Basics of Oil Painting

Oil Painting Supplies – Oil Paintings Tools for Beginners

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Are you getting ready to start oil painting for the first time and you are not sure where to start and what you will need? Well, take heart as it is not as complex as you might think. You will only need a few tools and items that will help you get started. So, read on and discover what you need to know when purchasing all the vital oil painting supplies.




Oil Painting Supplies List

We all want to create our own oil painting masterpiece, and that can happen, not only because of our skill or experience as an artist but also by having some quality oil paintings tools. This does not mean you have to break the bank but having quality materials will go a long way in creating a successful art piece. This means that if you want to enjoy the experience and also create a great piece of art, you need to invest in your artists’ skills. When you stock up on your oil painting supplies, it is not just about the paint. You will also need paint brushes, turpentine, a painting surface, and more. Do not be alarmed and scared off by this but let us take you through all the oil painting tools you will need.  Some of the basic supplies you need include:

  • Oil Paints
  • Paintbrushes
  • Palette
  • Palette Knives
  • Painting Surface
  • Oil Painting Medium
  • Paint Thinners
  • Easel
  • Newspaper
  • Paper Towels or Cloth Rags
  • Charcoal Pencil

Oil Painting Supplies


Oil Painting Kit for Beginners

You may think that buying a readymade kit is the answer as you do not have to worry about leaving something that is important out of your supplies. However, as a beginner starting on your oil painting experience, we suggest you purchase individual oil paintings tools so that when you begin to gain experience, you can simply add to them. Below are some pros and cons for buying a readymade oil painting kit for beginners as well as buying individual beginner oil painting supplies.


  • It makes your choice easy, as you only have to make one decision
  • The kit comes in an attractive case or box that should last for a long time
  • In some kits, there are techniques and other information included


  • Many of the kits are overpriced
  • The larger kits often have colors and materials you will never use
  • Many kits give you small tubes of paint and you will have to go out and buy some more when they run out

Pros for Individual Oil Paints Tools

  • You can purchase better quality materials as many of the kits use lower-quality materials
  • If you have experience with watercolors, then you will be able to use your knowledge for choosing different color pigments you are familiar with
  • It works out cheaper when buying individual tubes of paint
  • You will not end up with paints and materials you will never use

The only real disadvantage of buying your oil painting supplies individually is that it might be difficult to know what to get. There are so many brands of paints and different brushes, getting a kit sounds like a much better option. In the end, it all depends on what you want to do and what makes you feel more comfortable.


Best Oil Painting Kit for Beginners: KEFF Artistry Deluxe Oil Painting Kit

This KEFF Artistry Deluxe Oil Painting Kit is ideal for adult beginners as well as for your kids, the whole family can enjoy this experience together.  The painting set kit contains all the oil painting supplies required. The manufactures guarantee 100 percent satisfaction and if you are not satisfied with your purchase, they will refund your money within 30 days. This oil painting supplies kit consists of the following items. There is also a sturdy wooden beechwood portable art easel that has four adjustable positions, which makes your painting experience a whole lot easier. The set contains many different shapes of quality brushes and there is also two palettes and two palette knives.

KEFF Oil Painting Set for Starters and Professionals
  • Great oil paint kit for adults, professionals and even starters
  • This oil painting set include a variety of 24 richly pigmented colors
  • Included a range of paintbrushes and a portable art easel
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  • Set contains 24 vibrant oil paint colors
  • Has a sturdy wooden adjustable easel
  • Two palettes and two palette knives
  • A set of different shapes of paint brushes
  • Great value for money


  • Not for advanced artists
  • Poor quality brushes, you might want to invest in your own



Individual Oil Paints

The very first thing you consider when oil painting, is the oil paint. However, you may wonder what colors to buy or what brand of oil paint is best. You cannot go wrong if you stick with the major brands, such as Michael Harding, Gamblin, or Winsor & Newton. Also, you should consider if you want artist paints, which are of better quality, or if you want student paints that are lower in quality and price. Let us now have a look at what you need to consider when you buy oil paints. If you would like to know more, we also have an article about oil vs acrylic paint.


Pigment Content

When buying quality oil paint, you need to choose a paint that contains a high level of pigment and has less filler. These make better quality paints as they can spread much further on your canvas but tend to be a lot more expensive. These paints also have a better feel to them and also mix much easier when you combine them with other colors.


Essential Oil Colors you Need to Start With

The primary colors are generally the main colors you will need. These can be mixed to come up with any color on the spectrum. When you progress further, you can add other colors to your collection. Here are the recommended colors:

  • Burnt Umber: This is a dark brown pigment that can be used in creating shadows
  • Titanium White: This is the best opaque of all the whites
  • Permanent Rose: This is a marketing name used for Primary Magenta, and is used to mix with yellow making a brilliant orange
  • Cadmium Red Light: This color profile has a bias towards yellow
  • Cyan: This primary cyan mixes well to make brilliant greens
  • Cadmium Yellow: It provides a deeper yellow with a reddish undertone
  • Transparent Yellow: Gives a very bright primary yellow

Beginner Oil Painting Supplies


Oil Paint Make-Up

To gain a better understanding of oil painting, you should learn what makes up oil paint. Just like many other paints oil paints are made up of three major parts. These elements are what give the paint color and keep everything together.

  • Pigment: Providing the paint color. These pigments can be from natural sources or manufactured and are synthetic. The more natural the pigment and if there is more pigment, the quality of the paint is better
  • Binder: This is the material that actually holds the pigment together and is generally linseed oil
  • Solvent and Other Additives: This is the substance used for thinning the paint, making it easier to spread over your canvas, and is usually mineral spirits, paint thinners, or turpentine. The other additives referred to are added to improve the usability and lightfastness of the paint



When choosing your paints, you must also consider the lightfastness of that particular brand. Lightfastness means the ability the paint has to resist fading when exposed to any ultraviolet light. When the lightfastness is weak, the paint color will tend to fade over time. The idea of oil painting is for it to last a long time, so ensure the brand you buy has a high lightfastness rating. So, you may be asking how lightfastness works? The information should come with the product and will reveal the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials Standard). There are three levels, which are as follows:

  • ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials Standard) Level l being excellent
  • ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials Standard) Level II being very good
  • ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials Standard) Level III being not acceptable for artists quality paints



Some of the better oil paint brands also include a durability rating. This means that they not only give you a lightfastness rating but also include a chemical stability rating, meaning that those colors are regarded as more durable than others. These ratings can be shown on the label as follows:

  • AA being extremely permanent
  • A being permanent
  • B being moderately durable


Best Beginners Oil Paint Set: WINSOR & NEWTON Winton Oil Color Paint

The Winsor & Newton Winton oil color starter kit contains quality oil paints, made by using reasonably priced pigments which make them very affordable. This set is great for accomplished as well as amateur artists. They contain a high level of pigmentation which gives them excellent covering power as well as tinting strength. Although it is not able to match the exceptional pigment load of the artist brand oil paints, it still provides great quality. The Winton oil paints are under the category of student grade paints; however, they are not low-grade paints. Their viscosity and mixing strength are excellent, and their lightfastness and durability are top of the range.

WINSOR & NEWTON Winton Oil Colour Paint Starter Set
  • The paints have high pigmentation for great coverage and tints
  • Affordable and great quality, perfect for students or amatures
  • Suitable for a range of different materials, including cardboard
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  • High-quality oil paint colors
  • Affordable price
  • Transparency or opacity is O
  • Lightfastness rating ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials Standard) I (excellent)
  • Durability rating of AA, being extremely durable
  • Ideal for beginners or professional alike


  • One user complained that the paints were dry in the tubes when he received them



Oil Paint Brushes

Without oil paints, we will never be able to produce an oil painting, but if you want to create an incredible oil painting, the most important tool on your beginner oil painting supplies list, is a paintbrush.  In this category, there are a vast number of different types of brushes. These include different brush sizes, brush shapes, and brush handles. Since brushes can be expensive, knowing how to clean and protect your paintbrushes is also important. When buying your paintbrush, the choice is mostly a matter of personal choice as well as your painting style. The best oil painting brushes are ones that hold their shape when they are loaded with paint and then bounce back to their original shape after you have completed each stroke.

However, if you are beginning oil painting, there is no need to have a full range of sizes and types to start with. You only need a few of the different sizes and shapes. We suggest two of size 2, two of size 6, and two of size 12, with each pair consisting of a flat brush with a squared-off tip and a filbert brush shape with a rounded tip.

Oil Painting Kit for Beginners


Natural Bristle Brushes

This type of brush is made from pig hair and some of the more common types are filbert, round, flat, and bright brushes. We will now briefly tell you where to use these brushes for your art painting masterpiece.

  • Filbert Brush: This brush is very versatile and can be used for any painting style. It has an oval shape and incorporates the characteristics of the round and flat brushes in one. It can also be used for mixing your paints whilst painting
  • Round Brush: These types of brushes are mainly used for detail and intricate work and can also be found in larger sizes
  • Flat Brushes: These brushes are used for accurate work, especially if they are made from synthetic hair, and are also used when painting larger areas
  • Bright Brushes: These brush shapes are short and flat and are suitable when moving or applying your oil paint. Since they have short bristles, they tend to bend a lot less. They can move paint against the grip of your canvas and can also be used to cover large areas
  • Fan Brushes: These types of brushes are used when painting hair, grass, fur or when removing your brushstrokes, as well as filling in large areas. If you need smoother brushstrokes, we suggest you use a synthetic bristle fan brush
  • Large Flat Brushes: These types of brushes are made in various sizes and can be used for different purposes depending on the hair type. Another use is for removing brushstrokes, as well as smoothing the surface of your painting. Goat hair bristles can give you that gentler blending and smoothing effect


Synthetic Bristle Brushes

Synthetic paintbrushes, like natural brushes, also come in various types and sizes. Most of the manufacturers offer different synthetic material bristles for different jobs, as well as painting techniques and styles. Let us now have a closer look at these various synthetic brushes and see what they are used for.

  • Flat Synthetic Brushes: These are the most versatile of the brushes and are used for precision and smaller detailed work. The brush is suitable for painting leaves and tree trunks when using the corners of the triangular shape of the brush. Also, it is used for painting rocks, mountains, and many other landscape features
  • Round Synthetic Brushes: These types of brushes are used for painting precision and small detailed work
  • Liner and Rigger Synthetic Brushes: These are much thinner brushes that have very long bristles and are used for painting fine details. The long bristles are used for holding a large quantity of paint, which will allow you to paint a long line by making only one brush stroke. This feature comes in handy when painting tree branches, grass, fences, and ropes
  • Angular Synthetic Brushes: They are very versatile brushes and are used for precision work as well as creating unique brushstrokes.The bristles are made from natural as well as synthetic hair. The brush has different hair lengths that form the different angles of the brush, hence the name of the brush angular
  • Soft Synthetic Brushes: The mop brush, as it is also called, is suited for removing and blending brushstrokes. The brush should be used very gently, almost as if it is hovering over the canvas


How to Understand Brush Sizes

Oil paint brushes, like all other paintbrushes, come in many different sizes and different brands and each of these brands makes use of different sizes for their brushes. For this reason, it is suggested that instead of buying a brush by its size number shown on the ferrule, rather buy a brush using its centimeter size. The numbers used for paintbrush sizes are 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4 and so on; where smaller numbers smaller than 0 are then 00, 000, 0000, or also referred to as 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, and so on.



Oil Paint Brush Handles

Paintbrushes come with short as well as long handles. The brushes with short handles are usually used with watercolors, and the long handles brush for oil painting. The idea of the long handle is to allow the painter to keep their distance from the canvas to gain a bigger picture of the complete painting. However, when painting small and detailed work, it is better to use a brush with a shorter handle.


Cleaning Your Paint Brushes

When cleaning your oil painting brushes, it is a different process than cleaning watercolor brushes. Instead of using water to clean the brushes, you will now have to use mineral spirits, turpentine, or paint thinners. To make the process more effective, there are special jars for this purpose that contain a coil found at the bottom of the jar. You fill the jar with the spirits and then rub the paintbrush against the coil to remove the paint.  There are also specially developed paintbrush cleaners available that help to clean and preserve the brushes.

Beginning Oil Painting


Storing Your Brushes

To protect the bristles, you need to make sure they are properly dry after washing them and make sure to store them with the bristles facing up. If you store them with the bristles facing down, they will bend over, and your bristle shape will be ruined. The ideal place to store your brushes would be in a specially designed box solely for storing paintbrushes.


Best Brand of Oil Painting Brushes for Beginners: MONT MARTE Paint Brush Set

This Mont Marte Art Paint Brush Set consists of 15 extremely versatile, long-handled, good quality, professional paintbrushes. They range from size 3/0 to 12 and are ideal for professional artists, beginners as well as kids.  All the brushes are hand-made by using the best quality thick, smooth Taklon synthetic bristles, and are sealed with an aluminum ferrule. The wooden shafts or handles will not bend or break, even if used for a long time.

MONTE MARTE Art Paint Brushes Set, for Watercolor, Acrylic and Oil
  • Extremely Versatile: 15 different sizes, perfect for every level of artist
  • The taklon hair is thick and smooth, and sealed in aluminum ferrule firmly
  • The paint brushes set comes with a gorgeous zippered holder
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The brushes are very versatile and can be used for painting with watercolors, acrylics, gouaches, and also with oil paints. They will allow you to create an even and fluid finish. They are supplied in a strong zippered carrying case, which is ideal for traveling and can keep your brushes properly organized and in good condition.  After you have cleaned the brushes, make sure they are properly dry before you store them.


  • After cleaning, the bristles remain soft and if properly maintained, can last for a long time
  • Supplied in an attractive carry case that is easy to carry with you and keeps brushes in good condition
  • The 15 brushes offer great variety for all your oil painting techniques
  • Price is fairly reasonable


  • Not very suitable for the professional artist, but more geared toward the beginner
  • Some have complained that the bristles start to fall out after only a few uses


Palette Knife

A palette or painting knife is your tool for mixing your oil paints and they usually have a blade that is slightly bendable. Some artists use their paintbrushes for mixing their paints but that is entirely up to you.  Remember that a palette knife is a lot easier to clean than your paintbrush so it may be advisable to use your palette knife to mix your paints.   Your palette knife is not only used for mixing paints, but you can also use it to texture your paint strokes or create certain effects that you cannot do using your paintbrush.



Painting Medium or Surface

When we think of a painting surface, we automatically consider a canvas surface or medium. However, oil paintings can be done on many different surfaces like paper, wood, or even metal. Below are a few of these options in a little more detail.


Canvas for Oil Paints

Let us now consider the different types of canvas options that are available for your oil painting. These types of oil painting mediums are mostly used by professional artists.

  • Cotton Duck Canvas: This is one of the most common canvas surfaces and is also the most cost-effective. When buying this type, you need to take into consideration the weight or thickness and also the weave, is it loosely or tightly woven
  • Linen Canvas: This type of canvas is slightly more expensive and is more superior to the cotton duck canvas as its weave is tighter and the threads are finer. This means that it has a smoother finish and is better used for portraits paintings
  • Synthetic Fiber Canvas: This type of surface is more of a traditional type, and as such, is not used very often. Many artists believe this type of surface has not been on the market long enough for them to decide as to its durability


Stretched Canvas

This painting surface is used often by today’s artists and is a tightly woven material that is very flexible and is made from linen, cotton, or another form of synthetic material.  This material is then stretched over a metal or wooden frame and fastened at the back. You can purchase the stretched canvas already stretched and primed onto the frame, or you can purchase it in roll form and cut it and fix it to the frame yourself. The stretched canvas is supplied in three different textures:

  • Fine: This texture is extra smooth and is suitable for painting portraits or more detailed work
  • Medium: This is more of a bold texture, used for expressive painting making use of broad brushstrokes like impressionists
  • Rough: This has an abrasive texture that can enhance the adhesion when painting a collage


Canvas Board or Panel

This surface is more rigid and is primed, then glued to a piece of cardboard. This surface is easier to work with than the stretched canvas and can easily be carried, transported, and stored. It is preferred by many artists for painting smaller images and is very durable. The board is an ideal option when painting outside as it is very light to carry and does not allow the sun to shine through the back and damage your work.

Oil Painting Tools


Canvas Paper

This is a very flexible surface and is mainly used for small sketches and is not advisable to use for a permanent art piece, as it is very fragile and not durable at all. It is available in different paper qualities that include the following:

  • 100 Percent Cotton: This is the best quality canvas paper, but the name is slightly misleading as it does not consist entirely of cotton
  • Rag Paper: This means that the paper has a certain content of rags, which is mixed with wood cellulose or linters
  • Wood Free: This is what is referred to as wood sulfite or alpha-cellulose and is the highest grade of wood pulp paper


Metal Panel Canvas

This form of painting surface can be copper, aluminum, or brass and is very rigid but needs to be primed before you can apply your paints. So, if you are only beginning oil painting, and do not want to spend a fortune on a painting medium and you do not want to paint an oil painting that will hang in a museum. What other oil painting surface options are available to me?


Watercolor Paper

An excellent choice is using 140-pound watercolor paper, which first needs to be prepared with a layer of gesso.  Gesso is an acrylic primer that is white and rather thick, which will safeguard the watercolor paper from the oils that are in your paints. After it has dried properly, you use some tape and fix it on your easel or drawing board, and you are ready to go.


Wood and Oil Paints

A wood surface is a lot more durable than paper or canvas. However, before painting, you must prime with gesso. Paint a layer of gesso on the surface of the wood and allow about 45 minutes to dry. Then using fine sandpaper, sand it until it is smooth, then you can apply another layer and follow the same procedure until you are satisfied with a very smooth surface. The wood types that are most commonly used are pine, oak, cedar, Masonite, or plywood. By using wood as a painting surface, you can do finer detailed work because the surface is a lot smoother than canvas or paper.


Best Painting Surface for Beginners: US ART SUPPLY Canvas Panel Boards

The canvas panel boards are the best surface to use for the one just learning the basics of oil painting. The US Art Supply Panel Board comes in a 1/16 inch thick heavy eight-ounce painting surface that is triple primed, acid-free, and ready to paint. It is of durable construction with a 100 percent cotton canvas that is hand-stretched and also glued over a very high-quality Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) Cardboard. These panel boards are very versatile, and you can use oil, acrylic, gouache, or watercolor paints. You can also use it for pouring, airbrushing, and much more. This product is great for use by professional artists, and those just starting to learn the basics of oil painting. The product comes in a pack of 12 panels.

U.S. ART SUPPLY Artist Quality Acid Free Canvas Boards
  • Each Panel is pre-primed and ready to be painted on
  • 100% Cotton Canvas Surface - Hand Stretched and Glued Over High Quality MDF Cardboard Backerboards
  • 1/16" Thickness Profile and 8-Ounce Triple Primed with Acid-Free White Gesso
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  • The canvas is glued to the cardboard and cannot move or become loose
  • Canvas panels are easier to make and are usually perfectly square
  • Easy to transport and can be used outside as well
  • Is very durable
  • Easy to store
  • Very versatile allowing you to paint on it with different types of paint
  • Comes in different sizes


  • One user complained that the panel began to curl before the paint had dried



Painting Medium

Many beginners get confused with this part, as they consider mineral spirits or turpentine to thin their paint, but by using linseed oil you can also thin your paint. You can make your own artist’s medium to suit your situation by mixing some linseed oil with turpentine in a 1:1 mixing ratio. This seems confusing as your paint already has oil in it, but oil as a medium retains the consistency of the paint without losing its texture, just like you would use water to thin your watercolor paints. When using oil as a painting medium you can achieve different results such as:

  • It can thin your paint
  • It can increase the transparency of the paint making it ideal for glazing
  • It also slows down the drying time
  • Used for mixing your paints


Best Painting Medium for Beginners: WINSOR & NEWTON Stand Linseed Oil

The Winsor & Newton Stand Linseed Oil is a viscous oil that slows the drying time of your paint and gives you a smooth, tough enamel finish. It leaves your final paint finish without any brush marks and provides a durable film finish. The medium is also perfect for glazing and any fine details when you mix it on a 1:1 mixing ratio with a solvent.  The product comes in a 75 ml bottle.

WINSOR & NEWTON Stand Linseed Oil, 75ml
  • A pale viscous oil that slows drying while imparting a tough, smooth enamel finish with no brush marks
  • Increases film durabilit, Made in the USA
  • Ideal for glazing and fine detail when mixed with solvent
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  • Slows drying time
  • Thin your paint
  • Leaves a smooth tough enamel finish
  • Is very durable
  • Ideal for glazing when mixed with a solvent


  • Two users complained that it took them 30 minutes to get the cap off of the bottle



Oil Painting Tools



You will also need a palette to mix your paints before applying them to your canvas. This does not have to be something fancy or professional but needs to be big enough to mix all of your paints you are going to use. A small piece of advice is to have a mixing palette that is around half of the finished size of your painting canvas. The palette can be made from wood, plastic, glass, or even paper. However, the glass palette is a lot easier to clean, even when the paint is dry you just use an old razor blade. Many beginners make use of a disposable paper palette, which you can just throw away. Ensure that your palette is completely flat as this will give you more space when mixing your paints and is also easier to clean.

Oil Paintings Tools



Every oil painter, even if you are a beginner, needs to have an easel. The easel does not have to be an expensive model, all it needs to do is hold your work securely and be the right height for you. The main reason you need an easel is that your painting needs to be in a vertical position, as the oil paints take a fairly long time to dry and dust particles may settle on the paint if it is lying flat. There are a few different types of easels for you to choose from and you need to select the right one that suits you.

  • Tabletop Easel: This is a portable option and is great if you are working from a table or desk or if you prefer sitting down to paint. It is also used when you are working with smaller paintings
  • Studio Easel: If you have more space and like to stand and work, then this option is ideal
  • Field Easel: You might want to do an outdoor painting, these easels are transportable and easy to carry, perfect for the outdoors. 




As you can see, there are quite a few oil painting supplies needed and quite a few choices you have to make. However, once you understand the basics of oil painting, you should easily make the right choices. If you are only beginning oil painting, we hope that this article has helped you on your journey to creating a beautiful art piece.



Frequently Asked Questions


What is Varnish Used for?

After your painting has dried completely, which could take some weeks, then you can apply a varnish with UV protection over your painting. When using varnish, high-quality spray paint is advisable.


Must I prime my Canvas?

Many of the painting surfaces come already primed with gesso, but if not, then you can prime it yourself and follow the directions on the gesso container. A well-primed surface offers better paint adhesion properties.


I am Just Beginning oil Painting; How do I Start?

It is recommended that you first try drawing for a time to develop these skills, then you can progress to oil painting. Just take note of the supplies you need at the beginning of the article and learn all about the basics of oil painting.


How to Prevent Wrinkles When Stretching Out Canvas?

If you bought a canvas that is folded, then you need to lay it out and remove all the folds. You can buy a canvas that is supplied in a roll form, this will eliminate this problem. Once you have stretched your canvas, the few wrinkles that remain will smooth out once you apply the gesso.


Is a Solvent Needed When oil Painting?

Yes, a solvent is needed to clean your paintbrushes and it can be used to thin your paint. To thin paint, preferably mix it with linseed oil in a 1:1 ratio. Also, solvents can be dangerous, so work in a well-ventilated area.


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