Oil Painting for the Beginner

If you are looking for a new hobby, perhaps oil painting is for you. There are many pluses involved, including hours of pleasure and perhaps some beautiful new pictures to hang in your home. It takes a few supplies to get started, but oil paints and brushes last a long time, and as you improve your painting skills, you will just need to add a few more colors and some new specialty brushes to your supplies.
Here is my suggested list of supplies for the beginning oil painter:

Charcoal for drawing on the canvas

A roll of freezer paper (for making disposable palettes–You can put it on a hard surface or wooden board)

A painting canvas (12″x16″ is a good size to start)

One #12 round bristle brush

Three #6 round bristle brushes

One #10 round bristle brush

One pint of turpentine (or the newer type of unscented turpentine)

A sturdy easel

Lots of clean rags

A roll of paper towels

Something to store your brushes in, either a container or a canvas brush holder

A glass jar and lid to hold turpentine for brush cleaning

A box, bag or other containers to hold your supplies

37 ml. size tubes of the following colors of oil paints:

Cobalt blue

Ultramarine blue

Raw sienna

Ivory black

Yellow ochre

Cadmium red hue

Alizarin crimson


Cadmium yellow light

A 150 ml. tube of Titanium white

These beginning supplies should cost around $100.00. Shop around and find sales to keep the cost down and don’t be tempted to buy extra things that aren’t really necessary at first. You can always add to your oil painting supplies as your skills improve.

Go online and look for beginning oil painting classes or check out library books on oil painting. Buying beautiful books on the painting is very expensive and, after looking through them, you probably won’t be referring back to them again very often. I know, I have a beautiful library of art books that I rarely look through.

After you purchase your supplies, find a place to paint that is light, well-ventilated (oil paints and turpentine have a strong smell) and where you won’t be disturbed. Also, remember that oil painting is messy, so wear oil clothing and put down plastic if your workspace needs to be protected.

How To Begin:

For your first painting, it is a good idea to find a picture of a painting that you would like to recreate. Find something that appeals to you. Go to a copy store and have the picture enlarged to a size that’s easy to see. Put the picture in a plastic sleeve to keep it clean as you will be touching and referring to it often.

Decide which way the picture would look best on the canvas (vertically or horizontally).

Use the charcoal and layout (draw) the picture on your canvas.

Start filling in your drawing with the dark colors first, including the sky and background. Paint in the general FORM of things in your painting in the solid color that matches the area the best. Then move to the next darkest forms and keep going until all the forms are filled in between deepest dark and lightest light. Don’t do any details yet, just the general forms.

Next, work on the details of your painting including shadows, highlights, shading, etc.

This technique is a little different than most people teach. I learned it in a class I just took. The very experienced artist who taught the class had us fill in the entire canvas with the light and dark tones at first. This made the painting much easier to do and it makes the painter feel that he is making much quicker progress on his painting. Try this technique and see how you like it. Also, try others, There are many good oil painting sites on the internet that have free or very low-cost classes.

Good luck and have fun with your new hobby.

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