How to get organized before starting to paint?

by Mary Vallverdu Sabia June 07, 2021

How to get organized before starting to paint?

How to get organized before starting to paint?

Why is it important to get organized before we start?

Getting organized and comfortable before starting any project saves us a lot of time in the future, allows us to achieve better results and to be comfortable while working and even avoid muscle aches


In this post I share with you some tips that help me to save time, to not procrastinate before starting to paint, to find the perfect "place" even if it doesn't exist and to be able to concentrate even though I have a construction site in front of my house.


The chair is the most important element 

The posture when doing any time-consuming activity is extremely important. Discomfort and fatigue affect our concentration and also influence the quality of our work.


I spent years suffering from back pain and trying to alleviate the pain by doing yoga and swimming until I realized that I had to get to the root of the problem and see where the pain was coming from and I noticed that I spent many hours sitting in an uncomfortable chair, which did not create the correct angles that my posture should create and that was causing me back problems


Simply changing the chair I was working in changed the quality of my life. 


That chair and my new glasses were the best investments I made so far this year. Here's the link to see it for yourself


It is not necessary to buy such a chair if you are starting to paint with watercolors but in my case it was necessary because I work not only analogically but also digitally and I needed to be comfortable in front of the computer for many hours.


Organize your desk in the same way always


This is how I distribute my materials on my work table before starting to work:

How to organize before painting, blog post by Vallverdu-design. Graphic resources for fashion designers and fashion illustrators

This is the most comfortable way I found to organize my elements to have everything at hand and to work faster without having to waste time looking for the cloth to clean the brush, a special brush, the dropper to add water to the palette or stretching my arm too much to pick up water to clean the brush and running the risk of staining the whole work.


I recommend that you find the "preferred distribution" of all your elements to paint in a comfortable order and that you will always use not only to work with different paper formats but also not to lose any tool and to have everything within reach when creating. 


Avoid natural light

Day light. how to be organized before painting. Vallverdu-design. fashion illustrator

Photo by Benn McGuinness


Although natural light is pleasant, warm and improves our mood, it is not really the best option for our drawing studio. The big disadvantage is that natural light changes continuously and if we are painting looking at a real object we will have to adjust the shadows and highlights continuously. 


Also, watercolor is a technique that requires a long drying time between layers, and while we are waiting for one layer to dry before painting the next, the light may have changed a lot which can affect our work. The light of a sunrise is not the same color as the light of a sunset and this influences the way that we see the colors.


I live in Austria, a country where in winter there is no more sunlight at 16:00 hours, which affects my works a lot when I start painting during the day and want to continue painting at night


If we are going to continue painting a work that has already had a few layers of paint applied, it is best to always paint under the same conditions, that is to say, if you applied the first layers in the morning, with a certain light source, it is best to apply the following layers with the same light at the same time of day. 


If you live in a place with a stable climate, lots of sunlight and you want to take advantage of the daylight, the best way to make sure that the variation over the hours does not affect your work so much, is to nuance the light


Before the invention of electricity, artists painted in buildings with large windows that let in a lot of light, and to make the light conditions more stable they would put cloth over the windows


If the light coming through your window is not so intense you can use a white cloth, but if the light is very strong, you can perhaps nuance it better with a grey cloth


Use neutral light to paint 

The warm light that we usually have at home in our light bulbs, causes a change of tone in the color of the paper of our work. The ideal is to use a white or neutral light bulb, also known as artificial natural light.


Avoid too much direct light on the eyes, this exhausts the eyes, makes us see the colors lighter than they are and our work ends up being darker than we want it to be.


The ideal is to avoid lights that are focused towards you, lamps that are too low, side lights that are too close or back lights that can generate shadows on our work.


In my studio I use this light bulb to paint. 



Change of context inspires 

 man painting outside. how to organize before painting. Vallverdu-design. Fashion illustrator. Fashion Graphics Studio

Photo by Luke Porter

Have you ever tried changing the environment and going to draw or paint in a square, on public transport or even in a café


Although there may be more ambient noise outdoors or in a busy place, it has been proven that working with white noise in the background, such as crowd sounds in a café, can help you concentrate better.  


I know that at first we may be embarrassed to draw or paint in public because we think that everyone who passes by is going to start looking at what we are doing, but the truth is that very few people are going to stop to look and if they do, we may not even notice it because we are going to be so focused on painting. 


Or maybe we will even catch someone's eye and an interesting conversation or a job opportunity may arise. 


Once I was drawing in a café and a man came up to me and when he saw that I was drawing bags he asked me if I was a designer, I said yes and he offered me the opportunity to make a collection of bags for the clothing business he was about to open. 


That was my first accessories collection and it was an amazing experience and it all happened because I was just designing in my sketchbook, in a cafe. #Destiny


Another interesting thing that often happens when we paint or draw in a context in which we are not used to is that we make works that are very different from what we would have painted at home. It is amazing how the environment in which we are creating influences our work



Keeping materials in the same place prevents procrastination 

Artist workspace, how to be organized blog post by Vallverdu-design. Graphic resources for fashion designers and fashion illustrators

Photo by Sema Martin

Did you know that it takes us on average 29 minutes to regain our concentration when something distracts us? 


That's why it's important to take some time before starting to work to leave at hand everything we are going to need and I'm not only talking about the materials, it's also good to have at hand a glass of water to drink, a hot tea, coffee or mate in my case and maybe also, why not, something small to eat so we don't have to cut 20 minutes after starting because we got hungry. 


Having a drawer with the painting stuff ready, a backpack or suitcase with all the materials or even if possible a table ready with our things organized allows us to procrastinate less before we start working. 


If we see everything ready on our work table it gives us the feeling that we don't need "a lot of time" to prepare everything because the paints are already there, on the table, waiting for us.



Leave your mobile phone out of your visual range and turn off notifications


The mobile phone is undoubtedly the great thief of our attention. We give too much importance to every little noise it makes and sometimes we don't realize that the device and all the apps it contains are designed especially for us to look at them and forget about the world outside the screen


Always turn off notifications from all apps before you start working, including WhatsApp (especially WhatsApp!). If someone wants to contact you for some very important reason, they will call you. 


Another tip I can give you is to leave your mobile phone out of your visual range. Why is this a good thing to do? Because even if it doesn't ring to interrupt us, just the sight of it will tempt us to check social media to see what the world has changed in the last 5 minutes. Any app or social network can wait and I assure you that dedicating yourself to making your art will fill your day much more



If we organize ourselves as if we have no memory, we will never need it


I like to organize all my items and papers as if tomorrow I would lose my memory and have to look for everything using only common sense


So when I am looking for something, not only in my studio but in my house as well, I just have to ask myself what would be the logical place where that item should be? And when I go looking for it there, not knowing it was there, I find it. It's a great trick to never lose anything.



Visual order = peace of mind

 how to be organized blog post by Vallverdu-design. Graphic resources for fashion designers and fashion illustrators

Photo by Arthur Lambillotte 

The best way to organize our thoughts is to start by organizing the space we live and work in.


I am a believer that the organization of the workspace affects the results. 


I know there are people who can produce beautiful work in chaos but I am not one of them. 


If we have an accessible wall near our workspace a good tip is to put a pegboard with adjustable interchangeable containers where we will put what we always need to have at hand

I have this one 


And what I like the most is that it not only helps me to keep my thousands of papers, pens, pencils and other materials organized but it also allows me to have a clear desk for quick cleaning.



How do you wait without stopping working?


Have you ever been painting with watercolors, made a beautiful layer, but because you couldn't wait for it to dry, you rushed to apply the new layer and it got ruined


Did you try to hurry the drying with a hairdryer and the paint ran, the paper wrinkled or the colors were dull


I've been through it all and discovered this anxiety-proof technique that allows me to wait for the layers to dry properly without having to stop working waiting for them. 



By doing several paintings at the same time

What I do is to put the watercolor paper on 3 or 4 plywood panels and work on several paintings at the same time.


I adhere the papers to the wood to keep them stretched while I paint on a firm surface that I can then lay down somewhere else. To protect the edges, I use a paper tape so the paper doesn't get damaged when I take it off once the work is finished.

How to get organized before starting to paint, post by Vallverdu-design. Graphic resources for fashion designers and fashion illustrators

The technique consists of doing the first layer of the first painting, then move on to the next one, do the first layer as well and when we finish with the first layer of the third painting, the first layer of the first work will already be completely dry and we can start the round again. 

This is the wood I use, and this paper tape


Sound should also be planned


Having a prepared music playlist prevents us from having to stop working to choose a new song. 


If commercials don't bother us we can choose a live radio or a playlist of film soundtracks or if we also want to listen to something interesting or learn while we paint without having the visual distraction that we would have with a screen we can listen to a podcast.


If we are distracted by music or want to put all our attention on the painting or artwork we are doing and a podcast steals a lot of our attention and there are sounds in the environment that disturb us, a good tip is to listen to sound frequencies also called binaural sounds.


Binaural sounds are "beats" that operate on specific frequencies to stimulate certain brain waves. Binaural therapy is used not only to stimulate concentration but also for anxiety, depression and stress treatments. 


My favourite frequency is 432Hz. I listen to it when I need to "block out" some ambient noise and concentrate on actions that require my full attention such as reading or writing. You can find them on YouTube by simply putting "432Hz frequency" in the search engine.


What music do you like to listen when you are painting? Do you have a favourite podcast? I'd love to hear about it in the comments



Inspiration comes from all the senses


Looking for images on Pinterest and having dozens of moodboards with illustrations by other artists is not the only resource we can turn to stimulate our creative energy.  


We can look for inspirational images in films, photographs, books and museums but it is also very enriching to pay attention to the other senses in addition to stimulating creativity in a visual way. 

I propose a series of inspiring exercises:

  • Before painting an object or elements of nature, close your eyes and feel the textures with your fingertips and describe those sensations in your mind.
  • Put an incense burner with a new scent in the room where you are going to paint.
  • Paint while listening to music that you have never heard before or that you are not used to.
  • Paint in different positions: standing, lying down, sitting on a table.
  • Painting in the dark or with your eyes closed
  • Finger painting
  • Drawing a song
  • Drawing poetry
  • Painting a sound

How do you like to prepare yourself before you start creating? Do you have any rituals or practical tips that help you concentrate? What is the perfect workspace for you

Tell me, I'll read you.


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Mary Vallverdu Sabia
Mary Vallverdu Sabia


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