A List of Knowledge, Supplies and Techniques for Beginner Oil Painters

Before picking up the paintbrushes and starting oil painting, I realised I needed more than oils and paintbrushes. I did a lot of research beforehand and I found it rather difficult to get easy simple answers for what supplies I needed to start so I hope to list them here for you and explain clearly what they are and what they’re used for.

  • Oil paint is also known as oil colour by many brands, it is the same thing. I thought this would be useful to clarify if you’re a beginner as I once thought they were separate types of oil paint.
  • Liquin – Manufactured by Winsor & Newton is what is known as and is often called an oil paint medium by painters. A small amount of Liquin is mixed in with the oil paint to create a smoother consistency and most importantly to quicken drying time. I mix Liquin in with the paint on my pallet, depending on how smooth or transparent I want the paint. The more Liquin mixed in, the more transparency and faster drying time. Liquin makes details such as hairs easy to paint as allows the oil the flow more smoothly onto the surface.
  • Glazing – A technique used by painters to incorporate a tint of colour by using mostly Liquin with a small amount of oil paint. When your painting dries and you want to add or change colours without changing or repainting your painting fully, Liquin creates a sort of thin transparent layer that tints an area a colour of your choice. Think of it as you have just finished painting a portrait and you would like to make the subjects cheeks more of a blush colour, once your painting has dried you can go back on top with a small amount of rose colour oil paint mixed in with mostly Liquin and it will tint the cheeks with the colour while keeping the under layers visible and intact.
  • Gesso – A white paint mixture used to prime a surface. To prime a surface just means to make the surface of whatever your painting on whether it be paper or wood for example, suitable for oils to then be painted on. . If oils are painted on any normal paper or unprimed canvas, they can actually destroy the paper overtime. Gesso is a bit like acrylic paint, it dries and hardens which effectively creates a foundation for your oil painting to go on which won’t be destroyed by the oil paint overtime. Gesso is white, sort of like a rough white acrylic paint and is great as you can mix in small amounts of different acrylic colour paints and make your gesso a different base colour. For example, I sometimes like to paint on a slightly grey surface so I will mix a small amount of black with a large amount of white gesso which leaves you with a light grey surface to paint on. You can also buy pre-primed canvas’ or surfaces which solves this problem for you so you don’t have to worry about it.
  • Cleaning Brushes – I simply use hand wash or washing up liquid in a small glass cup and swirl my brushes around, pressing them so that the bristles separate and open so that the liquid can get to all the oil in-between the hairs and then rince with tap water, doing this soon after painting when the paint hasn’t already fully dried is ideal. I repeat this step and then dry them with some toilet tissue or kitchen towel and if no paint colour comes off then I know the brush is cleaned. I then rub some hair conditioner into them and rinse one last time to keep them soft.
  • Lots of paper towels! – Paper towels are a cheap and great way of quickly cleaning up mess and wiping off your brushes. You’ll find its easy to go through many rolls of the stuff when painting with oils!
  • Disposable pallets – These have been a life saver, instead of having to clean my pallet each time to start fresh, I simply pull of a paper disposable pallet which is coated thinly with wax to avoid any bleed through so that your surfaces won’t end up messy with oil paint or medium. I purchase these: (UK: https://amzn.to/30lpmhJ) (US: https://amzn.to/3cJ4p5j)
  • Different size / shape brushes – There are countless variations of brush size and shapes available to purchase which is good as different shapes and sizes make painting different areas easier to paint. For example, small thin brushes are good for little details where as larger flat brushes will be useful to paint larger, less detailed sections. Speciality brushes like rigger brushes make painting fur details easier, this is due to the long shape of the bristles allowing more paint to be held and flow onto the paper which reduces the amount of times you have to keep applying paint to your brush. The greater variations in brushes you try, the more you can pick out your favourites for ease and control. I’m still learning!

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