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Top Oil Painting Tips for Beginners

Updated: Mar 29

Embarking on the journey of oil painting can be an exhilarating adventure filled with endless creative possibilities. Whether you're drawn to the vibrant hues or the luscious textures that oil paints offer, mastering this medium requires patience, practice, and a willingness to experiment. If you're just starting out on your oil painting odyssey, fear not!


Paint With Confidence With These Top Oil Painting Practices:



· Master your brush orientation:  it’s normal to forget that your brush has two sides or orientations when you paint, however, you don’t need to limit yourself to always making wide strokes using the flat side of your brush.

Remember that every brush can be turned on its side for sharper strokes or lines, and when you learn to control your lines with your brush orientation you will be able to paint faster and with more versatility.

· Keep your colors pure: Watch out when grabbing from the paint piles on your palette. If your brushes aren't clean, you'll contaminate the colors you want to use. It's critical to keep the intensity of the colors straight from the tube, which means you have to clean your brushes regularly - even among strokes if necessary.

· Over mix is not the best idea: When mixed colors first collide, tiny inconsistencies in the mixture helps to add vibrancy and curiosity to your paint. As a result, when combining colors to make a mixture, make sure you only mix them to the extent necessary before applying the stroke. Over-mixing two colors will transform an interesting mixture into a flat and boring pile of paint.

· Hold the paintbrush correctly: This might sound obvious but it is highly important. There are many ways an artist can grasp the paintbrush when painting, however, there’s one “go-to” method that every artist should know to get the most sensitivity and fluidity from each stroke. You need to hold the brush handle as far back as you can.

· Vary the amount of pressure: To do so you need to avoid using “heavy hands” on your paintbrush. The heavier your pressure, the more your paints will blend and create ridges along the sides of your brushstrokes. Understand how your light, medium, as well as heavy strokes, look on the canvas and vary your pressure appropriately to achieve the effect you want.

· Two-color mixture is the best choice: use two-color mixtures if possible. Practicing mixing what you need using just two colors and white. When you increase your color knowledge and get better at mixing, you can paint more quickly and effectively, and your work will benefit.

· It’s dry versus wet-on-wet: Well, try the wet-on-wet technique and remember that you can paint directly onto a wet surface, and there is another option you can just wait for the surface to dry and put wet paint over that too. In the case of working on wet-on-wet, paints will blend on the canvas and this is great for creating gradients or transitions. However, painting with a dry brush will give you a more textural effect and this is perfect if you’re painting dirt or brick.

· The palette knife is important, don’t forget it: The palette knife, at times, can be used to make very interesting strokes. Also, a palette knife is particularly useful for making textural and unpredictable strokes – effects that you’d be hard-pressed to duplicate with a brush.

· Don’t skimp on paint: Often you would like a thin wash, but then other times you'll need a thick stroke to get the effect you desire, so make sure you're using enough paint to get the stroke you desire. Don't skimp on the paint if it means ruining your painting. If you find yourself continuously swirling a brush around a thin pool of paint on your palette, it's time to start over.

· Harness the power of the painting medium: This technique explains that an essential part of controlling paint comes down to your use of a painting medium – typically a mixture of solvent and oil used to modify the paint and make it behave in different ways. Also, note that adding lots of medium will make your paint transparent and flat just like a wash. However, adding a little medium will give your paint a mayonnaise-like consistency.




Starting out with oil painting can be both exciting and daunting. Here are some top tips for beginners:




1. Invest in Quality Supplies:

Purchase good quality oil paints, brushes, and canvases. While it may seem tempting to go for cheaper options, quality materials will make a significant difference in your painting experience and final results.


2. Understand Your Materials:

Learn about the different types of oil paints, brushes, and surfaces available. Experiment with various brushes and surfaces to understand how they affect your work.


3. Start with Simple Subjects:

Begin with simple subjects such as still life or landscapes. These subjects are great for practicing techniques like color mixing, blending, and brushwork.


4. Work from General to Specific:

Start your painting with broad strokes and general shapes before adding finer details. This helps in establishing the overall composition and proportion of your painting.


5. Use a Limited Color Palette:

Limiting your palette to a few colors can help you understand color mixing better and create harmonious paintings. Start with primary colors (red, blue, yellow) and white, and gradually expand your palette as you gain more experience.


6. Experiment with Different Techniques:

Oil painting offers a variety of techniques such as alla prima (wet-on-wet), glazing, impasto, and scumbling. Experiment with these techniques to find what works best for you and your style.


7. Learn to Control Values:

Pay attention to the values (lightness and darkness) in your painting. Understanding value relationships is crucial for creating depth and dimension in your artwork.


8. Practice Patience:

Oil painting requires patience as layers need time to dry before additional layers can be added. Embrace the drying time as it allows you to step back and assess your work before making further adjustments.


9. Keep Your Workspace Organized:

Keep your painting area clean and organized to avoid distractions and make it easier to focus on your work.


10. Don't Be Afraid to Make Mistakes:

Mistakes are part of the learning process. Don't be afraid to experiment and make corrections as you go along. Every painting you create is an opportunity to learn and improve.


11. Study and Learn from Master Painters:

Study the works of master painters to gain insights into their techniques and approaches. Analyze their brushwork, use of color, and composition to inform your own practice.


12. Practice Regularly:

Like any skill, oil painting requires regular practice to improve. Set aside dedicated time for painting and commit to honing your craft.


Remember, the journey of learning oil painting is as rewarding as the finished artwork itself. Enjoy the process, be patient with yourself, and don't be afraid to explore and experiment.


Textured Landscape Oil Painting by Kheder
Textured Landscape Oil Painting by Kheder

Embarking on the journey of oil painting is a thrilling voyage of self-expression and discovery. By arming yourself with these essential tips and embracing the inherent joys and challenges of the medium, you'll unlock a world of artistic potential waiting to be explored. So, pick up your brushes, squeeze out those vibrant colors, and let your creativity flow freely onto the canvas. Your masterpiece awaits!


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