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Oil Painting Beginner's Shopping List

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

If you are a beginner at oil painting like me, this post will help you to build your first supply list. As a beginner, we do not need so many colors to start with. The beauty of oil painting is being able to mix colors and obtain different values, chroma and hues. Here is the basic list of supplies that I used as an oil painting beginner:


THE PAINT


Depending on what your painting niche is, the colors on your palette will change. But as a starter, I bought a set from Williamsburg (handmade oil paints) with these colors in the set: Titanium White, Ultramarine Blue, Fanchon Red, Permanent Yellow Light, Viridian, Burnt Sienna, and Yellow Ochre. I bought this set from Blick Art Materials. Whenever I cannot find a product that I'm looking for on Amazon, Blick is my first choice to go to.


Williamsburg basic oil painting set
Williamsburg basic oil painting set

Williamsburg is known as a high-quality oil painting brand. What makes them great is their high pigment, high luminosity, and their creamy texture. However, as a beginner, you can start with cheaper and yet still good options such as Winsor & Newton.


THE PAPER/CANVAS


As a Beginner, it was helpful for me to start with a canvas paper. As a drawing artist, I am used to working on horizontal surfaces, and working with oil painting on a familiar surface made our first session way easier for me. Here is the canvas paper I used: Strathmore Canvas Paper.


As my first oil painting, I chose an avocado, because they are my favorite fruits! 😊And this was a great way to show everyone how vivid and rich Williamsburg colors are. I simply cut the Canvas Paper in the half and started painting right away!:

oil painting avocados
Oil painting avocados

If you want to work with a canvas, as a starter I recommend this brand: They are quite sturdy and since they are triple primed, they are quite absorbent. As a beginner, I highly recommend you start small. Because at this point, you are learning the paint: the texture, how to mix, and blend, and you are getting to know your colors. This is why I chose 12 by 12. It was a good size to begin with!


If you are working with a canvas, I recommend you place it on an easel and work on your painting in an upright position. At some point, you need to get used to that anyway especially if you are working for long hours.


THE EASEL


You don't need an easel to start oil painting. You can try your paint and do some exercises on canvas paper on your desk, very easily. However, if you decide that you liked oil painting and you want to master it, then eventually you will need an easel as you will work on bigger projects, for longer hours and you will need more room.

I use this easel, it is a foldable french one that you can both use at home or outside. You can also fold the legs in and use it that way on your desk. I like it so far! But it is not the sturdiest one.


ece gurler with her easel
Ece Gurler with her easel

THE MEDIUMS

It is always subject to debate whether you need a medium or not. But most oil painter artists use them because mediums make their jobs way easier. For a complete beginner, this part can be scary or a little intimidating. But don't worry! I will explain here which ones you need and why:


The Solvents - Mineral Spirits


Solvents are thinners. As the name implies, when this is mixed with the paint, it makes the paint thinner. In oil paint, we work in layers and we go from thin to thick to prevent cracking. So it makes so much more sense to use the first layer with a color + thinner mixture. Usually, artists paint a darker color + thinner mixture as their base layer because this way they can see the values and whites more easily, and the vibrancy of the colors show more.


Since thinner is a chemical and poses certain health risks if it is inhaled over a long period of time, it is important to use it with proper caution. Make sure you use a lid and keep the mineral spirits sealed at all times. Also, make sure to ventilate your room well because you don't want to be exposed to toxic chemicals in an unventilated room.


Odorless Mineral Spirits is the most recommended one. I use GAMSOL and I'm happy with it. It is especially good for people who have breathing problems such as asthma. But being odorless doesn't mean they are non-toxic. You will still need to use them with caution.


Gamsol Odorless Spirits Solvent
Gamsol Odorless Spirits Solvent

The Refined Linseed Oil


Some paintings turn yellow in time. The more refined the oil medium is, the less yellowing will occur. But why do we add oil in the first place? And what makes it more different than the mineral spirits?


The added oil makes the paint flowy, which makes it easier to apply the paint on canvas. But also this might cause paint to dry slower and the paint becomes more transparent. The oil medium also adds gloss to your paint so you might realize that the pigments pop up more. Usually, the recommended ratio is 20% oil - 80% paint.

I chose refined linseed oil from Winsor & Newton because it adds gloss and transparency and has a durable film. It has a moderate drying time which allows the painter to work on their artwork.


Winsor and Newton Refined Linseed Oil
Winsor and Newton Refined Linseed Oil

The ALKYD Medium


Well... Since I have to shoot videos for my YouTube channel and workshops quite often, I need to work fast. And oil paint is not for impatient artists. UNLESS you have alkyd or you like using the Alla prima technique, which we will not go into this post.


Alkyd makes the drying time faster. Yet, still works like an oil: makes the paint flowier, adding transparency and gloss. I bought this because I'm planning to work on both short-term and long-term projects!



So this is how paints with all these 3 mediums added looked on canvas paper:


oil painting mixed with different mediums
oil painting mixed with different mediums

Here are what the numbers represent: 0: paint with no medium added, 1: paint + solvent, 2: paint + linseed oil, 3: paint + alkyd oil.


For my YouTube video about the comparison of these mediums, watch this:



THE BRUSHES


Brushes vary in quality, material, and thus prices. In fact, brushes could be the most expensive supplies among all the other oil painting supplies. As a beginner, you do not need the highest quality brushes. YET you still need good-quality ones. Because with cheap brushes you might get disappointed so easily and this could be very discouraging, especially at the beginning of your oil painting journey.


While searching for a brush set to buy on Amazon, I was looking for three things: No shedding, holding their shape, and easy to clean. This set from Adi's and Guys seemed to have checked all the boxes for me:



They were so easy to clean. I basically dipped them in mineral spirits and cleaned them with a paper towel quite a few times and then washed them with soap and water gently. I will explain the cleaning process in another blog post later.


So far, I'm happy with my brushes! They are definitely great for beginners.


THE PALETTE PAD


So, where to mix the paint? I have 3 or four white plastic palettes that everyone has. But I needed more space on my palette because of adding oil, mixing colors and etc. I'm also a little bit clumsy and messy so I was looking for something low-maintenance. And then I found this: A Disposable Palette Pad! A dream come true.


Because the pages are grey, you can actually see the colors well.

There are 50 sheets and you can throw them away once you are done.

They designed it in a way that you can hold it in 3 different ways.


THE WIPING RAG


You need to wipe the excessive paint. First, I thought wiping them off with a paper towel would suffice. But I realize I waste too many paper towels this way. For me, buying a washable cloth made much more sense. They clean better, too. By the way, just a heads up. I highly recommend using white rags like these: Click Here. Because the first time I used a piece of cloth was from my old purple dress. And the solvent and oils on my brush dissolved the paint on my dress and everything turned out purple all of a sudden! haha!


A White Rag
A White Rag

THE PALETTE KNIFE


You can mix your colors with a brush, but I do not recommend it. The best mixtures are made with a palette knife. Because I was so interested in what I can do with all these knives, I bought a whole set. But you definitely do not have to. All you need is a nice diamond shape one like the one below. I will write a thorough blog post about palette knives so stay tuned! (Or maybe by the time you read this I had already written that piece! Check out my blog page)


This is all you need for now! Do not wait for the perfect moment and start painting as soon as possible. This is the best way to improve and move forward :)


If you want to check out my tutorials, my YouTube Channel is all yours :)


I can help you become a completely free artist: in the JumpstART Artist Academy program in only 3 months, you will be freed from self-doubt, the stress of your 9-5 job, and your financial strains by applying the step-by-step plan we provide for your art business. Book your 20-minute free consultation now.

Not sure? I'm always here when you are ready!


Stay with art and love...


Ece Gurler

Artist Coach

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