What you need to start oil painting today
Oil paint comes first because you certainly can’t do oil painting without oil paint! There are two basic different varieties – artist grade and student grade. If you are experimenting with oil painting and not sure if you will continue or not then I would recommend the student grade as it is much less expensive. The artist grade paints are far superior in that there is more pigment in the paint. Student grade paint is cheaper because there is less pigment and more ‘filler’. So, if you are serious about getting into painting artist grade paint is more worth your while, as you are getting more color for your buck 🙂
Of course you will need a surface to put your paint on. There are so many different kinds of painting surfaces! Wood, canvas linen, masonite, paper, and the list goes on. I recommend starting out with a certain kind of canvas or linen and gessoing it (or purchasing one prepared already prepared). You can find a gessoing tutorial here if you do not know how to do it.
It is important to have something that will hold your painting steady as you work. Something that can be set at your eye level so that you can paint and observe what you are painting at the same time – There are numerous different choices when it comes to easels. You can refer to the ultimate easel guide.
Linseed oil is a natural oil that is used as a painting medium to thin your paint out and make them more transparent. There are different types of linseed oil – raw and refined, boiled oil, blown oil and bodied oil. For starting out I would recommend refined linseed oil. You typically do not use linseed oil in the beginning of a painting (rather turpenoid), but you do use it after your first layer of paint is established.
Turpenoid is also a painting medium like linseed oil. This substance works great to clean your brushes at an end of a painting session. It also works well to start the first layer of a painting with (underpainting). When using turpenoid it typically dries much faster than linseed oil.
Rags are an essential item to have throughout your painting session. I always keep one in hand to wipe off paint on from a brush or palette knife if needed. This item is truly a must have while painting. You will find out while you paint! I like to use old towels or rags – that way it is more earth friendly than using paper towels constantly. You can also purchase precut rags. T shirt material works very well!
You need tools to put paint on your painting surface, and that is where brushes come in. There are many different kinds of brushes. As you paint more and more over time you will come to know which brushes you like more over others. However, as a general rule it is good for beginners to use larger brushes. Doing so helps beginners to get less caught up in the details and learn how to see the big picture of what they are working on.
A palette knife is also an essential item that I cannot imagine life without. I do not use it to apply paint to canvas, but rather I use it to scrape and draw with throughout a painting session. It is an extremely useful tool. As a beginner when first learning about color it can sometimes be useful to use a palette knife to apply paint without having to deal with brush strokes etc. However, I do recommend switching to brushes once you feel a little more comfortable with color. Just using a palette knife to paint with is very limiting.
You will need two containers for your linseed oil and turpenoid. You will use your turpenoid jar primarily to clean your brushes as you paint. So, the cleaning jar works best when you have something at the bottom of the jar that can catch your dirty paint. You can make your own by punching holes into an empty tuna can and then putting the tuna can inside of a larger empty spaghetti can. Or you can purchase a brusher washer. I love the Guerilla brush washer. It is a little pricey but works excellent in studio and is small enough for plein air painting.