Hello future oil painter! Glad you found me! So you want to become the next Vincent Van Gogh and need to know: What do you need to get started with oil painting? The good news is you don’t need dozens of tubes of paint, dozens of brushes, and and a large assortment of mediums. Now there is nothing wrong with owning all those things as many artists do, but beginners should start with the basics.
The even better news is that I am going to show you exactly what you need to get started as well as provide you with links to where you can purchase your beginner supplies online at an excellent discount!
I recommend starting with a basic introductory set of student grade oils. There are some good quality student grade paints out there. My personal recommendation for beginners would be to choose a set from one of the following three brands: Winsor & Newton Winton Oil Colors, Daler-Rowney Georgian Oil Colors or Grumbacher Academy Oil Colors. These are all fine oil paints and great choices for beginners! Below are links to purchase introductory sets from all three brands over at Dick Blick Art Materials of which I am an affiliate. This means I will receive a small commission should you purchase anything via the links below. I thank you in advance for your support! I have been a customer of Dick Blick for over 10 years now. They have a great selection, discount prices, fast reliable shipping and great customer service!
Winsor & Newton Winton Oil Colors Starter Set
Winton is a traditional range of oil colors made from moderately priced pigments, formulated for student and amateur artists or more accomplished painters who require large volumes of color within a moderate cost range.
Starter Set —
This set contains 10, 1.25 oz (37 ml) tubes, including one each of Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue, Cadmium Red Deep Hue, French Ultramarine, Phthalo Blue, Viridian Hue, Permanent Green Light, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Ivory Black, and Titanium White.
Winton oil colors are my favorite of the student grade. They have the same quality pigments that the artists quality paints have only less, which makes them more affordable. I posted a couple of videos from youtube below so that you can see these paints in action.
Grumbacher Academy Oil Color 10-Color Oil Paint Set
Grumbacher’s Academy Oil Colors are a favorite of college and advanced secondary students. They offer a generous load of pigment and excellent tinting strength.
10-Color Set —
Contains 10 colors in .81 oz (24 ml) tubes, including Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Cadmium Red Light Hue, Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue, Ivory Black, Thalo Blue, Thalo Green (Blue Shade), Thio Violet, Titanium White, and Yellow Ochre.
Daler-Rowney Georgian Oil Colors – Set of 6
This high quality line of color is produced at a uniform and economical price. Daler-Rowney Georgian Oil Colors are ideal for use with a knife or a brush, for a variety of effects. Every batch is matched for color and texture against exacting standards.Starter Set —
This set contains six 22 ml tubes of Georgian Oil Color, including Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine, Viridian, and Burnt Umber.
If you ask 10 different artists about the brushes they use for oil painting, you will more than likely get 10 different answers. Some say to only use natural bristle brushes while some swear by artificial brushes. Some say you must absolutely buy only the best quality brushes, while others are perfectly fine using cheaper ones. Some artists only use flats, while others use every brush shape they can get their hands on. The only way to really know what you like best is to experiment. I for one prefer synthetic brushes and use only flats, filberts and rounds. I have about 15 brushes on hand at the moment ranging in size from 18 on the large end down to a size 2 on the small end from various brands, but my favorite out of the bunch are the Princeton Catalyst Polytip Bristle Brushes that I only recently began using and think I may switch to these exclusively. You can get a great deal over at Dick Blick on a set of 4 by following this link or the one below.
Princeton Catalyst Polytip Bristle Brushes
Princeton Catalyst Polytip Bristle Brushes are another Princeton breakthrough that advances the science of synthetic hair. By giving each individual hair two to three distinct tips, Polytip bristles are able to hold a higher volume of paint while providing smoother application.
Blick Exclusive! Catalyst Polytip Bristle Brushes, Set of 4 —
This set of four essential brushes includes a Size 4 Bright, Size 10 Flat, Size 8 Filbert, and Size 2 Round, all with long handles. Super stiff yet extremely responsive, Catalyst synthetic brush fibers have flags that replicate the finest natural bristle. Intended for heavy body acrylics and oil paints, Catalyst brushes also have real integrity in water.
Now you need something to paint on. The popular and recommended choice would be canvas. You can paint with oils on other surfaces, but canvas is recommended for beginners. You can buy canvas pre stretched or in rolls and stretch it yourself. I recommend pre stretched and the canvas choices over at Dick Blick are awesome and affordable! I prefer the Blick Premier Cotton Canvas (see below).
Blick Premier Cotton Canvas
Now on to the mediums on our What do you need to get started with oil painting shopping list. Artists use solvents like mineral spirits below to thin the oil paint and for cleaning brushes. I prefer odorless mineral spirits and Gamblin Gamsol is one of the best on the market.
Gamblin Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits
Since 1980, Gamblin has handcrafted luscious oil colors and contemporary painting mediums that are true to historic working properties, yet safer and more permanent. All of Gamblin’s oil painting materials are handcrafted at the company’s factory in Portland, Oregon.Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits —
An excellent solvent for thinning Gamblin mediums, for general painting, and for studio and brush cleanup. It evaporates completely, leaving no residue, and the absence of the aromatic solvent component means painters can work with Gamsol five times longer than turpentine without adverse health effects.
Drying oils like linseed, walnut and poppy are used as a medium to increase fluidity, transparency and gloss of the oil paint. One of the more popular choices is linseed oil and is probably the most durable when it finally dries. The only issue artists have with linseed is that it has more of a tendency to yellow and crack over time. This is why some artists will use other oils in its place like walnut and poppy. While oils like walnut and poppy have less tendency to crack and yellow, they are less durable than linseed and tend to dry slower. I prefer to use walnut oil , but that is just my personal preference. Give them all a try to see what you like best. Many artists use poppy oil for lighter colors and blue tones.
M. Graham Walnut Oil
Walnut Oil has been used interchangeably with linseed oil for over a thousand years. It flows more freely, and has less tendency to crack or yellow.
Today it is known that Renaissance masters such as Da Vinci and Durer generally favored walnut oil over linseed oil.
Winsor & Newton Drying Linseed Oil
Made with the same vegetable oils used to formulate oil colors — namely linseed, safflower, and poppy — drying oils are used to modify the consistency and drying time of oil paints in much the same way as prepared mediums.
Cold Pressed Linseed Oil —
Winsor & Newton Cold Pressed Linseed Oil is a slightly yellow oil that is extracted without the use of heat. Add it to colors to reduce their consistency, improve flow, and increase gloss and transparency, while reducing brush marks. Cold PressedLinseed Oil dries slightly quicker than Winsor & Newton Refined Linseed Oil and may exhibit better flow with some colors.
Winsor & Newton’s most popular oil offers many of the same qualities as Winsor & Newton Cold Pressed Linseed Oil, but is slower-drying. Refined Linseed Oil is an alkali-refined oil of pale color that reduces oil color consistency and increases gloss and transparency.
Winsor & Newton Drying Poppy Oil
The palest of all the drying oils, Winsor & Newton Drying Poppy Oil is specially formulated for use with white and pale colors. It reduces the consistency of oil paints while increasing their gloss and transparency. It also resists yellowing.
Winsor & Newton Drying Poppy Oil is enhanced with siccatives to increase the drying speed of this naturally slower-drying oil.
Cleanup & Safety
The last items on our What do you Need to get Started with Oil Painting? shopping list are those items needed for cleanup and safety. Items like solvents, mediums and some paints can be toxic and cause adverse reactions for some if not used properly. That is why some artists choose a non-toxic approach to oil painting by eliminating certain solvents and paints from their supplies. Non toxic painting is out of the scope of this article and something I plan on addressing in future posts, but there is plenty of information online that addresses this if you are interested in going that route. Simply do a search on Google or YouTube for help with this.
Back to our show….
I recommend a good brush cleaner. It will make your life a lot easier, trust me. I have tried a number of products and methods for cleaning my oil brushes, and found the following two to be the best.
“The Masters” Clean-Up Kit
“The Masters” Clean-Up Kit removes paints, stains, dyes and more when you’re carrying out art projects, crafts, hobbies, and decorative painting.
Each package contains a 1½ oz bar of non-toxic hand soap and a 1 oz jar of brush cleaner and preserver. Just add water and watch the two all-purpose cleaners remove oils, acrylics, watercolors, and stains gently from hands and brushes.
Pink Soap Artist Brush Cleaner
After cleaning brushes in solvent, work a little Pink Soap into the bristles of the brush, and rinse. Repeat this until the soap stays pink. You can then be sure that your brush is clean and safe to put away.
Use Pink Soap with all types of paint.
Winsor & Newton Artguard Barrier Cream
The last item on our list. This is for those messy artists like myself who tend to get paint all over their hands while painting. I have not tried it myself, but it got great reviews over at Dick Blick and is supposed be a great product for protecting your skin. I plan on picking up a jar myself!
Lightweight, non-greasy silicone-based cream easily rubs into the skin to form an invisible barrier that protects hands from artists’ materials. Messy digits clean easily with soap and water and irritating substances won’t penetrate the skin.
Pleasantly scented, it contains an emulsion of waxes, glycerin, and natural oil, which also condition the skin.