Starting Out in Oils

Oil paint is is a slow drying paint consisting of colour pigments suspended in a drying oil - most commonly linseed oil. The thickness of the oil paint can be altered using solvents such as turpentine or white spirit. You can also add oils and mediums to oil paints to alter properties such as drying time, transparency and flow.

Oil paint has a very long 'open time' which means it takes a long time to dry. This allows the artist to work on a painting over many sessions, and enables very subtle blending to be achieved. An oil painting can take from several weeks to several months to dry depending on the thickness of the paint. Once the painting is fully dry (sometimes up to a year later) you can varnish your painting to protect it from the elements. Some varnishes can be removed and reapplied enabling cleaning and conservation of the painting.

As oil paint is not watersoluable, solvents must also be used to clean any equipment used at the end of the painting session. This combined with the slow drying time of oils has in the past made this a less popular medium for beginners. Winsor & Newton have a range of Water Mixable Oil Paints which have been modified slightly so that they can be used with water rather than solvents making them a great way to start out in oil painting.

Oil paint us most often applied with a brush, and there are many different brushes available made from a variety of fibers and in different shapes and sizes to create different effects. Hog hair brushes are often used and are good for bolder strokes and impasto textures (where the paint is laid on very thickly). A smoother synthetic hair brush is better for use for finer detailed work such as portraiture.  Another commonly used implement used in oil painting is the palette knife. These can be used to mix as well as to apply the paint.

Oil paint can be used on stretched canvas, canvas boards and oil painting paper. 

Read our blog post A Beginners' Guide to Painting with Oils for some great tips on getting started!

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