How to Draw With Oil Paints

oil paintingOil painting is perhaps the most widespread and the most popular kind of pictorial art in the world. Many beginners buy oil colors and canvas hoping to create masterpieces, but in most cases, they face the fact that it is not that easy to master this activity. Painting with oil colors demands accuracy, self-organization, and patience–it is crucial to make appropriate preparations.

1. To start with, make sure that you have all the necessary materials and equipment. To draw your first picture, you will need:
- A primed canvas (you can also use primed plywood or board, as well as a piece of a carton).
- Oil paints. In addition, you will need to buy a big tube of titanium white and linseed oil.
- Brushes. Mostly, you will need flat and rounded stiff brushes, so buy 2-3 brushes of each size and shape. The best brushes are made from calf’s or squirrel’s hair.
- A palette to mix colors, and an easel to set the canvas on.
- Keep in mind that painting with oil may be messy. It is best to stock up on rags and wax-cloth to cover the floor under the easel.

2. After you have finally made all the necessary preparations, it is time to start drawing. Choose what you want to paint: still-life, a landscape, or a portrait. Walk around your model and search for the best foreshortening. Make sketches with a pencil from different viewpoints. A sketch is a rough draft of what you are going to draw on the canvas. It is like an outline of your whole picture, where you set composition, mark checkered light and shades, reflexes, and so on. Make sure that a place where you are drawing is well lit. A lack of light will be a hindrance when it comes to mixing paints and searching for the correct color. Also, mind that natural light is the best for painting with oil colors.

3. Squeeze a bit of each color around the palette’s perimeter. Proceed from warm to cold colors. This will help you find needed colors with ease.

4. As soon as you have decided which of your sketches you like most, start to carry it over onto your canvas. To make this process easier, you may divide your canvas, as well as your sketch, into a number of squares (depending on the size of your canvas), and copy your sketch square-by-square.

5. Once you have completed the previous step, it is time to mix the colors. Pour some linseed oil into a plate. Dip your brush into it, and then into a color that you need and spread it across a palette. Try not to use open colors–mix two or three of them to see what tints and nuances you can get.

6. You might want to make an under painting and apply the paints’ layers one-by-one as they dry up. Remember that oil paints can take a long time to dry. They may also get a little bit darker after drying up. There is a painting technique called alla prima. Alla prima assumes applying new layers of paint over previous layers, which are also wet. If you draw alla prima, it is better to work fast until the first layers dry up.

7. When you have finished drawing, bring your materials and equipment in order. It is crucial that you wash your brushes, because if you do not, they will petrify until the next time you use them. To avoid this, rinse your brushes in a solvent liquid, then wash them with water and dry them. Mop clean those parts of a palette which you used to mix colors. Also, do not throw away unused paints if you plan to draw again in a couple of days–they will remain usable for 4-5 days.

Painting with oil is a laborious and painstaking process which is difficult to master. But at the same time, you can create truly beautiful pieces of art using them.


Need Help?

Comment/Ask an Expert

Related Writing Guides

How to Write a Process Paper

A process paper (or a ‘how to’ essay) is a guide which shows how an action is done, explains how it works, or how it occurs. Your process paper may refer to any topic: cooking a sandwich, writing a capstone project or conducting a nuclear fission. T...


or login with

Register | Lost your password?