Beginner Oil Painting Supplies

Here's a list to get you started in beginner oil painting.

Canvases and painting boards

For beginner oil painting I recommend painting boards – they are cheap, ready to use, and well storeable. Here's the cheapest version available at Blick's>. They're priced from two to four dollars a piece, probably cheaper in bulk - that’s great for doing studies.

Their disadvantage: in time, some painting boards don't keep straight. But if one of your works turned out really nice, you can glue a piece of plywood on the back and it will keep good. It may sound weird, but cheap materials - not endangering the ruining of precious materials - used to give me a sense of freedom. I started only using more expensive materials when I began to sell my paintings.

Basic brushes

For beginner oil painting, have a set of round edged bristle brushes, and some additional fine-tipped brushes (pony or marterhair). You can try bristle brushes from the DIY-paintstore, but also check the artist’s supplies store for economy sets. I’d recommend an economy set of bristle and ox or pony hair,like these. from Blicks.
www.dickblick.com

Find more brushes here

Do visit the DIY-store as well for some bigger flat bristle brushes at your local DIY paintstore, great for blending or painting a background. Cheap bristles do tend to loos their hairs, in your work, but you can pinch them out with a needle.

If you want to try out fine-haired brushes without spending a lot first, then try a brush from the women's makeup-corner. They don't last as long as marterhair, but fine they are.

Size and shape matters: the more differentiated, the better. If you can, have at least 1 round brush with a tip ending in 1 hair (ox or marter)– as big as you can afford it. The tip must be perfect. No matter how big the brush is, if the tip is perfect, you can paint really thin lines with it. The bigger your fine-tipped brush is, the more paint it can hold, the longer one single stroke can be. A brush like that is expensive, but if you handle it well, it will be your loyal companion for years. Also have one or 2 flat ones (dagger or marter hair). You can paint clear strokes with them, with sharp edges, either big or small (depending how you hold the brush). The effect resembles calligraphy. Click here for more info on brushes

Colors

What colors to buy first, depends on your approach. If you want to first only work with color, pick the list on this page. If you want to start with a full palette, I recommend reading this page on oil paint colors. Old oil paintings were always built up in layers of underpainting colors (usually earth colors), because they provide a good visual basis and earth pigments were cheap. It's still a nice way to start building up a painting.

Palettes

You need a palette, the bigger the better. A piece of glass will do fine, but tear-off palettes are also very handy. They may seem a little expensive, since they're only a palette, but they save you a lot of trouble cleaning. When you’re done, you just tear it off and dispose of it. Baking paper is about the same material, only, it’s brown. A white tear-off-palette is better for beginner oil painting - easier for judging colors.

Porcelain is good too – it doesn’t take on color and is easy to clean. How about some flat kitchen plates? If you find white plates with divided sections, buy them. If you work on a plate of glass, put it on a white cloth or paper. Chinaware and glass are easy to clean, even if your paint went dry. There are plastic palettes, which I don’t recommend. They’re hard to clean and take on colors.

Light

You need good light, prefferably indirect daylight. Your perception of color depends on it. In classical painting studios, windows were put only on the north. The bluish light gives the brightest sight, and it doesn't bother you with direct daylight (stripes and shadows)

If you don’t have windows on the north, or light from the roof, pick another window and let the light come from the side. Eventually, hang a white sleek curtain before the window, to filter out direct daylight. If you have don’t have enough light, ask your hardware store for a daylight lamp. Oldfashioned lightbulbs are not suitable, they give orange light and distort your perception of color. LED-lights have a neutral, yet limited range of colors in them. Daylight is best, and if you have to work at nights, the best option is an artist’s daylight lamp.

Tools for mixing, cleaning and thinning.

For mixing, use a palette knife (or a flexible kitchen knife, if you want to). If you do it with a brush, you have a brush loaded with paint you might directly need. In beginner oil painting you still focus on colors and tonal values - once you can handle that, try painting with the palette knife.

The more brushes you have, the less you have to wash them while you’re working. Which is not a big deal really, if you have a big cleaning cloth over your arm, and a jar of clean turps standing nearby.

For brush cleaning during the job, take mineral turpentine. For cleaning after the job, you can take an environmentally safer alternative (like odourfree turps or Zest-it). After rinsing them out, wash them with water and fat soap (wash-up liquid that doesn’t harm your skin) and leave them to dry - with their tips in the air. don't let odourfree and citric alternatives get to your paint or canvas - they leave chemical traces that may do damage later.

If you work on the next day, you can leave your brushes in turpentine, but never standing on their tips (they’ll lose their shape). Buy a brush cleaner, or put clothes' pegs on your brushes, to make the tips hang freely in the turps.

Cloths And Jars

Keep old white t-shirts and cut them into bits, they’re great for painting. Have them at hand while you work. Glass jars too. Have two jars with turpentine at hand while you work: one “dirty” and one “almost clean”. Don’t use paper tissue material for rubbing on your painting! You’ll get white bits into your work.

Turpentine can thin your paint, without making it fatter. But, use it only in very little amounts. Put your brush in it before starting, and tip the brush off again. If necessary, use a palette knife to mix some turpentine through your paint. Also for Liquin, when you use that. But first, apply the rule "fat over lean"

When you paint on a canvas you worked on before, remember the rule "fat over lean". start with preparing your paints: add a tiny little bit of painting medium to them. After that, you can add some extra liquin if you want things to dry fast.

Easel or table

If you don’t mind standing: lay you work on the table. You’ll have no problems with dripping, if your painting board lies on its back. If you like to work standing up: an old chair, or a cabinet with drawers can be a good easel too. Do you know this system for adjustable wall shelves, with vertical rails on the wall? Good for all sizes of work. Put it next to a window, and you’ll have good light too.

But an easel does have pro's: you can put your work just as high as you need it. They leave the table free for your paints. And they're pretty. Trolley's (table on wheels) can be very handy too. Anyway, the best way to organize your working space is so you can blindly pick what you need, with just one wave of your arm.

Related pages:

Free 480-page Art Supply Catalog from Dick Blick

Request a FREE
480-page Art Supply Catalog!
Free shipping for orders over 200$