4 Helpful Oil Painting Tips for Beginners

Oil painting has been around for a long time, and continues to be a popular medium because of its qualities, such as versatility and color.

While it seems easier to get started on oils rather than acrylics, the drawback is that the solvents you will be using are toxic. Oil paintings also take hours to dry and can be smudged easily if you’re not careful.
Here are a few helpful tips for beginners in oil painting:

1. Invest in high-grade paints and brushes.
This is where the difference between oil paint and acrylic starts. With oils, paintbrushes can be just as expensive as the paints themselves, and you will also need to shell out more for solvents and oils (linseed oil, safflower oil, etc.).

Oil paints also take a while to dry and can be pretty messy, which is all the more reason why you should take care of your brushes. Wipe them off with a rag after cleaning them off with turpentine or solvent.

2. Start small.
If you’re starting out with the medium, it’s usually a good idea to start with smaller paintings and sketches, and work your way through bigger canvases.

This serves a lot of purposes. When you’re only starting out, you need to develop your eye for color, composition, and your own sense of style. This is best done with a smaller painting as opposed to larger ones, which can be easily intimidating.

Smaller paintings are also cheaper to do since they require smaller canvases and use less paint, which means you can allow yourself to make mistakes and learn more as you improve.

3. Your workspace matters.
Being able to paint well also depends on the space you paint in. When you paint in oils, be sure to set up somewhere well ventilated (oil solvents and thinners can be toxic if you’re not careful) and well-lit, and with enough room for you to keep your paintings visible.

Organizing your workspace also keeps everything you need in one place and makes you want to paint more often. If you do, you’ll notice that your art will improve more rapidly.

4. Paint order is key!
Always start by priming your painting surface with gesso! This prevents the oil from seeping into the surface and lets your paint slide more easily.

Once your painting is primed, prepare a limited color palette (no need to use all colors at once – start with a painting of only one hue and its different shades) and start with an underpainting that consists of a color and an odorless turpentine substitute.

Use thinner paint and less oil in your first layers, and move to a greater ratio of oil to turpentine as you add layers and details in your details.

(Disclaimer: this list is compiled in no particular order.)