Oil Painting, Top 10 beginner tips

Lessons in learning oils correctly from the start!

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So why Oil Painting?  Well, lets talk a little on that before getting into the beginner tips.

For most artists’, today’s choice still seems to be oil paints.  Just a few reasons to this are:

  • The colors are gorgeous
  • You can paint just about anything with them.
  • Their slow drying allows for several things.
  • The ability to remove what you don’t like.
  • A superior ability to blend.
  • When it does dry, (which can be sped up) you can paint over it without undue stresses to the paint film.
  • You can paint impasto, or with thin glazes.
  • Paint can be opaque, or transparent, which gives you a whole arsenal of techniques to apply it.

Beginners Tip 1 :
Try to create a working space that can be left setup, and undisturbed.  This saves a great amount of time, so when the mood and time allows you to paint, you can get right to it!

oil paint, oil paint on palette

Beginners Tip 2:
Lay your oil paint onto your palette in the same order during each painting session.  You’ll instinctively know where to grab that next color.

Beginners Tip 3:
Don’t use straight tube black, (Ivory black) in the under paintings or imprimatura.  Always use a blend that includes burnt umber (it accelerates/speeds drying).  Ivory Black takes forever to dry.

gray scale oil paints
Learn and Master Painting

Beginners Tip 4:
Add more oil to your mediums for each subsequent layer as you paint (fat over lean) as this will help keep the top paint film intact to prevent cracking.  Lower layers will dry faster pulling the oils from the still wet upper layers.  These oily wet upper layers will also remain flexible for a longer period of time, which helps prevent cracking.

Beginners Tip 5:
There are many different oils that can be used as a medium, but for the beginner, stick to linseed oil as it dries the most thoroughly within the under paintings and historically is the most sound.

Beginners Tip 6:
As your skill and understanding of different medium progresses, you can try Poppy oils in the upper layers, especially with light colors as this oil tends to dry more clearly (less yellow than linseed) and is very slow to dry.


Learn and Master Painting

oil painting medium

Beginners Tip 7:
Allow your paintings to dry within your studio rather than a closet.  Dark, enclosed area conditions cause the oils to dry funny, yellowing and bleeding to the surface.  Proper air circulation and some light from within the studio will prevent this.  If you have carpets or pets, lean them facing the wall to help keep the dust and hair from collecting on the painting, otherwise, face them towards you so you can enjoy the pleasure of viewing them before they go off to the gallery.

leaning oil paintings on wall
portrait canvas

Beginners Tip 8:
Start with small canvas's and simple subjects.  Some of the worlds greatest paintings are of these items.  An apple, eggs, a tea cup and spoon.  Keeping it simple allows you time to understand how to manipulate the paint.

apple oil painting

Beginners Tip 9:
Read everything you can get your hands on about oil painting.  There is a lot of literature out there, both online and in libraries.  Why? it's been around for 400 years so has developed a large following and history.

Beginners Tip 10:
Get involved with an art group/club.  It's not for little ol'ladies with blue hair any longer! (Don't get me wrong, little ol' ladies with blue hair are great company, years of wisdom, humor and insight within them to go along with the painting companionship!)  Bouncing around ideas and perfecting your skill will be a group goal at these clubs!

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