25 oil painting tips


Often through guides it’s easy to lose some important pieces of information, that’s why I’ve decided to pile up some relevant concepts in the shape of a list that will help you improve your painting skills and spare some time and material!

  1. While you paint, Protect your skin from toxic substances using gloves or with creams. Indeed, solvents like turpentine are toxic, so use some precaution and never let them getting in touch with your skin.
  2. Use a metal/plastic/glass palette instead of a wooden one, because they are easy to clean and don’t need much maintenance. Wooden palettes need to be regulrarly treated. Moreover, they aren’t easy to clean and they can’t be cleaned at 100% because wood adsorb some painting.
  3. Before starting to paint prepare your palette. Put the colors on the sides of the palette and use the space in the  center to mix them.
  4. Don’t throw away the paint in excess: it can be re-utilized. Use a palette knife and put it e.g on a plate if you are planning to paint again in the near future or make a bag with a plastic wrap if you need to store it for a longer period (be sure to remove the air inside of the bag or the paint will dry).
  5. Use a stick to be more accurate. Simply lean the stick on the upper side of the canvas and use it as a support for your wrist.
  6. Don’t leave your brushes immersed in solvents for too much time. Solvents like turpentine can dissolve the glue that hold the bristles causing a loss of some bristles and thus ruining the brush.
  7. Don’t let the paint dry on your brushes. This tip gathers from a personal experience. Taking off dried painting from brushes is a very nerve-wraking process, moreover the brushes will be permanently spoiled.
  8. Don’t mix the colors at random. If you mix colors following only your instinct, you will probably end up with a rotten green, this happens beacuse you have (accidentally) mixed more  complementary colors together. If you want to have some pieces of advice on how to mix the color click here!
  9. If you have to mix a consistent quantity of color use a palette knife instead of a brush.
  10. Hold the brush firmly to be more accurate.
  11. Hold the brush near the ferrule to be more accurate, hold it near the end of the handle when you want “randomness”.
  12. To realize the preparatory sketch use charcoal instead of a pencil. In case of mistake charcoal can be erased with a towel, whereas the pencil is arduous to be erased. Moreover, sketches realized with charcoal doesn’t show up when the painting is finished, whereas pencil lines can be seen.
  13. With a towel remove most of the charcoal before painting: the charcoal in excess may mix with the oil paint, making the colors less brilliant.
  14. Before cleaning the brushes with a solvent, e.g when you change color, take off the majority of the paint with a towel. By following this process every time you have to clean a brush you will spare a lot of turpentine.
  15. If you make a mistake while painting put some turpentine on a towel to erase it or scratch it away with a palette knife.
  16. Make your paintings dry in a bright space, to avoid them to become yellowish.
  17. Never leave your solvents open. Solvents like turpentine are toxic and very volatile, so it’s better not to inhale them.
  18. Make sure that when you paint the air can circle (for the same reason of the tip 17, -it’s better not to inhale some solvents- ).
  19. Always check for  the “conforms to ASTM D-4236” writing. Although nowadays very few pigments are dangerous for the health, some of them can still be found on the market. This writing indicates that the pigment is not toxic.
  20. Use aerial prospective to give more depth. Because of the gases in the atmosphere, further subjects appear of a pale color.

    To make a color more pale you have to lower its intensity; to do so you can mix it with light grey. For more information about the intensity of a color click here!
    When you paint a landscape keep in mind to use the aerial perspective.
  21. In order to achieve more depth, paint the nearer subjects with hot colors and the further subjects with cold colors. As I’ve said in this post How to mix the color, we perceive hot colors (like red) as nearer, whereas cold colors (like blue) seem to be further.
  22. You can use alternatives to black and white to darken or more lighten a color. These alternatives consist in darker/lighter color located near the one you want to darken/lighten on the color wheel. The two exceptions consists in the yellow which can be made more light only by using white; and the darkest blue, which needs black to be darkened.
  23. When you have finished a painting observe it from at least one or two meters of distance. This let you see the artwork as a whole.
  24. Turpentine can be recycled. Put your “used” turpentine in a jar and wait for the impurities to lay down on the bottom, then pour the turpentine (which will be transparent) in another jar. This recycled turpentine can be reused, e.g to clean your brushes.
  25. In order to center the attention on one subject of your painting you can:
    1. Use a color which is in contrast with all the rest. Here is an example from the “red stairway” from Ben Shahn.
    2. Put it in the central part of the painting.
    3. Isolate it from the composition. Observe the image below: the square on the right achieve more relevance.
    4. Use a color whose value is very different with the rest of the painting.

      On the image above the attention is centered on the square on the center, because of the big difference of its value with the rest of the composition

If you have found this list helpful, if you have any question or if you want to add a relevant tip to from your experience to this list, just leave a comment and I will answer as soon as I can!



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