Painting vs Drawing

Painting vs. Drawing – Tips for Learning How to Paint vs. Draw

When it comes to painting vs. drawing, you may be wondering which one is easier and whether there are many differences between the two. Both are popular and well-known amongst everyone, and they are both ways in which artists can express themselves. Whether it is creating something new or recreating an image, drawing, and painting have something to offer. So, painting vs. drawing – let us discover the differences.



Is There a Difference Between Drawing and Painting?

Paint vs. draw, is one more outstanding than the other? You cannot say that painting is better or vice versa, as they both have something to give when creating art. It is also a matter of opinion, one person may enjoy painting over a drawing, but that does not mean it is a better choice.

The only major factor that stands out is that there have been many famous painters in history, which simply brings it to the forefront, making it seem the more influential choice.

However, drawing can be something that is done before painting commences, and it can be a final art piece on its own. Today, drawing is associated more with commercial art, but it is gaining popularity as a standalone art medium in general.

Paint vs Draw Ideas

Both painting and drawing are visual arts that can be done on a two-dimensional surface like paper or canvas or even wood or metal panels. Drawing is done using mainly dry media like pencils and charcoal on paper, while painting uses wet media like oil, acrylic, or watercolor paints on a canvas. However, you can also paint on paper and draw on a canvas.

When looking at paintings and drawings, in most cases, paintings will have color, while drawings rarely do. However, today you can get colored pencils and watercolor pencils but much of the pencil art remains without color. The textures of the media are different, paint can be thin or thick, and it can be opaque or transparent. Think of painting techniques like impasto, where you work with thick blobs of paint. 

On the other hand, pencils and pens are quite basic and offer a more consistent and smooth application.

You can also look at the dimensions of the artwork. You often see paintings done on canvas or other surfaces, and they can get quite large. Drawings, on the hand, are mostly done on paper, and maybe only rarely are there larger drawings.

Drawings are often precursors to paintings, and act as guidelines for paintings. So, the art piece is then a painting, which is constructed from a drawing. Some artists also combine the techniques, so you might get an art piece that has both visible drawing and painting aspects, and as such, can be classified as both a drawing and a painting.

Differences in Painting vs Drawing

You also have mediums like soft pastels, which might be considered a drawing material by some, and may be thought of as a painting by others. Liquid ink is another medium that can be considered a drawing medium, but it can also be thought of as an ink painting. So, there is not much difference between some mediums. You can see the difference between drawing and painting in the following table.

Uses mainly wet mediaUses mainly dry media
Can be small or very largeUsually only done on paper sizes
Done with a variety of paint colorsMainly done with no color
Mainly done on canvas, paper, or woodMainly on paper, but also on canvas
Oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintsPencils, charcoal, chalk, ink, pastels
Focuses on shapes and linesFocuses on form as well as color


Value of Paintings and Drawings

Another difference is the value placed on an art piece, as some art is seen as being more valuable than others. When it comes to painting vs. drawing, painting is the medium that is seen as more valuable, especially oil paintings.

Much of the thoughts on this stem from history and the Old Masters.

Drawings were used as preliminary studies that would eventually be turned into oil paintings. Drawings were simply ideas and where the artists worked out problems before starting to paint. This might have created the idea that drawing is simply a part of the process and might be considered less important than the final paintings.

The more influential or elite of society wanted expensive paintings because they were in demand, which always makes the price higher. This perception has remained, where oil paintings are considered of higher value than other paintings or mediums. Oil paintings are seen more as an investment and often become family heirlooms. Although, since Modernism came into being, drawing has come up in status and is standing out as its own form of art.

Difference Between Drawing and Painting

When it comes to the value of a painting, it also has a lot to do with what is involved in the process, meaning the artist’s time and effort, and the materials and tools needed to complete the artwork. The higher the grade of paints, the more expensive they are, not to mention good quality brushes and canvases. This is where drawing comes in less expensive as there are fewer materials needed and the pencils and other tools are also less expensive. However, time and effort, no matter the medium, should also be taken into consideration when deciding on pricing for artwork.


Significance of Painting and Drawing

Why are painting and drawing important? Painting, as well as drawing and all types of art, are ways that people can express themselves. Artists can create art and then share it with everyone else. Some artists can also make a living out of their work.

These days it is easy to take a photo, and while taking photos is an art in itself, it is not in the same category as drawing and painting.

Artists who draw or paint are not limited to what they see, they can take something and make it into something new. A defining characteristic of being human is creativity and drawing and painting play a big role in providing a creative outlet. Paintings and drawings are ideal for gaining another perspective on things.



Types of Drawings

Is it important to learn to draw before you begin painting? Many consider drawing to be a fundamental aspect or solid foundation of art, something to become good at as you progress. Whatever age, drawing is easier to do as you have fewer materials, and it is less expensive to start. It is also easier to remove mistakes when drawing than it is when painting.

However, it is not an arranged process for everyone.

Some painters might not be experts at drawing, while some artists who draw may never go on to painting. Some forms of painting, like abstract art or mixed-media art, do not require expert knowledge of drawing. In no way does this infer that the quality and skill needed to do a painting are any less.

Painting vs Drawing The Battle of Cadore Study (1508) by Peter Paul Rubens; Peter Paul Rubens, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Drawing involves mainly lines and shading, and many drawings can be considered fine art, especially drawings were done by famous artists like Leonardo da Vinci. Michelangelo also created sketches before he moved on to a painting or sculpting his final work. For example, his preliminary sketches for The Sistine Chapel (1508 to 1512), for his Study of Adam. Peter Paul Rubens, a famous Flemish artist also did sketches. For example, a sketch of The Battle of Cadore (1508), was made from a copy of a painting done by Tiziano Vecelli, known as Titian.

However, drawing today is associated a lot with commercial arts, for example, graphic designs, and architecture amongst others.

Drawing can simply be a fun pastime, or it can be used for different purposes. Some other major types of drawing include the following.

  • Architectural drawing: These are technical drawings of buildings and other structures.
  • Diagrammatic drawing: Used mostly in sciences, it uses drawings to explore concepts, and these are then documented on paper. A drawing that helps explain how something works.
  • Digital drawing: Today, there are amazing applications and programs where you can draw and paint digital images. There is everything from pencil drawings to watercolor effects.
  • Illustrations: A visual interpretation or imagery that can be used for advertising, fashion, books, and many more applications.
  • Life drawing: Commonly, these are drawings of the human figure and focus on producing life-like drawings.

Difference in Paint vs Draw Sistine Chapel Study (1510) by Michelangelo; Michelangelo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons  

  • Geometric drawing: Shapes and designs that follow mathematical precision and are often used in the construction industry. It deals with measuring scales and particular dimensions.
  • Analytical drawing: These are drawings that depict precise depictions, for example, anatomical drawings.
  • Perspective drawing: This type of drawing helps to depict the linear perception of depth and focuses on the scale as well as perspective. In other words, trying to visualize three dimensions on paper.
  • Emotive drawing: An artist’s main objective is to portray emotions and involves portrait, figure, and abstract drawing styles.
  • Photorealism: This type of drawing is considered quite difficult as the artists create hyper-real drawings that look almost life-like.


What Drawing Style Is the Easiest or Most Difficult?

What style is the hardest to draw? This depends on an individual, what one finds simple, another might find more difficult. However, you can give a general answer, as some techniques are inherently challenging to master. The most challenging drawings can be the ones with extreme detail or drawing that require absolute precision. When drawing building plans, for example, all the proportions and angles have to be accurate. As mentioned, photorealism is a challenging form of drawing, especially when it comes to facial features. 

We are all different, which can make it even trickier!

When drawing facial features or other images, to help artists, the grid method can be used. The grid simply helps you to space each feature properly. If you are drawing your own grid, make sure to use a ruler and create perfectly spaced lines. Once you have scaled your drawing and placed your grid, you can then compare your drawing and photo to see if they line up. The grid method is a common method to draw portraits accurately. Another difficult drawing medium is ink, as it is something more permanent. Pencils you can erase, but the ink will stay behind.



Types of Paintings

What defines painting is the use of paints, which are all wet mediums, so you could also include ink in this category. Paintings always follow forms, textures, and color, and can be abstract or representative.

Paint vs Draw Examples Sunflowers (1887) by Vincent Van Gogh; Vincent van Gogh, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

When painting, you can use brushes, or you can also dab paint onto a canvas using a sponge. Painters also use palette knives to apply the paint. The paint can be poured, splashed, dripped, or drizzled onto the canvas.

The various types of painting are as follows, and this can include the medium used as well as the technique. Below are a few examples.

  • Oil painting
  • Watercolors
  • Acrylic painting
  • Sand painting
  • Gouache painting
  • Digital painting

Then, you also get the various styles of painting, and there are quite a few, so we will only mention some of the more popular styles. Many of these forms or styles of painting have developed over the years, while others are more modern ideas.

  • Landscape painting: This art form tries to capture the natural elements, for example, mountains, oceans, rivers, or meadows.
  • Portrait painting: A portrait is usually a painting of a person or animal, in many cases, from the shoulders up.
  • Still Life painting: This is usually a popular way beginner artists start, by painting a bowl of fruit or any other inanimate object like a vase of flowers.
  • Impressionism: This form of art uses small and visible brushstrokes that depict an impression of an image or form and focuses on the correct use of lighting. Famous paintings like Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1887) or Impression, Sunrise (1872) by Claude Monet are good examples.

Painting vs Drawing Examples Water Lillies (1906) by Claude Monet; Claude Monet, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

  • Realism: A detailed and accurate representation of the natural environment or a painting of contemporary life.
  • Expressionism: Paintings that can represent a distorted view of reality and allows the artist to freely express their ideas and emotions. For example, The Scream (1893) by Edvard Munch.
  • Abstract: Using lines, shapes, forms, and colors to create a painting that means something to the artists. For example, Pablo Picasso’s artworks.
  • Surrealism: A cultural movement that creates art that has unusual and illogical images, a way to express what comes from the unconscious mind.


What Painting Style Is the Easiest or Most Difficult?

What painting style is the easiest? This is an individual choice as some art techniques and styles are easy for some but more challenging for others. You should follow the painting style that you feel drawn to. However, the more detailed and realistic paintings do hold some of the more challenging aspects of painting.

Some might say that similar to portrait drawings, portrait paintings can be just as challenging. Painting with oil is especially difficult as you need a lot of patience and technical skills to complete a painting.

When working with oil paints, you need patience because the paints take a long time to dry before you can start on another layer, sometimes even weeks. You can wait, or you can paint on the wet layer, this is known as an alla prima painting technique and is applied in a single application. Whatever you do, it is going to take hard work and a lot of time to complete.

Paint vs Draw

Painting portraits also requires you to know how to mix colors and use them to create various shades of color. For example, creating realistic flesh tones. Mistakes are also difficult to cover up when doing a portrait painting, unlike something like a landscape painting, which you can maybe cover up a little so nobody can see the mistake.

However, painting people might come more naturally to some, it all depends on your talents and skill. Again, in general, painting highly detailed images can be difficult as well, maybe even more so than drawing.


Hopefully, you have now gained more insight into painting vs. drawing. Both are amazing art forms and have their own advantages and disadvantages, and each involves a variety of different skills. The only way to truly find out what you enjoy is to go out and try them for yourself. You can draw or paint or create something new with both.



Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Main Difference Between Drawing and Painting?

When it comes to painting vs. drawing, there are some differences. The main ones are that drawing uses pencils and things like charcoal, which are dry mediums, while painting uses oils, watercolors, or acrylics which are wet mediums. Paint employs color, form, and texture while drawing shapes and forms.


Is Painting or Drawing More Expensive?

When looking at the expenses involved with drawing and painting, painting can tend to be a bit more costly. Whereas drawing requires only a few materials and is a cheaper form of art. Painting also tends to be a more popular medium. Paintings are generally also sold for more money due to the expense that goes into making them.


Which Is Better: Painting or Drawing?

The preference is really up to the individual. Painting is more flexible, and you can create texture without much skill involved. Painting lets you fill in large areas and create shades a lot easier. Drawing does require a bit more skill if you want to achieve realistic drawings. Although, painting does involve a lot more like mixing pigment colors and using various techniques while drawing only requires a pencil and paper.


Should You Learn to Draw Before Painting?

This depends on what you want to do. If you are going to paint more abstract work, then drawing beforehand is not necessary. However, if you do something like representation art, you should become skilled at drawing. This can help you to create figures and other forms before you begin painting.


Cite this Article

Isabella, Meyer, “Painting vs. Drawing – Tips for Learning How to Paint vs. Draw.” Art in Context. November 3, 2022. URL:

Meyer, I. (2022, 3 November). Painting vs. Drawing – Tips for Learning How to Paint vs. Draw. Art in Context.

Meyer, Isabella. “Painting vs. Drawing – Tips for Learning How to Paint vs. Draw.” Art in Context, November 3, 2022.

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