, visuals, and physical objects.

Art Mediums FAQ

fine art painting

What are the most popular mediums for artists?

Today, there are many mediums available for artists to choose from. Some of the most popular include oil paints, acrylics, watercolor, pastels, charcoal, and graphite. Each of these materials has unique properties and characteristics that make it ideal for certain types of artwork.

Why is it important to understand the different types of mediums?

Understanding the different types of mediums allows artists to create unique, expressive works of art that can capture feelings and emotions.

Different mediums provide the artist with a range of effects and techniques that can be used to create evocative pieces. For example, oil paints allow artists to blend colors and create subtle layers of texture on their canvases. Watercolors create an ethereal, dream-like effect, while pastels give the artist a bright and vibrant palette.

How do you pick the right medium for your project?

Choosing the right medium for your project can be a daunting task. It's important to consider what you want to achieve with your art and the materials you need to make it happen.

For example, watercolor paints are great for creating detailed images, but they may not be suitable for a large mural or sculpture. Additionally, some mediums may require specific techniques or tools that you need to master. 

Can you use more than one medium in a project?

In art, there are no rules. You can utilize any medium or combine multiple materials in a single project, which is a great way to add visual interest and texture to your work.

Consider how each medium will contribute to the art piece's overall effect. Using too many art materials can result in a busy and cluttered look, so it's important to use them sparingly and intentionally.

When done properly, incorporating multiple mediums into a project can create a truly unique and eye-catching masterpiece.


Mediums art is a powerful way to communicate your thoughts, feelings, and ideas. It is a beautiful and versatile form of expression, and we hope you enjoyed learning about it!

When creating art, there are many different types of mediums that you can explore – each with its own unique set of techniques and possibilities. Have you tried creating art using various mediums? What was your experience like?

Read Next: The Best Gifts for Aspiring Artists

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