8 Oil Painting Tips For Beginners

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While most paint and sip hosts want to learn how to paint with acrylic paints, there are some that request that I teach oil painting classes. Oil painting is a lot different, and different techniques must be used.

One of the biggest drawbacks of working with oil paints is that they take so long to dry. You may be shocked to learn that it can take several months for an oil painting to completely dry!

That is the main reason why I don’t teach oil painting classes at sip and paint parties. But, I’ve never refused a client, and if an oil painting lesson is what they want, that is exactly what they will get. I just make sure to warn each guest that their paintings will not be dry by the end of the painting party.

Before anyone jumps into painting with oils, there are a few tips I like to share with each new artist. The more they know about the materials they are working with, the easier it will be for them to use these materials.

I wrote a guide on specific oil painting techniques that I use.

Today, we are going to discuss some of the most important oil painting tips I offer to guests at paint and sip classes. Let’s go!

#1. Don’t Try to Complete a Huge Painting

I remember many years ago when I decided to take a stained glass workshop. When it came time to start working on our projects, most of the class chose to make small suncatchers and similar items.

Not me! I just had to go and try and make a full window! I never even thought about how much it would cost for the materials, or how long it would take to complete. It never got completed during the workshop. It was never completed at all because I didn’t have the money to buy as much solder as I needed.

After this experience, I know now that it is better to start small. It is the same when creating oil paintings.

There are many different canvas sizes, I usually suggest that everyone start by using 8X10 canvases. This way they won’t be too tempted to try and complete a gigantic masterpiece because they don’t have a lot of canvas to work with.

#2. Organize Your Materials

When I teach at painting parties, I make sure that each painting station has all of the necessary art supplies. I also make sure everything is organized and within easy reach of each guest.

But, if you are going to be painting outside of the paint and sip classes, this is something you need to remember. The more organized you are, the easier the whole process is going to be.

Always make sure that you are set up in a well-ventilated area. Your art supplies should be arranged so you can easily reach them at any time.

Make sure the painting is set up in a way that you can see it at all times. This is going to help you to stay focused on the bigger picture, so to speak, even if you are not painting at any given moment.

#3. Use Quality Paint Brushes

If you are only going to be painting at a single paint and sip party, you don’t need to worry about going out and spending a lot of money on expensive art supplies.

But, if you think you may like to continue painting after the party is over, I recommend investing in some quality paintbrushes. You don’t need to spend a fortune on professional brushes, but the better the brushes the better your final product is going to look.

You only need about three different sizes of brushes when you are just starting. As you grow more experienced you can add more brushes to your collection.

Natural hair brushes are best for oil paints. You can use synthetic brushes, but most artists will recommend natural bristles, such as hog hair.

#4. Prime the Canvas

Once you have all of the art supplies set up, it is time to prime the canvas. You will need to use gesso for this.

Gesso will prevent any oil from the paint from seeping through the surface of the canvas. It also protects the canvas from the acids that are in the paint and gives the paint something to adhere to.

I like buying pre-primed canvases. It saves a lot of time and money in the long run. Art supply stores such as Michael’s carry packages of five or six primed canvases for around $20.

#5. Don’t Go Crazy With a Lot of Colors

When I teach beginner paint and sip classes with oil paints, I like to keep the design simple. I also don’t use a lot of colors. Adding more colors and details can come later if the artists want to continue painting long after the party is over.

Quite often I get the paint and sip guests to create a monochromatic painting. This is a painting that has many shades of one color, along with some shades of black and white.

You may be thinking that this would be boring, with everyone painting the same design with the same color. I encourage paint and sip students to use different colors. One may use blue, while another painter uses red or purple. It’s totally up to you.

It is a good idea to become familiar with the color wheel. This will give you some ideas about which colors to use, and how to combine colors.

#6. Begin With an Oil Sketch

The first step of the painting process is an oil sketch. This is a thin underpainting that is made with a combination of oil paint and turpentine.

This underpainting will dry quickly, and then other layers of paint colors can be added. A great color for underpainting is burnt sienna, whether the canvas is white or grey.

#7. Get To Know Paint Order

With watercolors, the paint order is lightest to darkest. With acrylic paints, the order is darkest to lightest. With oil paints, the order is thinnest layers to the thickest layers.

I always tell paint and sip guests, to begin with the thinnest layer of paint. Then, they can go about adding thicker layers as they go. This protects the initial layer and keeps the paint from drying out and cracking.

#8. Clean Your Brushes Often

Each time you paint with one color, it is necessary to clean the brush immediately before using another color. I usually keep a container of turpentine next to each artist at painting parties for this purpose.

The container is just a large tin can, with a screen at the bottom. The paint particles will end up beneath the screen, so the turpentine remains nice and clean. After cleaning the oil paint brush, wipe it down with a paper towel to get rid of any excess turpentine.

After you are finished painting, give all of your brushes a good cleaning with turpentine, followed by soap and water.

Final Thoughts

There is one final thing to know about painting with oils. When you have finished a painting party session, make sure that all products are cleaned up and out of the way of children and pets.

Any leftover paint, mediums, rags, paper towels, etc. must be properly disposed of. Soak wet rags, paper towels, etc. in water before tossing them into the trash. Spontaneous combustion can happen, and the paint, turpentine, and mediums are flammable. You can read our guide to learn more about how oil paint is made.

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