Basics Of Oil Painting For Beginners

Oil paints are one of the most popular styles of painting, simply because they are versatile, archival and economical. Here the fusion of colors is outstanding and crisp effects are easily obtained, making it unique among all fluid painting mediums. Oil painting involves the process of painting with pigments with a medium of drying oil as the binder. There is a little more to it than acrylics, as you will be working with solvents and mediums and oil painting takes much longer to dry. Getting started with oil painting is fairly easy, but there are some rules you need to be aware of before you start. This comprehensive guide to the basics of oil painting for beginners covers most of the fundamental areas of oil painting to get you started.

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Oil Painting Basics That Every Beginner Should Know

  •         Set up your workplace – Oil paints have a strong smell, and the solvents needed to thin the paint and clean your brushes are also toxic, so keep your palettes and supplies in a well-ventilated area.
  •         Invest in good quality brushes – Buy at least three different size brushes of good quality to start with. You can use synthetic brushes, natural hair brushes and bristle (hog) brushes.
  •         Prime your surface – Whichever surface you choose to work, it’s important to apply a primer to the painting surface to prevent the oil from seeping into the canvas or other surface.
  •         Understanding colors – It is not necessary that you have to use all the colors in your painting at once. Understand how the primary colors mix to produce the secondary colors.
  •         Learn to clean your brush – Oil paint shouldn’t be allowed to dry on your brushes as this will ruin them. Clean your oil painting brushes between painting and with soap and warm water when you have finished painting.
  •         Avoid mess-ups – As oil paints are made with oil they can get really messy. Keep paper towels and rags handy to wipe excess paint and turpentine.
  •         Takes time to dry – Oil paints have a slow drying time and hence may take days or even months to dry. Be patient as you will probably need to work on your paintings in several sittings.
oil painting beginners

Three Golden Rules To Make The Most Of Your Oil Painting

When you are painting with oils, there are some rules which you should follow to avoid your paint from cracking. There are many layers of color that make a perfect oil painting. The way each of these layers interact with each other is important as it will have a direct effect on the final look of the painting. Adhering to the below three tried and tested rules that will serve you well.

Rule 1 – Fat Over Lean

Each layer on top has to be more flexible than the one underneath. Keep the top layers of paint fatter than the lower layers, else the layers on top will dry faster than the layers below and the paint will crack. This can be achieved by adding more medium to each new layer, which makes it more flexible than the previous one and will stop the painting from cracking.

Rule 2 – Thick Over Thin

Always apply thick layers over thin layers as the thin layers dry more quickly. The reasoning behind this rule is the same as the above rule. When painting with heavy color, it is best to put bold brush strokes on top or else the thin layers will crack.

Rule 3 – Slow Drying Over Fast Drying

It is always advisable to use fast-drying colors as under layers. This is because if a fast-drying layer is applied on top of a slow drying layer then your painting may crack. Keep this rule in mind to avoid the pull and twist in the layers above.

oil painting ideas
 Click here to experience these easy oil pastel drawings with Cece Streams.

Complete List Of Oil Painting Supplies For Beginners

If you aren’t sure where to start from, this post will guide you through the essential oil painting supplies that are absolutely necessary to explore this wonderful world to create fine art.

Painting Surface

You can paint on just about any surface as long as you treat a surface with gesso that keeps the paint from deteriorating the surface beneath. Oil painting can be done on thick paper, wood or on canvas.

Oil Paint

For beginners, you can purchase a kit that is stocked with all of the colors. Once you get comfortable with the painting and start understanding different colors you can start mixing your own.

oil painting techniques

Paint Brushes

For a beginner, you won’t need a ton of different paintbrushes. One or two small, medium and large round brushes, respectively, should be enough to start. As you paint you will quickly learn what shapes and sizes of brush you gravitate toward, and what effects you’re hoping to achieve.


This is a surface where you mix paint. You can use anything from a large piece of glass to a ceramic tile. Make sure it’s big enough to hold all your colors and there is enough space for mixing.


You cannot clean up oil paints with water, instead, you’ll need to use turpentine or mineral spirits to get the paint out of your brushes.

Oil medium

This is used to thin your oil paint to attain an ideal consistency without losing the paint’s texture. Generally, the medium is made by combining linseed stand oil with turpentine. As you start mixing colors you’ll find they’re easier to mix when you add a little painter’s medium.

Pencil or Charcoal Pencil

For a beginner, you can sketch out whatever you’ll be painting. Charcoal pencils work pretty well on the texture of the canvas to outline drawing. Expert painters prefer to sketch directly on the work surface with paint, but others prefer pencil.

oil painting basics

Now that you have the complete oil painting for beginners list, get started and happy painting!

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