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Oil Painting For starters – Tips on how to Get Started in Oil Painting


One of the more frequently asked questions from beginners in oil painting is: How do I get Started? To get started in oil painting is relatively easy. There are some basic supplies that you will need and some basic guidelines to follow. This article will discuss how beginners can get started with oil painting. This article will not teach you how to become a good painter however. In fact, no one can make you a good painter. You can only be taught certain things and it is up to you to take what you have learned and apply it.

Many beginners who are new to the oil painting medium, generally have the same questions. So let’s cover those questions now so that you can begin your painting journey right away.

Oil Painting For starters - Tips on how to Get Started in Oil Painting  IMG_0581-1-500x496

Oil Painting Supplies

The first thing you will need to do is purchase a few supplies. You need not spend a ton of money on expensive oil painting supplies. Start with the basics as you are only a beginner right now. The goal at this point is to get used to working with your support, brushes, paints and other materials. So expensive supplies will be wasted during this stage.


You are going to need a support to paint on. There are a number of different supports that can handle oil paint, but for now, start with canvas. Many beginners often ask if a canvas needs any special coating or priming for oil paint. The short answer is yes, but you need not worry about that either. Any local art supply store or online art supply store will have canvases that are already primed and ready to be used.

Oil Paint

Next, you are going to need paint. You do not need an expensive brand of paint. That would again be a waste for beginners. There are less expensive, good quality paints on the market that will work beautifully for your painting needs. Here are a few oil paint brands to test out: WINSOR & NEWTON Winton Oil Colours, GRUMBACHER Academy Oils and DALER-ROWNEY Georgian Oil Colours.

For those of you who may be concerned about the potential hazards associated with oil paints, have no fear. Introducing water miscible oil paints! These paints are fantastic. They can be thinned with water as opposed to using dangerous solvents like turpentine. Here are two brands to try out if you are interested: GRUMBACHER Max Water Miscible Oil Colors and WINSOR & NEWTON Artisan Water Mixable Oil Colours.

Oil Painting Brushes

Having good quality brushes is important. While a good quality brush will not make you a better painter, a cheap brush will only wind up frustrating you. When you use cheap brushes you will see why. Cheap brushes have a tendency to shed hairs that get stuck in the oil paint, which is extremely annoying. Good quality brushes should have stiff hairs and snap back into place when you run your fingers through them. They should be well crafted and sturdy.

You do not need that many brushes for oil painting. I personally only use two types of oil painting brushes: flats and filberts of various sizes. I do have a few rounds and a fan brush on hand, but I almost never use them. I would also recommend that you use hogs hair brushes as opposed to the softer synthetic hair brushes. The synthetic brushes are just too flimsy to handle the oil painting medium in my opinion.

Cleaning your brushes is important, so don’t be careless in this area, especially if you are working with high quality brushes. Many artists recommend turpentine for cleaning brushes, but I simply cannot bring myself to use this stuff. I use a much safer brush cleaning product called « The Masters » Brush Cleaner and Preserver.

I clean my brushes right after a painting session with this product and it works wonderfully. It may take some time to really get your brushes clean, but it is worth the effort. If the brush cleaner does not remove all of the paint, then I use a bit of odorless mineral spirits. I find this a much better alternative to turpentine.

Oil Painting Mediums

What about mediums? Do you need to mix the oil paint with anything or can you use it straight out of the tube? This is another common question amongst beginners. The answer? You do not need mediums to paint with. They are not a requirement, but I find them to be quite helpful.

Most oil paints that I have worked with are simply too stiff right out of the tube for my particular style of painting. Mediums will help dilute the oil paint and make the paint flow better, which means you will be using less paint. Using less paint, means you will save money.

There are many different kinds of mediums that are used for different reasons, like speeding up the drying time of paint, improving gloss, etc. Do not be overly concerned with mediums right now.

I like to start my painting using thinned down acrylic paint. I first tone my entire canvas with a neutral color. I then draw in my composition using different values of the same color. I let this initial drawing dry over night. I then apply the oil paint using the fat over lean oil painting method.


This is a very important part of oil painting. Without proper lighting, you will not be able to accurately see your colors. The best kind of lighting is natural sunlight, so if you have the opportunity to paint in a well lit room or outdoors, that would be ideal. Of course not everyone is blessed with this type of situation, so the next best thing is to use lighting that mimics natural sunlight.

This type of lighting is referred to as « full spectrum lighting ». There are number of different full spectrum lighting products available. Just do a search on Google for « full spectrum lighting » and you will find a number of websites on the topic.


Oil painting for beginners can be hazardous if you are not careful, so it is important to take the necessary precautions. Make sure you work in an area that has good ventilation and airflow. Wear disposable latex gloves while painting. Read all manufacturer warning labels carefully.

Some Final Words

As you sit down to start your first painting, remember that you are just a beginner. Your main goal right now is to have fun and get used to working with your oil painting materials. Do not be overly judgmental about your own work. If you do so, you will only wind up getting frustrated. Your first, second, third or even tenth painting may not turn out the way you wanted it to. This is completely normal so do not get discouraged. Oil painting is a difficult medium to master. It takes perseverance so hang in there. I wish you all the best! God Bless.

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