Oil painting can seem intimidating to beginners, but there’s nothing to be afraid of! As a seasoned oil painter, here are my 5 oil painting tips that may be useful to you if you’re just starting.

Various paint brushes next to each other on a paint splattered board.

Buy a set of varied brushes so you can experiment and find what you like best!

Get the Basics

Painting with oils can be an exciting new hobby, but that doesn’t mean you should go out and buy all the most expensive supplies. For your paints, buy a widely known brand, not a specialist one. You can keep the cost down by picking a student paint, like Winton. And if you’re not new to painting (and have dabbled in watercolor or acrylics before), then you could start with better paints like Winsor & Newton Artist Oils.

The same goes for brushes. Don’t go out and buy the most expensive or specialist brushes you can find. But do get a set with different shapes, sizes, and bristle types to play with. This will help you learn what you like so you can get more of it in the future!

Start Small

Not one of the most exciting oil painting tips, but it is an important one. It can be tempting to get a big canvas and just go at it, but it really will benefit you to start small. Painting small will give you the chance to try out techniques and experiment with color without having to invest a lot of time and materials into the process. I recommend 8×10 inch canvas or canvas board, as it’s a great size to start with.

Understand Paint Order

Paint order is very important to know when it comes to oil painting. You need to paint thick over thin, fat over lean, and slow-drying over fast-drying.

Oil paintings take a while to dry, so it’s important that the earlier layers dry first so your painting doesn’t crack. To avoid cracking and to make sure your earlier layers dry quickly, use thinner paint with less oil in the first layers. For later layers, you can apply thicker paint with a higher oil content.

Try Painting from Life

This is one of my favorite oil painting tips – paint from real life! I get it, painting from a photo is a lot easier. Especially when it comes to painting the details right. However, the reason many people champion for painting in real life is so that you can notice the nuances in the atmosphere, light, shadow, and color that a photo simply doesn’t capture. Painting en plein air is one of the quickest ways to strengthen your skills as an oil painter. Even if you’re home-bound, you can paint from your window or even what’s inside your fridge.

If you’re worried about painting the same things over and over – don’t be. Every time you paint, you’ll gain new ideas, want to try new techniques, and have a new awareness that makes each painting a unique adventure! So, use photos if you want. But paint from life as often as possible!

Person putting the cap back on a blue tube of paint.

Make sure caps are screwed on tight and keep them away and out of reach of children and pets.

Keep it Tidy

Arguably one of the more important oil painting tips. Keep everything as tidy as you can! Oils are not the same as other paints. They won’t wash out, some are toxic, and they are relatively expensive. Make sure caps are screwed on tight and keep them away and out of reach of children and pets. Dispose of paints, rags, paper towels, and disposable paper palettes properly. Also, if you do use rags or paper towels to clean up oil paint, soak them in water before discarding them. They are flammable and can heat up and spontaneously combust when drying out.

Oil Painting

Of course, the most important tip is to have fun! You don’t have to be great, you just have to enjoy the time spent doing something creative. If you’re wanting some oil painting inspiration for yourself or are just looking to add some beautiful art to your walls, check out my paintings! And of course, if you have a question about one of my pieces, please feel free to contact me. Thank you for supporting your local artists!