Oil Painting For Beginners – Tips and Much More

Oil painting dates back to Roman times – at least, becoming much more popular in the 15th century, where it was mixed with medium, making it similar to the way current day oil paints look and feel.

So it’s been in use almost forever!

So why does it still seem to be regarded as one of the most difficult panting mediums by beginner painters?

Well I think the beginner is put off by many factors, including – the vast number of colour choices available, the smell of turps, the messiness of cleaning the brushes, buying expensive stretched canvas and an easel to hold it, plus where do you store a wet canvas whilst waiting for it to dry?  It really is enough to put anyone off – no wonder most beginner painters decide to start with watercolour – which in my opinion really is the most difficult and unforgiving of all the painting mediums to start with.

Oil painting has many advantages though, especially for the beginner, here’s just a few – if you do something wrong then you can just wipe the section off and redo it, most colours are quite opaque so it covers the canvas quickly making the painting appear to develop quickly, the paint stays wet for some time, making blending much easier and less rushed.

So now we know some of the great benefits lets see if I can simplify the process of oil painting and encourage some beginners to give it a try.

OK, lets start with all those colour choices out there – well you will be pleased to know that you only really need a few colours to start, here’s a good beginners list –  Titanium White Ultramarine Blue Cadmium Red Medium Cadmium Yellow Medium Burnt Umber Burnt Sienna Lamp Black  I use the Lamp Black sparingly in paint mixes, and because I paint a lot of wildlife I have included the Umber and Sienna as well.

I use Alkyd Oil paints as they dry by the next day – which makes storing oil paintings a piece of cake – no more wet paintings propped up against things gathering dust while they dry.  Your going to need a solvent of some sort to wash your brushes at the end of a painting session, and any of the Low odor solvents are good, the Bob Ross Low odor thinners is a good choice, most of them have VERY little smell at all.  When I need to thin the paint mix whilst painting I use a medium of 50% Linseed oil and 50% Thinners, once again the smell is kept very low.  Oil painting brushes are cheap when compared to decent quality watercolour brushes, which is another great reason to start with oils.

Choose a small selection of Hog brushes, I like Flats and Filberts, 1inch, 1/2inch and 1/4 inch should be fine – 2 of each. Also 2 synthetic round brushes for more detailed work, size 5 and 1 should be fine.  You will also need a palette to put your paints on and also mix, I use disposable paper palettes, they are available from all art stores – make sure they are suitable for oil paint (they have a shiny side which does not absorb the paint), they make cleaning up at the end of a painting session real easy.

Now you only really need to find something to paint on to – When practicing this could be something as cost effective as paper with a few coats of gesso on one side, or canvas boards which are also very reasonably priced. If your think you are going to do a lot of paintings as I do then it can be even more cost effective to by loose / primed canvas in a roll.

OK….. so we have –

Taken or reduced substantially the smell associated with oil paints (using odorless thinners)

Reduced the choice of colours to a more manageable number

Eliminated the problem of storing wet paintings (using Alkyd Paints)

Reduced the choice of brushes by picking a small selection of essential brushes

Made clean up quick by using paper palettes and

Reduced the cost of canvas by using more economical supports.

So now there is really no reason why the beginner should not start out with oil paints and enjoy what I think is the best painting medium of all.