Oil Painting Tips To Get You Started

Posted on Jan 22 2015 - 9:08am by Editorial Staff

Oil Painting

The versatility of oil paints can be so tempting that a beginner feels compelled to try this art form regardless of the complications that go with the creation of an oil painting. While oil paintings have their share of advantages, there are some disadvantages too, which need to be considered while creating an oil paint. Here are some oil painting tips for beginners.


As a beginner, knowing about the materials required will help give you a good start. Canvas to paint on, paints, thinner, palette, palette knives, brush, mediums such as linseed oil, containers to store thinners and mediums and varnish are the essentials to get started. While buying the colors, you will find them available in various sized tubes. Go for biggest tubes for black and white and you can buy smaller tubes of red, yellow, black, rose, violet, green and blue.

Importance Of Priming The Canvas

The painting on canvas may deteriorate over time as the canvas is thin and fragile. The oil on canvas will sink leaving dull patches on the painting. When canvas is primed, the colors will stand out. The surface will also be smooth to work on helping free flow of brush as you paint. Mix the primer and apply it thinly and evenly using a large brush. Allow the first layer to dry and paint the second layer. Sand it lightly after the second layer dries and pat off the dust. Apply a third coating and wait till it dries. Now you have your canvas primed and ready. If you feel the task to be overwhelming, you can draw inspiration from nice art gallery and you would not consider anything short of it.

Fat Over Lean

One of the mantras of oil painting is “Fat over lean”. Lower layers absorb oil from top layers, thereby resulting in cracks as upper layers dry faster owing to the oil absorption. Hence, you need to use leaner paints for lower layers and increase the proportion of oil medium for subsequent layers. To make leaner paints, you need to mix paint with a solvent.

Drying The Lean Layer Fast

Use paints that contain lead, manganese and cobalt as they accelerate the drying process. You can mix these paints with other colors. It is also recommended to avoid ivory black to paint the lower layer as it takes more time to dry. Linseed oil is considered the best medium as it dries thoroughly and hence it can be used in the bottom layer. However, avoid linseed in white and blue as it may become yellowish.

During Work And After

While you oil paint, choose a well ventilated area. Oil, medium and thinner fumes can cause health hazard. If you experience dizziness, headaches, irritation in your eyes or chest, leave the room. If thinner or medium is spilled on your skin, wash off immediately to avoid irritation to skin. Once you wind off for the day, never leave the paints, thinner or mediums lying around. Seal them properly and shelve them.

Image credit Susan Roberts, CC BY 2.0

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Editorial Staff at I2Mag is a team of subject experts.