Oil Painting 101: Simple Tips for Getting Started


Art is what you make of it – literally. There are myriad different mediums out there and, as an artist, you don’t have to commit to just one. It doesn’t hurt, however, to try different things and to familiarize yourself with different options. Oil paints are a great medium to play with because they are more flexible than acrylic and much more durable than some mediums.

Oil painting is a creative endeavor that every artist approaches differently. You’ll develop your own style eventually, but for now, take the time to learn what supplies you need and how to start with the basics.

Essential Oil Painting Supplies

Before you can get started with oil painting, you need to gather some supplies. Here is a quick list of supplies you’ll need to get started:

  • Paints – Choose a variety of colors such as black, ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, burnt umber, cadmium red, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, titanium white, and various greens.
  • Paper or canvas – You’ll need a surface to paint on. Paper is inexpensive or you can try prepared boards or canvases.
  • Mixing palette – Choose from paper palettes, glass palettes, or wood palettes.
  • Brushes – Choose a variety of brushes for different strokes – you can also try brushes with different textures.
  • Solvent – Oil paints need to be thinned with turpentine or mineral spirits – these materials can also be used to clean your brushes.

If you’re not sure how committed you’ll be to oil painting as a medium, don’t bother to buy the highest quality supplies. You can save money by purchasing an oil paint kit designed for students – you’ll get most of the colors you need in a smaller tube. You can also start out by painting on paper instead of canvas to save money.

Tips for Learning Oil Painting

Now that you have your supplies, you can start experimenting with them! If you’ve used other mediums, you may want to take a little time to just play with the oil paints – learn how they act differently from other types of paint.

Here are some tips for getting started with oil painting:

  • Start by toning your canvas by covering it with a light wash of a single tone or color.
  • Set up your palette while your toned canvas is drying – arrange your paints in rainbow order, leaving room for mixing between colors.
  • Plan out the rough composition of your painting and make a quick sketch in paint to get an idea where the different elements will fall on the canvas.
  • Start adding areas of bolder color, working from dark to light – you can choose to layer wet paint on wet paint or let one layer dry before applying the next.
  • Experiment with different subjects to get a feel for creating dimension with different shapes.

The beauty of any art form is the capacity for creative expression. Take your time in learning how to use oil paints and work to develop your own unique style as you do. Good luck!



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