5 things you need for oil painting


There's an undeserved mystique around oil painting that has put up some intimidating barriers for some artists wanting to use this wonderful medium. 

Oil paints offer a richness of colour and their surface allows the creation of beautiful textures. You can paint thick or thin, directly or use glazes. Oils can be used on paper, wood, metal, plastic, canvas and many other surfaces.

If you're just getting started, don't get overwhelmed. Be patient with yourself and recognise that it'll take a little time to get the hang of this beautiful medium. Don't overcomplicate it, either.

Here we'll go over the five key materials you'll need to paint with oils. 

01. A spectrum of colours

A basic palette like this will cover most eventualities

There are hundreds of colours to choose from, but start with a basic palette that covers the spectrum to give you a good mix of warm and cool hues. 

Most art materials are sold in at least two grades: student and professional. Whenever possible, purchase pro-grade materials as they almost always last longer and the paint goes further. Pro-grade oils will also contain more pigment, which will result in more accurate colour mixing, and will be resistant to fading in sunlight. 

02. A variety of brushes

Here's a handy selection of brushes

I prefer Rosemary & Co. brushes, but I also recommend Silver Grand Prix and Trekell. Hog bristle brushes are versatile, not terribly expensive and allow for a variety of applications. Finer-haired brushes, both natural and synthetic, can give you an even smoother finish and make very fine detail possible.

03. A palette

Make sure your palette is large enough to mix your paints on

You'll need a palette for your paint. This can be a disposable one, a clean tabletop or a handheld wood palette, or a piece of glass that can be quickly scraped clean. Whatever you use, choose something that's large enough to allow for easy mixing and that can be used ergonomically.

04. A surface to paint

Whatever surface you use, prime it with gesso first

The most common surfaces to paint on are canvas, linen and wood. You'll need to prime the surface with a gesso or ground to prevent the acids in the paint from contacting it directly. Acrylic gesso is easy to use and can be applied with a brush or roller.

05. A comfortable easel

Pick an easel that best suits your preferred painting style

A solid easel is important so that your work is stable, safe and remains at a good working height while you're painting. You can purchase (pictured, left to right): portable metal tripod-style easels that can be used sitting or standing; larger H-frame style studio models that are meant to remain in situ; or folding French-style field easels. 

This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 145; buy it here!

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