What do I need to paint in oil?

Oil painting materials

“What materials do I need for oil painting? I want to learn how to paint in oil and make my own paintings, but I can’t go to painting classes and I don’t know where to start. Calm down! If you have any friends or acquaintances who are artists, you can start by asking them your questions. And if you don’t have someone to guide you in your first steps in painting, you can count on us. In this post we will review what you need to know to start painting your own oil canvases.

Many times, making your own oil paintings is better than buying sheet metal. Using these paints is fun, relaxing and besides, oil painting techniques are one of the preferred ones by professional artists around the world. But how do you start painting pictures? Today we are going to focus on the tools we need.

The basic materials for learning to paint in oil are:

  • Brushes of different sizes and shapes.
  • Oil paintings.
  • Canvases or supports.
  • Mixing palette.
  • Diluents, oils and media.

Oil brushes

Depending on the artist and the type of technique you are going to use you can choose one type of brush or another. It is best to have good quality brushes, even if you have few at first. Sable-hair brushes are the best for oil painting, but nowadays there are synthetic or pig-hair brushes. Both are a more economical option and offer good quality results.

Another thing you should take into account is the shape and size of the hair, since they directly influence how the strokes of your paint will look.

There are flat brushes, round brushes, cat’s tongue brushes, eyeliner brush, angle brush, fan brush, stippler brush, countersunk brush, mop tip brush, angle brush… The best thing is to find out what suits you best and which is the most suitable for your level! But remember: Oil brushes have long handles. We will be happy to advise you.

Oil paintings

The best thing is not to go crazy with the amount of colors on the market, and buy an economical box of 12 colors. This will help you to make trials, to get used to the oil techniques, to know the possible combinations of colours, to get familiar with the textures…

If you prefer, you can also buy the colours separately. The best option is to buy medium sized oil tubes with the following colors:

  • The three basic colors: Primary Yellow (or light cadmium yellow), Cyan Blue (or ultramarine blue) and primary red/magenta (or alizarin crimson). By combining these three colors you can build all the secondary colors and the whole color circle – the whole palette at your fingertips!
  • Titanium white: our recommendation is that you get a large size tube to lighten colors, give light, paint reflections… the color white is very necessary!
  • Natural earthy shade: this colour will be of great help to you to make shadows and to make dark colours, ochres, earths, and even the colour black. Pure black is not necessary at first, because it ‘dirties’ the other colours too much when mixed with them and the result is unnatural. It is advisable to leave it for later!

As you learn to use the basic colors, you can expand your palette with other interesting and very practical colors: green viridian, yellow ochre, vermilion, blue turquoise, purple, orange Mars … There are many options!

Here, our oil painting offer:

Canvases or supports

Cheap canvases, sheets, wooden boards, cardboard… there are many different supports to start oil painting. You can choose the one you like best, the important thing is to make sure that the surface you are going to paint on is well prepared for oil painting.

To begin with, you can choose the simplest option: a prepared canvas that you can find without any problem in a shop specializing in material for Fine Arts. Remember that you can find oval, rectangular and double-thick canvases… There are many oil painting supports to choose from!

Mixing palette

The palette is the surface you will use to mix the colors, one of the most representative symbols of the art world. You should not worry too much about them because, although they are essential for oil painting, they are very economical.

To begin with you can use a large plate from an old dinner service, a piece of glass (no sharp edges, please! we don’t want you to have an accident!), a wooden board, a piece of tile, etc. However, the oil palettes you can find in the shops are very useful and comfortable because they have a hole that helps to hold them and prevents you from dropping the paint causing a disaster at home.

The important thing is that your palette has a wide surface, that it is easy to clean and that it is as light as possible. All this will allow you to make the mixtures comfortably and without being an obstacle when creating your own works of art.


One of the most important secrets to oil painting is to use the correct diluents and media for the paintings, because even though it may not seem so, they are our best allies when it comes to experimenting with new techniques. They help us to make the oil painting less thick, to have a slower or faster drying, as well as a glossy or matt effect as we need. However, using them in the wrong way will make our work lose quality, crack or take too long to dry.

Oil painting is so called because originally the color pigments were ‘agglutinated’ (kneaded into a paste) with oils. This means that we cannot dilute the oil with water as we would do with acrylics, watercolours or gouache: oil and water repel each other! In spite of this, in recent years water-miscible oils have been created that break this rule.

The best thing is to get informed about the effects of using each diluent: turpentine essence, linseed oil, mineral turpentine, solvent… Our recommendation is that you talk to your oil painting dealer so that he can personally advise you on the best option for the paints you have bought.