Over the years, I have bought, used, and tossed away more oil painting supplies than I care to remember. On this page, I'm passing on the hard-won lessons I learned in the process. Hopefully you can save some money on needless supplies and efforts, too.
- Oil Paints
Buy the best quality oil paints you can afford. If you are not experienced at mixing the colors, I suggest that, to start with, you buy one color from each primary family plus white. Lots of white.
Read my article on maximizing colors with a limited palette
as this approach gives beautiful results, and you will save some money, too.
When I started out, I bought a lot of earth tones. Burnt sienna, yellow ochre, burn umber, raw umber, indian red....you name it. Soon I found that I only needed yellow ochre and occasionally burnt sienna. I could also mix richer browns with other vibrant colors.
If you do not want to work with solvents, then try water soluable oil paints.
That's what I use in my studio. They really do look and feel just like traditional oil paints—truly a scientific breakthrough.
- Oil Brushes
Read my article on oil painting brushes to help you choose.
It is a good practice to have bristle hog brushes for painterly looks and sable brushes (or a synthetic version, which is cheaper) for smooth strokes. Please, if you have to cut costs, it's better to compromising on oil paints. Not with brushes, because they 'show'.
Solvents or thinners are necessary to thin the oil paints for easier application and also for cleaning. There are mineral spirits, turpentine and turpenoid. Mineral spirits have a strong odor, and so does turpentine.
Turpenoid is an odorless form of turpentine, but you still need to make sure your room is well ventilated when using these so-called odorless solvents. Obtain an airtight container for storing your solvents so they do not evaporate.
If you use water soluble oil paints, then regular tap water is your solvent.
Mediums are made to improve the flow of the oil paints and also the transparency and gloss of the final oil painting. Every artist seems to have their own favorite medium. There are many on the market that you can choose from, or you can make your own. Some mediums have turpentine in them to speed up the drying process. Some of them are quite sticky. The main ingredients are usually linseed oil, or stand oil (highly thickened linseed oil).
Use mediums when you need to build multiple fatter layers on your oil paintings. I usually do not use any mediums when I am painting alla prima.
Experiment with different mediums and 'secret formulas' you get from other artists until you find what works for you before you spend a lot of money on the 'ultimate medium'. No secret medium will make or break a painting. If it does not work, just wipe it off with a paper towel and move on.
- Canvas, or supports
Stretched gessoed canvases are popular and affordable. You can also use linen canvasses, which are more expensive, for finer paintings.
You can make your own canvases by buying linen in rolls and gluing them to stiff surfaces like wood panels. Be sure to gesso them before painting on them.
Another way to save money is to make your own oil painting panels. You can buy panels made of birch, hardwoods, or masonite boards from hardware stores.
Just make sure that they are not coated with chemicals, as the coating might seep through the gesso layers. Cover the panels with three or four coats of gesso on both sides (so they will not warp). Wait for each layer to dry before adding the next.
The surface you mix your oil paints on is a very personal choice. I do not recommend plastic palettes, as it is not easy to clean up. Try a wooden palette or a glass surface. If you palette is wooden, condition it with some cooking oil or linseed oil so it won't absorb too much oil from your paints.
I personally like glass palettes best. Save money by having a piece of glass cut to size at the hardware store. Make sure that you tape around the edges so you don't end up cutting yourself.
- Lots of paper towels or rags
You really do not want to forget about your paper towel and rags when you paint. They are extremely handy for wiping paints from brushes, cleaning up spills, wiping away mistakes, etc.
have found that when it comes to oil painting supplies, keeping it simple is always the best way to save both your sanity and your money. Everybody paints differently, so vary your tools until you find the exactoil painting supplies that best suit your individual needs.
Now that you have the basic oil painting supplies in place, get ready to paint!
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