Doing Painting - revised!

The revised version of this guide is a collaboration with

What Styles of Painting Are There?

There are an infinite number of painting styles, from traditional cultural techniques to ever-changing modern methods. Check out this visual history of painting styles.

Why Use Painting to Educate About Sexual Health and HIV?

In many societies, certain styles of painting may hold special significance. Therefore, paintings about HIV and AIDS using these styles may have a great impact. HIV/AIDS education may be expressed and embraced both through the act of painting itself and through the viewing of completed artwork.


    Painting has the ability to appeal to diverse interests and preferences as there are many different ways to paint.
    Painting can incorporate many other art forms.
    Painting can be done with homemade supplies and tools and allows for easy group participation.


    x Painting can have a negative impact if cultural and religious symbols are used in culturally insensitive ways.
    x Paintings may fail to be taken seriously or inspire discussion if they are too abstract.

What Types of Paint Are There?

These are pigments that come in a powder or liquid form. They are mixed with water before being applied to a surface. This type of paint dries looking soft and translucent.

These are another water-based paint but are already mixed in the desired colour. These paints are thick and tend to dry quickly, producing a plastic finish. A cheaper version of acrylic paint is tempera, which is often used in primary schools.

These are oil-based, which allows the colours to blend easily together, with often beautiful results. Oil paints may take weeks to dry and can be very fragile.

Fabric Paints
These are specially designed to stick to fabrics, such as clothing or bags. They are meant to tint cloth materials and generally do not wash off.

Body Paints
These can be used on the face, or all over the body, as they are non-toxic and easily washed away. Henna is a type of body paint that temporarily stains the skin and can be used to create intricate designs. Using products marketed as "black henna", however, can cause skin irritations and are not recommended for use in body painting.

It is possible to mix your own paints at home. You can mix spices, plants, food colouring, and earth with egg yolk, water, dish soap, or flour paste to create a variety of homemade pigments. For some step-by-step help for making all-natural paints, check out Science Made Simple and Kanelstrand.

Painting in a Community Setting

Getting Started

There are a few things to keep in mind before starting to paint. Who will be involved? Where will you paint? Who will see the finished painting(s)? These questions are important to think about when you are hoping to bring attention to an HIV/AIDS project.


To make sure that others will be aware of and participate in your paint project, you could contact:

  • community centres
  • local schools and universities
  • libraries
  • museums and art galleries
  • health clinics and shelters
  • Friends and family


Because you are painting on a sexual health or HIV theme, you may want to pick a place where people will be passing by and see you and/or your team at work. Public areas such as parks or downtown squares are wonderful places to consider since your painting project will not only be seen by crowds of people but also may attract more involvement!

REMEMBER: When working in a public place, be sure to get permission from the appropriate authorities.

Basic Materials

  • paint
  • paintbrushes (or other substituted objects)
  • palettes for mixing paint (such as bowls, plates, etc.)
  • a surface for painting (canvas, paper, etc.)

Ideas for Other Materials

Other materials can be used to add a unique touch to the project. Here are just some ideas of things to paint:

  • walls of buildings, such as community centres or schools (with the appropriate permission, of course)
  • clothing, such as T-shirts
  • cardboard
  • old furniture
  • found objects (rocks, driftwood, etc.)

Painting workshops can be modified depending on the materials available and the desired results. Banners, murals, signs, and quilts made of cloth/paper squares are just a few of the many painting projects that can be used for HIV/AIDS awareness.

To show the importance of healthy decisions as well as making sure young people living with HIV are treated with dignity and have access to services, why not try creating a "living" message on HIV and AIDS out of moss!

Sample Activities

-Making Acronym Canvasses (Beginner, Group)
-Making a Mixed-Media Acrylic Painting (Intermediate, Solo)
-Making Monochromatic Portraits (Advanced, Solo or Group)

Get inspired to paint by browsing the Visual AIDS web gallery of paintings on HIV/AIDS and by checking out this painting on youth and HIV from Cameroon.

Displaying the Paintings!

Because you have created a painting or series of paintings on a sexual health or HIV/AIDS issue or theme, you want to make sure that you are able to present it and/or display it for a large audience or a number of smaller audiences to encourage discussion and help bring about behaviour change.

Think about contacting the following places to get your work displayed individually or as part of a larger exhibition:

  • community centres
  • schools
  • libraries
  • clinics
  • shelters
  • cafes and restaurants
  • art galleries

Consider publishing your painting(s) in the following ways:

  • asking school/university newspapers or local newspapers to feature your work
  • creating a book of paintings paired with personal stories of young people living with HIV to display in clinics or dental offices
  • creating a calendar of your paintings with associated HIV statistics to hand out at events or make available in the entryways to cafes, restaurants, libraries, etc.
  • uploading your work to the YAHAnet image gallery!
Combining Art Forms

Mixing different art forms can make your painting project even better! Some art forms that can be used with painting include:

  • collage
  • drawing
  • storytelling
  • billboards & murals

Painting Projects for HIV/AIDS Awareness

1. AptART Mural Projects (Mozambique and DRC, 2012–2013)
-Facebook albums: 1, 2, and 3

2. World Youth Movement HIV Mural Project (Honduras, 2011)

3. Body Maps: Women's Journeys, Provocative Works of Art (Tanzania and Zambia, 2011)

4. Body Mapping: HIV Positive Persons Discover a New Way of Self-Expression (Kenya, 2011)

5. "Expression of Repression" exhibition for HIV/AIDS awareness (Nepal, 2010)

6. Patua-Plus Project (India, 2010)

7. Students paint for peace, HIV awareness (United States, 2010)

8. Youth Community Dialogues Mural Project (South Africa, 2007)

9. Painting for Development Project (Nigeria, 2004–2006)

10. Standby Guardianship Project (United States, 2003)

Painting and Social Change Bibliography

Kasir, S. L. (2000). Contemporary African art. London, England: Thames & Hudson.

Mueller, M. K. (1979). Murals: Creating an environment. Worchester, MA: Davis Publications.

© June 2013