Oil Painting For Beginners – Plus 14 Painting Ideas

Oil painting is among the most well-known and respected types of art. Oil paint has been used to create some world-famous pieces, like The Starry Night by the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh and The Mona Lisa portrait painting by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci.

House in Mountains oil painting
iStock/Natalia Kazarina

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Oil painting has been around for centuries and was first used by Early Netherlandish painters in the 15th century. It gained popularity in the 16th century due to its durability and versatility and has since been used by artists all over the world.

sailboat oil painting
iStock/Dan Totilca

What is Oil Paint?

Oil paint is a type of paint that consists of pigments suspended in a drying oil. Linseed oil, poppy seed oil, walnut oil, and safflower oil are commonly used.

The thickness of the paint can be modified using an oil medium or a solvent such as turpentine (fast evaporation) or mineral spirits (moderate evaporation).

Old House oil painting
iStock/Andreus

I prefer to use a solvent for cleaning my brushes, and an oil medium to change the thickness of the paint. Finally, varnish should be added to increase the glossiness of the finished painting and protect your work.

Poppy flowers oil painting
iStock/Natalia Kazarina

What Are the Benefits of Oil Painting?

Oil painting has a number of benefits, including its wonderful resistance to wear and tear.

Oil paintings can last 50 years or more without fading or deteriorating and can be used on a variety of surfaces. Additionally, oil paints are available in a wide range of colors, allowing you to create any look you desire.

Fantasy fairy oil painting
iStock/Valery Rybakou

Different Oil Mediums

Oil mediums are used to thin oil paint and to improve the feel of the paint (such as making the paint softer).

Oil mediums can also be used to modify the drying time of the paint. There are many different types of oil mediums available, each with its own unique properties, which I’ll discuss below.

grapes oranges and flowers oil painting
iStock/Tenra

Linseed Oil – Refined linseed is the most commonly used oil by painters. It is a drying oil, meaning that it will help your painting dry faster. Linseed oil takes around two to three days on average to dry.

Villa oil painting
iStock/Max5799

Poppy Seed Oil – Poppy seed oil dries more slowly than linseed oil and is often preferred by artists who are working wet on wet. Poppy seed oil takes five to seven days on average to dry.

Walnut Oil – Walnut oil dries in about four to five days. That means it dries slower than linseed oil but faster than poppy seed oil. Walnut oil is a more expensive oil that was favored by artists like Leonardo Da Vinci.

Cabin by the Lake oil painting
iStock/Dan Totilca

Safflower Oil – Safflower oil has similar characteristics to poppy seed oil but dries a bit faster. Some of the benefits of using safflower oil are less yellowing, it makes your paint feel softer, and it gives you more time to work wet on wet.

orange tree oil painting

What Do I Need to Get Started With Oil Painting?

To get started with oil painting, you will need some basic supplies, including:

Oil Paint – It goes without saying that you’ll need oil paint to create your masterpiece.

Look for a set of 10 colors to start, which should include: cadmium yellow pale hue, cadmium red deep hue, French ultramarine, phthalo blue, viridian hue, burnt umber, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, ivory black, and titanium white.

The Winsor and Newton Winton Oil Colour Paint Basic Set is a great beginner set of oil paints.

Best Oil Paint Winsor and Newton Winton

Painting Brushes – You don’t have to break the bank when choosing your brushes. Choose from bristle, synthetic or sable hair brushes in a variety of sizes. When I first began oil painting, the ADIS and Guys Premium Paint Brushes Set worked just fine.

colorful flowers in vase oil painting
iStock/Sbelov

Canvas – A cotton canvas is ideal for oil painting. You can also use linen or treated Masonite.

Palette – A glass or metal palette is best for mixing paint. Avoid using wood, as it will absorb the paint.

Easel – An easel is not required but makes the painting process much easier.

beach sunset oil painting
iStock/Valery Rybakou

Solvent – When cleaning your brushes, you can’t use water as you would with acrylic paint. Instead, you’ll use a solvent such as turpentine or mineral spirits to clean your brushes.

You can also use the solvent to thin your paint. Always remember to use the solvent in a well-ventilated area.

mineral spirits

Oil Medium – I recommend using refined linseed oil or another oil medium to thin your paint and give it a smooth consistency. You will use your oil in the same way that an artist would use water to thin their paint.

Additional Tools – Some additional tools you’ll need are a jar for cleaning your brushes, paper towels or rags for cleaning, and pencils.

cabin in woods with snow oil painting
iStock/Dan Totilca

How to Protect Your Oil Painting

Once your painting is complete, it will need to be varnished to protect it from dirt, dust, and UV rays. You can purchase a varnish online or at a local art store.

When applying the varnish, always work in a well-ventilated area and use a brush or rag to apply the product.

pink flowers in vase oil painting
iStock/Dan Totilca

Apply the varnish in thin, even layers, allowing each layer to dry completely before applying the next. Once the final layer of varnish is dry, your painting will be protected for years to come.

Oil Painting Video Tutorials

If you’re just getting started with oil painting, here are some helpful oil painting video tutorials to get you started on your next project.

vintage flowers oil painting
iStock/Dan Totilca

Now that you know the basics of oil painting, it’s time to get out there and start creating your own masterpieces.

With a little practice, you’ll be able to produce beautiful paintings that will last for years to come.

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I'm Tiffany, author of the 30-Day Drawing Challenge Workbook. I'm a crafting expert and writer with over 12 years of experience. I love sharing my passion for crafting, which includes crocheting, drawing, painting, and DIY projects.