top of page

6 tips for oil painting

Practical tips for oil painting

Practical tricks to help you work better

Oil painting is one of the most popular painting techniques and is considered by many artists to be the supreme discipline. This is not surprising, because oil paint has some tricky properties that beginners have to learn properly. This is why many amateur painters shy away from oil painting.

There are several reasons for this: firstly, oil paints are more expensive than acrylic or watercolor paints, and secondly, the painting process is a bit more involved overall. Oil paints take longer to dry (although there are ways to speed up the process), and cleaning brushes and palettes takes time. But it's worth the effort! With oil paints, you can achieve much more intense and larger color results. Also, with oil paints, it's easier to correct mistakes: when you paint, you can remove the paint with a cloth, whereas with watercolors, this is not possible.

Here are six tricks to help you work better with oil paints:

Oil paints

1. Buy high-quality paints

Of course, oil paints are expensive - but when buying paints, you should look for good quality and not buy the cheapest paints. Cheap paints have fewer and weaker color pigments or are diluted with other pigments that desaturate the tone. Therefore, you will end up using more paint and consequently paying more. Most brands offer different grades, such as studio, academic or artist quality. Artist quality has the highest pigmentation. If you are on a tight budget, remember that you only need 5 colors: magenta, cyan, yellow, white and black. With these you can mix almost any color.

Turpentine or turpentine substitute?

2. Turpentine or turpentine substitute?

Turpentine is the traditional solvent for oil paints. It is used to clean brushes and can also be used to "thin" oil paint, or it can be mixed with other substances to make different types of "mediums". The fumes can be toxic if inhaled in high concentrations, so at the Academy of Fine Art Germany we prefer to use a turpentine substitute. But even a turpentine substitute contains fumes that can be harmful in the long term, so it is necessary to use them in a well-ventilated room. Please remember not to pour the leftover turpentine down the sink! It is very harmful to the environment. Some brands now offer safe thinners; look out for these if you want to be extra safe.

2.1. Which oil should be used?

Most oil paints are a mixture of pigments and linseed oil. There are different drying oils such as walnut oil, safflower oil, stand oil and many others. Each of these oils has slightly different properties, for example safflower oil and walnut oil dry much slower than linseed oil but also do not yellow as much over time. Find the oil that best suits your painting needs

How to wash your brushes properly

3. Wash your brushes properly

After painting, the brushes should be washed thoroughly. However, you don't need expensive cleaning products for this. We recommend using simple, commercially available soap. It works just as well as brush soap and is much cheaper.

4. No time to clean?

If you feel stressed and don't have time to clean the brushes, don't just leave them lying around: the paint will dry out the brushes and they will break over time. You can simply put the brush in the white spirit, wipe it with paper and wrap it in cling film. This way they won't dry out. Just don't forget to clean them thoroughly the next day.

Storing oil paints

5. Storing paints for oil painting – Part 1

If you have mixed colors or just too much paint left over, you can reuse it with a simple trick. To do this, fill the paint into a simple plastic syringe using a spatula and seal the neck with tape. This way you basically have your own tube of paint. This way the paint won't dry out and you can use it again at a later date. Oil dries by absorbing oxygen, so if you store leftover paint in an airtight container, you can also protect it from drying out for a few days.

6. Storing paints for oil painting – Part 2

Another option is to put the paint in a small bowl, such as an empty children's water paint box. Add a little water to the paint (don't worry, oil and water don't mix) so that it is sealed to the brim. The oil paint is then practically sealed and won't dry out. You can also put the paint in a Tupperware container or something similar (without water) and then store it in the fridge for a maximum of 2-3 days.


Commenting has been turned off.
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Youtube
  • Pinterest
  • TikTok



Data protection

bottom of page