Life Hack: Tips on oil painting

When you think of painting with oil it could sound really intimidating at first. Oil paints provide deeper colors and are thicker than acrylic paints. They do take longer to dry but they are overall better quality and blend a lot better than cheaper paints. What first comes to mind for me when I first started to paint with oils I thought of beautiful masterpieces that are in art museums. I have been doing art for as long as I can remember and painting used to not be my strong suit. I started out doing pencil drawings and I started exploring the world of paint. These are a few tips I have learned from doing art over the years.

When first starting out I suggest finding a photo for reference. For this piece, I wanted to do a gender-bend and put a man in a dress. Your art can have a meaning of you can paint simply to paint. Most of the art that I do has meaning in it. I wanted to question society’s restraints on the genders and show it is ok for a man to be more feminine presenting and vice versa for women. A lot of times I take many photos to put together. So I found a photo I liked and I wanted to make the background. I found a model in the position I wanted then I found another photo of someone wearing a dress. I mentally put it together of how I wanted everything to be placed. To create the picture I wanted on my phone I used the app Pic Collage. Below there will be a link to the app I used to stitch the photos together.

Then if you look at the photo above there is a grid drawn. I suggest making your grid off the dimensions of the painting. For this one, it was 7 inches by 9 inches. I took a ruler and measured out the inches to create the grid. Then I used an app on my phone called the Grid Drawing tool to map out the proportions of the model. You can change the settings on the app to fit the grid you are looking for. This app is available for ios and apple products. At the bottom of this post, I will have a link to the app I used and other links that should be helpful.

So this is where the fun part starts! Before you start to paint find a space with good ventilation. Oil paint can be toxic so you can get lightheaded in a small confined place with little ventilation. You can go ahead and erase the grid and what is left is what you will be painting. You don’t need too many supplies. On the left of the photo is a jar of terpenoid oil. This acts as a thinner if you want to thin out your paint. There are so many different types of oil paints you can use but for this painting, I used Castle Art oil paints. Then I have a simple palate but at the right top of the photo, I have a piece of glass. I prefer to use glass because it provides a bigger surface area to start mixing paints. Then you can use paintbrushes or a palate knife. For this painting, I used both a paintbrush and a palette knife

First, you need to do an underpainting. An underpainting is where you just pay down your general colors. For this, I thinned out my paints a lot with terpenoid oil. For this, I used my brushes. This helps a lot for beginners who are intimidated by canvas and is a good way to overcome the fear of messing up. As you can see the painting doesn’t start out all that pretty. Your goal for this step is to simply map out the colors.

Once you have your underpainting down you can start to lay down your colors. I suggest starting out with your shadows then going towards your lights. For this, you can use a brush but I decided to do a less controlled painting and used a palette knife. Palate knives are great if you have trouble when it comes to letting go of control and they will add movement throughout your work. It also will give your painting more dimension. Also, you don’t have to thin your paints out for this part. This is where you will start to really mix your colors and add your shadows. I suggest not being shy with color. worst-case scenario if you do not like how it looks you can scrape off the paint. That is why oil paint is so great they are thick and easier to simply wipe off.

Then you want to continue to layer your paint and experiment with color. Your painting doesn’t have to look perfect to be a good painting. As you can see in this painting there is not a lot of blending just a lot of layers of color. There are so many paintings in museums that are far from perfect. When painting the best tip I ever learned was beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

These are some links to other resources!

Grid Draw App:

Pic Collage:

Castle Art’s website, they offer a wide variety of art supplies:

Here is another guide for beginning oil painters: