Oil paints are really high quality but it can also be very daunting for beginners if you do not know the basics right. Oil painting is very popular worldwide as it is versatile, quality-oriented and you can experiment with a variety of colours. If you know a couple of key points, oil painting can be fairly easy for you to start with. There are a few things that makes it a bit more than using acrylics as you will be working with toxic solvents and mediums and the drying time is longer as well. For those who have used oil painting for years might have their favourite brands, brushes, palettes and mediums, but in this article we go back to basics for you and give you an insight to the general tips that will be important for you to start out with oil paints.
To help you get started with, here are the 10 basic points that are fundamental to oil painting techniques and you absolutely need to know them.
- Know The Right Brushes To Use
Two things that are important to every oil painting brush are spring and shape. A good brush will have enough spring that will respond well to your hand when you do your strokes. A higher quality oil painting brush will have a good shape, which means that the hair won’t spread too much when you use it consistently.
Here are the 3 essential parts to an oil paint brush:
- Bristles: The “hair” of the brush is called the bristles and a good brush will have fine edge allowing you more control over the brush.
- Ferrule: The metal band right above the bristles that securely holds it is the ferrule and it connects it to the handle. Avoid sticking too much paint on this area, and keep it clean.
- Handle: Handles can be long, or short or made of wood or plastic, depending on your preference. Usually a classic brush will be long-handled. If you hold your brush towards the end of the handle, it will allow you to give lyrical strokes that will fall smoothly on your canvas.
Now coming to the important part is the types of oil paint brushes. There are majorly two types of oil paint brushes:
- Bristle Brushes: All brushes have bristles but the ones which have stiffer hair brushes are called bristle brushes. If you are the kind who likes to make thick strokes or accentuate your brush strokes, this one’s for you.
- Sable Brushes: These brushes are soft and help to give you finer details and smoother blending when painting. They are made of weasel hair, and are wonderful for oil painting.
- Prime Your Surface
Canvas is the most preferred choice for painting. They are mostly thin and fragile in material, hence it is important for you to prime the canvas before you start to paint on it. This will help you to paint better. Make sure to put two layers: once the first layer dries, paint a second layer on the same direction as the first and spread it as thinly and evenly across the canvas as possible.
- Understand Your Colours And Mixes
This is one of the most important element to painting techniques. You might think it is important to keep the paints pure and unmixed, but that’s a MYTH! Note that the primary colours such as red, blue and yellow do not fall under the category of “pure”, as they end up leaning towards blue or yellow. So it is essential to mix them. Hence practise mixing and increase your colour knowledge over time as it will help you paint more efficiently and quickly.
Note: when you mix colours, make sure to use as much colours as necessary. If you over-mix two colours, you might turn vivid mixtures into flat and uninteresting messy pile of paint. Keep you mixing to only two colours and white!
- Paint Thinners For Oil Paint
For watercolours and acrylic, water is the thinner used to thin the paint. However, for oil paints, you will require a turpentine oil or linseed oil that will help you thin down the oil colours. They can also be used to clean the brushes after your painting sessions. You can turn any photo to painting online with easy ways.
- “Fat Over Thin” Rule For Layering
When you are painting make sure that the layer on the top don’t dry faster than the ones at the bottom. This can cause shrinking and cracking. To prevent this, use a “fat over thin” rule by using leaner paints that dry faster for lower layers and add more oil for the upper layer. To make a paint fatter, add more oil and to make it leaner, mix a thinner or solvent like turpentine oil. Each layer of paint will absorb oils from the one above it, so you want to make sure you add more and more oil so that it evenly distributes.
- Do Not Be Frugal About Your Paint Usage
At times, you might want a thin wash while at other times you might want a thick stroke to create your desired effect. In order to do that, make sure you use enough paint to create your desired strokes. If you see that you are swirling your brush on a thin brush mud on the palette, you must realise it is about time to remake the mixture or else the paint would thin down on the surface.
- Choice Of Clothes Used
Wearing old clothes is often preferred for oil painting. However, you might end up getting paints on your clothes. Hence it is advisable to wear thin gloves when painting as the paints are also loaded with toxic chemicals that could be harmful for your skin as well.
- How To Prepare Your Canvas For Paint
As we mentioned before, priming your canvas is important but here are two more things to keep in mind when preparing your canvas:
- Non-White Canvas: A white canvas might end up killing the perspective of the subject and the paint as well. Hence it is advisable to use a non white canvas, preferably an off-white one.
- Gesso Cover: Pre-treated canvases come with a film of Gesso cover. The Gesso helps to protect the base from getting spoilt due to paint. You can even cover the canvas on your own by applying Gesso over untreated canvas.
- Choose The Right Medium
Mediums are intrinsic to all kinds of paint. They are used to primarily adapt to the consistency, drying time and finish of the paint. It helps to achieve many different types of sheens and can help you either extend or your drying time of the paint or shorten it, depending on your preference. You can mix them directly to the paint in your palette or dip your brush into them, just the same way as you would do with water.
- A Palette Knife Is Essential
The palette knife is not just a trowel that you use to mix paint! It can also be used quite effectively at times to make interesting strokes. A palette knife is particularly useful for making textural and unpredictable strokes – effects that you’d be hard-pressed to duplicate with a brush.
- Keep Changing The Pressure For Your Strokes
The amount of pressure you apply to your paint brush can create variety in your brush strokes. If you want heavier strokes, then apply more pressure to your paint brush. Your paints will blend more if you use heavier strokes.
Note: Make sure you know what effect and style you are looking for, applying pressure.
Oil paintings are not as simple as they look and sound but with the right kind of technique, usage, and dedication you can master the art you dream to create. Keep these points in mind when you are a beginner and spend time and effort on painting as it will give you rewarding gains on the canvas. If you have more interesting tips to give, share your ideas in the comments below. Happy Painting!