Curious about starting oil painting but don’t know where to begin? Learn about the art supplies you’ll need to get started on your fantastic artist journey!
Of course, one of the first art supplies you’ll need is oil paint. But with so many brands and color options, it can be overwhelming to decide which paints to choose.
As a beginner, you might want to save and spend your money on student-quality paint rather than artist-quality paint. However, paint is one of those things that there is a real difference in quality between the cheap and expensive versions. From smoothness and coverage to the way it mixes with other paint to how it will look over time. Not to mention a little high-quality paint will go a long way! I would say try to go for mid-range brands in the beginning, and then if you’re loving oil painting, you can upgrade later on.
As far as colors go, you should have these in your arsenal: Titanium White, Ivory Black, Cadmium Red, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow Light, and Cadmium Yellow. You can also add in a green or brown like Viridian and Burnt Umber, but they aren’t vital. The other colors mentioned are technically all the colors you need.
Contrary to what beginners may think, you don’t need that many paint brushes. As you begin to paint, you’ll learn what shapes and sizes you gravitate toward and what effects you’re hoping to achieve. But to start off, you really only need about five or six brushes. Get firm bristled oil paint brushes (it will specify on the packaging or in the art supply section if the brushes are suited to oil painting) in a variety of shapes and sizes, like:
- A medium-sized fan brush
- A medium-sized round brush
- A small to medium filbert brush
- A small to medium flat brush
- One large flat brush
With a variation of sizes and shapes, these should be enough to educate you on what your painting preferences are.
Unlike acrylics or watercolors, you can’t clean up oil paints with water. That’s why including paint solvent in your art supplies is important. They’ll be able to clean up the paint off your skin and out of your brushes. They can also increase the fluidity of your paint and speed up the drying time.
There are many different types of solvents available, but as a beginner, you might want to try something odorless. Turpentine is a popular alternative but is extremely strong on the senses. If you want to try turpentine, go to a home improvement store and buy it there rather than at an art store. It’s the same stuff, but it’ll be a lot cheaper.
Newspaper or Rags
Speaking of cleaning brushes, you’ll also want to have some newspaper or rags on hand. When you clean your brushes at the end of the day and while you’re painting, you’ll need something to wipe your brushes on.
Cloths are great, but depending on how frequently you change colors, it may be better to use newspaper. For a quick color change, you can just grab some newspaper and quickly squeeze all the paint out of the bristles. That’ll keep your colors from contaminating each other during the painting process.
A palette is just a term for the surface upon which you mix your paint, and luckily these don’t have to be fancy. There are lots of options out there, so you can play around and see what suits you best. It can be a large piece of glass or ceramic or a sheet of wax paper. Whatever you choose, just make sure it’s big enough to hold all your colors and have space for mixing.
When you’re ready to paint, you’ll need something to paint on. And contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to be a canvas. When you’re starting out, you can use paper to practice and get a feel for the paint.
Whether you use thick paper, wood, or masonite, be sure to coat it with gesso first. It’ll act as a primer and help your oil paint adhere to the surface. When you want to try canvas, get pre-primed, stretched canvas, and you won’t have to worry about doing the prep.
Last but not least for your oil art supplies: painting clothes! If your clothes don’t start out messy, don’t worry, they’ll get that way soon. You don’t want to get paint on anything nice or that you care about. So make sure you have a few comfortable outfits that you can get paint on.
It’s Time to Get Oil Painting!
This list of art supplies should set you up perfectly as a beginner! As you grow as an artist, you can tweak and add things as you see fit.
Sharing my passion for painting is something I love doing. If you’d like to own an oil painting without having to paint one yourself, check out and purchase one of 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 Colorado artists!