People always think oil painting is the hardest medium to learn. I say it’s the easiest IF you do a few key things! I’m sharing some of those in these 8 oil painting tips!

Tip #1 Paper Towels

Oil paint doesn’t play nicely with all paper towels. The only paper towel I recommend is VIVA. And I already know what a handful of inexperienced people who think they know all the things will say “I have to disagree with you. Regular paper towels work just fine.” I mean sure… so does wearing one shoe around town. I can get around with one naked foot but that isn’t the most effective way to do things.

Viva is like using cloth. Paint thinner and oils make an absolute mess when you try using regular paper towels. Trust me, just pick up some Viva. You can also use old rags/t shirts.

Tip #2 Monochromatic Base Layers

This isn’t a must like the paper towels, but it does make things easier for you. When you paint your underpainting in black and white or browns and white, all you have to worry about are values and shapes. You remove a major challenge when painting…mixing colors. We’re going to keep that as a separate step making our lives a bit easier. Do you HAVE to paint a monochromatic base layer? Of course not, but it does simplify things!

Tip #3 A Little Paint Goes a LONG Way

If you’ve previously painted in acrylics you may be tempted to buy the HUGE tubes of oil paint. Unless you’re painting with a palette knive or thick chunky paintings where you use a LOT of paint, you don’t need this! When you put paint on your palette, a tiny amount goes pretty far. Save your money and your paint, start with less and add more as needed to your palette!

Tip #4 Limited Color Palette

When we’re learning to mix colors we often think we should just buy every color we might need like it’s a paint by number. Nope! You’re better off using fewer colors and learning to mix the color you need. By limiting your color palette you will learn more about mixing colors than any video or book can teach you. Plus you ensure that the colors you’re using work well together. By using 4 different blue paints you can end up with a painting that lacks color harmony. When you set up your palette, choose one red, one magenta or purple, one yellow, one blue etc and blend what you need from there. This makes the process less confusing and teaches you by necessity about mixing colors!

Tip #5 Palette Setup

Oil paints are the only medium I work in where I do this. Reds/yellows/oranges are easy to see the color of, but when you move into magenta, greens, blues, browns, and black, many of these all look the same when they’re on your palette. If you get in the habit now of ALWAYS putting your colors in the same place, you won’t have issues figuring out which is which. This avoids accidentally grabbing black when you meant to add purple and not finding out till you hit the canvas.

This is my setup. Feel free to save this image and use it yourself! That doesn’t mean I use the same blue each time, but I always know that whatever blues I’m using go in that spot.

Tip #6 Don’t Overblend!

If a couple of blending brushstrokes looks good…50 must look better!! NO! JUST NO! Oils are amazing because they stay wet long enough that you can blend like a champ, but less is more. Normally you only need a couple of brush strokes to get the results you want. If you keep blending you lose your lights and darks and end up with one muddy mess.

Tip #7 Let it DRY!

Speaking of over blending, when you hit a point where your colors are mixing together and creating a muddy mess, that’s a big sign that it’s time to end your painting session and let that layer dry or at the very least tack up a bit. If you use Liquin as your mixing medium as I do, what you’ve painted should be dry overnight (unless you’re painting super chunky but that’s another style so you’re not likely here for that). When things are smudging too much just stop for the day. Sometimes even waiting a few hours is enough for the paint to start tacking up enough that you can continue painting, but if you try again and it’s still a slippery feeling, just wait. Oil paints are one of the easiest mediums in my opinion to learn, but you HAVE to let them dry between layers as needed. This is usually where things go wrong for beginners.

Tip #8 Varnish

Most varnishes say the painting needs to be dry for 6 months before you can apply them. Obviously, this isn’t going to work for any of us who sell. Instead, use Gamvar by Gamblin. This varnish can be applied when your painting is dry to the touch! If you have shiny spots where you went heavier with the liquin, this will even all of that out by adding a nice gloss too!

Supplies used: (amazon affiliate links)

 We all need to be reminded “Don’t drink the paint water”  and other fun artist sayings. 
Why not wear it on our clothes or coffee mugs to make sure we don’t forget.

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