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What do you need for oil painting? – Basic equipment for oil painting

Basic equipment for oil painting

Today we would like to familiarize you with the materials you need for oil painting at the Academy of Fine Art Germany.

Oil paint was already used by the old masters and is still valued today for its color strength and flexibility. You can work alla prima or in many layers, choose direct or indirect application of paint and adjust the drying time and consistency with oils and thinners.

It is a complex topic, but one that is definitely worth diving into.

Also watch the following video about this blog:

Oil paints and their properties

Oil paints consist mainly of pigments and oil as a binding agent, whereby the pigments have different properties. Some are transparent, some opaque, some are natural, some are synthetic. Some dry more slowly and others more quickly and some are also toxic and should be handled with care.

5 oil paints you shouldn’t miss when practicing

At the Academy of Fine Art Germany we initially work with a limited color palette. This consists of the following oil colors:

Lead or titanium white

Yellow ochre

English Red

Ivory Black

Raw or burnt umber

Complementary oil paints for the palette

Over time, the palette is expanded to include the following oil paints:

Naples or cadmium yellow light

Cinnabar or cadmium red

Alizarin madder lake permanent

Cobalt Blue

Ultramarine Blue

Painting media and thinner

We use cold-pressed, purified linseed oil as a painting medium.

Walnut oil is a slower drying alternative.

We need turpentine substitute as a thinner. It is important that it is as odorless as possible and is stored with the lid closed, otherwise toxic fumes can be released.


With a light wooden palette that is held by hand and to which a small container for the painting medium is attached, you are well equipped. Depending on whether you are right- or left-handed, the palette should

ette suits you. If you are right-handed, you hold the palette in your left hand because you paint with your right hand. If you are left-handed, it is the other way round. We generally recommend a large palette so that you have enough space to mix the colours.

Brushes and other materials

We also need brushes made of long natural bristles in a cat's tongue shape in various sizes (approximately 6-12), or synthetic versions. There should be at least one very large brush (eg for backgrounds), as well as at least one tug for fine lines.

We use a palette knife to mix the colors.

You will also need paper towels, tape and possibly gloves, as well as a metal trash can with a lid, as towels soaked in oil can spontaneously ignite.

Painting surface

The oil or universally primed canvas should be made of linen (not cotton) and can be bought ready-made or stretched onto the stretcher frame yourself.

To obtain a neutral background of medium tonality, some umber pigment with thinner is evenly distributed on it as an “imprimitura” using a paper towel.

If you are new to oil paints, you can do a few simple exercises to get used to the consistency and try out different ways of applying the paint.

After working with oil paints, it is important that you clean and store your materials properly. You can see how to clean the palette and your brushes in the video above.

We wish you a good start in working with oil paints. Have fun!

For a practical introduction, we also recommend one of our oil painting workshops .

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