understanding the different art mediums

WHAT IS AN ART MEDIUM?

For centuries art has awed, amazed, and continually evolved. It has spoken about social change, told stories of love and war, and captured moments in history that help us preserve the past. A wide variety of art mediums have produced remarkable finished works and continue to drive innovation and creativity to this day. In this guide, we will review popular art looks, techniques, and types of art mediums to help you explore what styling best speaks to you when it comes to selecting artwork for your home or office.

So what exactly is a medium in art? A “medium” can refer to the materials used to make a work of art (such as clay, wood, paint, fabric, charcoal, etc.) and also refer to creation techniques such as sculpture, printmaking, watercolor, or pottery. For the purposes of this guide, however, we will focus purely on different mediums and techniques used to create hanging wall art. We will introduce you to commonly identifiable art mediums like oil painting, fine art photography, graphic art, and watercolor to name a few.

Image source: Minted artist Jess Franks (@jessfranksart)

Image source: Minted artist Jess Franks (@jessfranksart)


Types of Mediums for Wall Art


1

Oil

Durable, Steadfast, Classic

Oil painting is the process of combining colored powders, pigments, or finely ground up materials with an oil mixture to create a solution that can be used as paint. When mixing the pigments with oil, you will get a slightly different visual result depending on the oil you use –for example, how yellow the painting looks or how long it takes to dry. Oil paintings are known to take longer to dry, which gives artists extra time to play with the look and feel. When oil painting, artists typically use paintbrushes and the occasional rag or palette knife. The most popular surface for oil painting is canvas made from either cotton or linen, stretched over a wooden frame.

Vincent Van Gogh’s _Starry Night_ (Image source: Wikipedia)

Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Image source: Wikipedia

From a historical perspective, it is said that the oldest oil paintings were created on walls in Afghanistan in the 7th century. By the 12th century, oil painting was being used in Europe. And by the time the Renaissance exploded, oil painting was the most popular medium. Today, oil painting is still popular for a lot of different subjects and styles due to its malleability and texture. Famous artists include Vincent van Gogh (Starry Night) and Leonardo da Vinci (Mona Lisa).

Minted’s oil and acrylic collection showcases work by independent artists and celebrates this medium in art. The oil painting medium produces a broad array of work, but generally speaking, there are many landscape depictions and abstract arrangements. To give your artwork an authentic hand-made feel, consider printing your selected design on canvas. Through Minted, you can now also order framed canvas for a completed look.

Savannah Lands Art Print
Art Print

byEmily Jeffords

Greenville, SC

Farm House Art Print
Art Print

byLindsay Megahed

Schaumburg, IL

Littlest Muse Art Print
Art Print

byJamie Peterson

Columbia, SC

Night Clouds Art Print
Art Print

byKelly Johnston

Bainbridge Island, WA

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2

Acrylic

Vibrant, Sturdy, Versatile

Say hello to acrylic painting, the medium in art that is most often confused with oil painting. While oil paint is suspended in oil, takes a little more time to clean, and is not compatible with water, acrylic paint uses much newer pigment materials (instead of more traditional oils). Unlike oils, you don’t need any special chemicals to thin acrylics—just water will do. And while oils take a long time to dry, acrylics dry very quickly. Think of acrylic as a scientist’s adaptation and manipulation of oil painting norms.

Synthetic acrylic paint was developed in the 1940s, and by the 1950s it was made commercially available. Artists love acrylic paint because it can create the brilliance of a watercolor and the density of an oil painting. It changed the face of painting, redefining how artists worked and pieces came together. Acrylic paintings are typically completed with a variety of brushes. Famous acrylic artists include Andy Warhol (Shot Marilyns) and David Hockney (A Bigger Splash).

Andy Warhol’s _Shot Marilyns_ (Image source: Pinterest)

Andy Warhol’s Shot Marilyns. Image source: Pinterest

Check out Minted’s full assortment of acrylic art. If you’re fond of this medium, consider which room in your house you’d like to decorate and the colors from your home decor that you’d like to glean inspiration from. Acrylic paintings tend to be more colorful and vibrant. They can add an extra pop of color to your space, whether it’s your living room, bedroom, or a large piece in the hallway.

Light in dark Art Print
Art Print

byJihye Back Kim

Piscataway, NJ

Squiggles Art Print
Art Print

byCamille Pietro

Protea Art Print
Art Print

byRachel Wadlow

Los Gatos, CA

Patches Art Print
Art Print

byBethania Lima

Santiago, CL

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3

Watercolor

Emotional, transparent, whimsical

Watercolor painting is a creative method that uses pigments suspended in a water-based solution. Of all the art mediums, it allows for transparency and luminosity that other mediums don’t. Rather than painting layer over layer for the desired result (like with oil painting), watercolor is semi-transparent and the white of the paper gives a natural luminosity to watered-down paint. As an artist experiments with new colors, they must work quickly because the hues blend together quickly, seeing as how watercolor is a fast-drying medium. Many say that the spontaneity of the medium requires intense focus. The more water, the more the paper will affect the colors.

Joseph Mallord William Turner’s _Great Yarmouth Harbour, Norfolk_ (Image source: Pinterest)

Joseph Mallord William Turner’s Great Yarmouth Harbour, Norfolk.
Image source: Pinterest

Traditionally, the most common support material for this painting technique is watercolor paper, which is made entirely of cotton. Other preferred surfaces include papyrus, bark papers, watercolor canvas, and more. For centuries, brushes of all sizes have been used for watercolor work, depending on the desired outcome of the work. Watercolor was originally an ancient form of painting in East Asia. It was used for scroll painting in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese traditions. In the 19th century, American artists began to use it as a sketching tool and the art medium grew from there.

Famous watercolor artists include Frank Webb (San Miguel Allende) and Vincent van Gogh (Fishing Boats On The Beach).

If you feel inspired by this look, browse our full assortment of limited-edition watercolor paintings. Shop designs capturing mystical nature scenes and beautiful botanical arrangements. Leverage the unusual hues and tints in our artwork to complement your home decor.

Komorebi Grownup Open Edition Non-Custom Art Print
Grownup Open Edition Non-Custom Art Print

byMya Bessette

Bigfork, MT

Pink Tide Art Print
Art Print

byA Real Peach Studio

Austin, TX

Valley Art Print
Art Print

byKelly Ventura

Milford, MI

Melancolia Art Print
Art Print

byLulaloo

Geneva, CH

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4

Mixed Media

Variety, Distinction, Interpretation

Of all the types of art mediums, mixed media can take the most forms. It is defined as artwork where more than one medium or material is used, providing intrigue, amazing interpretation, and serving as the perfect outlet for the curious mind. Some of the techniques used include collages, assemblage, and found objects (also known as trash art or punk art).

One of the most popularly used mixed media techniques is that of collage. The origin of the word “collage” is French, coming from the word “coller” which is “to glue.” This hands-on art form entails artists working with pieces of paper, photographs, and other textured items that are adhered to a supporting surface. By using a variety of forms, the artist creates a new arrangement. Famous artwork in this styling includes Made for a Party by Hannah Höch and Sphinx Month by Dolan Geiman.

Pablo Picasso’s _Nature Morte (Still Life)_ (Image source: Pinterest)

Pablo Picasso’s Nature Morte (Still Life).
Image source: Pinterest

The technique of assemblage takes the concept of layering a step further. Rather than creating a 2-D piece of wall art on a flat surface, a work of assemblage will have three-dimensional elements projecting out from a surface. This art styling dates back to Pablo Picasso (Still Life), who started the movement and remains the most well-known assemblage artist to date.

Lastly, “found art” is another form of mixed media, where a seemingly ordinary object is used for artistic expression because the artist sees an intrinsic interest in it. This includes everything from skulls, shells, butterflies, pieces of wood, fragments of furniture, and more. Examples could include a sculpture made from hard candy or a picture formed by layers of colored tape.

If you are fond of creative expression and unique looks, consider hanging mixed media wall art in your home for an instant conversation starter.

Blaze Art Print
Art Print

bycyrille gulassa

Wien, WI

Interrupted Lake Landscape Art Print
Art Print

byAllison Belolan

Mamaroneck, NY

Emily's Mark Art Print
Art Print

byDworkin Leishman

Claremont,

Yesterday Art Print
Art Print

byLorent and Leif

Holland, MI

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5

Photography

Light, Exploration, Documentation

Photography has been called, in as many words, a universal language. But just how does photography work? Photographs are created by recording light electronically through an image sensor or chemically through something like photographic film. Through an artist’s eye, the most ordinary scene can become an extraordinary visual. In the 1820s, the first photographs were created by a French inventor named Nicéphore Niépce. He died shortly thereafter and other artists across Europe continued to develop the art form.

Today, photography is used in many ways, such as for business, art and film production, recreational purposes, and historical recordings. There are many different styles of fine art photography that span different subject matters like landscapes, wildlife, architecture, and human portraits. Below we have outlined a few popular photography themes when it comes to wall art.

“Stripes Coastal”, designed by JD

Stripes Coastal”, designed by JD.

  • Landscape photography showcases scenes around the world, from vast to small details. Most landscape photography doesn’t show any human activity and is a pure depiction of nature. Occasionally it will include man-made features but is intended to capture the natural beauty of Mother Nature. Think of large images of the Grand Canyon and images of trails through the rainforest. Landscape photography is the perfect medium in art for those who wish to broadcast and reflect on their love of travel and exploration.
  • Wildlife photography also captures the outdoors, but in a different way. By documenting various forms of wildlife in their natural habitat, wildlife photographers have to be extremely skilled at approaching birds and animals to get the angles and behaviors they want to capture. This can include depictions of wild horse stampedes and buffalo grazing in the wild. Hang these natural beauties in the room of an animal-loving child.
  • Portrait photography focuses the camera lens on the human form. The goal is to capture the personality of a person or group using lighting, backdrops, and poses. Photographs can be artistic or straightforward.

In Minted’s photography collection, you’ll find limited edition snapshots capturing countless subject matters and techniques. Artists creatively play with focus, aperture, light, and shadow to create a hypnotizing end result.

Cayucos Soft Waves Art Print
Art Print

byLisa Sundin

Los Angeles, CA

wild wild west I Wall Art Print
Wall Art Print

bySara Hicks Malone

Nashville, TN

wild wild west II Wall Art Print
Wall Art Print

bySara Hicks Malone

Nashville, TN

Tropical Leaves Grownup Open Edition Non-Custom Art Print
Grownup Open Edition Non-Custom Art Print

byAlicia Abla

Overland Park, KS

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6

Charcoal Sketches

Intense, Versatile, Raw

Charcoal is often used by artists to create sketch drawings. When looking at the various types of art mediums, this one tends to be the rawest, as it does not require mixing colored pigments or using multiple tools. Charcoals are often used by artists for their versatile properties, like the rough texture they leave, how it’s easily removable, and vulnerable to leaving stains on the paper. An adaptation of charcoal sketches is pencil drawings or ink drawings.

Charcoal was one of the first tools humans used to make artwork, appearing in caves dating back 28,000 years. During the Renaissance, charcoal was often used to create rough sketches to prepare for a painting. Charcoal’s range of use also made it the perfect medium for works like Da Vinci’s Study of a Woman’s Hands. Other artists who have employed charcoal are Georgia O’Keeffe (Drawing XIII) and Henri Matisse (Music (Sketch)). The simple black and white color tones in sketch art allow you to focus on each line and curve created.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s _Drawing XIII_. Image source: Wikipedia

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Drawing XIII.
Image source: Wikipedia

More Alike than Not Art Print
Art Print

byKaren Kaul

Hanover, MN

Human One: Anton Art Print
Art Print

byColin Stuart

Brooklyn, NY

Drawing 538 - Crouching Figure Art Print
Art Print

byDerek overfield

Fairmont, WV

Read Between the Lines Art Print
Art Print

byCecelia Hospers

San Francisco, CA

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7

Graphic Art

Modern, Intuitive, Interactive

Among the types of mediums, we also have graphic art. Used for a wide variety of expressions, it refers to printmaking styles, typography, pattern arrangements, and computer-manipulated design. Graphic art is created by hand or on a computer and tends to look very two-dimensional yet modern. Some designs will have you second-guessing if a human hand created the work.

As early as 2500 BC, the Egyptians used graphic symbols to communicate through hieroglyphics. During the middle ages, scribes copied pages of manuscripts to maintain sacred teachings. And then in 1450, the first printing press was created and facilitated the mass-production of text and graphic art. Fast forward to the Industrial Revolution and posters became a popular form of graphic art used to communicate news and advertise products. In the modern age, examples of graphic design and art are used on album covers, movie posters, subway maps, and wall art.

Add a flair of modern styling to a downtown loft with a piece of graphic art or two. Shop Minted’s collection and alter the color combinations on some of our designs to perfectly match a pre-existing color theme present in your home decor.

Emilie Art Print
Art Print

byAlex Roda

Madrid, MD

Running in Circles Art Print
Art Print

byPati Cascino

Houston, TX

Indeed, They Are Art Print
Art Print

byAllison Filice

San Francisco, CA

Thumbprint Grownup Open Edition Non-Custom Art Print
Grownup Open Edition Non-Custom Art Print

byHeather Francisco

Seattle, WA

Shop Graphic Art


WHICH MEDIUM IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

If you’re asking yourself what types of art mediums are best for your home or office, the answer lies in your personal styling tastes. Just like we all prefer different movie genres, like action, drama, sci-fi, comedy, or documentary, there are different art forms that appeal to everyone. For those that find beauty in precise representations, decorating your walls with photography or sketch art depicting real-world scenes makes the most sense. For those who love a more whimsical representation of things, consider watercolor or mixed media that blends numerous techniques. If you appreciate a simple/minimalist style, consider a pencil drawing not overly complex with color and distracting detail. With all of this information in hand, think about what you enjoy most about each medium and what really speaks to you as you decorate your home!

Landscape Painting on Living Room Wall (source: Instagram)

Image source: Instagram