The Best way to Paint with Oil Paints

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Painting with oils has been popular since its introduction during the Renaissance. Perhaps that’s why so many people enjoy it as a hobby or turn their skills into a profitable career. Mixing paints, adding layers and trying new techniques and styles of your own can be a vastly rewarding experience.

Oil Paint Supplies list:

• Palette
• Brushes
• Paints
• Oils
• Turpentine
• Canvas
• Gesso
• Easel
• Varnish

Beginners Choice Of Colors:

It’s better to start learning oil painting with fewer colors rather than overwhelm yourself with too many. That way you’ll be able to begin mixing and creating your own additional colors with an artist’s eye for color.

Better quality oil paints give much better results than the many cheaper brands on the market made for students. In this instance you honestly do get what you pay for. The best oils will mix the colors better. We’re talking about color-wise, not about textures or consistency here.

When purchasing your oil paints, remember that if it is has the word ‘hue’ or ‘imitation’ in the color name, then it is a cheaper version of that pigment. Personal experience leads me to suggest fewer colors, but to stay in the more expensive range of traditional pigments and you’ll be much happier.

A good beginner’s palette of traditional oils would be the following:

• Red and Yellow (both Cadmium-medium)
• Blue and Green (both phthalo)
• Burnished Umber
• Titanium Opaque White
• Zinc White – Translucent
• Payne Grey

If you’ll notice, there are no blacks listed. It’s far more interesting to mix your own dark colors from what you have. Be aware that the cadmium’s are poisonous so don’t get it on your skin! If there’s any chance you may forget this tidbit, purchase the cheaper versions in the hues you want, which are NOT poisonous.

Oils to use in Oil painting:

Oil painting requires the use of an oil, or combination of oils, to be mixed with the color pigments. This changes the thickness of the pigments into usable consistencies, and later acts as a drying agent that will harden and leave only the color of the painting behind. The most commonly used drying oil is linseed oil. Safflower, soybean, hemp walnut and other oils are also used, and they will all have different drying times.

Relatively new is the use of water soluble oil paints. This is preferred by many new artists because they dry so much faster. Drying times will take anywhere from 1 to 3 days rather than the traditional 1 to 3 weeks with oil paints.

Oil Painting Brushes:

The importance of oil painting brushes cannot be understated. Good brushes will hold their shape between strokes, even when loaded with paint. Two different hair types are used to make brushes; Bristle hair which come from boars or pigs, and Sable hair which come from an animal called sable.

Bristle brushes are made for larger area’s of painting and therefore should be purchased in sizes of one-half inch wide or more. For fine detail and small area’s you should use the sable brush in one-half inch widths or smaller.

Commonly used shapes for paintbrushes are flats, filberts, rounds and brights. They all will have their own numbering system according to brand, so it is always best to judge the size by looking at it. Ignore the numbers, in other words, go with your gut!


It would be wonderful if the great techniques of the Master’s could simply be taught by watching them work. Since this is impossible, the best we can do is learn the basics of as many techniques as possible, and then develop your own styles from a variety of your favorites. There is a plethora of styles and it would be futile to mention them all here. Instead I’ve highlighted just a few of them:

Fat over Lean – Quite simply one of the most basic techniques that should be learned by the beginning painter. It refers to the drying times between layers of paint. Paint directly out of the tube, or ‘fat’ paint, dries more gradually than ‘leaner’ paint which dries faster as it has been combined with added oils. The way to remember how the layers in your oil painting should be applied, is to think “fat paint on top of lean”. If you do not adhere to this rule, your masterpiece may wind up cracking after all the drying has finished.

Glazing – This is the art of painting translucent, thinner colors on top of a dry underpainting. The layers are added in darker and darker shades. The layers of the oil painting must completely dry before the next coat is added. This type of glazing has intriguing effects.

Scumbling – This is the reverse of glazing. Layers are added in order of dark to light. Both styles have their own unique qualities and can change the look of your paintings.

Wet to wet – Here is the style of painting where wet paint is placed right over other layers of wet paint. The idea here is to blend the colors and create different colors and styles.

These are only four of the styles that can be learned out of dozens. The techniques that you discover and paints that you select can lead to your own signature styles.

Have fun experimenting! :)

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