Basic Forms

For more instructional videos visit Bill Martin's YouTube Channel

To use these exercises duplicate the various stages of the painting on a canvas of your own. If you choose to paint your own subjects pick ones similar to those here. For this one you could paint your own black and white subject or print out the source photo and paint from that. Follow the steps. Try out the brush strokes.

Basic Forms

You will learn how to paint the five basic forms, the cone, cylinder, sphere, cube and torus. These forms are the foundation of all the objects you see. To be able to paint these then is to be able to paint anything. (See Creating Form.)

All forms begin with shapes of light, middle and dark values. Each value shape is unique to its form: parallel stripes on cylinders, triangles on cones, gradual blends on the faces of a cube, crescents and ovals on a sphere and crescents and stripes on a torus.

Each form uses different brush strokes. Triangular strokes on cones, crescent strokes on sphere and torus, curved strokes for sphere, torus and circular blends. Parallel strokes make cylinders and the faces of a cube. (See Brushes)

With these things in mind we paint this subject. The only colors are black and white.


How much paint do you put out on your palette?

You need to mix enough paint to cover the area of canvas you want to paint. The one inch mixture above brushed out to a four inch square. I always mix twice as much of a color as I think I’ll use. It is far better to have some paint left over than to run out. You’ll want more of a mixed color because it’s unique than you will of one from the tube.

Mix up several values of gray on your palette.

The drawing is made with Titanium White with the addition of thinner to make it flow easily and dry quickly. Note the internal guidelines in the cone and cylinder.

Starting with the lightest mixed value, the value shapes are painted in. Use triangular brush strokes for the cone, parallel brush strokes for the cylinder and cube, crescent strokes for the torus and curved strokes on the sphere.

Place the darkest of the mixed values. Note the identifying value shapes and how they define the forms.

The top of the cylinder is flat and is therefore painted in the same way we would paint one of the faces of a cube, three values evenly spaced and then blended.

Brush in the middle values wherever you don't have light or dark values.

Blend the transitions between values. (See Blends) The direction and shape of the brush stroke appropriate for the form is also used for the blend. Use curved strokes for the sphere, crescent shaped strokes for the torus, triangular strokes for the cone and parallel strokes for the cylinder and cube. If in blending the values you blend too much and loose contrast (See Contrast) re-introduce, wet paint into wet paint, the lights and darks even, if necessary, to pure black and white.


Put in the background values. Use the background to sharpen edges. The tabletop recedes and is therefore a blend. Three different values are used to set up the blend. The wall is parallel to the canvas and is seen as a single value.

Blend the background. Use a Round brush to paint the proximity shadows. (See Shadows) These long dark lines will be easier with a little medium added. (See Medium)

You have now experienced using the paints and brushes in the different ways necessary to create the basic forms.

Advertisers & Affiliates Discover Art Prints - Saatchi Art
End of Advertisers & Affiliates Section. Thanks for your support.

site maintenance by
Garth Hagerman

Back to Top
Google +