beginning oil painting

How to Oil Paint – Oil Painting For Beginners

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Oil painting is a challenging painting technique. It is for good reason that painting with oil paint is considered the supreme discipline in painting. The drying time is long, oil paint does not smell too pleasant and leaves permanent stains. But when it comes to the outcome, there is a lot to be said for painting with oil paint. With no other painting medium can you create such classic and realistic colors. Particularly for landscapes and portraits, oil colors are the first choice. Do you want to discover the secrets of oil painting? Then this is the right place for you, we will show you how to use oil paints, the techniques, and materials needed for your oil artworks.



History of Oil Painting

Painting with oil paints has its origins in the 14th century. The idea behind the development of oil paint was to achieve a durable paint that does not contain any perishable ingredients. This has been achieved with different oils (linseed oil, poppy seed oil and others), as well as with the addition of resins. This made the paint more durable and extended the drying time dramatically. In addition, the color shades of the oil paints became brighter.

Oil painting then experienced a considerable boom in the Renaissance, not least because of the improved durability and the shiny surface of the applied paint. When the paint tube was invented in the 19th century, oil paint was protected from drying out and oil painting thus experienced a further significant boost. To underline the importance of this painting medium, only a few well-known artists are mentioned here: Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, and Claude Monet.

how to oil paint



What Are Oil Paints and How Do You Use Them?

Oil paint consists of color pigments and hardening oils such as linseed oil or poppy seed oil. Due to the oils, it contains, it is relatively odor-intensive and should only be used in well-ventilated rooms. Here are some important things to keep in mind when using oil paints:

  • Use oil paint only in well-ventilated rooms
  • The painting surface must be primed so that the oil it contains does not soak into the canvas
  • Once dried, oil paint is waterproof and acid resistant
  • The paint application must not be too thick, otherwise, cracks may occur
  • Oil paints are always opaque
  • Oil colors mix very well with each other
  • Oil paint is not resistant to yellowing and should be additionally protected against yellowing
  • The drying time of oil paint is between two days and one week
  • With oil painting, the following applies: always paint from bold to lean, so that no cracks appear

The use of oil paints requires some knowledge. You should always apply the faster drying, thin layers of paint first and only then the thicker, slow-drying ones. Otherwise, the tension created during the drying process could cause the layers of paint to crack open.


Applying Oil Paint

You can paint oil colors with a brush, as well as with painting knives or spatulas. If you are going to learn oil painting, then you will need at least one of these.



Bristle brushes are the best choice for painting with oil paints. They are ideal for absorbing the paint and they distribute it very well. You can also use synthetic brushes, especially if you want to apply very diluted oil paint in a glaze. You can use fine hair brushes for painting details.


Painting Knife / Spatula

You can use a painting knife/painting spatula for applying thicker oil paint. The painting will gain a unique touch because the paint contains structures from the spatula.

how to use oil paints


Mixing Oil Paint

Oil paints can be mixed together very easily. This works best on a painting palette. This pallet is usually made of wood or plastic and has a hole to hold it. As the color white is most often used, we recommend that you place it in the middle. Around it, with a little distance between them, you can place the colors of the rainbow:

  • Red
  • Brown
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Yellow

You can now use the space between white and the other colors to mix the colors. You should use black carefully, otherwise, the colors will get a grey haze. If you want to paint large pictures, you can also mix the colors in cups.


Diluting Oil Paints

Oil paints can be thinned out with special painting agents. A low-odor turpentine substitute has proven to be a good choice here. This has been developed precisely for this application. Besides diluting oil paints, you can also use turpentine substitute for cleaning brushes. In addition, you can make dried paint residues more liquid again and use them. If you use oils to dilute your oil paints, you will increase the drying time of your paints. The more you dilute your paints, the less opaque they become. This is because the pigment density in the paint will decrease.

oil painting for beginners


Removing Oil Paint

It is quite difficult to remove oil paint. Therefore you should make sure in advance that you wear old or painting clothes, cover the floor well with a cover, and also protect the work table. If something goes wrong, you can cover the wet paint generously with baby powder or baking powder and press on it very lightly. The oil is absorbed in this way. Never wipe off the paint, as it will only be absorbed even more. After an hour or two, you can vacuum up the applied powder with a vacuum cleaner.

If there is still paint left over, you can lightly dab the stain with a cloth, warm water, and some soap. When the paint is dry, you can apply some cooking oil to the stain and then use baby powder or baking powder as described above. If the paint has dripped onto the floor, you can wipe it off with a cloth and turpentine substitute. Then wipe again with water and some rinsing liquid and the stain is repaired.


Water Mixable Oil Paints

If the smell of oil paints makes you reluctant, there are now products that you can mix with water. These are more like acrylic paints. Also called water-soluble oil paints, these are water-dilutable oil paints that contain no solvents. They are completely harmless in terms of health, and even easier to use.

MONT MARTE Premium Water-Mixable Oil Paint Set
  • A 36 color premium water-mixable oil paint set
  • No need for chemical solvents when using these paints
  • Mixable with acrylics, gouache, water, traditional oils, and linseed-based mediums
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How to Use Oil Paints – Different Techniques

Oil painting has certain similarities with acrylic painting, but there are some important things to consider when painting with oil colors. You should always paint thick on thin. Otherwise, you run the risk of cracks appearing during the drying process or even peeling off layers of paint. If you remember this basic rule and have enough patience, oil painting can be learned fairly easily.



The Basic Techniques


Blocking In

Here you paint with several color areas next to each other. Each of these different color areas are separated from each other. This process of blocking in the general colors and shapes on your canvas is not about finer details, but more about a no-frills approach.


Alla Prima (Wet on Wet)

This is when you put several layers of paint on top of each other. Depending on whether the underlying layer of paint is already dry or not, you can either paint over it completely or only partially. Besides the brush (wash it out afterward) you can also use a paint knife or your fingers.



You can paint the still wet oil colors together to achieve soft gradients or color transitions. To do this, you paint two adjacent areas of color and then mix them together. The best way to do this is to move the color areas diagonally.



You can also sketch out the subject, the picture, or parts of the picture if you do not want to paint everything freehand. This is especially useful for beginners to get a feeling for the proportions. It is up to you whether you just sketch the subject roughly or draw more details. Ideally, you should use colored pencils, watercolor pencils, pastel chalk, or charcoal

learn oil painting



Painting Surface Preparation

For oil painting, the painting surface – i.e. the canvas or the painting board – must be pre-treated. This pre-treatment is a primer, which prevents the oil from penetrating into the background. Many painting surfaces are already pre-primed and can be painted over immediately.



Painting with Oil Paint – Basic Equipment Needed

If you are beginning oil painting, you will need some materials and basic equipment. To prevent you from having to search for everything individually, we have created a list of all the absolutely necessary painting materials.


Oil Paint Set and Starter Kit for Oil Painting

You can get good starter sets kitted out with many different colors in the shops. This saves you the tedious mixing of colors, and you will have all the materials that you need to get started.


Oil Paints

Of course, you can also buy oil paints individually. Especially the basic colors for mixing the different shades you will need most often.



When painting with oil, we recommend bristle brushes because they are ideal for the application of thick colors. You can choose the size of the brush according to the size of the area to be painted. Large brushes are therefore used for large areas, small brush sizes can be used for painting details of the surface.


Painting Surfaces

The most frequently used painting surfaces are canvas and painting boards. You can buy both already primed so that you can start painting right away.



An easel is the most ergonomic way to paint without getting problems with the neck during long painting sessions.


Final Varnish

To protect your works from UV rays and mechanical impact, you should protect your paintings with a varnish. However, we recommend that you let your oil paintings dry for at least 6 months to prevent the varnish from cracking after application. Varnish is available either in spray form or as paint for application with a brush.


Painting Tools

For oil painting, there are a number of very useful aids and additional painting tools. These can help to create unique effects and enhance the way that you paint with oils.



Oil Painting Tutorial

Particularly for painting with oil, it makes a lot of sense to acquire knowledge with the help of books, eBooks, or videos. There are some great oil painting tutorials and learning resources out there to help you become a better artist and learn oil painting methods.


Beginning oil painting can be a challenging task. However, this is also a medium that offers incredible rewards and beautiful results. With the right equipment and understanding of the process, getting started with oil paints can be seriously fun. Happy painting!


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