Oil Painting: What You Need to Get Started

So you’re interested in becoming an oil painter? Think you’ve got what it takes to be the next Van Gogh? Perhaps you’d rather paint the light like Claude Monet? Well, don’t varnish the canvas just yet. All oil painters need a specific set of tools and supplies in order to paint their masterpieces. Below, we’ll discuss the tools you’ll need for painting an oil painting.

You’re most likely mentally preparing a list: paint, canvas and brushes. You’re absolutely right. We’ll start with the canvas. Most beginners will want to start with cheap small eight by ten pre-stretched canvases. These canvases can cost as little as four to five dollars a piece. Look for canvas that has been gessoed well and is stretched tightly. I prefer my canvas to be stretched tight enough to beat like a drum.

Oil paint! My my look at all the different colors! First and foremost, start with a cheaper student grade paint. My first couple oil paintings were awful! Thankfully, only cheaper student grade paint went to waste. Don’t buy a couple load of colors. Start with the primaries. A good blue, yellow and red will get you started. And DO NOT forget the white. Titanium White is preferred. With these colors, you’ll learn to mix and will be able to conjure up any color imaginable.

Brushes are fairly simple. Since you’re working with smaller canvases, purchase smaller brushes. This will also save you money. Filberts are universal brushes capable of painting pretty much anything. I recommend filberts over flats. Also pick up a small rigger to sign your painting and perfect small details.

Other items are less obvious but just as important. Oil paint cannot be cleaned with ordinary soap and water. You’ll need turpentine or some type of oil paint remover. These chemicals are often smelly and hazardous to the health. Fortunately, in the past few years, safer friendlier alternatives have emerged. Look for something odorless and perhaps even organic. Take Magic Bristle for example. You’ll also want to pick up a roll of paper towels. You will use a lot of these over time. A small glass jar will suffice as a brush cleaning bucket.

Here are a few optional items you’ll want to consider purchasing. A palette is optional. Why you ask? You can easily and cheaply mix your paint on a plastic plate or some other disposable item. Once you get into the hobby, I do recommend purchasing a nonstick airtight palette. You should also think about purchasing a palette knife. A palette knife can provide a variety of uses. You can scrape and clean your palette with the knife. You can even paint with the knife. And if worse comes to worse, you can always use it to clean your fingernails.

These are the items and accessories that you should and should consider purchasing if you’re serious about painting. Once you improve your skills, you can move to more expensive oil colors and higher quality brushes. You’ll know when the time is right. Good luck and happy painting!