How to Oil Paint - Beginners Guide

I have seen many newbie oil painters who feel it difficult to deal with oil painting and it inspired to write a small guide for them.

I believe, there are plenty of reasons to take up this enjoyable art form which is why I am trying to motivate new painters through my post.

So, Let's start with the basics - 

1. Selecting Oil Painting Brushes: The most important thing while selecting brushes is to check its fiber and shape. Learn the different options when you read this guide. Know what else you require to paint with oil: supports, a palette, and an easel are just the start.

2. Oil Painting Chemistry and Safety
The pigments used in oil paints are nearly the same as those in watercolors and acrylics. Before going to buy oil paints, you must know it comes in two grades. First is the student and the second is professional. The primary difference being the concentration of color or, in some instances, the process of mixing pigment and binder.

Different artists have different choices and have their own favorite brands, brushes, palettes, and mediums, but here I am sharing some "must know tips" that are useful to you if you are just springing up with oil paints.

Tip 1 - Start with small paintings
Getting started with the small paintings gives you chance to try out techniques and experiment with the color without investing too much time and material into the process. You can buy some small canvases or try painting with oils on paper too. (Remember to gesso the paper first).

Tip 2 - Get Organized
Set up space in a well-ventilated area where you can keep your palettes and supplies out and at-the-ready and your paintings visible. This will give you the chance to see and think about your work, even if you're not actually painting. Doing this on regular basis makes it easier for you to paint and help you develop an interest in it.

Tip 3 - Invest in Brushes
Two types - student grade and professional one. You should buy professional grade brushes to get the better painting results. Professional grade has a greater ratio of pigment to binder.
You don't need to buy brushes in bulk. Only buy higher quality brushes. 3 different sizes - buy and experiment with the different shapes as you paint initially. You also have another option to use synthetic brushes. They are made up of acrylic paints for oil. There is also a range of natural hair brushes that can be used with oil.

"Most of the professionals use Bristle brushes."

Tip 4 - Prime Your Painting Surface
You have a range of surfaces to paint - canvas, wood, paper -  but whichever you choose, Do not forget to apply a type of primer called gesso. It is used to prevent the oil from seeping into the surface. Gesso protects the surface from the acids in the paint, and provide a surface that the paint will adhere to more easily.

Tip 5 - Understand Color Mixing
Primary painting colors are not "pure". As a beginner, handle this problem by leaning toward either yellow or blue. Make them warm if toward yellow, and cool if towards blue. This determines how the primary colors mix to play the secondary colors.

Tip 6 - Start With an Oil Sketch
This is a shallow underpainting, consisting of a color and turpentine. It dries so quickly, Now you can add subsequent layers of paint and color without waiting too long. 

Either work on white canvas or tone it with a neutral gray first, Burnt sienna is useful to lay out values and composition.

  • Susan: I am a professional paint artist.