When is a Painting Finished?

By Jo-Ann Sanborn in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

Do you ever struggle with knowing when a painting is finished? Most artists have.

As a result, I’ve put together four simple categories that may help you look at your own work a little more objectively before you send it off into the world.

Each one of the four categories—composition, color, mood, and craftsmanship—is comprised of multiple “checklist” style points so that nothing gets overlooked.

These categories can also be used as a starting point for a critique group—and they’ll work no matter the style of the art or artist.


1. Is the underlying abstract (drawing) strong and defined?

2. Are the weights (lights and darks) and colors of the painting balanced in an appropriately asymmetrical fashion?

3. Are the shapes of all negative spaces varied and pleasing?

4. Does the eye have visual paths to follow, keeping interest on the canvas?

5. Can you find any walls or other impediments to the eye that shouldn’t be there?

6. Are transitions to and from various parts of the painting seamless?

7. Will the viewers’ eyes return to the focal point after moving around the canvas?


1. Is a color strategy clearly defined and executed?

2. Do either warm or cool colors predominate, with the other supporting?

3. Is each hue consistent throughout the painting?

4. Is any one color too prominent at the expense of the others?

5. Are there any jarring or popping colors that should be eliminated?


1. Does the technique or style fit the subject matter?

2. Does the color palette support the intended mood?

3. Is the light source consistent?

4. Are the cast shadows consistent with the light source?

5. Is the feeling of the painting consistent across the entire canvas?


1. Are the materials used of good enough quality to stand the test of time?

2. Are the painted forms drawn correctly and visually believable?

3. Is the perspective correct and consistent?

4. Has the paint been applied in a uniform and deliberate fashion?

5. Is the painting attributable to the artist through a definitive signature or style?

6. Is there a final protective coating (appropriate to the work) sealing the painting?

As you can see, in some cases it might even be beneficial to review this checklist before you start a new piece. Good luck, and happy painting!

To learn more about Jo-Ann Sanborn, please visit her daily painting blog.


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