Oil paint for beginners

June 02, 2020

What is oil paint?

Oil painting is a process of painting with pigments and using a medium of drying oil as a binder.

Drying oils include linseed oil, poppy oil, walnut oil and safflower oil. Your choice of oil imparts a range of properties to the oil paint, such as the amount of yellowing or drying time.

In her next post Jane will look at

Getting started – what you’ll need

The obvious starting point – Oil paints:

Jane recommends Winton oil colour (by Winsor & Newton) as an inexpensive oil colour and great to get started with.

You will also need;

  • Brushes
  • Turpentine
  • Palette
  • Surface eg canvas
  • Linseed oil
  • A charcoal pencil
Winton oil paints colour palette

This is the colour chart for Winton showing the available colours in the range.

Your colours

The Winton oils come in two sizes:

  • 37ml tubes @ £4.50 each
  • 200ml tubes @ £16.50 each

Jane’s research identified that the following colours are recommended as a good starting point for beginners.

  • Titanium white
  • Ivory black
  • Cadmium red
  • Permanent alizarin crimson
  • Ultramarine blue
  • Pthalo blue
  • Cadmium yellow
Winton 37ml OIl Paints
Winton 200ml OIl Paint

Brushes for oils

The type of brush you are going to need are natural student grade bristle (hog hair) brushes.

You will probably only need 6 brushes in different sizes, for instance

  • size 2 in a flat and a filbert
  • size 6 in a flat and a filbert
  • size 12 also in a flat and a filbert

A flat brush has a squared off tip and a filbert has a rounded tip.

In store we sell the following;

  • From sets including 16 brushes and a case £9.95
  • Singles brushes from £2.47 for a size 1 to size 10 at £14.70
  • We also have deals on brushes, £3.65 each or any 4 for £13.50
Flat brushes for oil paints
Flat hog bristle brushes (above)
Filbert brushes for oil paints

Filbert hog bristle brushes (above)

Mediums – for thinning your oils

Turpentine is the traditional solvent to dilute the paint and will not yellow over time.

Mix with a little pigment to thin a wash this provides a quick drying colour that’s ideal tor underpainting.

Purified linseed oil reduces the consistency of the paint and also slows the speed of drying this allowing the artist time to work and refine a painting without pressure.

Linseed stand oil is a thicker variant of the purified linseed oil. It dries to a tough, smooth and elastic finish, leaving no brush marks.


Turpentine for thinning oil paints
Purified Linseed Oil for thinning oil paints

Cleaning your brushes

White spirit is ideal for cleaning your brushes.

Warning – if you do use this to mix with your oil colour it will yellow over time, as in years rather than months.


white spirit for brush cleaning

Sketch before paint

A charcoal pencil

Before putting any paint down, it’s a good idea to sketch out whatever it is you will be painting.

Charcoal pencils work well on the texture of canvas.

A palette

When it comes to a palette you don’t need anything fancy so this wooden oval shaped palette is ideal.


a palette for oil paints


This is canvas which has been stretched on to a frame for you and ready to paint.

These are sold primed so you don’t have to prep them before you start painting.

However, if you do need to prime your canvas before you start painting use Gesso primer (approximately £9.95 for 250ml) this will give you a good solid long lasting ground that your oil paint will adhere to.

Gadsby’s see a huge range of sizes prices start at £4.00 – £35 upwards.

We can make you a specific sized canvas if you need anything very large, prices will be quoted on inquiring. We will need to know the size for a quote.

Canvas for oil painting

Palette knives

Palette knives are useful for applying clean patches of colour on to a blank canvas or over an existing dry layer of paint.

If using a palette knife, you don’t need to dilute your paint with a medium as you would with a brush. You can also add texture to your painting using a palette knife.

Palette knife £5.95 each 


Palette knives for oils
Textured oils

Example of texture (above)

Gadsby’s sell all of the artists materials and supplies mentioned in this article.

Jane is a member of the Gadsby’s team. She has a wide knowledge of the arts & crafts products and materials sold by Gadsby’s both from the perspective of an advisor in the shop and, for many of the products, from personal use too.


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