To create great gifts for your loved ones or you’re interested in starting a nice painting business to supplement your current income, you’ll want to have subjects for your paintings that are engaging and different enough that your work will stand out from others. For those who want to sell their paintings, it’s especially a good idea to have subject matter that appeals to your audience. If your audience loves pets, for example, you wouldn’t want to paint industrial landscapes. This would deviate from what they’d want and expect from you.
If you change your subjects too wildly, you might find that you lose business and interest from your current customers. At the same time, customers may get bored if you’re always painting the same subjects. As an artist, it’s your job to balance variety with maintaining your values and style as a creator.
What Are the Most Versatile Types of Paints?
When you’re new to painting, you’ll probably want to get the most bang for your buck out of a set of paints. While some types of paints can be hard to use in a variety of contexts, others might be able to produce a range of effects that makes them ideal for use in almost any painting situation. As a new painter or a seasoned painter, you may have a specific type of paint or brand that appeals more to you. Over time, this can change as you gain insight into what painting materials make the most sense for your artistic style.
If you want to use paints that can be applied to almost any surface, acrylics might be your best friend as an artist. Since acrylic paints dry quickly, they’re also great for producing work quickly that you can sell to your customers online or at an art fair. If you love the look of watercolors but you don’t enjoy how transparent they can be, you can add some water to acrylic paints to make them flow like watercolors. You can also add different mediums to acrylic paints like thickening mediums so that you can use a palette knife and other tools that are traditionally used in impasto techniques with oil paints.
Of course, if you like to use a lot of different types of paints, your best choice for versatility may be owning tubes of a range of paints. You could have a set of oil paints for when you want to follow the footsteps of traditional painters and a set of watercolors for going with the flow in plein-air paintings. You could also have some tempera paints if you want to enjoy the nostalgic feeling of being back in elementary school art class. While some artists may have favorite paints, you can use any type of paint from house paints to craft paints to gouache to produce your painted masterpieces.
1. Welding Shop
For those who love to paint metal, painting a welding shop can make for a nice painting subject. If you don’t have any welding shops near you that would be willing to let you use their facilities as a subject for a nice painting, you may have better results trying to get a welding school to agree to act as a subject for your paintings. To sweeten the deal, you can offer to sell the finished paintings to them on a commission basis for a fundraiser or let them use the paintings as marketing materials to attract new students.
One of the best ways to bring your welding shop painting to life is by bringing out the metallic paints. While this could look tacky to some painters, it can be a fun way to add some brightness to your welding painting. You can also use materials like gold leaf or aluminum foil to make certain areas in the painting pop. If you want your painting to sparkle with the best of them, you can incorporate glitter into your painting.
2. Salvage Yard
If you’re interested in painting still lifes, you can switch up your typical routine of placing a fruit bowl on a table by finding somewhere that has repairable cars for sale. Although you might not think of a salvage yard when you want to make a nice painting, you won’t want to miss out on all of the opportunities for an interesting painting here. If you can’t haul all of your paints and supplies to the salvage area, you can bring the junkyard to your home by either taking some items home to arrange them or snapping a shot of interesting arrangements of items that naturally occur there.
3. Golf Course
If you’re interested in painting custom golf carts, you could head to the golfing range for inspiration. When you’re making a nice painting as a gift for a golf lover, they’ll appreciate that you chose their favorite driving range for your subject. To add texture to a painting with golf, you can put a light layer of paint on a golf ball and see what happens when you roll it across the canvas or other surface that you’re painting. Whether you choose to make your painting an abstract piece based on the sport of golf or you want to paint a realistic scene straight out of a golf tournament, you can’t go wrong with this subject for a pleasant painting.
4. Construction Workers
When you want to make a great gift for a loved one or friend who works in the construction industry, you should try painting a crane or another aspect of a construction site. You can also go to a construction site and offer to do portraits of the construction laborers if they’re interested. Since those who work in construction have to put in hard hours on a difficult job, they’ll probably appreciate the opportunity for someone to truly see them and the work that they do. You can give the construction professionals the portraits as gifts or offer to display them in an exhibit if you’ve secured the venue and funding for that beforehand. Either way, it’ll make the subjects of your nice painting feel extra special and valued as community members if you display their paintings in some way.
5. Local Landscapes
From the rolling hills of the northeast to the desert, the nature around you can be a great option for a subject for a nice painting. What’s more, it’s free to go out into the great outdoors in most places and paint what you see. When you paint what you know, it can give you practice in painting what you see. You’ll also be able to get a feel for how to paint perspective, shading, and lighting. When you go outside at different times to paint the same area, you may notice that the colors change along with the shading depending on the weather and the placement of the sun in the sky. This can teach you valuable skills as a painter without ever having to take a class in painting.
When you’re trying to sell your work to a local art gallery, it can help to have paintings in your collection that have ties to the local scenery. These will make it easier for gallery owners to sell their work to people who are visiting the area as tourists. If they want a painting to commemorate their trip or remember what it looked like in your region when they visited, your landscape paintings can be the ideal choice.
6. City Skyline
When you live in a major city where the skyline is lined with tall buildings of luxury apartments and skyscrapers, you’ll want to capture that breathtaking view with a beautiful painting. Painting your city can be a great way to commemorate beautiful architecture or show people what your area looked like when you lived there. If you have friends who are relocating to your area, it can also make for a nice painting and present if you paint your city and then give that to them as a housewarming gift.
When you visit another city, it can be fun to try to paint all of the sights you see. From the cute little hole-in-the-wall restaurants to funky local fashion, there are plenty of places to look for inspiration when you paint a city. For something that’s easily recognizable to locals and those who have traveled to the city, the skyline is probably the best bet. If you want to see paintings by locals at an art fair or marketplace, this can also be a nice way to show that you support their city as an artist.
7. Thrift Shop
For unusual pieces to paint for a nice painting, you can go to thrift stores. Whether you’re searching for new pieces to put together in a still-life painting or you want to find interesting props for your portrait work, you can go to a consignment shop and get those items without breaking the bank. Sometimes, folks have some resistance to shopping at a thrift store because they may think it’s dirty or the merchandise there isn’t as good as the pieces you’d buy in a mall or other new retailer. Still, as long as you can overcome that bias, it’s worth wading through everything the charity shop has to offer for weird, wacky, and sometimes beautiful finds.
While you’re looking for the next subject of your painting, you can take the opportunity to buy used clothes if you need a new wardrobe. When you’re trying to save money so you can buy more art supplies, buying used items instead of new ones can be a smart choice. As long as you stick to your budget, this will be better for your wallet than splurging on new clothes at a high-end retailer.
8. Traffic Accident
While you should respect those who have just gone through a tragedy, there’s no denying that a car accident can be fodder for a subject for a nice painting. Whether you paint what you think a car crash would look like based on your imagination or you look for pictures of a car crash, it’ll be an evocative subject that will get those who view your work talking. If you’ve been through an automobile accident or similar tragedy, you might find it cathartic to paint it.
Even if you’re painting from imagination, it can be helpful to find reference photos. For example, you may want to look up images of a tow truck or other vehicle to paint it properly. Of course, if you use references heavily, you may need to credit the image owners to avoid plagiarism.
9. Flower Vase
As a way to preserve your wedding flowers, you can immortalize them in a painting. Once the flowers are dried, you can attach them to the painting or use them in a collage. You can also snap a picture of them and save them as inspiration for a painting later. For a great wedding present for a friend, you can also offer to paint the flowers from their wedding.
10. Poker Players
If you’ve ever seen those famous paintings with puppies gathered around a poker game, you’ll know that this is an excellent choice to make a painting that appeals to all kinds of people. Even if you resist the puppy poker painting trope and paint other aspects of poker, this game can have a range of characters that make for intriguing painting subjects. When one of your friends loves to play poker, you could paint them while they’re playing the game and then give it to them as a holiday present or birthday present later.
You don’t need to select a complicated or fancy subject to produce a nice painting as a result. Sometimes, painting something that feels true to life can be all you need to impress those who are looking at a piece. If you’re having a hard time coming up with ideas for what to paint, you can use our list of subjects for paintings below as a starting point.
From new painters to seasoned painting professionals, it can be hard for us to think about subjects to paint. That’s where referring to this list can help. No matter what you paint, have fun with it.