Beginner Art · Oils · Painting Techniques · Resources and Materials

What are Oils?

Oil paints are a joy to use because they have a ‘buttery’ consistency that blends extremely well.  They feel smooth to move around on a canvas or board.  You can easily build up layers and create very rich colours.

Oils can be a challenging media for beginners because of the time it takes for them to dry.  Another area of confusion is the use of solvents (white spirit and turpentine). Water can not be used with oils so mixing, diluting and cleaning brushes all has to done with white spirit or turpentine.

Oils have a very smooth ‘buttery’ consistency and glide across the board

Fortunately there are now ways around both these areas.  You can use a drying medium to help with the drying process, shortening the drying period from days to hours.  You can also buy ‘water-based’ oil paints that you can use with water.

I don’t like the smell of the solvents like white spirit and turpentine so if I am using oil paints that are not water-based I purchase odourless turpentine.  I have used both oil-based oil paints and water-based oils and haven’t found much difference between the two so I now tend to buy the water-based oil paints.

Canvas or board is generally used with oils, you can use thick watercolour paper but you would need to prime it first so that the oil paint doesn’t sink into the paper. I will be posting about supports and will go into more detail about priming and what that means if you are not sure.

As a beginner painter who is interested in trying oils I would recommend buying a board canvas, you can get these cheaply (about £2.50 for a small A4 canvas board).  Most find this is a lovely surface to work on with oils, as the paint glides over the surface and the colours are really intense.

Canvas board is ideal for oil painting
Canvas board is ideal for oil painting

Also see What are Water-based Oils?  and Do I have to use Turpentine?

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