Oil painting for beginners – Oil Painting Equipment

Even If you’re new to the medium, you’ll know that oil painting has an ancient reputation for being very intimidating; very serious and hard to work with and not to mention: very messy! At the beginning, it is very important to start with the right oil painting equipment. That’s why I start with this topic in my first basic oil painting tutorial. If you search more oil painting tutorials, just follow the link: Oil painting tutorials

Perhaps it’s due to this rep, that it’s gained also its sophistication and elegance, it’s a well-known rule, if you’re making a royal portrait, you’re making it in oil.

Oil Painting Equipment

Picture 1: A Royal Palace in Morocco by Benjamin Jean Joseph Constant

Oil paint a medium that great masters use

To sum up the phenomenon: what gave oil painting its prestige and nobility, is the classicality of the medium, it’s been used by just about all the great masters; another factor would be the amount of materials and time needed to achieve a painting.

How to start with oil painting?

Oil painting is only hard if we make it hard, it’s a pretty easy medium to use; after learning the basics and getting the right oil painting equipment, the best way to learn oil painting, is to learn what not to do first.

Start with a good preparation and the right oil painting equipment!

One of the things you don’t want to do is to make my mistake of jumping straight into oil painting without preparation, or previous knowledge of the medium and how to use it. This lead to a LOT of repeated mistakes, messiness, taking forever on one painting, and as a result, I became super frustrated and started to hate oil painting. I thought it didn’t suit me and almost gave up; when it was me who didn’t acquire the proper knowledge needed to have a smooth painting process.

Oil painting equipment

After telling you all of this I think the best idea is to start with some explanation about the oil painting equipment.

It’s pretty basic:

You need an easel, a canvas to paint on, brushes to paint with, of course, you’ll need oil paint, and last but not least, paint medium (featuring linseed oil and turpentine.).

Before you decide on the types of equipment you’ll use, keep in mind:

  • The size of the artwork you plan on producing, short term and long term.
  • Your level of experience.

These two factors are important in determining the amount, quality, and size of the equipment you’ll purchase.

The Easel

Here’s where knowing the size of the art you want to produce comes in handy; since the easel’s purpose is to contain your canvas, you’ll want it to handle the canvas if it’s big. Lots of websites list types of easels available to artists. I recommend looking them up with your art goals in mind. For example: If you plan to use other mediums, buy a hybrid easel. If you plan on traveling, there are traveling easels available, if you plan on painting huge wall paintings, buy a giant easel…etc.

When it comes to buying an easel I recommend you to spend a little bit more money! Spending more means you will get a much more stable one that doesn’t wobble around when you paint on it.

The Canvas

Choosing the proper canvas is important, but there aren’t any right or wrong canvas choices, it just needs to abide by your taste and comfort, again, the most important thing is keeping your goals in mind while choosing.

Kinds of surface

It depends on the type of surface you prefer painting on. I personally prefer the classic stretched canvas. You might prefer a harder surface, in that case, you would get hardboard. It all depends on preference.

Apply Gesso

After deciding on the canvas, the next step would be to prime it with gesso; this will prepare the surface for paint, by giving it a smooth base.

This is done by applying the gesso on the canvas, letting it dry, and then sandpapering it to even out any texture.

Not everyone gesso’s their board, I advise you to at least try it out and then decide if you want to continue or not.

The Pallet

This is what you’ll mix your paint on. Whether it’s a wooden or acrylic pallet, it must be of a very smooth and pore-less surface. Even if its wood, it should be super smooth and varnished. This is to help with the cleaning, which should be done after every painting session. Otherwise, the paint will dry rock hard on the pallet and it will be super difficult to remove.

ROSENICE Wooden Palette with Comfortable Thumb Hole for Acrylic Watercolor and Oil Paints

The Brushes

Oil painting brushes are stiffer and rigid to be able to withstand the oil paint, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy watercolor brushes for oil painting, I personally like to use them in the end for detail, glazing, and soft touching.

However, once you use the brush for oil painting, it should stay for oil painting.

Paint brushes set

The pallet knife

There’s a reason I categorized the pallet knife with the brushes and didn’t give it its own category, the reason being: pallet knives are not that crucial for the beginner unless you want to either:

·      mix colors on the pallet

·      copy a certain art style

Regardless, the pallet knife is a useful tool, some art styles are completely dependent on the pallet knife to apply hard edges as well as groups of smooth mono-colored areas; it also comes in handy when you want to avoid colors blending when applying paint to the canvas.

The oil paint

Oil paint quality is of great importance, you can be economic in everything except the paint. I’m not saying your art will suck if your paint is cheap. After all, it’s the artist, not the tool that makes the art. However the better the paint quality, the more accurate the colors, the more malleable the texture, and the less you have to fight against the medium, which leads to more work for less amount of time.

I recommend either Ferrario oil paints or Winsor and Newton.

Winsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Colour Introductory Set


The paint medium

The painting medium, in my opinion, is not a complementary asset. It is one of the most important part of your oil painting equipment. I find it an essential addition to any painter’s toolbox. Using paint straight from the tube is not only going to give you a harder texture to work with (even if you break it down and smooth it out with a pallet knife), but it’s also tougher to utilize to the brush’s bristles, (try saying that five times fast :D). The medium liquifies the paint and makes it more adhesive to the bristles and then to the canvas, thus making the painting process much less frustrating.

As for the types of mediums, the main two are: turpentine (this will dissolve the paint and make it thinner) and linseed oil (this will mix with the paint, make it runnier, and saturate the color), the former used for longer drying time, the latter used for a faster drying time.

Winsor & Newton 3221723 Artisan Water Mixable Mediums Linseed Oil, 75ml

Winsor & Newton 75ml Distilled Turpentine

Turpentine can also be mixed with linseed oil to create a medium that will give extra benefit, making your finished painting more solid and long lasting.

And that’s it for the oil painting equipment you’ll need. We’ll get into how to use it, in step by step painting tutorials, in future sessions.

Collect your supplies wisely, and good luck!

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