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The best oil paint supplies every artist needs in 2021

Best oil paint supplies
(Image credit: Dimitri Otis via Getty )

The best oil paint supplies can make all the difference, both for those starting out and more seasoned artists who want to streamline their studio setup with the most useful tools. Oil painting requires specific equipment. The three most important oil painting supplies being paints, brushes and canvases, but there is also a variety of other equipment, some of which is close to essential.

Things such as solvent for cleaning brushes, palettes for mixing paint on, and palette knives for doing the mixing are all near essentials and almost all artists working in oils will use these supplies in some capacity. Other items, such as tube wringers and brush soaps, are not essential but are very useful as they help you get the most out of your other supplies and streamline your workflow. Taking care of your equipment saves money in the long term.

In the article below, we provide a general guide to the best oil painting supplies. Of course, it's also important to have an easel to paint at, see our guide to the best art easels for that – wooden or metal ones are ideal.

The best oil paint supplies

An image of different coloured Winton oil paints

(Image credit: Winsor and Newton)

01. Winsor and Newton Winton Oil Paint

The best set of oil paints for starting out

Reasons to buy
+Good quality starter set+Useful selection of colours
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks more expensive pigments-Standard-sized tube of white

The first place to start when choosing the best oil paint supplies is tubes of oil paint itself. It's best to start with several key colours and mix them, rather than buy lots of cheaper tubes. This Winton starter set contains useful colours and isn't padded out with lots of low-quality ones like many beginner sets are. It contains everything needed to mix a broad range of colours – though it only has a standard-sized tube of white, which may be used more than other colours.

The Winton range is more suited to those relatively new to painting, but it is good enough that artwork will last well. We explore more options, including higher quality oils, in our guide to the best oil paints.

A pad of Canson oil paint paper

(Image credit: Canson)

02. Canson Figeras Paper

A quality canvas paper for quick studies and learning to paint

Reasons to buy
+Very easy to use+Affordable alternative to canvases
Reasons to avoid
-Surface is a bit slippery-Less suitable for finished work

When choosing the best supplies for oil painting, it is essential to make sure you have a suitable support (the surface you paint on) that can handle oil paint because oils damage conventional papers. While canvases and boards are traditional, oil paint paper like this Canson pad is a convenient starting point.

Paper has the advantage that it's good value and can be cut to size, and it means that all those practice paintings won't take up too much space. It doesn't require any preparation either, making it easy to use. Note that paper doesn't lend itself as well to a nicely presented final piece like a canvas, so also see our guide to the best oil paint canvases.

A selection of different shaped Winton brushes

(Image credit: Winsor and Newton)

03. Winsor and Newton Winton Brush Set

The best complete starter brush set covering different brush shapes

Reasons to buy
+Selection of shapes and sizes+Good value
Reasons to avoid
-May initially drop bristles-No small-sized brush

Brushes are essential for painting, and it's important to select ones that are suitable for oils. Traditionally, hog hair brushes like this set by Winton are used with oils, as they're tough enough to handle solvents and thick paint. This set is a solid starting point if you aren't sure about what shapes and sizes are right for you, and it offers good quality for the price. 

The brushes retain their shape well and as hog brushes, they're quite robust. They do occasionally drop bristles, especially when first used, but this tends to stop after a few uses. It would be nice to have one small brush for details too. See our guide to the best paintbrushes for oils for more options.

New Wave grey palette with oil paint on

(Image credit: New Wave)

04. New Wave Grey Pad Handheld Paper Palette

A convenient oil paint palette with a neutral surface for easier mixing

Reasons to buy
+Convenient to use+Neutral colour
Reasons to avoid
-Not reusable-Limited sizes available

A palette is an essential piece of kit for oil painting as it provides a surface to mix colour on. This paper palette provides a convenient solution as it can be held like a conventional palette, but the sheets tear off. 

This makes it easy to clean up, and excess paint can be saved by sandwiching it between two sheets. The grey colour seems like an odd choice, but is actually very helpful for colour mixing, as it provides a neutral base to compare colour against. Note that the mixing space is limited so it may be too small for larger projects.

An RGM palette knife

(Image credit: RGM)

05. RGM Palette Knives

Sturdy metal palette knives that are ideal for mixing paint

Reasons to buy
+Hard-wearing metal construction+Metal won't interact with oil paint
Reasons to avoid
-Handles occasionally fail under heavy use-Slightly thicker than higher quality knives

Palette knifes are the best oil paint supply for mixing paint, reducing wear on brushes and allowing us to mix up larger amounts of paint. They can also be used as tool to apply paint, for scratching thin marks, scraping paint back, and impasto effects.

These RGM palette knives are a great starting point, as they are made out of metal that won't interact with oils and weaken like plastic, and are generally hard wearing, so they shouldn't snap easily. However, occasionally the stem of the knife will work loose from the handle and need re-fixing.

A bottle of Gamblin Gamsol solvent

(Image credit: Gamblin)

06. Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits

Best oil paint supply for thinning paint effectively and safely.

Reasons to buy
+Low odour solvent+Less toxic than other options
Reasons to avoid
-Still requires good ventilation-Quite pricey

Solvent is an essential part of an oil painters kit as it is usually needed to thin out paint and clean equipment. Gamsol is an excellent choice when it comes to oil paint solvent as it's relatively low odour and has a lower toxicity compared to some other options, making it suitable for beginners and professional artists alike. However, it does still produce fumes, like nearly all solvents, and therefore requires good ventilation. 

It is excellent for cleaning out brushes and other equipment. Though it is on the more expensive end, it can be reused to reduce wastage.

A bottle of Winsor and Newton linseed stand oil

(Image credit: Winsor and Newton)

07. Winsor and Newton Linseed Stand Oil

An excellent medium to help oil paints flow off the brush.

Reasons to buy
+Good value for quality+Doesn't affect paint colour
Reasons to avoid
-Tricky cap design-Cap prone to failure

A medium is a substance mixed with paint that allows it to flow, and stand oil is one of the best oil paint supplies for this. It is often mixed with solvent, as it is very thick. 

This container of stand oil will last well, as a little goes a long way. For its price range, it is good quality and will leave paintings with a glossy finish that is stable over time. It is fairly light and shouldn't affect paint colour. One issue is that the safety cap is tricky to use and can become clogged with residue.

Winsor and Newton Silicoil brushwasher

(Image credit: Winsor and Newton)

08. Silicoil Brush Cleaning Tank

The best design for brush washers that is gentle on bristles.

Reasons to buy
+Coil design is kind to brushes+Can see dirty solvent
Reasons to avoid
-Quite pricey-Lid prone to leaking

A brush washer is a container that can hold solvent and usually has a grate or wire coil for scrubbing the paint out of the brush. This also keeps the brush from getting dunked in sediment at the bottom.

This Silicoil option is a more gentle solution than designs that use a grate, as the coil doesn't damage the bristles, but it's still an effective scrubber, and is raised above any sediment. The clear jar means you can easily see how dirty the solvent is too. Like most brush washers, this design can leak, so it isn't suitable for storing solvent, especially when travelling.

Pot of the The Masters brush soap

(Image credit: General Pencil)

09. The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver

The best oil paint supply for cleaning and recovering dirty brushes.

Reasons to buy
+Cleans paint from brushes well+Can sometimes remove dry paint
Reasons to avoid
-Quite expensive-Can be used quite quickly

Good brush washing keeps brushes clean and pleasant to use, and will greatly extend their life. Soap is used to clean brushes that have been rinsed out with solvent, and The Master's brush soap is a great choice for getting the last bits of oil paint out of the brush. It can even remove dried on paint as well. 

It's a little bit on the expensive side, and it can get used up quickly if you have a lot of brushes. But this soap does an excellent job and can sometimes rescue brushes that might otherwise get condemned to the bin. It's also gentle enough to preserve natural bristles.

Gill metal tube wringer squeezing a tube of white paint

(Image credit: Gill)

10. Gill Mechanical Heavy Duty Tube Wringer

The best oil paint supply for getting the most out a tube

Reasons to buy
+Very strong and durable+Saves money long term
Reasons to avoid
-Fairly expensive-Can be hard work

A tube wringer is a tool for squeezing leftover paint out of tubes, like an old-fashioned mangle. This is done when the tube is nearly empty, when it's hard to get any more paint out. This Gill mechanical tube wringer is very strong and will definitely squeeze more out than anyone's bare hands can manage.

A metal tube wringer is more expensive than a plastic one but it's significantly more effective, and more durable. It's a worthwhile buy for any serious painter, as the amount of paint you can reclaim from nearly empty tubes will soon make up for the cost.

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Lancelot Richardson

Lancelot Richardson is an artist, painter, and freelance illustrator based in Brighton, UK. He tutors life drawing at independent art school Draw Brighton, and teaches in their online Patreon courses. He is also a freelance writer, producing articles on art and drawing. He works in both traditional and digital mediums.