Artistic Media

Acrylic – A durable, water-based paint made by mixing pigments with polymer binder. Acrylic dries faster than oil paint.

Yuyi Morales article on using acrylics


Collage – Art created by cutting and arranging materials such as paper, photographs, newspaper and fabric onto a flat surface.

Philip Stead article: What a Find!


Colored Pencil – A cylindrical drawing implement with a pigmented core. Different from graphite or charcoal, the core of a colored pencil is wax or oil-based.


Gouache (pronounced “gwash”) – A water-soluble paint that is opaque rather than transparent like watercolor.

Grace Lin article: Gouache and I


Oil Paint – A paint made by mixing pigments with oil. Since oil paint dries slowly, it allows an artist to blend colors and make changes if needed.


Pastels – Made by mixing pigments with oil or chalk, pastels are colored sticks used for drawing on paper.


PencilA cylindrical drawing implement with a solid core producing grey to black hues. In contrast to colored pencil, the core is usually graphite mixed with clay. 

Donald Crews article: Ticonderoga #2

Erin Stead article: Gliding on Paper


Pen and Ink – A drawing technique where ink is applied using a pen or quill.


Photography – Using a camera, the art and process of creating an image by the action of light on a light-sensitive material.


Printmaking The process of reproducing an image by any method that involves transfer from one surface to another. Examples include relief block (linoleum, wood), intaglio (etching, engraving), and stencil (silkscreen).

Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) curator explains printmaking.

What is printmaking?


Tempera – A fast-drying, painting medium made from colored pigments mixed with a water-soluble or chemical binder. Sometimes this opaque medium is also called poster paint.


WatercolorA water-soluble paint that gives a transparent color. Techniques such as wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry can be used to create different effects on paper.

James Ransome working with watercolor

Brian Floca article: Pen, Ink, Watercolor, Repeat


Wood Block – A type of woodcut printed from separate blocks, each carrying a separate color and fitted together to make a complete design, with one color overlapping another to give a still greater variety of hue. With special tools, a block of wood is carved then used to print.

Betsy Bowen article: The Woodcutter's Dance

Multimodal resources for art terms: Here are more online resources to help you learn and teach about the art media used in Doors to the World books.

Videos and full-text transcripts explain various art media, how they are made, and how they work. From the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York.

Blog where book illustrators write about their techniques and experiences. Some of the illustrators and author-illustrators whose books are featured in Doors to the World have written blog posts here that describe their work in more depth, such as Grace Lin’s article on gouache (Dim Sum for Everyone, The Ugly Vegetables). 

Video tutorials of various artistic media