Oil painting supplies for beginners- 7 things you must ABSOLUTELY have to start painting

If you are interested in painting with oil, but you don’t know what to do you are in the right place. I know that getting in touch for the first time with this kind of art may be confusing because for a single accessory there are hundreds of possible options. Take the brush as an example: there are 20 different shapes, and more than 15 different types of bristles: 20×15= 300 different brushes (and I have left out the brand and the size) but don’t worry, things aren’t as bad as they seem: you don’t need to buy many supplies to start realizing amazing artwork. Follow this guide for the oil painting supplies for beginners and you will choose the right ones!


Brushes are a fundamental tool for all painters; beginners and experts: they must be in the oil painting supplies for beginners. The bushes are composed by three parts: handle, ferrule and bristles. Everyone knows that the aim of the brushes is to transport and spread paint on a surface, maybe not everyone knows that there are many types of brush. Brushes are classified by:

  • Material
  • Shape
  • Size

Choosing a brush of the right material is fundamental for oil painting. Indeed, not all the types of bristles are suitable for this kind of painting: some bristles are too soft, others are made of too low quality materials. On the market there is plenty of types of bristles and it’s important to choose the right ones.

Low, medium and high quality brushes

Low quality brushes get spoiled quickly, leaves bristles on the canvas, and spread the colour erratically. So, although they may seem a bargain, is better to stay away from them. If you are a beginner should avoid also another type of brushes: the high-quality brushes, why?

Beginners don’t need to have the best supplies on the market, firstly because they expensive, secondly because bristles like sable hair bristles are more delicate and harder to clean and thirdly because very good results can be obtained also with medium-quality brushes.

Hog bristles also called china bristles are perfect for beginners: they are resistant, medium-quality and they have a good price/quality ratio. If you don’t want to use animal bristles you can opt for a synthetic alternative.

Shapes, which one to choose?

Round, flat, bright mop, rigger are only some examples of shape indeed, there are more than 20 different shapes and each as a different aim.

Do I need to have 20 brushes, each of them with a different shape to start painting? Fortunately you don’t.

You have to buy only those 2 or 3 kinds of shapes that allow you to paint “everything”. Different shapes make different lines and you can find the one that suits you the best. Moreover, you’ll find out that some subjects are easier to paint with a brush of a certain shape.

These are the 4 most used shapes:

  • Flat
  • Round
  • Filbert
  • Bright

The size

The last characteristic of a brush is the size. Having brushes of different sizes makes the realization of an artwork easier, Here is an example:

Imagine that you have to paint a big area of a canvas and that you have to make some details that must be very thin. With a big brush filling the area with paint will take little time, whereas painting thin details will be very difficult. With a small brush painting the details will be easy, but the area will require a lot of time to be filled with paint. So in this situation the best would be having both a small and a big brush .

Of course a beginner doesn’t have to purchase every size of a brush, it’s enough to have got the necessary to paint everything without too many problems, having one small-sized brush, one medium-sized brush and one large-sized brush is a good solution.


2. Colors

Of course it’s impossible to paint without colors. Which ones should I choose to start painting? Also in this case It’s not needed to buy every color on the market. The more colors you have the more they are difficult to use: it may seem a paradox but using too many colours while painting often results in a spoiled artwork. Moreover, you can obtain every tint simply by mixing 2-3 colors.

These are the fundamentals colors you should have:

  1. Cadmium yellow light (hue)
  2. Cadmium red light (hue)
  3. Ultramarine blue
  4. Titanium white
  5. Ivory Black

If you’d like to use a more completed set of colors you can buy some variants of the primary tints in order to have both a colder and a hotter version of the same color:

  1. Cadmium red deep hue
  2. Cadmium yellow deep hue
  3. Cobalt blue hue

If you want to know how to use the colors look at this post


3. Solvents and oils

As I have already said in this post: oil painting mediums explained in most cases you won’t use the colors as they come off the tube, they have to be mixed with solvents and oils. So they can’t be missing in the list of the Oil painting supplies for beginners. At the beginning you’ll need only turpentine and oil to paint, further you can buy also resins and varnishes.


The turpentine is used both to thin colors and to clean the brushes. On the market there are many types of turpentine, but you need to use a turpentine with is suitable for oil painting. You can find it in a specialized shop or online. The wrong turpentine may spoil the brushes.

Pay attention!!! The turpentine is toxic so wear gloves and protect your skin with creams before using it, moreover it’s volatile so use it in aerated places.


You’ll need not only turpentine but also oil. Unlike turpentine oil is less volatile and it dries more slowly.

On the market there are many types of oils, which one to choose?

Personally I use linseed oil, but poppy oil, safflower oil and walnut oil can be good alternatives.Linseed oil dries faster than the others but through time it tends to yellow the lighter tints. There are many types of linseed oil: stand linseed oil, cold pressed linseed oil, refined linseed oil, etc…

Concerning linseed oil if you don’t want to spend too much you should opt for refined linseed oil, whereas you’d like to use a high-quality oil you should choose the cold-pressed linseed oil.


4. Palette

For artist the word palette has two meanings. The first one indicates a range of colors used to realize a painting, whereas the second one singles out a flat surfaced on which the painter mixes the colors. In this section I’m going to deal with the second meaning of palette. The shape of the palette isn’t important as long as it as the oil in which you can put your thumb. When choosing a palette you have to pay attention to the size and the material. The palette should be big enough to allow you to mix your colors without problems.

When you think about palette you imagine a wooden palette like this right?

I’m sorry to tell you that the wooden palette isn’t a good product: ti has to be treated or it can’t be used because wood adsorb the liquids and it’s harder to clean when compared to others materials, like glass. If you want to use a wooden palette you are free to do so but you’ll have problems that can be easily avoided by using a palette made of other materials.

I suggest you to buy a palette made of an impervious material like glass or at least metal.

On the market you can also find some “disposable” palettes. These palettes are composed of treated sheets. Instead of wash them you detach the sheet and throw it in the bin.


5. Support

It may seem banal but to paint you need something to spread the color on. There are mainly four options:

  1. Canvas: composed of a cloth (usually cotton) which has been stretched around a wooden frame.
  2. Canvas panel: a cloth glued on a cardboard
  3. Canvas pads: “sheets” made of cotton
  4. Oil painting papers: Sheets that are treated for oil painting

The canvas panels are rigid so they can be mounted on an easel, whereas canvas pads and oil painting papers need a rigid support. These three surfaces have an advantage compared to the traditional canvas: the price. They are cheaper so if you want to spare money you should use one of these three supports, possibly the canvas panel because it’s rigid and last longer through time. However, they are also of inferior quality than canvas and they are

usually used to do sketches, to make experiments or practice. They aren’t used for artworks that must last through time.

Last but not least we have the canvas. On the market there are canvases for all the tastes: small, medium, big, giant…of cotton, of linen of polyester…with a subtle or a big weave…low- or high-quality…universals, pre-primed, unprimed etc…

Which canvas should a beginner choose?
You should buy pre-primed or universals canvases because they are ready to be used. If you buy a raw canvas you have to treat it with an acrylic gesso before using it and in my opinion for a beginner this process is only a waste of time. I suggest you to buy canvases of small sizes because they are easier to deal with.
The canvas is sold with 8 wooden wedges. Don’t throw them: they have to be inserted in some dedicated holes in the frame. Through time the canvas become flaccid and to stretch it’s enough to put pressure on the wedges.


6. Easel

When you choose an easel make sure that it has the following characteristics:

  • It has to be as stable as possible or while you paint it can move.
  • It can be adapted to the support sizes.
  • It must hold the support firmly.

If an easel dons’t satisfy these criteria stay away from it, even if it’s cheap. If you have enough space you can choose a floor easel, otherwise you should choose a tabletop easel. If you are interested in en-plain-air (outdoor) painting you can opt for a french easel: it can be bent and it has got a box where you can put your supplies.

If you want to know more about easels don’t miss this Post


7. Palette knife

the palette knife is used to mix the colors, to transport the from a surface to another one (for example to add paint on the canvas).

The palette knife must be made of metal, not plastic. The metal palette knife is easy to clean and lasts through time, while the plastic one breaks right away. You should choose a palette knife with the bend neck because it prevents the knuckles to touch the surface you are working on (for example the canvas).


Here my guide ends. I hope it has helped you to get in touch with the world of oil colors. I have a last tip: to avoid wasting money I suggest you to decide on a budget before purchasing any supply.

If you have any question or critic please leave a comment and I’ll try to answer as soon as possible 🙂









Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *