top of page

Your Ultimate Guide to Start Oil Painting

Updated: Feb 4

In addition to being one of the oldest types of painting, since the 12th century AD. There are rumors that it was known before this time.

Oil colors are also characterized by their thick texture, and delayed time of dryness, which allows the opportunity to correct any error in the painting without damaging it.

In this article, we will help you to make your first step in oil painting by following some important steps. Also, in the end, you will find some instructions and warnings.

In this article, please find in details:

Choose your in-home workspace

  You probably won't finish one painting in a day, so you must allocate a workspace, preferably, a small isolated corner in your home.

Also, using oil paints and the necessary oils and tools may produce some fumes, so it is better for your health to have a well-ventilated painting workspace.

Oil Paint is difficult to get rid of from clothes or skin in general, so you should wear old clothes or a painting apron while protecting your skin as well, and wearing gloves while painting to ensure maximum protection is a good idea.

Basic oil painting tools

 To start producing high-quality oil paintings, you will need some essential tools:

  1. Various sizes of round and flat brushes, preferably of good quality, for professional painting. Brushes with natural hair and others synthetic, mixing the use of both helps you to use different techniques of painting.

  2. Hard Pencil for sketching, preferably, H5 or H6.

  3. A high-quality flexible Palette knife is essential for mixing Pigments.

  4. A wooden Palette, plastic palettes don't succeed the test of time.

  5. White spirits or turpentine dilutes oily pigments, turpentine enhances dryness of the oil paints.

  6. Binding oils such as linseed oil, safflower oil, or poppy oil.

  7. Paper towels and jars for use in cleaning brushes, a holder or a drawing desk, an apron, and a dedicated box to save your tools.

Start With Drawing a Sketch

Here you can start painting, and for amazing results, these steps are recommended in order:

1- Use a hard pencil (5H or 6H) to create a light sketch directly by drawing on the canvas. H6 are very light pencils preferred for making the preliminary sketches for painting as they won't show through the paint. The higher numbered B pencils can accomplish a range of dark values for adding shadows and contrast within a drawing.

2- Plan a good composition, if you use an object in real life and draw it on your board, it is better to pay attention to the area around the object, which will help to highlight the subject, thanks to the negative space, which is the space that surrounds the object, also, use overlapping shapes to add a lot of depth and realism to your painting.

Mixing Oil Paints

  Mixing pigments within an oil medium is different than mixing pigments in water-based media. Oils, with their delayed dry times, enable the artist to make full use of his brilliant pigments.

Why Is Mixing Oil Paints Essential?

Paint is a dispersion of small, colored, insoluble particles (pigments) in a liquid medium composed of solvent (turpentine oil or clove oil) and binder (Linseed oil and Safflower oil).

Oil pigments straight out of the tube can be challenging to use due to aggregations and consistency, when mixing oil paints, The artist needs to break the aggregated pigments into fine particles and disperse them into the oil medium of choice, which means it would be a thin film of oil around every pigment particle.

As pigments are the first and basic painting materials, it's very important to get high-quality pigments from trusted trademarks.

  • Cadmium yellow

  • Cadmium red

  • Alizarin carmine

  • Lapis lazuli

  • Titanium white

  • Mars black

By mixing these basic pigments you could obtain the non-basic pigments.

How To Mix Oil Paints?

The "fat over lean" rule is key, the primary layer is to be leaner in terms of oil than the successive layer above, notice, The Fat over Lean refers to the oil painting principle that applying paint with a higher ratio of oil to color pigments over paint with a lower ratio of oil to color pigments can ensure a more flexible paint film that will not crack later.

Using a palette knife, which is a painting tool that consists of a blade and a handle. The palette knife is made of a solid piece of plastic while the higher quality palette knives are typically made of metal (stainless steel) and a wooden handle.

Why Artists Should Not Mix Paint with Brushes?

Professional artists use high-quality brushes, which are expensive, for example, Pure Kolinsky Sable Brush. Mixing paint with a brush will decrease its useful lifespan, Paint mixing with brushes mangles the nicely formed shape of the bristles.

Also worth noting is that it’s really hard to do a thorough job mixing multiple colors if using only a brush. The two or more paint colors will not completely mix causing unpredictable colors to leach out of your brush while you’re painting.

Oil Painting Studio
Painting Studio

Artists use a wooden palette, which tends to be more practical and scratch-resistant than plastic ones, Set up your paint blobs around the edge of your palette. You’ll take from these basic paints to find your tones in the center of the palette.


Consider the outer edge of the palette as your paint repository. Scoop up some paint from one of the paint blobs and place it in the center area of your palette. You especially want to avoid contaminating the nice, clean paints sitting on the outside edge of your palette.

Scoop up the mixed paint into one compact pile. You can even move the newly mixed paint to where you’d like it to be on your palette.

  • Make sure to add enough downward pressure on the palette knife when mixing your oil paints. You are not merely stirring the paint!

  • Make sure to mix the paint blobs completely.

  • Wipe your palette knife off frequently to avoid cross-color contamination.

  • If adding thinner to your oil paints add a small amount at a time. that will help you control your paints on the palette surface.

The Best Oil Painting Recipe.

Solvents, the artist's first choice is turpentine, as it increases the fluidity of oil paints but makes the binder oil dry faster while using clove oil as a solvent delays the dryness of the binder, as it delays the oxidation process.

Turpentine vapors are also intolerable to some artists, clove oil is much more acceptable.


Binder, the main choice is Linseed oil, it dries to form a strong flexible film, it tends to be yellowish than Safflower oil film (takes more time to dry).


Mixing Pigments Takes Time to Perfect...

  When you’re using oil paints, you will notice that they require a lot of mixing! first, disperse the aggregated pigments, then adjust the consistency. Once you’ve got the right consistency by mixing with mediums or solvents, you’ll need to be prepared to mix your oils to get just the right color.


Oils come in many different shades, but to paint like a master you’ll need to understand how to mix to achieve different color tones.

For centuries great artists have been mixing oil paints to reach the exact color tone they need, and there are a few principles to follow to help make sure that you achieve the hue you’re after. If not done properly, you may find yourself muddying your paints, struggling to get them light or dark enough, and simply wasting paint.

When mixing your pigments, try a test patch on your canvas. Many pigments will look different on the canvas than they do on the palette, so before blending and shading it’s important to test your color.

31 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page