Drawing vs Painting: Which One is Best For You?

drawing vs painting

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Sometimes it’s hard to start a new piece when you’re stuck on drawing vs painting. Drawing uses dry mediums for precise results, while painting uses wet mediums for bold colors and textures.

I’ve used drawing and painting in my career to get the best of both worlds. Creating detailed sketches, then painting over them is like watching magic unfold.

Below you’ll learn the benefits of drawing vs painting, such as different techniques, accessibility levels, and budget-friendliness. Once you reach the end, you’ll have a firm handle on which medium will suit your artistic needs.

What’s the Difference Between Drawing vs Painting?

The main difference between drawing vs painting is in their texture. Drawing uses dry mediums, such as pencils or pastels, while paint uses wet mediums. Drawing also focuses on crisp linework, while painting uses blocks of color.

what's the difference between drawing vs painting?
Drawing and Painting of Stan from Proko

The line between dry and wet mediums can still be a little blurry – just look at ink washes. You can start with a pen, then use a brush to create washes of gray.

Drawing and painting may be separate art forms, but they work very well together. Many artists will start off with dry mediums, such as a pencil sketch, then layer a painting over it.

Common Drawing Mediums

Common Painting Mediums

Pencil/Colored Pencils/Graphite







Acrylic Gouache




Spray Paint

Which is Easier: Drawing or Painting?

Drawing is more beginner-friendly due to requiring less set-up – just grab a piece of paper, a pencil, and you’re ready to go. Unsurprisingly, this means drawing also tends to be more budget-friendly.

Does that mean painting can’t be flexible and cheap? Far from it. There are still affordable and simple painting mediums you can jump into, such as watercolor.

Can I Learn to Draw Without Talent?

Talent is just 5% of the equation. Most artistic development is through study, consistent practice, and critical thinking skills.

can i learn to draw without talent?

Quitting art because you don’t have perceived talent is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thanks to accessible beginner-friendly drawing classes and art communities, anyone can grow their creative skill.

The Benefits of Drawing

One of the main benefits of drawing is getting started as simple as grabbing a sketchbook and a pencil to create art. But there are many more benefits to drawing. Let’s look at what these are…

Dry Mediums Have Simple Set-Up to Reduce Fuss

The simple set-up means you don’t have to fuss with oil paints, palettes, or painting knives. Since drawing mediums are dry, they’re also easy to carry around with you – even crumbly and soft pastels are easy to bundle up in a plastic bag.

Since set-up is so fast, you can develop your drawing style more quickly. You could say drawing focuses on a ‘less is more’ approach.

Drawing Materials are Easier to Take On-The-Go in the Art World

drawing materials

Following the first point, less set-up means less to carry around. Visual art is lovely for how you can take it out anywhere you are, whether in class or on the bus.

Even simple painting supplies will still need water, oil, brushes, a palette, and paint. To compare, drawing materials can easily be a sketchbook and a bag of pencils.

They Have a Fine Level of Detail for Realistic Drawings

Drawing also allows for a very fine level of detail that can be more challenging with painting. Whether you’re using a pencil or a ballpoint pen, you can lose yourself in the little details of hair, feathers, or blades of grass.

Drawing Provides More Wiggle Room for Mistakes

A common hurdle faced by beginning artists is becoming comfortable with making mistakes. Drawing mediums make it easy to erase markings and try again.

Pencils are the most common choice for their affordability and ease of erasing. You can erase some colored pencils, though not to the same effect as pencils. Ink also has a reputation as a permanent medium, though white-out pens can fix small areas.

Drawing is Generally Affordable for Beginner Artists to Create Art

art of drawing and painting
(Image Source)

Drawing mediums are much more affordable and easy to find. You don’t have to go out of your way to find a dedicated art store, as many grocery stores have pencils, pens, and paper.

That’s not to say you can’t experiment with drawing mediums. There are high-quality pastels and fine ink nibs that can transform how you look at your craft.

These premier online art programs will teach you the benefits of changing between different drawing mediums.

The Benefits of Painting

While drawing is affordable and easy to set up, painting has several benefits. Painting mediums provide a rich color and beautiful textures that are more tedious to achieve with dry mediums.

Painting Offers Easy Access to Vibrant, Subtle Colors

While dry mediums like colored pencils and oil pastels can be vibrant, they take more time to create. Painting mediums of all shapes and sizes provide brilliant color with less effort.

painting offers easy access to vibrant subtle colors

Instead of meticulously layering color after color with a dry medium, you can just mix up your paint and start working. Painting vs drawing can also cross over when you learn how to ‘sketch’ with your paintbrush.

Oil paint is legendary for its buttery and subtle colors. If you prefer softer and lighter results, watercolor is another fantastic choice. Acrylic paint exists in the middle ground between oil and watercolor paints, able to achieve similar results depending on how you use it.

More Freeform For Covering Large Areas Quickly

If you prefer to loosen up when you create art, painting makes it easy to cover large areas quickly. Just a few swipes with your brush can cover a large canvas or illustration board.

painting illustration

This casual and freeform approach can be very appealing to beginner artists. Alongside filling large areas, you can splatter, drip, or fingerpaint onto the canvas.

Painting is Generally a More Dynamic Medium

While the dynamic and shifting nature of paints can be intimidating at first, it’s also a great source of joy. Blending colors together and adapting to slowly drying paint is an invigorating experience.

Laying down a few ink or pencil lines is a straightforward process – what you see is what you get. Painting can be a little unpredictable, such as the slow bloom of color when you drip watercolor onto a wet canvas. When you overcome your initial hesitation, this dynamic medium can yield surprising results.

Painting Provides Satisfying Textures Difficult for Drawing to Capture

Painting isn’t just blending and smoothing colors together. Switching up your painting tools makes it easy to create various textures that can be hard for dry mediums to capture.

drawing with paint

For example, scumbling refers to quick, splotchy textures made with a sponge or wadded towel. This technique is valuable for recreating the roughness of stone or the surface of wood. While you can create this with a dry medium, it’ll take longer since you’ll have to do every detail individually.

You can start your painting journey and explore oil painting tutorials online.

Stand-Out Features of Drawing and Painting

Drawing and painting are both fantastic ways of expressing one’s imagination. Despite a few differences, both offer enough texture, color, and variety to get across all kinds of ideas

Drawing provides a high level of detail and is popular for creating fine lines. It’s beginner-friendly due to requiring a more straightforward set-up and is more affordable than painting mediums.

Painting tends to offer more vivid and more subtle colors than drawing. It’s also easier to be quick and freeform thanks to how brushes can cover large areas quickly.

stand-out features of drawing and painting

What are Different Types of Drawing?

Before we dive into different drawing styles, it’s essential to know the differences between style, study, and technique. A style is a collection of details that create a visual signature for an artist’s work, while a technique is a specific way of using an art medium, such as scumbling for oil painting.

Last but not least, a study is choosing a specific subject to learn more about. These studies can be a still life, a forest, or the human figure. Speaking of which…

Figure Drawing

Easily one of the most famous forms of drawing is recreating the human form. Figure drawing is an important drawing style to help artists understand details like anatomy, gesture or shadow.

Some figure drawings, also known as gestural drawing, can be quick and loose. Instead of focusing on every little detail, you’ll create a dynamic and natural pose to capture the “energy” of the pose. You can then use this knowledge for more time-consuming pieces in acrylic paint or any other medium of choice.

figure drawing
The Vetruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci

The Vetruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci is among the most famous drawings showcasing figure drawing. Not only is the human form captured with remarkable detail, but the man’s expression is also incredibly intense.

Line Drawing

A line drawing hovers between a style and a technique. It’s a distinctive style for focusing on the appeal of thick and thin lines, easy to recognize at a glance.

It’s also a technique because line drawings are just one way of using a dry medium. Some artists fill their line drawings with color, while others prefer to leave them as is. Some artists supplement lineart with techniques like stippling, where artists generate depth by using several tiny dots.

line drawing
Pillow Studies by Albrecht Dürer

Albrecht Dürer’s Pillow Studies show how line art can still capture a subject’s silky, soft texture. Subtle hatching effects provide a little shading while maintaining distinctive patterns. If you feel so inclined, you can turn your ink drawings into a painting or leave them as they are.

Cartoon Drawing

A cartoon is a recognizable style for how it takes life and exaggerates it. Stylized drawings often have rounder shapes and simpler details than realistic drawings.

While cartoons frequently boast pencil or ink mediums, you can create cartoons with anything. If you wanted, you could be painting portraits in oil paint with cartoonish features. As long as the drawing focuses on exaggerating reality, it’s in the realm of cartoons and caricatures.

cartoon drawing
Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes is an excellent example of the charm from stylized drawings. Since cartoon drawings have less detail, extra care goes into enhancing facial expressions or creating dynamic poses. Each character is composed of only a handful of lines, yet overflows with personality.

What are Different Types of Painting?

Like drawing, painting has different styles, techniques, and popular subjects to study. It’s important to note that you can achieve different painting styles across mediums.

For example, you can do an impressionistic painting with gouache or acrylic. You can achieve this with watercolor or oil if you prefer a more realistic style. Each medium has its strengths but quite a few similarities, too.


Impressionism emerged in the late 18th century, instantly recognizable for its visible brushstrokes and loosely defined subjects. Many artists consider it the hardest painting style because of its ‘less is more’ approach.

The Starry Night by Van Gogh

Indeed, this approach emerged out of sheer necessity. One of the most distinctive aspects of impressionism is how it handles light. Since light is incredibly dynamic and prone to shifting suddenly, artists adapted their technique to match.

One of the most famous paintings in impressionism is The Starry Night by Van Gogh. This beautiful work of art has captured imaginations for many reasons, such as its swirling brushstrokes and lovely color scheme.


Emerging not long after impressionism, expressionism offers a more dramatic and emotional approach to life. This painting style is similar to Impressionism with its loose painting technique.

Where this art form differs is how it approaches its subjects. Expressionist paintings are theatrical, exaggerating emotional responses to get a strong reaction from the viewer.

The Scream by Edvard Munch

The Scream by Edvard Munch is a well-known example, thanks to its iconic subject matter. Many viewers have added their interpretation of the painting’s meaning over the years. The Scream’s original meaning came from Edvard’s mental state, a period of anxiety and horror during a mundane meeting with friends.

Painterly Realism

This painting style leans toward realistic detail but still has a slight stylization with heavy brushstrokes or exaggerated colors. This art form appears throughout history in many movements, such as the Renaissance and Art Deco.

paintly realism
Vineyard Workers Resting by Frank Brangwyn

Vineyard Workers Resting by Frank Brangwyn is a prime example of painterly realism. Each human subject comes with a high level of detail, yet the pastel colors and buttery technique add a new sense of style. It appears like a scene you can come across in everyday life, yet still just beyond your reach.

It’s also worth noting that this painting still utilizes linework. Frank Brangwyn’s strong sketching skills carry through the heavy paint to lend a little extra detail. As you’ll continue to see below, painting vs drawing crosses over more often than not.


An abstract painting is easy to spot due to its vivid colors and blocky shapes. This art form relies heavily on viewer interpretation to determine the subject’s and the work’s more profound meaning.

While all works of art will have different meanings depending on the viewer, an abstract painting requires more work. Since there isn’t much in the way of fine detail or realism, abstract art often feels surreal or dreamy. Abstract art can also cross over with geometric drawing because both styles feature repetitive shapes.

Nocturne In Black And Gold by James McNeill

James McNeill Whistler’s abstract painting Nocturne In Black And Gold: The Falling Rocket is simple and complex. The vaguely defined subjects hint at much more life beneath the surface.

Still Life

Last but not least, the still life is one of the best known art forms in human history. The focus of this study is to capture life around you in both detail and atmosphere.

Popular still life subjects are bowls of fruit, skulls, vases, flowers, and clothes. However, any inanimate object can be a still life. Studying objects in the art world is an excellent opportunity to learn essentials like light, shadow, and form.

While more dynamic subjects like animals can be challenging to capture, still lives are beginner-friendly by letting artists take their time. This is why still life is often used when learning to paint with more complex mediums such as oils.

still life
Fruitbasket by Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

Fruitbasket by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio earned its place as one of the most beautiful still lives ever made. His technique is masterful, catching the subtle nuances of fruit and leaves with almost photorealistic accuracy.

Painting vs Drawing: Which One Should You Choose?

You Should Try Drawing If…

  • You want a very fine level of detail
  • You want a low barrier to entry in terms of effort and preparation
  • You’re on a tight budget

Getting started with drawing doesn’t have to be intimidating – consider checking out online drawing foundation courses.

You Should Try Painting If…

  • You enjoy vivid, rich colors
  • You want to try more frenetic, freeform work
  • You greatly enjoy painting styles such as impressionism or painterly realism

There are many ways to develop a natural painting process. Online art courses are one way you can learn your way around various techniques.

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