Oil paintings have been created for hundreds of years, and they still are one of the best types of art to see today. There are endless possibilities for the artist, and since this is a classic type of painting, you have many classic and modern references to go to for inspiration.
If you want to get truly serious about oil paintings, you should know that paint isn’t the only thing you need to begin. There are several items that you need to purchase if you want to make the most of your next art piece.
On this page, we’re going to go over each supply you need to start creating your first oil painting successfully.
- 1 Essential Supply List for Oil Paintings
- 2 Paint
- 3 Brushes
- 4 Brush Jar
- 5 Mineral Spirits/Turpentine
- 6 Oil Medium
- 7 Rags
- 8 Color Palette
- 9 Pencils
- 10 Canvas
- 11 Easel
- 12 What Base Should I Use for Oil Painting?
- 13 What Kind of Canvas Do You Use for Oil Painting?
- 14 Texture
- 15 Prime
- 16 Fabric
- 17 Unstretched Canvas/Canvas Rolls
- 18 Stretched Canvas
- 19 Canvas Pads
- 20 Canvas Panels
- 21 How Many Layers Should an Oil Painting Have?
- 22 How Long Do Oil Paintings Last?
- 23 How Do You Dry an Oil Painting Overnight?
- 24 Work in a Place With Warmer Temperatures
- 25 Use Thinner Painting Layers
- 26 Paint on a Flat Surface
- 27 Use an Acrylic Paint Coat for the Canvas’s Surface
- 28 Conclusion
Essential Supply List for Oil Paintings
Before we start diving into the specifics, it’s vital for you to know what items you should always have at your disposal before you start painting. Remember that oil paintings are not just about the paint itself.
In the list you’re going to read below, you’re going to get a more in-depth insight on what important and optional supplies you can get for your oil painting sessions.
Keep in mind that oil paint is not the same as acrylic/water-soluble paint. It may be easy to confuse them, but the method used to identify them is fairly easy. If you’re going to buy the paint tubes for the first time, you may identify the type of paint by looking at the product’s label.
On the other hand, if you already have some paint tubes and don’t know whether they’re oil-based or water-based, you may try the following experiment: Wipe the tube’s surface with denatured alcohol. If the rag you used to wipe the tube picks up any paint, the paint is water-based. Alternatively, if the paint rubs off on the rag, the paint is oil-based.
Another common concern among painters is choosing the colors they want to work with. If you’re a beginner, you may go for a painting kit. Many stores sell color kits that include the most commonly used colors, so you should be fine with those for now.
Alternatively, if you have more experience with painting and know how to mix colors, you can purchase only the colors you essentially need, such as red, yellow, blue, black, or white tubes. Some of the most common colors needed are titanium white, cadmium red, ultramarine blue, phthalo blue, cadmium yellow, and ivory black.
You can find paint tubes in many sizes, but we believe that 200ml for a paint tube is more than enough to begin with.
As you may already know, there are many types of brushes on the market, and you may choose the one you feel most comfortable with. Keep in mind that you don’t need to buy every brush to start; you can start by purchasing small, medium, and large brushes, and keep working from there.
Once you gather enough experience about your painting style and needs, you may have a clearer idea of what type of brush can suit you the best. Paint brushes may vary depending on their shape, type, or parts in general.
When it comes to oil painting, there are two main types of brushes used: Sable brushes and bristle brushes. Sable brushes are softer and can be used to blend your colors and give some finishing details to your painting. On the other hand, bristle brushes work better for artists who need to accentuate their brushstrokes.
You need your painting process to be as fluent and smooth as possible. Oil painting can turn messy fairly fast, so you must get a safe object to clean your brushes in. In most cases, artists use a simple jar to clean their brushes.
If you want to clean your brushes quickly, you may fill the jar with mineral spirits so that you don’t have to spend too much time rubbing the brush’s bristles to remove the paint.
Thankfully, brush jars may be found at any supply store. Alternatively, you may use a jar you have at home if you feel it can do the job.
A critical thing to keep in mind while painting is that oil paint isn’t cleaned with water. Oil is much denser, so you need an appropriate material to clean your brushes correctly.
Overall, you can clean oil paint with a paint thinning solution, such as turpentine. Turpentine is gathered from the resin of particular pine trees, and it’s also used for varnishing paintings.
If you don’t have access to turpentine, you may create a mixture of mineral spirits, which is a great alternative to turpentine.
If you’re planning on thinning your paint without completely removing its texture, you may use an oil medium, such as linseed oil to create the consistency you want for your paint.
Rags are used to dry your bristles after you’ve dipped them into your cleaning jar. A common item used for cleaning brushes correctly is newsprint.
A color palette can make your painting process much simpler and quicker; this is a surface where you mix your paint. You can use it to place all your colors in one place so that you don’t have to look for each color in a different place whenever you need it.
Most color palettes are found in glass or ceramic. You may choose the one that you feel the most comfortable with.
Some artists prefer to sketch what they’re planning to paint before they start painting. Charcoal pencils do a great job at this since they’re soft, meaning that they’re not going to affect the oil painting when you put it in.
The canvas is where the magic happens. While canvases are the most popular work surface, you may use any surface you consider appropriate as long as you coat it with a primer.
However, it’s always suggested to use canvases since they’re the most comfortable painting surface for oil paintings.
An easel is a self-supporting wooden frame that some people use to hold their canvas while they’re painting. These frames don’t provide any additional value to your painting, but they can make the painting process more comfortable for you.
You don’t have to get an easel if you don’t want to, but it’s a great option if you’re planning on painting for several hours.
What Base Should I Use for Oil Painting?
Some people refer to the base as priming your painting surface, whereas others refer to the underpainting. We’re going to explain both factors so that you know what to do at the time of painting.
Priming your painting surface or canvas involves preparing the surface so that it can be painted. You can purchase canvases that are already pre-primed; in these cases, you don’t have to worry about anything rather than painting.
On the other hand, if you get a raw canvas, you must prime it before starting to paint it with oil since this material is known for making the canvas’ fibers brittle, damaging your painting after it dries.
Since we’re talking about oil paintings, you can use oil gesso as your base. Oil gesso is a traditional primer that you can use to prepare your surface to take the oil in. Keep in mind that you cannot use the acrylic ground to oil gesso, so make sure that you’re choosing the right one.
Alternatively, you may also use an acrylic gesso, which is a newer type of primer that allows you to paint acrylic grounds or underpaintings before you start using your oil paint.
Now that you know about priming, it’s time to talk about underpainting. Underpainting refers to the first paint layer applied to your canvas; that first layer is going to work as the foundation of the rest of the painting, so you need to make sure that you choose the correct one.
The underpainting is generally used as a way to adjust their color tones in the end. There are two types of underpainting: Tonal grounds under the painting and a single tonal under the painting.
The first one involves covering the canvas in a single, transparent color. With this type of underpainting, you can create a much better contrast rate for your complementary colors since it creates backlighting shadows. Additionally, you may use it to tone your painting to your liking.
On the single tonal method, you’re going to leave some painting areas without any paint; what this does is separating the dark from the light painting areas. If you want lighter areas in your artwork, you have to leave that part without any paint and vice versa.
As for which one to choose, it depends on what you want for your painting. For example, if you use a blue-toned layer, your artwork can show a colder feeling, whereas using a yellow-turned layer can give people a warmer feeling.
What Kind of Canvas Do You Use for Oil Painting?
Choosing a canvas for your oil painting can be complicated since there are many types to choose from. Additionally, not all canvases have the same quality, so you need to consider three important factors at the time of purchasing one:
A canvas’s texture can affect how well you work with your brushes. Canvases are made from natural fibers that can vary depending on how they’re woven together.
If you’re looking for detailed paintings, you may get a canvas with a smooth texture. However, if you want broader paint strokes, you may choose canvases with a rougher texture.
As mentioned before, priming is important if you want your painting to keep its true colors over the years. Generally, it’s better to buy pre-primed canvases since they can save you a lot of time and frustration in the future.
However, these canvases tend to be more expensive. If you’re looking for a more affordable option or want to get dull colors for your painting, you may use unprimed canvases.
There are two types of fabric for canvases: Linen and cotton. Linen tends to be the preferred one among artists since it’s more durable; however, linen is much more expensive than cotton.
Cotton isn’t as durable as linen, but it can still provide you excellent results for your painting, and it isn’t as expensive.
Taking these three elements into account, you have to choose a type of canvas that suits your budget, needs, and goals. We’re going to go over canvas type so that you can have a clearer idea of which one can work best for you.
Unstretched Canvas/Canvas Rolls
This option is recommended for experienced painters since these canvases need to be prepared and stretched by them. You may find pre-primed canvases of this type, but you still need to stretch them when you finish your painting.
One of the best things about unstretched canvases is that they’re easy to carry around since you can roll them in. If you have the experience or want to work with a large painting, we suggest that you give them a go.
A stretched canvas is mounted over a wooden frame (Also called stretcher bars.) Most artists prefer using stretched canvases since it saves them from stretching them later, which can be dangerous and can damage the oil painting.
You can get both unprimed or pre-primed stretched canvases, but typically, people get them pre-primed so that they can get to painting right away. Keep in mind that you can prime your canvas for acrylic paintings or oil paintings, so if your goal is to use oil paint, make sure to choose the right type of priming.
Canvas pads work as an alternative to canvas rolls; these are sheets of pre-primed canvas attached in book form. A great thing about canvas pads is that they can be stretched and mounted into a frame if you want, but they don’t last as long as stretched canvases.
Artists who want a safe space to practice their sketches often use pads due to their portability.
Canvas panels are mounted on a rigid board, and they come in compact sizes, so you may carry them around without any issues. You can find panel packs on the internet that offer packs of 12 or more panels. Additionally, you may choose the panel size you want since they come with several options.
As with canvas pads, canvas panels don’t last as long as stretched canvases. Beginners often use these panels for practice.
How Many Layers Should an Oil Painting Have?
The number of layers that you have to use for an oil painting can vary depending on what you want to achieve. You may not know the right answer at first if you’re a beginner, so your best choice here is to practice until you find something that works for you.
Most people use a minimum of two layers, but keep in mind that you may use more depending on what you can achieve. For example, if you’re looking to intensify the colors in a specific area, you may add more layers until you’re satisfied with the results.
Some artists have used up to seven layers of oil paint to reach their desired result. Overall, there is no right or wrong answer in this topic; you may use the number of layers you consider appropriate.
However, while you can use a single layer of paint, it’s not recommended for beginners since it can leave the painting feeling unfinished.
How Long Do Oil Paintings Last?
An important thing to consider about oil paintings is that they’re continually oxidizing, meaning that they can take a lot of time until they dry correctly. With proper storage conditions, an oil painting can last for decades without getting damaged.
Taking care of an oil painting may seem simple, but it requires you to pay attention to it to avoid any issues since oil can easily peel. There are many oil paintings in museums that were created several decades ago, and they still maintain their color and structure. While museum paintings go over specialized care processes, you can also take care of your painting without too many issues.
The first thing to keep in check is lighting conditions. You cannot place your artwork under direct sunlight since it can discolor the painting reasonably quickly. High-frequency bulbs can also damage the painting over time, so make sure that you don’t place your artwork directly below one.
Another common storing issue is temperature. You must ensure that you’re placing the painting in a temperature-controlled room. In other words, try to mount your art in a place without many temperature fluctuations or humidity since that can cause it to stretch or shrink.
Finally, you must clean your paintings properly every once in a while. Artworks can easily collect dust regardless of where they’ve been placed, so ensure that you’re not letting them collect any dirt particles that can damage them.
You may use a small duster to remove dust particles from your painting easily. Try not to use regular dust cloths since they can scratch the artwork. Additionally, you may use a small vacuum to take care of any dust collecting on the painting’s back.
If you want to prevent these issues as much as possible, make sure to frame your painting correctly. Remember that oil paintings need to have contact with air to oxidize and dry, but you cannot let it get too much air, or it could cause unnecessary amounts of moisture there.
Artists who keep all of the previous tips in mind are going to be able to keep their paintings fresh and clean for decades!
How Do You Dry an Oil Painting Overnight?
Some artists prefer to dry their oil paintings as soon as possible so that they can keep working on them. While it’s much better to let them dry naturally, there are some things that you can do to speed up the process.
You may use drying mediums since they can reasonably speed up the drying process. However, we don’t recommend using these since they can be hazardous to your physical health.
Here is a list of safer methods that you can use to dry your oil painting overnight:
Work in a Place With Warmer Temperatures
Warmer climates are known for positively influencing your painting’s drying process. If you want to dry your artwork faster, try to avoid places with a lot of humidity.
Use Thinner Painting Layers
Thicker paint layers can take much more time to harden and dry, especially when it comes to oil painting. In this case, you may try using several layers of lighter brush strokes to see how much time they take to dry.
While it may not cause a significant change, it can help you achieve your results faster.
Paint on a Flat Surface
Painting on rough surfaces can cause your oil paint to take much more time to dry. One of the best paint surfaces where you can work with oil paintings is a canvas. Thankfully, most people use canvases to create their artworks, so you may find them at any supply store.
Flat surfaces allow you to distribute each color evenly, meaning that they can dry faster. If you don’t mind changing your painting surface in exchange for a quicker drying process, we suggest that you give it a try.
Use an Acrylic Paint Coat for the Canvas’s Surface
While you’re still going to use oil paint for the entire painting, keep in mind that giving the work surface a coat of acrylic paint before starting can cause your oil colors to dry much faster.
Acrylic paint can dry off much quicker, and once the work surface is hard enough, it may help your oil paint to dry much faster.
Getting prepared for creating an oil painting may seem overwhelming at first. However, once you get everything in check the first time, you’re going to have an easier time setting up your work session since you’re already going to have everything ready to go.
Remember that you can create art in any way you consider appropriate. If you have a fantastic idea that you want to get into a canvas, grab your supplies and get to work!