Oil painting is one of the most popular pastimes for amateurs and is the medium of choice for many professionals. Oils can be used in so many ways and in various thicknesses, making them one of the most versatile substances for producing art.

If you decide you want to paint with oils there is one basic guideline every painter should follow. Setting up your palette correctly will make the painting process go much smoother and will help you avoid dipping the brush in the wrong shade or color. Lay the paints out on the palette in the same order each time so that you can go to the colors you want without having to search for them.

Moving On

If there is a second, “must do” tip for learning to paint with oils it might be this: Don’t be frustrated by watching professionals and experienced amateurs who can put a beautiful still life or landscape on canvas in a matter of minutes, with no mistakes! Start with the idea that you are doing this for fun as well as to learn.

Choose your instruction books or videos carefully. You don’t have to pay for expensive classes if you select your instructional materials in the right way. Of course you can attend classes led by an experienced professional if you want to. But if you find a good instruction book or video course that is written or spoke in simple terms you should be able to learn how to oil paint on your own.

In addition to these two crucial guidelines every beginning oil painter should learn as much as possible about the substance called oil paint. This is a paste that contains a lot of moisture (the oil). You will need to learn the “touch” of using a brush to apply oil paint. It might be best to start with a canvas and an idea that isn’t meant to be a masterpiece. You can experiment and make mistakes as you learn.

Slowly I Go, Step by Step

In addition to learning about your materials you will need to learn how to “build” a painting. Don’t expect a still life, portrait or landscape to just magically appear as you put paint on the surface. Most oil paintings are built with less oil in the first layers and additional oil in the following layers. Pros use substances like lead and manganese to speed up the drying process, but these should be used very carefully.
After a painting session, let the paint dry in natural room light. Drying the painting in the dark tends to bring excess oil to the surface. Then you have to expose the painting to sunlight to dry the oil.

Learn as much as you can about oil paints and colors before you apply the brush to the canvas. Use your imagination to get a good idea of what you are going to produce then build it one step at a time. Since we are only able to touch the surface of how to oil paint, here’s a great piece of advice: Start your project with the big objects in mind. Don’t try to get the details right first! Happy painting.

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