woman in brown scoop neck long sleeved blouse painting

Paint Better with Right Brain Mode

5 Ways to Access Right Brain Mode to Make Better Art

It is important to know how to access your right brain mode so that you can draw and paint better. While it comes naturally to some people, others need to learn how to access this mind state. The concept of the “right brain” being more creative and intuitive while the “left brain” being more logical and analytical is a popular one, it is important to note that this is a simplification of the complex functions of the brain. Nevertheless, there are ways to tap into your creativity and intuition to create better paintings, and these methods involve accessing different parts of your brain. In this article, you will learn how to use right brain mode to paint better.

Left vs Right Brain Mode

The left brain mode is predominant in Western culture.  We use alarms to wake us up, follow schedules, analyze ideas, formulate responses, write elaborate descriptions and debate topics.  Schools and workplaces in our society would probably not operate very efficiently without us relying on our left brain modes. It’s no surprise, then, that for some people it is challenging to depart from the left brain mode.  And while the left brain mode has a place in art-making, it can also be judgmental, critical, and get stuck in perfectionism.  On the other hand, when we make art in right brain mode, we tend to be more receptive, creative, intuitive and focused. 

Right brain activation refers to the process of accessing and stimulating the right side of the brain in order to unleash creativity, focus, and improve artistic ability. By focusing on intuition and staying present, artists can tap into their right brain hemisphere to unlock their full creative potential. While it may take some practice and effort to achieve this state, there are a range of techniques that can help aspiring artists access their right brains, such as meditation or using music to inspire creativity.

Here are five tips for accessing the right brain mode while painting:

1. Bind Contour Drawing

One way to access right brain mode is to do a blind countour drawing excercise before your painting session.  Doing blind contour drawing helps to put you into right brain mode by deeply focusing you on the subject you are drawing. To do a blind countour drawing, all you will need is a piece of paper and a pencil.This activity comes from the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.  

Turn off phone notifications, and consider putting your device in another room.  Sit at a table or desk, put the paper down, and turn your body away from the paper so you aren’t tempted to look at it while you draw. Then, put your pencil in your dominant hand, and put the other hand out to the side.  Bend your fingers and arrange them in a way that will be challenging to draw.  

Then, VERY slowly start drawing your hand without looking at your paper. This is the “blind” part of this excercise–you should not look at the paper until you finish.  Try to be hyper focused on every detail of your finger and draw without removing your pencil from the paper. Draw for 3 or 4 minutes, and then take a look. If your drawing looks like chicken scratch and barely resembles a hand/fingers, then you have likely succeeded in staying in the right side of the brain.  

Your drawing should look like something like this. Blind Contour Drawing of Hand by Raphael Perez

After you finish, notice how you felt during the excercise: did you feel nervous? Rushed? Worried? Relaxed? Focused? Did time seem to go fast or slow? If you were indeed in right brain mode, then you should have felt relaxed, focused, and even may have lost a sense of time. If you didn’t feel this way, then try the excercise again, but this time draw even slower. In my experience, students draw too fast and try to draw accurately, and both of these things keep you in left brain mode.

2. Meditate

Meditation can help quiet the analytical and judgmental parts of your brain, allowing you to tap into your intuition and creative inspiration. There are many different ways to meditate, but even just sitting quietly for 5 minutes before you paint can be beneficial. Try to let thoughts come in and out of your brain, and don’t dwell on anything.  You might also focus on your breathing and pay attention to the in and out breaths.  Another way to meditate is to focus on a postivie word such as love or peace. Regardless, giving yourself some deep quiet time before a painting session can help put you in the right mindset for painting, and allow you to access right brain mode more easily.

3. Listen to Music

Listening to relaxing music can help to stimulate the right side of your brain and enhance your creativity. I would recommend choosing instrumental as opposed to lyrical music so that you don’t get in your head and focus on the lyrics or try to sing along.  Classical, jazz, ambient, chanting, and flute music are all excellent choices that can help you focus and relax at the same time.  

Some of my favorite relaxing albums and artists for deep focus are Music for Airports by Brian Eno, Analemma, Native Flute Ensemble, contemporary composers Max Richter and Nils Frahm, and Marjorie de Muynck’s There’s No Place Like Ohm. Play the music loudly enough so it feels like it fills your studio or painting area, and allow yourself to feel transported by the sounds.  If the music inspires specific colors or brush marks, then go with that.  Connecting with the music in this way will not only connect you with right brain mode, but it also might inspire your entire creative process.

4. Freeform Paint

Instead of planning out your painting beforehand, try letting your intuition guide your brushstrokes and color choices. Stay in a playful mindset, and let go of the results of what you create. Instead, focus on each color and how it mixes with the next, what happens when you use different painting tools, and so on.  Spray water on the wet paint and watch it drip and thin out the paint.  Focus on the sensory experience of what you are doing and this will surely help keep you in right brain mode.

5. Redirect Your Thoughts

If you find yourself getting back into your head, judging what you are doing, or worrying about things, kindly ask your left brain mode to stop.  Once you feel the difference between the two modes, you will be intimately familiar with how pleasing it is to be in right brain mode.  

After telling your left brain mode to step back, refocus on the relaxing music or the colors and shapes you have in front of you.  Often it just takes a bit of awareness to make the switch back to right brain mode, and the more you practice, the easier it will be to make the transition.


Accessing the right brain mode is extraordinarily helpful for artists to stay creative, innovative and relaxed during their art-making process.  Blind contour drawing, meditating and relaxing music are all ways to put your brain into focus mode and keep it positive during the painting process.  Simple actions such as consciously redirecting your thoughts or staying in a playful mindset can also help set you up for creative success. Try to keep all of your worries and distractions aside, and just paint what you feel while letting your intuition guide you. Remember, the most important thing is to have fun painting, so enjoy finding what method works for you. Have another technique for accessing right brain mode? Put it in the comments below.


I am an artist out of Santa Fe, New Mexico who has been painting for almost 30 years. I love to teach first-timers as well as experienced painters who need a creative reboot. My work has been displayed in several galleries around the country, and I have a Bachelor’s in Art History, a Master’s in Art Education, and had my work in a show juried by Judy Chicago. The idea of getting more people painting makes me light up as I want to inspire more people to express their creative selves and tap into a place of joy and calm.


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