Oil paints – first steps

December 19th, 2018 / Illustrations Basics, Painting Techniques

Last week we looked at temperas – paints that combine the characteristics of water and oil paints. Thus, we have exhausted the subject of water painting at the moment. In this post I wanted to briefly introduce you to oil paints – briefly describe the techniques, materials needed and the medium itself. It is a comprehensive subject, but in this post I will try to talk about the most important aspects of using these paints. So let’s get to it!

Oil paints are considered by many to be a very difficult painting technique. Concerns often arise from unawareness, which is why I recommend exploring the subject and trying. For painting with this type of paints, it will certainly be necessary to prepare better – supplying the media for washing, diluting paints, the paints themselves and the surfaces on which we will paint … But don’t worry. About it in a moment.

a handful of basics

Oil paints, as the name suggests, are based on oil, mainly linen. To work with them it is necessary to have a medium through which we will dilute the paint or wash it – depending on the needs. The technique of working with them is not very demanding due to their versatility. We can obtain a whole range of effects – from painting with glazes (layers) to impastos. Thanks to the possibility of controlling the drying time, paintings painted with oil paints can be modified as much as possible. The end result is also very satisfying – after drying, these paints have vivid, intense colors, and in the course of work have a high covering power, thanks to which they are efficient.

oil paints Turdus Concept

 how to choose paints

At this point I would like to make you sensitive to one thing – if you start your adventure with oil, do not buy either the cheapest or the most expensive paints. Cheap oil paints do not have such good pigments and hiding power. They are also rarer and will fade when dry. On the other hand, work with expensive paints can provide mainly stress, especially at the beginning, when there is a good chance that You will throw away your first creations. The second important thing – always check whether paint manufacturers give symbols of pigments used in paints. If not, it means that they have something to hide.

If you want to start, I recommend buying a basic palette of colors – we can do it ourselves, choosing yellow, red and blue as well as black and white. Thanks to these colors, we are able to mix literally any other color needed. We can purchase premixed colors when needed later.

proper brushes

As for brushes – it’s best to experiment here. Both natural brushes and artificial bristles are available. Experienced painters usually recommend round, rather soft brushes. Interestingly, many people use brushes that are not originally produced for painting purposes. It’s best to buy one brush of different types and see how it goes.


canvas for oil paints Turdus Concept

For painting with oil paints the prepared substrate will be necessary. It is especially important when we paint on canvas or paper – when the surface is not properly primed, the paint simply dissolves paper or fabric. You can be make it by yourself, but it will probably prove unprofitable, because you can buy ready-made for several bucks, depending on the dimensions. I propose, however, one more solution, especially attractive at the beginning of our adventure with oil paints. We buy a MDF / HDF board, cut it into pieces of the right size. Then we prime with white acrylic paint and we have at a similar price up to 10 times more finished “canvas”. It will be much easier to throw away the unsuccessful image on a MDF plate worth under 1 dollar than on the canvas for several dollars.

necessary media

As I mentioned at the very beginning, we do not use water, but special media, to clean tools and thin the paint. At that moment, the most controversial issues related to oil paints usually appear. To work with them, turpentine is most often used – a conifer extract with an intense odor and oily consistency. In spite of its natural origin, it is an irritant with which longer work may cause some ailments (shortness of breath, dizziness, respiratory problems, etc.). However, there are also eco-solvents available on the market that are not harmful to people or animals. They are also usually odorless. For brushing, in turn, ordinary linseed oil is used, which is also the basis of the paint itself.

other tools

When we already have paint, brushes, canvas and media to work with oil paints, we still need a palette for mixing paints. This is best done from a piece of thick glass. First of all, because the surface is smooth and facilitates the mixing of paint, and after finishing work it is easy to clean it. If even the remains of the paint will dry, we can remove them using a window scraper or a spatula. Cheap and very effective way.

In addition, we will need an easel – it’s your choice. I recommend to buy a fairly heavy easel so that it does not slip away on the ground. Other types are adapted to the conditions in which we happen to paint – there are studio easels, portable with space for a palette and other accessories, etc. At the beginning the one worth 20-30 bucks will do the thing.

How to paint?

The guiding principle in oil painting, when using layers, is painting greasy to dry. The lower layer should be less oily than the top layer, which is why we start painting with paint strongly diluted with kerosene, turpentine or ecological, non-toxic diluent. Gradually, we add less and less medium with following layers . As a result, the last layers are more saturated, they will not fall off the layers beneath them and provide the right conditions for drying. We cover the last layer with a varnish, after drying. The time after which the image will dry up completely can be up to one year. It is good then to vacuum the painting and cover with a second layer of varnish. Thanks to this, we will properly protect the painting and even out the gloss.

I hope that this article will introduce you to the most important features and methods of dealing with oil paints. They are considered by many artists to be the best painting technique, due to the numerous advantages mentioned above. I encourage you to explore the topic of oil paints and trying. As usual, I encourage you to share your experiences, remarks or effects of work.

With this entry I would like to finish the subject of various painting techniques in this calendar year. Due to the fact that I will meet with you already in the new year, I wish everyone a peaceful, Merry Christmas and all good in 2019. To read next time (probably at the beginning of January)!