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What Is Speed Painting?

Angela Farrer
Angela Farrer

Speed painting is a method of painting typically done in a computer graphics program in a limited amount of time. This type of digital art is usually completed without a preliminary sketch and with only a general idea of the finished image's appearance. Artists who are successful at speed painting use established techniques of drawing applied to digital illustration. Some finished pieces of this computer art also include time-lapsed video capture of the process from beginning to end, and artists often use this option to showcase their speed painting skills on the Internet.

The types of software programs used for speed painting can include digital illustration packages as well as more comprehensive image editing programs commonly used in digital photography. Experienced digital artists recommend a program that has at least a moderate amount of choices for electronic brush sizes, shapes, and pressure levels. A wider variety of brush choices allows a speed painter to create more intricate finished pieces of computer art. Some of these computer graphics programs are open source and can be downloaded at no cost; these programs are usually considered good choices for beginners to this type of electronic art. Other software choices are proprietary brands that professional digital artists often use for their work.

Woman painting
Woman painting

A set time limit is one of the characteristics that sets speed painting apart. These limits can range from three to eight minutes on average for many experienced artists who consider themselves traditional speed painters. Some digital artists select one of their favorite songs and complete a painting in the time the song plays, and their subject matter is sometimes a portrait of the musician singing it. This type of speed painting is often considered a form of fan art.

Another variation of this digital art form involves video capture rather than an actual time limit. Artists complete a painting in their art software program of choice and use a recording program that captures every move they make on the computer monitor screen. They often take as many hours or days as they like to finish a given project. Once the electronic painting is complete, its video can be sped up in an editing program so that the painting appears to be done in only a few minutes. Although these art videos are popular for online sharing, some digital art purists believe that this method does not count as true speed painting due to the lack of a time limit.

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Discussion Comments


Speed painting is not a kind of race. Speed painting is a technique used by concept artists who need to produce images quickly. If a client wants to have various images of, for example, some scenery, you just can't stick to one image for five or six hours in today's working environment. Instead, you're creating several "raw" scenery pieces that are reflecting a rough atmosphere/color palette/whatever. So you deliver your client a bunch of images to choose from, instead of one single image that may get turned down.


From experience, speed paintings are generally done as practice on an aspect of painting like color, form or lighting and mood, or as warmups before you start illustrating for the day. They are also done to generate ideas quickly and free up your thinking.

Quite a lot of speed painting involves creating a mess on the page then finding forms from that and defining it if your doing a concept. Some people have a predefined idea other don't. Sometimes it just copying reference to refresh your memory on the above, or if you want to show off.

Most artist do them during dinner breaks at work or in the morning and spend between 30 minutes to an hour on them. I've never known someone to spend eight minutes on one unless they were sketching thumbnails.


So how do speed painters practice? Do they just paint the same thing over and over again until they can do it really quickly?


What would be the point of speed painting? Is it all about speed like running a race or stacking cups or any of the other silly things that people do as fast as is humanly possible?

Or is speed painting about something more. I can see an interesting argument being made that speed painting allows the artist to work on an almost subconscious level. Every movement is so fast that is can barely be considered. The resulting painting is kind of like a stream of consciousness.


I have seen videos on the internet of really incredible speed painters. They can paint incredibly life looking pictures of people, places, animals, you name it, in less time that it would take me to draw a brief sketch of a tree.

This kind of skill really impresses me. Imagine the precision and the practice that these men and women must go through. Anyone who has painted before knows how hard it is to use and how unforgiving it can be. One mistake and these artists could ruin a painting. And yet it turns out. Amazing.

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