How to Start Oil Painting with 6 Easy Steps without feeling daunted

When it comes to oil painting many beginners feel overwhelmed before they have even started due to the techniques that you have to use for oil painting.

You don’t need to feel this way. You just need to break it down, learn the methods and don’t be over ambitious with your first try. The “Fat over Lean” principle isn’t difficult but it is important. This guide is to give you 6 easy steps when getting started with oil painting. Using these steps will give you an understanding of how to use oil paints with some these simple steps.


Image Source 

Image Source 

With any creative skills drawing is key to painting and I promise you everyone can draw. Some people are naturally gifted and can put pencil to paper and draw exactly what is in front of them. Others need to practice and learn about shadow, light and composition. The more you practice the easier it gets. A sketch is just about capturing a moment you don’t need a heavily detailed drawing for a painting, but sometimes it helps. Drawing is essential even to an abstract artist, it’s about creating a strong composition and knowing how to use line and tone to make a statement.

A colour wheel will also help you get started. Learning how colours work together, contrast and mix is key to creating artwork. You can buy colour wheels cheaply but my advice to you it to create your own as your first piece of art.


Image Source Caspar Benson / Getty Images  

Image Source

This leads on nicely to my second point, restraint is always good when you are getting started. Don’t feel the need to go out and buy every product and colour under the sun. To encourage you to mix your own paint limit your pallet and then you can focus on how to work with the paint. You just need: Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red, Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Titanium White are basics that will help you create beautiful colours. You may want to invest in a green but you will also be able to mix your own.

The Fat-over-Lean principle isn’t complicated it just prevents cracking in your picture. Adding oil slows down the drying process of paint. So if you add a quick drying paint over a slow drying paint your picture will have problems. The top layer of paint will dry quicker and act as a seal.   The slow drying flexible layer underneath will dry even slower as no air can reach it, this may result in cracking. You do not actually need to add oils to your paint, you can just paint and play with them. If you use additions to your paint such as solvents, making your paint “leaner” or mediums making your paint “fatter” as its main ingredient is oil.  “lean” paint has less oil content and is faster drying first so don’t seal in oily layers of paint, ‘fat’ paint and slower drying.

To Recap:

For a beginner student quality paints are really great investment, when you feel confident and start loving your work then invest in artist quality paints. I would start introducing them to your art box slowly when you need them, rather than all at once: this will save you a small fortune in the long run.

You only need a few brushes to get going and as for a medium for beginners I am going to recommend one product and it is ZEST-IT. This can be both a cleaner for brushes and a medium to help thin your paints. You can flush it down the drain and it smells of citrus. It is so much better than old fashioned turps that can give you headaches.

This stuff isn’t as cheap as white spirit or turps however if you pour it into a jar then seal it up, allow it to settle and you can use it again. This is definitely something you should invest in.

If you want your brushes to last, clean them thoroughly and completely every time you finish painting for the day. Tear off pallets are great for getting started just make sure you don’t squeeze out more paint than you need. Don’t invest in a proper pallet until you know what shape you like, how much paint you use just what your preferences are.Crafty Arts Zest It

Like acrylic you can paint on pretty much any surface as long as it is primed with gesso. Otherwise, the oil in the paint will eventually rot the paper or threads of the canvas or what ever you are painting on. It is really important to prime your surface. The more coats the smoother finish you will achieve and even shop bought ready primed canvas will benefit from another coat of gesso. Oil Pads are great for beginners as well, they don’t cost as much as a canvas so you can practice with confidence.

Oil paints should always be painted in a well-ventilated room, lots of solvents have strong obnoxious odours. This is why I recommend Zest-it. Turpentine, is highly flammable and rags that have been soaked in turpentine can self-ignite. Lots of fires are started from rags and tissues being thrown into an art bin only to self-combust. Please dispose of these safely in a separate, fire-safe, sealed metal container. Wear old clothes, oil paint gets everywhere and it is so hard to get off.

Nothing beats going to a class and having a great artist show you how to paint but remember this. They are teaching you how they paint and this may not work for you. So don’t be afraid of seeing how different people paint. Look up tips and online tutorials, buy books of artists you like, they are great and full of knowledge. But you need to try all these out, find what fits for you and practice, practice, practice. It takes time and patience. The beauty of choosing oils over other painting materials is that oils take a long time to dry. Depending on how thick an application pf paint you use. This means that you can really play with the paint and fix any issues. You do not

Never forget that being creative is a personal thing, what works for you may not be how other artists paint. It is really important to find your own creative path. Be inspired by others but it is important to try not to imitate others work, be yourself. My next art blog I will create a painting with you in. Starting from priming to a finished piece of work. I hope you enjoyed this informative how to. I will leave you with one of my favourite oil painter Paul Gaugin.





Comments are closed here.