Oil Paint

  1. Choose your paints. Before you can even consider oil painting, you must get oil paints. Although there are dozens of brands of oil paint on the market, don’t be drawn in by the attraction of budget supplies. Buying cheap, poor quality supplies will make your painting difficult, tedious, and frustrating. Paying a few dollars more will give you paints that require one coat instead of two or three for the same vibrancy and blend-ability.
  2. Get the rest of your materials. Beginning painters often fall under the tendency to avoid getting certain supplies to save money. While this is a perfectly all right practice, there are a few basic painting essentials you will need to make oil painting enjoyable and easy.
  3. Set up your work area. Because oil painting does require a lot of supplies, you will need a large area to use. Set up your easel or table in an area that is away from foot traffic and direct sunlight, if possible. If you have one, lay a drop cloth down to prevent any paint spills from ruining your floors.
  4. Create a rough sketch. Use a hard pencil to create a light sketch of your subject. You can do this directly onto the canvas or onto tracing paper, and transfer it using a carbon copy. When you’re drawing your subject, keep in mind the composition and use of negative space.
  5. Find the light source. To create a realistic painting, you must have obvious patches of light and dark. Look at your subject and determine the angle at which the light is coming from, and where shadows and highlights are located.
  6. Consider your colors. For new painters, it is often very difficult to match the colors of their subject to the colors they mix with their paint. This is because the brain provides an idealized color value; you see the sky is blue, so you mix blue paint, only to realize that your paint is much brighter and colorful than the actual sky. The trick is to get past the symbols of color our brain uses, and examine the actual colors being used. This will change the brightness of your paints.
  7. Look at the movement of your subject. Are you painting a still life with little to no movement? Or is your figure in a field on a windy day, creating a lot of motion? Paying attention to the movement of your subject is important for planning your brush strokes. Realistic paintings have brush strokes that create movement, or a lack thereof.
  8. Mix your paints. Oil paint is extremely forgiving in the sense that it takes many days to begin to dry. However, it is nearly impossible to mix the same paint twice so mix your paints in large batches and preserve between painting sessions so that you always have enough of the right color.
  9. Begin painting. You can choose whatever painting technique you like, whether that be painting entire sections to completion or putting layers of paint over the entire canvas. When oil painting, though, use the thin-to-thick method in which you paint with thin paint before using thick paint.
  10. Try different techniques. There are dozens of ways to perfect your painting, but learning them all as a beginner can be overwhelming. instead, focus on picking up some of these techniques one at a time
  11. Correct any mistakes. You have about three days (while the oil paint is wet on the canvas) when you can alter any mistakes or remove them completely with a damp rag. Before you decide the painting is complete, take a step back and look at your painting in its totality to see if any changes are needed.
  12. Save unused paint. If you have a lot of paint left on your palette that was not used, save it for your next painting. Scoop it into small containers or into piles on your palette and cover with saran wrap.
  13. Clean your paint brushes. Oil paint will ruin your brushes if it is allowed to dry, so clean your brushes immediately after use. Use turpentine and an old rag to wipe away as much of the paint as you can then rinse them under warm water with a little washing up liquid. You can brush the bristles against the palm of your hand to make sure all the paint has been removed. Put the clean brushes, bristle-end up, in a jar or cup to dry. Make sure that the brushes get adequate air circulation until they dry: Put your brushes them in an open area– on a shelf or desk, for example, not in a closed cabinet or drawer.
  14. Wait. For oil paint to dry completely, it may take up to 3 months, even longer if your painting has many thick layers of paint. Put your painting where it won’t be disturbed or damaged and allow it to air dry for the necessary time.
  15. Add a coat of varnish. When your painting has dried completely, add a coat of varnish to protect it and preserve the color. When the protective varnish has dried, you’re done! Hang your beautiful creation for all to see!