Those with no experience with pre-OS X Macs will
definitely want to start with Mini vMac. Using at least System 7.1 with
Basilisk II or Sheepshaver makes sense, and for all intents and purposes this requires a new large HFS-formatted (not HFS+) disk image,
which is non-trivial to create these days. Freely available floppy images are more than sufficient for Mini vMac.
If any terms here are unfamiliar to you, start with Mini vMac. It's very easy to use and works well.
*Emaculation is a site that may be very helpful to you
*Here are some convenient prepackaged System 7 and Macpaint disk images and instructions for vMac
(instructions and supplied vMac version are for Mac OS X, but it's similar on any system)
*Many useful disk images, including Macpaint 1.5
*Download System 6.0.x, 7.0.1 or 7.5.3 from Apple legally
*Users of OS X 10.6 or higher will need FuseHFS to write to HFS standard volumes (disk images)
NOTE: it is illegal to copy and distribute Mac ROMs, which are required to run most emulators other than vMac. If you're going to do this,
make sure to rationalize it somehow. Some of the Apple OSes you may want to use are also not freely available from them,
so do be careful and ethical online.