The 11 Different Visual Art Media

by Deomar_Pandan

There is an art medium for every artist, the one that he’d love and make masterpieces with. What is yours? Here are the different visual art media available to you.

A medium in art is a drawing or painting material that an artist uses for his artworks. There is an art medium for every artist, the material for art that he’d love and make masterpieces with; but the artist wouldn’t know instantly what that medium of art is. Unless he’s lucky enough to stumble upon the art material on his first artwork, chances are, the artist would jump from one material in art to another before he finds the one, his very own art medium. Do you aspire to be a good artist, or simply like to do arts and crafts? Here are the different visual art media available to you.


No, we don’t forget the humble pencil. Unless your parents gave you pen to write your first letters with, you sure would be playing with this art material first. You made your first stick figures with a pencil, your first rudimentary house with this art medium, and the cloud-like trees likewise in the same drawing medium. Very affordable and easy to work with, pencils are used as medium in art by, not just children, but professional artists as well, including police sketch artists. Pencil also complements other mediums in art, especially paint mediums, as light and erasable pencil is used to make rough sketch on paper or canvas before the actual paint is applied.


Ah, the ball-point pen. I started using ball pen in grade 2, and the pen went easily from writing letters to drawing superheroes and villains. Unlike pencil, this medium in drawing is not smudged; so you don’t rub the ink with your thumb for shading; you’d have to do hatching if you want to put in the shades. Why should anyone choose pen as drawing medium over pencil?

If you just have a few idle minutes in the office to draw, the ball-pen is only a reach away, and it is more permanent than pencil — unless of course you’d use fixative to coat the pencil drawing over. In that case, since you have to go through the trouble of using fixative, you might as well use our next art medium.


Charcoal is like graphite pencil, only freer and comes in more variety. Charcoal is not limited in pencil form; the art medium is also available in whole sticks and powder. Crucial in using this material in art is the rubber putty, which would be the eraser to your pencil. You don’t just draw with charcoal; you erase too. Erasing is part of the art. You rub this drawing medium on paper when you want black, and the rubber putty when you need whites and highlights. Of course if you want more colors beside black or white, you’d have to check the next art media.


Crayons are most probably your earliest colored drawings, no? Crayons are a very flexible medium in art. You can somewhat blend two hues together without having to wet them. You just get those sticks out of the box and rub them together. Because they’re made of wax, crayons are a durable medium for drawing. Looking back, I couldn’t understand why I’d trade this art medium for the next one.

Color Pens

They’re flashy, they’re fancy; oh look, they come in expensive-looking plastic pens — and their inks are fluorescent! Wait till they get wet, however, and the colors seep away. Colors pens are a good medium for art, especially to parents who are tired of washing color stains off children clothes; but if you want your drawings to last through a rainy season, please consider another art medium, like the next one.

Colored Pencils

If you want colors and want them in fancy sticks, colored pencils could be the art medium for you? This medium in drawing doesn’t blot when wet, unlike color pens, and their points are thin, unlike the broad, hard-to-control tips of crayons. Hues from colored pencils might be weaker though, compared to crayons and our next drawing medium.

Oil Pastels

I loved this art medium. Oil pastels are like crayons, but softer and can be easily blended together. Compared to colored pencils, crayons or color pens, oil pastels are the drawing medium used more often by professional artists. There is another kind of pastel that’s definitely worth considering.

Soft Pastels

As the name suggests, soft pastels are even softer than oil pastels, and therefore still easier to smudge and blend. Soft pastels are chalky sticks that leave powdery prints. The beauty of this art medium comes with a price, of course. Because the drawing medium is chalky and powdery, soft pastels, unlike oil pastels, require fixative to stay protected; so there’s added work for you. Of course if you love drawing with this art material that much, it wouldn’t matter. Yet one question others might throw at you is, why draw? Why not paint?

One advantage of both soft pastels and oil pastels over paint media, like acrylic and oil, is that you are unlikely to get the muddy hue, that combination of color between yellow and violet that’s horrendous to artists. Using pastels, you can put shades of yellow and violet close together and that would be fine — so long as you don’t rub the colors together. In this sense the drawing medium lends itself better to modern art. Still, if you’d rather paint than draw, what choices of media for painting do you have available?


Ah, the water-based art medium. Relatively cheaper, watercolor’s outcome tends to be more realistic than other painting media. This is so because, in addition to the lightness (affected by adding white) or darkness (by adding black), you can control the intensity of the painting medium by adding water. Less water means more transparent hue, and more water means stronger hue. Always you’d have to add water though, however small: there’s reason why this material in painting is called watercolor. While the art material lends itself better to realism, watercolor is less durable than our next painting mediums.

Oil Paint

I only tried oil once, and possibly not trying the medium in painting again. Don’t get me wrong: If you are into modern art, oil could be the painting medium for you. Oil is the most durable visual art medium; this art material lasts for centuries. The downside — which is negligible — is, this painting material is messy. Oil is not water-based like watercolor; you’d have to use turpentine when mixing. Oil is poisonous too; mere inhalation of the oil paint medium can be toxic. If you do choose this medium in painting, get ready to keep a distance between greased, itchy hands and your face; also, paint somewhere open, where the air can sweep away those toxic fumes. If you don’t like that much trouble, however, consider using the next medium for painting.

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic and I had a good relationship. This art medium is water-based, so strong and intense, and yet so easy to wash off. Acrylic as a medium of painting is like watercolor and oil combined. Like oil, the finished acrylic work would still be a lot more opaque than water color, but without the hassle of having to dissolve poisonous paint from hands and rugs with turpentine afterward. Acrylic is a durable painting medium, though it doesn’t last as long as oil.

What is your art medium?

There’s a different art medium to every artist. What is yours? By no means are you limited to the art media presented above. Some artists use unconventional art materials, like coffee, though the latter is rather perishable. Neither are you limited to fine art mediums. I myself am exploring an art material used in traditional art, rather than modern art, to use in two-dimensional art — wax.

About the Author

Deomar Pandan is a visual artist, online writer and jeweler. He recently launched, and is the artist behind the jewelry items shown in the website.

Updated: 12/22/2013, Deomar_Pandan
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?

Which art medium is yours?

Deomar_Pandan on 01/23/2013

HollieT, I forgot to mention that part about charcoal, but maybe I'd leave the readers to find that out for themselves — they might have as much fun as you and your daughter did ... and you were using just the pencil, not the stick or powder. You gave me quite a laugh. Thanks. :)

HollieT on 01/23/2013

This is a great introduction to art mediums, some of these materials I haven't used since I was a kid. I bought my daughter some charcoal pencils a few years ago and we ended up absolutely covered in the stuff; it was really good fun though. :)

You might also like

12 Art Supplies and Materials for Painting with Acrylic Paint

Painting with acrylic paint can be very rewarding. Want to paint with acrylic...

16 Candle-making Supplies and Equipments to Make Candles

Candle-making is a fun craft to do. Do you want to make candles? Get to know ...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...