Oil Painting Supplies for Beginners

Updated: 08 Jan 2022

Tips for beginning oil painting

While the obvious supplies will be oil paints, paintbrushes and something to paint on, there are other useful products that support the painting process.

Gloves

Latex gloves are a convenient option, when you want your hands paint-free.

You can use gloves for mixing colors, a process that can sometimes get messy.

In addition, I use gloves when washing brushes, to protect my hand while rubbing the brush on it (see below).

Note:

Some gloves are lightly powdered, to prevent sweating. With these gloves, I do not recommend touching the canvas, in order not to leave powder on it.

How to Use an Oil Paint Tube

Press the back of the tube, in order to take out paint. Proceed, as the tube is getting empty.

Pressing the middle of the tube will push some paint backward, making it difficult to take out paint smoothly.

Tip:

You can insert paint back into the tube, by tapping the back of the tube on the work surface.

White oil paint tube Pressing the back of the tube
Green oil paint tube Inserting paint into the tube

How to Reuse Oil Paint

After finishing a painting session, sometimes there will be paint left on the palette.

You can store the paint in a freezer compartment, in order to stop its hardening process, and to reuse it later.

Oil paints will remain usable for several weeks or more, depending on how well you seal them.

A plastic box, glassware, aluminum foil, disposable plastic plate wrapped in plastic wrap, or any other way, will keep the paint usable, as long as the sealing is airtight.

Oil paints do not dry (they have no water in them); they harden by exposure to air (oxidation).

Keep in mind:

Some pigments are toxic and should be wrapped properly and kept away from food!

Oil paints in a freezer Oil paints in a freezer
Oil paints in a freezer compartment Airtight wrap

How to Wash Paint brushes

If you are sensitive to odors from thinners, and concern about the toxicity of these materials, you can use dish soap and water.

Wash the brushes several times, until no paint is coming out of them (put some dish soap on your gloved hand, and rub the paintbrush on it, wash, repeat).

Then, dry gently with a towel and store with the bristles up, to keep their shape.

Dish soap for cleaning brushes Dish soap
Washing a paintbrush Washing a brush
Washing paintbrushes Washing several times
Store paintbrushes with bristles up Storing paintbrushes

Good to know:

If paint remains on the brush, it hardens and renders the brush useless.

For more info on paintbrushes, visit my guide for oil painting brush types.

Examples from my guide for paint brushes

Paper Towels

Paper towels are great for cleaning paintbrushes and palette knives while painting, or to open and close oil paint tubes in a clean way.

Paper towel roll for cleaning paint

Another option is to use a cloth.

In addition, you can use them (gently) to remove excessive paint from the canvas.

Palette

A palette is a board for organizing and mixing oil paints.

Palette for oil paints is made of wood, plastic and other hard materials. A glass palette, or a specially designed glass table, is easy to clean.

My favorite is a disposable palette made of impermeable, non-absorbent paper.

Green hack:

You can use old magazines as a disposable palette.

Color mixing palette by Winsor & Newton Winsor & Newton palette
Paper palettes for mixing oil paints Palettes in different sizes

Disposable paper palettes come in different sizes and with different amount of pages.

Arrange and mix oil paints on a disposable paper. At the end of a painting session, tear off the disposable page, and throw it (without having to clean it).

Mixing colors on a paper palette Mixing paints on a palette
Disposable palette for oil paints Paper sheet is torn

Canvas for Oil Painting

You can use a high quality cotton canvas, or a linen canvas, which is quite expensive.

You do not have to frame your oil paintings when you want to hang them.

In that case, it is important to buy a canvas without pins that connect the fabric to the wood on the sides of the frame, but on the back of the frame (where they cannot be seen).

Cotton canvas for oil painting No pins on the sides
Canvases for oil painting with pins in the back Pins on the back

You can paint the sides of the canvas when hanging it without a frame.

Canvases with painted sides Painted sides
Canvases painted on their sides Painted sides

Tip:

After a painting session, you can mix the remaining oil paints (that are left on the palette).

Use this mixture to paint the sides of your canvas.

Paper Pads for Oil Paint

Supply for oil painting is NOT cheap. Unlike paper for pencil drawing, each canvas is quite expensive.

One solution is paper pads designed for oil paint. These paper sheets are NOT of high quality, and not aimed for finished paintings.

However, paper for oil paint is great for training, especially for beginners.

Another great use for them is for creating color palettes or color charts.

Paper pads for oil paint Paper sheets for oil paint

Ideas for Paintings

Copyright law protects photographs, drawings, comics, and images that you can find on the Internet.

In order to use images to get ideas for paintings, or to draw them from observation, use royalty-free images.

Quite a few websites provide free images for use by artists or anybody else.

Some examples:

Pixabay

Unsplash

Pexels

In addition, with some knowledge in linear perspective, you can learn how to draw from imagination.

How and Where to Sign a Painting

It is customary to sign on finished artworks. You can sign using a synthetic round brush, or a synthetic liner brush.

For a realistic painting, in which a signature can ruin its look, sign on the back of the canvas, using a marker pen or a technical pen.

Round synthetic brush for signature Round synthetic brush
Liner synthetic brush for signature Liner synthetic brush

In addition to a signature, add contact details, such as phone number, website address, or e-mail address on the back of the canvas.

Add some technical details, like canvas dimensions, and a date.

Techniques for Oil Painting

Oil painting is a particularly forgiving medium. If something in the painting does not work, it is possible to wipe it with a paper towel or a cloth. Another solution is to paint over it once the lower layer of oil paint hardens.

Unlike other mediums, oil paints are very easy to mix, and therefore create a huge amount of colors and shades.

With a limited palette of 5 colors (red, blue, yellow, brown, and white), you can mix many colors and shades.

Wet on wet or alla prima is a technique in which painting on top of a fresh layer of paint, and thus the layers can be mixed with one another.

Wet on dry means waiting for the bottom layer to harden, and only then paint a new layer on top of it.

Divide and conquer is a perception that in a complex painting, it is better to work on small parts of it, and make the task less complicated.

Techniques or painting styles are a matter of personal preference.

From time to time (when painting), remember to move back from the canvas, in order to see the big picture.

Where to Go Next?

Once you have some painting materials, it is time to learn how to mix oil paints.

For painting realism, visit my tutorial on how to paint in a realistic style.

To learn more about painting, visit my recommended YouTube painting instructors.