How To Oil Paint: Oil Painting Techniques

Gather Your Oil Painting Supplies and Let's Get Started

Artist painting

Oil painting can be an enjoyable and rewarding way to express yourself through art... after all, there are few things more satisfying than being able to look at something you've created and know that everything you see came from a single idea in your mind.  Unfortunately, some of the complexities of oil painting may seem daunting to those with little or no experience; many people miss out on this activity that they might otherwise love because they fear it is too difficult for them to do.

You shouldn't let fear keep you from trying out a new hobby, however; take the time to try your hand at oil painting, seeing if you like it before moving on to bigger and more intense projects.  In order to get an initial feel for this medium at a minimum expense, simply try the following tips. First you'll need to get some oil painting supplies. Then, you can try out some of these basics:

  1. Gather oil painting supplies. Purchase a basic set of paints, several different sizes of round brushes in both natural and synthetic bristles, a pack of imitation canvas paper, some paint thinner, a little linseed oil, and a small disposable artist's palette so that you'll be able to mix colors on it. Make sure that the paint you purchase is actual oil paint, since other types of paint such as acrylics and some watercolors also come in tubes like oil paint. (As the name implies, oil paints are made of pigments suspended in an oil base; other paint types use different bases, and will therefore produce different results and react to the addition of oil or paint thinner differently.)
  2. Using  pencil on the canvas paper, begin to make a sketch of what you'd like to paint.  The sketch can be as detailed or as abstract as you'd like, but you should keep in mind that you'll have to paint all of the details that you include.  If you spray the finished sketch with a clear spray paint or a canvas fixer, you'll be able to keep the sketch from smudging or being affected by the paint.  Canvas fixer, by the way, is a spray-on coating much like clear spray paint that keeps pencil sketches from being smeared around while you're touching the canvas or painting... meaning that your sketch will remain the same regardless of how active you are with your brush. (When you paint over the fixer, it's just like painting on the canvas; no pencil will show through.)
  3. On the artist's palette, put a small amount of the paints that you plan on using so that you can access them.  Paint thinner can be used to make thinner applications, and linseed oil can be added to paint to keep it from drying out or to add more shine to it.  You can also use the palette to mix colors (using a palette knife or a brush) in order to reduce the number of colors you have to buy. Add small amounts of white or black to create different hues of a specific color (hues, of course, being lighter and darker shades of the same color.)
  4. Once you have your colors chosen and mixed, you can start trying out some oil painting techniques. Begin applying your paint in small, gentle strokes to the canvas paper.  Remember that the strokes will be visible, especially when using natural brushes (as the natural hair leaves more brush marks than the synthetic ones.)
  5. Alternate the brushes that you use to help create texture in your work, giving it more of a sense of depth.  You can also add to this by waiting for the initial paint to dry slightly and painting over some of what you've already painted (as the new paint will layer on top of the old.)
  6. Be sure to allow plenty of drying time before touching any painted areas...especially if you used any linseed oil, since even a little can keep the paint moist for days or even weeks.
  7. Once you've finished your painting, if you enjoyed the experience or would like to learn more about it, then you should move on to real canvas and spend the extra money on better quality paints and painting tools.  Buy metal palette knives if you haven't already, and make sure that you have a variety of different brush sizes. You also might want to consider buying books on oil painting, or taking a painting class to learn better techniques such as applying texture and creating transparent colors as well as to get experience with special brushes, such as fan brushes and angle-tipped brushes.

These oil painting tips will help you learn how to develop a new skill. Additional tips can be picked up through online classes in art. Good luck creating your masterpiece.


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