31 Best Oil Painting for beginners Tips and demos (demonstrations) from my studio!

Oil painting for beginners, some short tips to make life easier.  I guess they call these "life hacks".  Back in the day, before computers, a hack was not a good thing. It meant the guy fixing your car "jacked it up", another term that doesn't really mean what it used to.   When computers came along, it was even worse.  But today, life hacks are supposed to be a good thing.  Oh well....

  • These oil painting tips will build your confidence and give you that satisfaction of seeing a great work of art being born!

  • Beginners can implement some of these right away, or study a demonstration in more detail and put that tip into your own painting.

  • Below are 31 (or more as the page grows) oil painting tips that I use every single day in my studio.  Come along with me and discover some of my best tips. 

    Most demonstrations have a video clip too!

Oil painting for beginners tip #1.   As  I usually have a coffee cup close at hand while I'm in the studio, I keep a pack of Baby Wipes close by to keep my hands clean, and paint out of my cup. 

I try my best not to set my coffee on my taboret (paint table) because invariably, a paint brush will end up in it!

brush in safflower oil soaking

Oil painting for beginners tip #2.  I keep a small plastic paint roller tray (about 4" wide and 2" deep) of safflower oil under my easel. If at the end of the day, and I'm in a hurry, I wipe paint from my brushes and dunk them in the tray. 

They lay sideways so the bristles are freely setting, and the oil is just up to the ferrules.  The oil is a very slow drying oil and is quickly wiped from the brush at the start of painting the next day.  No cleaning necessary.

mirror in back of studio

Oil painting for beginners tip #3.  Keep a shaving/shower mirror within arms length of your easel, or better yet, keep a large mirror at the opposite end of your studio. 

By viewing your painting thru a mirror, you trick your brain into seeing it completely differently.  Any oddity in symmetry, or value balance will be quite obvious when you see it backwards in the mirror. 

Oil painting for beginners tip #4.  When you've been painting a while, and you want to stretch your wings in doing a large canvas, especially when you have limited space, see how I tackle it in this demonstration.

There is a 6 minute YouTube video of some of the live clips along the way.  

It's a lengthy article, but I think you will enjoy it as it delves a deeper into my thoughts and opinions of painting!

Click here to view the Southern Magnolia demonstration.

southern magnolia demonstration

Oil painting for beginners tips on brushes.

Oil painting for beginners tip #5.  When I've completed a painting, I do wash all my brushes.  Just using Dawn dish washing detergent, and for some particularly heavy loaded brushes, I use a brush soap. 

It's called "The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver".  (be advised, should you get some, I'll get a small commission from the sale)

Oil painting for beginners tip #6.  While on the subject of brushes, do you have one that is splayed out?  Most the time it's caused by paint drying up near the ferrule. 

Using a strong paint remover, (watch out for fumes, do this outdoors only), you can sometimes work some of it out by pressing the brush to the bottom of the can that holds the paint remover.  swishing and pressing until you get as much out as you can. 

This some times will make the brush splay out even more, but there is a fix for that.

Get your kettle full of water and pour boiling water over the end of the brush.  Before it cools, take a paper towel, double it so you don't burn your fingers, and pull the brush through while pitching it with your fingers.  Rotate the brush and do this again several times to reshape the tip.  I have successfully recovered many brushes using this method.

Oil painting for beginners tip on storing oil paint.


Oil painting for beginners tip #7.  Paint storage.  Make yourself a little taco out of aluminum foil.  Using your palette knife, put the dollops of leftover paint within the crease of the foil.  Fold over all the edges and put the packet of paint into a freeze bag.  Then place into the freezer.  Your paints will stay fresh for months in there.

Oil painting for beginners tip #8.  For smaller works, dive straight in.  A rough sketch and start your painting without any under painting work.  You don't have anything to lose but a bit of time should it not turn out. 

You can always wipe away, and restart with an under painting should things go awry.

This small 8x10 painting was done in this way.  It's still considered an indirect method, but skipping the under paintings makes things go really fast. 

These little paintings I usually do just straight up, with little preliminary work other than a drawing  (depending on subject matter mostly). 

The video shows the progression of painting.  Mainly, I've worked from the back forward, then when doing the fruit, I've worked from dark to light.  

Once completed, I didn't like a few things, so I went back in with some additional highlights to the drape and glazing on the red, then the yellow pear. 

The green one seemed happy, so I left him alone. 

Oil painting for beginners tip on color mixing.

Oil painting for beginners tip #9.   While mixing my colors, and matching my colors to what I see on my reference, I put the paint onto my palette knife to hold up again the subject or the computer screen. 

I also have a sheet of crystal clear plastic (a thick sheet protector) taped onto the screen.  I can then touch the paint to the screen to see if it is a perfect match.  When I'm finished, I just wipe the wet paint off of the plastic.

Check below how well this works.

color mixing with palette knife
strawberry painting

Oil painting for beginners tip #10.  High realism doesn't have to be scary to try.  Look closely at these strawberries and you'll see, it is a systematic approach in the application of the paint that yields great results.   I talk more in depth in my eBook about values, for it is in the correct values that you create the best realism.

Painting strawberries can be quite fun!  All those seeds and that intense red.  How do you paint one?  Check out my explanation here "How to paint a strawberry, flemish style"!  The results are amazing and the steps are not that many.  

Oil painting for beginners tip #11.  Cleaning up.  Forget about rags, (fire hazard).  Forget about paper towels, not absorbent enough and can leave fibers in your painting.  Just get a roll of this.  You'll find them at most auto parts stores as they are designed to absorb grease, grime, oils.  Nuff said, you'll be happy you did this.  I keep a whole case in my storage shelving.

shop towels
shop towels

Oil painting for beginners tip #12.  Ever since the dawn of the camera, artists have been using photographs to improve their art.  In photo-realism, the artist attempts to paint a picture that looks like, well, a photograph.  Some will blow the image up to a super sized image and paint directly from the projection.  I use it quite frequently in my still life work because flowers will wilt really quickly, and the photo can make a great reference.  There are things to be mindful of when using photo's but don't be afraid to try it.  Some of our most popular and famous artists of today used them.

Click here to find out more on "how to paint from a photo".

Well, it's 11:30 pm.  My eyeballs have about had it, so I'll finish the rest of the tips tomorrow!  If not then the next day.  There still are a number of demonstrations below that you may enjoy checking into.  Thanks for reading this far!  You wont be disappointed when I continue with these oil painting tips from my studio.

In the mean time, enjoy the 32 oil painting demonstrations included below.  Find a painting you like, and maybe want to try, then go paint!

Till tomorrow.....

A Wolf drawing turned into a full blown wild life painting!

Here's a wolf drawing that I show step by step in my drawing section.  I'll be moving into the painting sessions soon, and will have a follow up article as that gets going.  Click here to see the demo and film.

A full demonstration of the flemish method in "How to paint a rose" a gorgeous dusty pink single rose.  It has a short 4 minute intro film and lots of HD photo's of process shots during it's creation.

rose painting

Pears painting demonstration, 2 red pears using an indirect method and a self leveling paint mixture!

This demonstration shows the use of a almost soupy paint mixture that allows the paint to be laid in and as it self levels, brushstrokes disappear and you are left with an enamel like finish.  Just beautiful!  Click here or the image to get there.  There is a fantastic video too!

oil painting

Paint like Van Gogh!

Here's a short demonstration on my attempt to paint sunflowers using some of Van Gogh's technique.  Van Gogh Sunflowers.  Enjoy! Click the image of the link to get there.

van gogh sunflower

A short cut using an acrylic under painting is discussed in great detail.  Also the use of some different mediums and how they helped in creating this still life with apples painting.

apple painting

Abstract Painting Techniques are discussed here with a short demonstration on how to create texture within your painting. 

Click here to learn the steps I use to paint this delicate yellow orchid.  I also describe a different way to approach the canvas toning if you don't own a very large brush. (This is a large 30" x 40" canvas painting).

I also discuss how you can grow your own beautiful orchids in order to have loads of subject matter to paint from in the future.

I have a pretty decent description of how you can master painting grapes, one of the most complex still life paint subjects that exists. 

With their multicolored skin, complex "bloom" and dew drops everywhere, just looking in your grocery bag can give you the shakes if you're contemplating painting these rather than eating them!  Come on and join us on this new adventure, and learn to master painting grapes.

This discussion also includes why we use soft and hard edges within our painting, and gives you several closeups of the practice used within this painting. This is one of my strongest oil painting tips examples on the subject.

how to paint grapes

An article on ACEO's has led to a demonstration of these miniature jewels.  Click here to see some process shots in the making.

aceo painting

how to paint a dahlia

An ancient technique using modern materials and bright colors to put some pizzazz into this Dahlia.  Click here to discover the video demonstration of "how to paint a Dahlia" in oils. 

I show you the shortcuts I used and the reasons why on the demonstration page.  It's also my first "speed" video which shows the time lapse of several hours worth of painting pushed into a short 8 minute film. 

It's also features some really great music!   Go check it out these oil painting tips by clicking the link above or the picture!

Here's one of the most simple of items to paint, but one of the most difficult in achieving a photo-realistic effect.  In these oil painting tips, I show you with oils, it can be much easier to accomplish!

eggs painting demonstration

Here are pages on how to paint eggs Part I,

and a second page on our eggs painting demonstration Part II.

brown underpainting

Would you like to tackle a really tough image?

Follow along in this flower painting demonstration to see shortcuts and oil painting tips to paint flower petals galore. Another 2 part painting demonstration.

golden chrysanthemum painting

Don't let all these flower petals intimidate you! Just like eating any elephant, you start with one small bite at a time.

Come join us, and then post your version here on the site!

Click the brown underpainting image to start the lesson, then head over to the color and final layers lesson.

Have you ever thought about doing a series on paintings on the same subject? Check out this article on why you really should.

Apple paintings, a wonderful series on some delicious subjects!

apple painting demonstration
apple painting demonstration
apple painting demonstration

I've sent several paintings to the gallery, so here's one of them that deserves to go here. I've always been fascinated with stop light bell peppers. Their colors are always so bright, vibriant and true.

paint peppers, stop light peppers

I've actually got a purple one growing in my garden this year.

Anyway, here's a demonstration of a set of peppers ranging in color from green, yellow, orange and red.

I hope you'll be able to learn something with this approach and this new demonstration to paint a peck of peppers!


Next, I have for you an oldie but goodie.  Please also remember, the image below is not a photograph!

Learn how I created here in how to oil paint the magnolia blossom.

I also tried out a new oil painting technique I employed in the process of this wonderful piece of artwork!

This is also a great demonstration in that is shows so much of the process in creating shiny leaves.

A must when you are painting things that are glossy.

You'll see both the soft subtleness of the white petals, and the crisp shiny green leaves. What a great combination.

magnolia blossom, how to paint, paint magnolia

In answer to an FAQ (frequently asked question) by a loyal reader, I've put in some great tips for you in "How to paint a rose" and in adding some of those special features, DEW DROPS, that are seen throughout my work. Click here to find out more

purple rose, rose painting, how to paint rose, how to paint

More oil painting tips on Alla Prima:

In another section of the site, I've been discussing the alla prima oil painting technique. I've now got a demonstration to show you the technique up close and personal with more great oil painting tips.

Click below to go see how I go from this:

alla prima process, how to oil paint, oil painting techniques

To This! In two 90 minute direct painting sessions.

yellow lily oil painting, oil painting techniques

The Yellow Lily Painting Alla Prima part I.

The Yellow Lily Painting Alla Prima part II.

The Yellow Lily Painting in oils finale!

Here's last months demonstration: A date slipped up on me to have this painting completed by, and I only had 7 days to deliver. Here's the reference:

persimmon picture

And the final work

still life persimmons

I also discuss in detail how to prepare a masonite panel as a painting support rather than canvas. Do check it out!

Persimmons oil painting demonstration Part I

Persimmons oil painting demonstration Part II

Last times how to paint silver and a single pink rose with a few really nice close up shots of the paint application.

And below that are some more great examples of this technique in action.


Tea Pot with pink rose still life painting demonstration

And below, a really good demo on mixing your colors right on the canvas with Pretty Pink Peonies.

With this demonstration, I will show you two very big time saving tips the Renaissance artists used. You will not find these two tips anywhere else on the site, so go on over to check them out. 

oil painting tips, peony painting demonstration

The first few will be a sneek peek, and only those that sign up will be able to find them. So come on and join our club! I'll really need your feedback before marketing these as I very much value your opinion.

So take a few moments and sign up! I'll also be putting any new oil painting tips and techniques I come across in the e-zine, and any new pages on the website will be given some attention in the e-zine.

Also, have you got a demonstration or a painting you would like to share? How about a favorite work? I now have a place for you to contribute! Go check out what others have already posted, and get your art work seen by thousands each month!

The link is here at share your art work, art stories, favorite paintings!

The 2nd painting demonstration is here with a Rose drawing and Painting demostration.

Its shows the process of a single rose, it's drawing through the grisaille or dead/gray layer. Then on to the color and finishing layers.  Click on the picture to head to that particular lesson.

rose painting demo
rose painting

And part of the finishing layer of this petite and beautiful rose!

yellow and red rose

The demonstration is below with a set of onions with the tops positioned towards the center, and the size about 10% larger on each onion than our demonstration below this one.  

Here's the beginning reference set-up for the painting.

food art, still life demonstration,oil painting

You can click the image or follow one of the links below to the part of the demonstration you want to see.

Painting Onions Flemish method thru the gray layers.

Painting Onions Flemish method thru the color layers.

Most demo's are broken up to 2 pages.  One will be the preliminary work through the dead layer, and then the color layers and finishing layers will be on a 2nd page.   The image below is of the progress of the painting at this point.

In this case, the painting is completed!

Still Life Onions,still life painting, oil painting

More Oil Painting Tips & Demonstrations:

All of my older oil painting tips "from my easel" lessons. This part of the site will grow as I continue to post my new work and the older stuff gets moved down to here. Not that they aren't good demo's, I just gotta make room above for the newer stuff!

red onion painting

Here's another set of onions, but twice as many photo's showing you the process in better details! Let me know if you like this format.

christmas cactus painting

Here's one that goes well with a Christmas season and theme. A Gorgeous Christmas Cactus in bloom. Hope it helps entice you into trying one yourself!

rose of sharon painting

An older work "Rose of Sharon" paint demonstration. I began photographing my process early in my career mainly for my own use. But some of the oldies have some great info for you too, so here it is!

rose bush painting

"Rainbow Niagara" rose picture of a rose, a hybrid tea rose bush from the Canadian Side of the Falls. So many colors in one rose blossom, unbelievable!

grape painting demonstration

An older work "Grapes with Bottle" of a beautiful bunch of grapes, bottle of wine and half full glass of wine. All I needed is the cheese and crackers! Another great short oil painting demonstration.

red roses painting

"Roses on a Pedestal" three red roses on a pedestal with a lucky lady bug, gorgeous demonstration. Can you find our friend the lady bug. Find it, and it brings you good luck!

rose blossom fully open

An older work "Full Red rose Blossom" a fully developed red rose blossom with dew. This is a 9" x 12" painting done on board.

I hope you've enjoyed these oil painting tips from my easel. When I post a new one, I'll include it in the e-zine so you'll know! Join our group and sign-up on the upper right hand column under the search box!

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