So you’ve decided that you want to learn to paint with oils. Great decision! But what oil painting supplies do you need to get started?
Oil painting is a great way to express yourself and become a better overall artist but the first thing you’ll want to do is make sure that you have the right supplies.
Nothing is as frustrating as getting all excited about your first oil painting session only to find that you’re missing something important to get the job done.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase by clicking on an affiliate link, Nevue Fine Art Marketing may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Affiliate relationships include, but are not limited to, Bluehost, Tailwind, Skimlinks, SareASale and StudioPress. To learn more visit Affiliate Link Disclosure Policy
The good news is that oil painting supplies don’t have to be expensive, especially if you purchase them online.
All in all, it doesn’t take a lot of money to start painting with oils, especially if you know where to shop.
Just make sure that the stores and the brands are reputable and the rest should be easy.
Before you put your painter’s hat on and get in front of that easel, make sure that you have the following supplies on hand:
1. Oil Paints
The first thing needed for beginning oil painters is the oils themselves!
It’s best to have the following colors on hand at all times:
- Cadmium Red
- Cadmium Yellow
- Cadmium Yellow Light
- Ivory Black
- Permanent Alizarin Crimson
- Phthalo Blue
- Titanium White
- Ultramarine Blue
Naturally, you’ll be adding to your collection as you gain more experience in working with oils but these are the eight must-haves that all artists who work with oils need.
You can choose to buy each tube separately — in which case, the 200ml tubes are recommended — or a set of oil paints that contains many different colors.
If you want to think ahead because you realize that you’ll eventually want to start mixing colors for even more variety as you paint, you can add a few browns and greens as well as the colors mentioned above.
The good news is that you can purchase these paints at reasonable prices if you know where to look and if you want to buy even bigger tubes, that’s not a bad idea either.
2. The Right Type of Paint Brushes
You can’t paint without good paint brushes but you don’t have to rush out and purchase 20 different bristle brushes in the beginning.
You’ll want to make sure that you get student-grade, natural-bristle brushes and aim for six to start with: two of the size 2 brushes, two of the size 6 brushes, and two of the size 12 brushes.
You can purchase additional brushes in the future but for now, these six brushes are all you’ll need for the most part.
With each pair of brushes, make sure that one of the brushes has a flat top and the other is a filbert brush, which has a slightly rounded tip on it.
This will provide you with a good range of possibilities when you start painting.
These brushes are usually handmade; therefore, they may differ slightly by each batch.
Still, the brushes made just for students give you an easy, smooth way to use the brushes without struggling to get the results you want.
You might also want a palette knife.
3. Canvas/Painting Surface of Some Type
It doesn’t have to be a literal canvas but you’ll naturally need something to paint on if you wish to paint with oils.
If you want to start cheap, try working with either paper, wood, Masonite, or raw canvas.
If you use these materials, it is recommended that you apply a very thin coat of Gessos, which is a water-based primer that is usually applied either with a large house brush or a foam applicator.
You can check your particular brand for exact details.
If you can afford to go ahead and purchase a few canvas boards, choose the pre-primed canvas boards that are stretched tight.
With these canvases, no Gessos is needed.
The Gessos is applied for two reasons: to make the surface last a lot longer and to make sure that the oil paints can adhere to the surface a lot better.
Neither of these is a problem when you choose to paint on a canvas board.
Once again, if you’re on a budget, you can wait until these canvas boards go on sale and purchase as many of them as you can afford.
This way, you’ll always have some on hand when you’re ready to paint.
4. Painter’s Easel
While it’s true that you don’t actually need an easel for painting, it is a big convenience regardless of your level of experience.
Easels come in many different sizes to accommodate the painter’s height and you should always get an adjustable one because they are easier to use.
Also, make sure that they hold your paintings securely because you don’t want all of your hard work going to waste in the end.
One word of caution when buying your easel: although they come in all price ranges, don’t just look at the price when researching easels.
And don’t settle for a used one that you find at a garage sale.
Make sure that the easel is well made and can accommodate your size.
If you stick with easels made by reputable brands, you’ll get a high-quality easel that you can keep for a long time.
5. Turpentine/Paint Thinner
Turpentine is made by numerous manufacturers and it is a must when purchasing your oil painting supplies because unlike acrylic or watercolors, you cannot clean oil paints with water.
Turpentine is used to clean oil paints off of your brushes, your table tops, and even your skin.
You can use mineral spirits instead of turpentine but most artists choose turpentine because it is extremely effective at removing oil paints and it is usually very inexpensive.
All reputable art stores sell high-quality turpentine but you can also get the product at home improvement stores if you like. Either way, just make sure that it’s pure turpentine because this is what works best for removing oil paints.
6. Linseed Stand Oil
Okay, this is an optional item because you don’t necessarily need linseed stand oil to become an oil paint artist but if you’re planning to enjoy this hobby for a long time, it is definitely worth the investment.
The linseed stand oil is mixed with a little turpentine to make a good artist’s medium, which you’ll come to love and will definitely need once you start to mix various colors.
Even beginning oil painters can benefit from a painter’s medium when mixing oil paint colors.
You simply mix the turpentine with the linseed stand oil, then pour out a few tablespoons of the product before you start painting each time.
And you don’t need much to produce the right effects.
Before you mix the colors of paint, just dab your brush in this medium first.
You don’t need a lot to get the results you want and it simply makes mixing the paints a whole lot easier and smoother.
Simply put, newspaper makes cleaning your brushes at the end of the day much easier.
But you don’t have to use it only when you’re done painting.
Whenever you change colors, you can often skip the turpentine and just give your brushes a good thorough wipe with a piece of newspaper.
You can even prepare it ahead of time by taking your newspaper and cutting it into four-inch squares so that you always have enough on hand once you start to paint.
Although turpentine isn’t that expensive, old newspapers are even cheaper to use!
You can start now by keeping your old newspapers instead of throwing them away so that you always have a lot of them on hand.
You’ll have to make a judgment call when deciding if the newspaper will be good enough or if you should use turpentine instead.
That depends on the color you’re using and how much of it is on your brush.
Still, even if you only use newspaper occasionally to clean your paintbrushes, it’s well worth it because it can save you both time and money in the long run.
8. A Good Palette
Painters’ palettes do not have to be expensive to be useful.
In fact, most of them are very reasonably priced.
When you’re shopping for your oil painting supplies, a good palette is a must because it is the easiest way to keep your colors separated so that they are easier to work with.
Most palettes are round and have up to ten or so small round indentations around the edge and a much bigger round indentation in the center.
Some even come with a see-through cover so you can cover it when you’re done painting and keep the oils fresh while still being able to see what colors are in the palette.
Many palettes are made out of plastic, which is perfect because they tend to be cheaper than other types yet still very effective.
Best of all, they make a lot of different palettes to suit all painters’ needs.
This includes palettes made out of many different materials, palettes that are a little larger than usual and have special areas to mix different colors of paints, palettes both with and without covers, and even palettes made especially for watercolors.
Again, a good palette will make your entire oil painting experience much simpler on you every time.
9. A Good Charcoal Pencil
If you’re a beginner when it comes to oil painting, you might wonder why you need a charcoal pencil but the answer is quite simple.
Oil paintings can be quite complex and detailed so you’ll want to start by sketching exactly what you want to paint onto your canvas or paper.
While more advanced painters sometimes use a paintbrush for this task, good charcoal pencils are much better for beginners.
In fact, both beginning oil painters and people who have never painted before can benefit from using good charcoal pencils to sketch their designs onto the canvas.
If you do it lightly, you can even make some changes when you mess up, which is much easier to do than correcting a mistake made with actual oil paints.
Best of all, not only are charcoal pencils inexpensive and glide smoothly over the canvas or paper but they are now better made than ever before, offering you scratch-free marks, an easy way to sharpen them, and much less breakage than they had in the past. Most charcoal pencil sets come pre-sharpened for convenience and they are available in light, medium, and dark colors.
10. The Right Clothes
Let’s face it; you’re going to get messy while painting with oils.
Instead of trying to be careful and not get paint on your clothes, you’d be better off getting some old clothes and wearing them over your other clothing each time you decide to paint.
You should probably go ahead and find both old pants and a large shirt.
If you use the same outfit every time that you paint, it will become quite colorful after a while but the important thing to remember is that old clothes are a must.
You simply don’t want to paint using oils and get good clothes stained up for good. Old clothes make your next oil painting experience much less stressful because all you’ll have to concentrate on is painting and not trying to keep your clothes clean and paint-free.
Final Thoughts About Oil Painting Supplies For Beginners
Although these are the basic oil painting supplies that you’ll need when oil painting, you may decide to add other things along the way.
Adding too many things at once, however, can get expensive so you may want to limit what you purchase in the very beginning.
You might as well save yourself some money and limit the number of items you purchase when you first start painting with oils, especially if you’ve never painted with anything in the past and you’re not sure if this is a hobby that you’re going to stick with.
Oil-painting is a lot of fun and a great way to express your creativity.
Now that you know what oil painting supplies you need to get started, there’s no time like the present to take a lesson or explore oil painting on your own.