10 Great Books for Learning How to Paint

You can never have enough books about painting. Here are some particularly good ones that offer guidance for a range of media and genre. This list is by no means exhaustive, however.  There are many fine books available that will help you improve as an artist. Just as you can always learn something new from a good teacher, even in a subject about which you may already know much, the same is true for a good book. 

What painter wouldn't want to take classes at the famed Art Students League of New York, where so many renowned American artists got their start? This gem of a book gives you a peak into that environment with chapters that echo the titles of courses given there, such as Naomi Campbell's, "Working Large in Watercolor" and James McElhinny's "Journal Painting and Composition." Along with beautiful illustrations, the lessons and musings will inspire you whatever your medium or genre.

This is a landscape painting guide for oil painters that is beautifully illustrated with a variety of landscape paintings by professional artists. The landscape is broken down into component parts - sky, terrain, trees, and water - with each lesson building off the previous one, and additional information about artist supplies and tools. Although geared to the oil painter, the wisdom in the book about how to see and capture the landscape through paint can be applied to all media.

This easy-to-use spiral-bound book is filled with comprehensive color information, including color theory and specific color recipes for oil, acrylic and watercolor, as well as for painting landscapes, portraits, and still lifes. It is an indispensable resource for any painter!

This book is perfect for the beginning painter, and even fun for the more experienced painter. It takes the reader through a progression of step-by-step instructions for fifty small paintings, each 5-inch square. Each painting teaches the reader something different about composition, materials, and painting techniques. The subject matter varies for developing different skills, and in the end you have fifty attractive small paintings that can hang together as an ensemble, hung in separate groupings, or shared with lucky friends and family. 

Learn how to translate what you see into a more expressive painting with the nine step-by-step demonstrations in this gorgeous book. The author shows you how to achieve a painterly effect with oil, acrylic, and pastels and tells you what materials are most useful.   

If you love the watercolor paintings of British artist J.M.W Turner (1775-1851) you will love this book published by the Tate Gallery. Using modern-day equivalents by contemporary artists, the book shows you step-by-step how Turner created many of his landscape masterpieces. 

The author is an excellent teacher and artist who also draws from the work of other well-known landscape painters to illustrate his concepts and lessons in this informative and richly illustrated book. Learn about materials and mediums, about how to paint landscapes in the studio and en plein air, how to choose a site, about simplification and massing, and more. 

The title says it all here. The book is organized in a series of guided lessons covering a progression of topics, helping you to learn to think like an artist and develop your personal style while learning watercolor techniques and skills in an easily understood and straightforward way.

Lori McNee has compiled a beautiful book of 24 contemporary artists who paint still lifes, landscapes, portraits and wildlife art in oil, acrylic and pastel. They share their advice on the painting process and give tips on techniques as well as the business of art.

If you want to loosen up and try some new techniques and abstract painting this is the book for you. The author describes different mediums and how to combine them to create beautiful abstract compositions through step-by-step instruction and exercises. She shows you where to look for inspiration for abstract compositions and what the benefits are of expressing your ideas abstractly.