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Being an artist is all about discovering new ways to express your ideas and thoughts. It’s no different for people who are passionate about painting. There are a variety of ways and styles that you can add to your skill set. If you are eager to expand your horizons, then exploring the world of oil painting for beginners might be the best choice. 

Oil painting has its own unique aesthetic. It’s fine quality and longevity is second to none. However, with superior quality comes the complexity of handling and working with oil paints. Getting familiar with oil painting might prove to be an overwhelming task, but it’s worth the shot. Don’t worry! We can make the process quite simpler by shedding some light on important details about Oil painting. Read our oil painting for beginners guide below.

Getting to know about Oil Paints 

Oil paints are slow drying paints which are composed of ground-up pigments suspended in drying oil, usually linseed oil. They can be mixed with solvents such as turpentine and mineral spirit to alter their consistency and fluidity. Oil paints date back to 7th Century CE, and remain as one of the oldest forms of painting mediums. Oil painting gained prominence in early 15th Century. Prolific artists throughout the history have worked with oil paints to create masterpieces. From “Starry Nights” by Van Gogh to da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”, oil paints have a rich history in the world of art. 

Oil painting for beginners: Why try it?

  1. As mentioned above, oil painting has been practiced by All-time greats like Pablo Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci. If you are someone who looks up to these great painters, then you cannot miss out on Oil painting.


  2. Possibilities are endless when it comes to working with oil paints. You can try out different layers, consistencies and techniques. You can manipulate them to turn your ideas into a beautiful artwork.


  3. Oil paintings have unparalleled aesthetic. It’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to recreate the same exceptional outlook using other painting mediums. This is the reason why oil paintings are highly valued amongst the art enthusiasts.

Choosing the right materials

The first key element to get started with oil painting is gathering right supplies to work with. Starting with oil paints, you need to consider following factors before buying oil paints. 

  • GRADE: Oil paints usually come in two grades i.e. Student grade and Professional Grade. Student grade paints are produced according to the needs of beginners. They are relatively cheaper, but they also cut back on quality. They often have inconsistencies when it comes to color and longevity. Professional grade paints are more costly but offer premium quality. The colors are more consistent and bright, and they last longer. We would advise you to use professional grade, but if you are a beginner, then you can work with student grade as well.
  • CONSISTENCY: Consistency varies from brand to brand. The drying time of your paints would depend on their consistency. With time and practice, you would figure out which one works the best for you.

Other materials required:

  • Paint Brush set; Multiple brushes of different sizes and shapes. 
  • Primed Canvas or other painting surface
  • Palette
  • Clean paper towel or piece of cloth
  • Solvent or Turpentine 
  • Easel

Our recommended products

Van Gogh Oil Colors

  • Superior Quality Student grade
  • Vibrant Colors
  • Uniform consistency
  • Great tinting strength
  • Affordable price

Bob Ross Oil Paint Tubes

  • Designed according to Bob Ross’s wet-on-wet
  • Vibrant and Intense Colors
  • Easy to handle
  • Suitable for professionals 

Winsor & Newton Oil paints

  • Wide range of colors
  • Great color strength
  • Lightfast rating of (AA or A)
  • Uniform coverage
  • Suitable for professionals

Princeton Real Value Brush Set

  • Synthetic golden taklon bristles
  • Work well for different mediums
  • Comfortable handle
  • Suitable for beginners

Winsor & Newton Galeria Brush

  • Perfect control and responsiveness
  • Bristles made from synthetic filaments
  • Bristles maintain shape
  • Suitable for intermediates

KINGART Golden Taklon Brush Set

  • Bristles made from golden taklon
  • Highly durable and easy to clean
  • Best choice for professional brushes for acrylics, oil paints and watercolors

Setting up your working space

Let’s be honest, we all have spilled paint at one point in our life. That’s why we recommend setting up your easel in an open space. For you this can be indoors or even outdoors, whatever suits you. If an open space is not available, it is advisable to use plastic sheets to cover the floor and nearby furniture to avoid getting paint on them. It is necessary that your working place should be properly ventilated. It is important to have your supplies close, so you don’t have to move away from your canvas. You lose your focus and rhythm by constantly swaying away from your workplace. Make sure the lighting is adequate for true form of colors to be visible. This will help you to get your color shades right.

Trying your hands on materials

You must be familiar with the supplies you are working with. You can try out multiple brushes to see what they are suited for. Brushes have multiple sizes and shapes and all of them serve different purpose. Try altering the consistency of paints by using solvents or turpentine to dilute them. This would help you get hang of right texture and consistency you want to work with. Swatch different colors and try applying multiple shades of same color. These practices would serve as a sparring session before you enter the painting ring!

Visualizing your painting ideas

It is essential to have a clear picture of what you want to draw. Take time to conceptualize your ideas and come up with a rough sketch of what you would like to create. Try thinking of all major and minor details that you would want to have in your painting.  Every detail matters when it comes to producing art. Look up for some color schemes that you can try in your painting. Initially, limit your color palette. Having a grasp of your drawing will go a long way in making you capable of putting those ideas into practice. As a beginner, it is advisable to go for simpler ideas. It would be easy to envision simpler ideas and applying them would not be complex.

Roughly under painting your idea on canvas

Initially, try staining your entire canvas by applying an undertone with a lighter and dull color, usually Burnt Sienna. Create a thin wash of paint by adding turpentine or solvent in it and apply it roughly on the entire canvas. Let it dry before proceeding. Now identify all basic shapes, objects, lines or borders of your design and apply their outline on the stained canvas. This rough outline would present major details of your design, and we recommend leaving out finer details in this sketch.

Start painting!

Now that you have established a foundation of your design, it’s time to start painting. There are various styles of painting you can adopt, but they can be categorized mainly into two styles; Depth with layers and Alla Prima (Wet-on wet).

Applying depth with layers requires painting over an existing layer. The inner layer should be thinner i.e. the paint should have less oil content. Meanwhile outer layers should be thicker with more oil content. This style is time consuming as a single layer can take from few days to months to dry. Therefore you would have to wait a long time to apply next layer.

Whereas in Alla Prima, you apply more layers on top of the inner layer while it is still wet. The use of thinner paint in bottom layer and thicker paint in outer layer is same as in traditional layer method. This is a direct approach and you don’t have to wait for layers to dry to paint on them. You can complete a painting in two or even one session.

First paint the basic objects of your designs and then move onto finer details. Always try to step back from canvas from time to time to have a proper look at your progress. This would enable you to find any missing details or mistakes that you have made along the way. Through this, you can refine your painting. 

Storing your painting

Oil painting for beginners


Once you are done with painting, we recommend you to let your painting dry in a clean place away from sunlight. Oil paints take time to dry and it can take months for them to be dry. You have to be patient during this process and ensure that painting is away from children or pets. Check their progress every couple of weeks. Once the paint has dried, you can apply varnish on it although it is not necessary.

We are hopeful that our oil painting for beginners guide would help you enter the world of oil painting. In the beginning, oil painting might seem challenging, but with time you would get better at it. Through practice you would get better grasp on oil paints and soon you would be able create beautiful paintings.

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