Oil Painting for Beginners – The Essential Supplies

By Nicole Tinkham

Oil Painting for Beginners – The Essential Supplies

Image used under Creative Commons from karindalziel.

Are you thinking about starting your first oil painting? Great! We hope that you do. Do you have all of the necessary supplies? If not, we can help. Although you might have the basics (paint and brushes), you also need to think about buying the following:  solvents, oil, palette knives, etc. With as many options as there are, it’s important to be knowledgeable and have the correct items before beginning. In this post, we’ll discuss everything from paints to canvases to help get you on your way to creating your first masterpiece.

The Paint

The first thing to think about when gathering supplies for an oil painting is the paint. Start out with the basic colors: blue, red, yellow, black, and white. You can always expand your paint collection with a variety of colors once you become more familiar with oil painting. Don’t let those ginormous tubes of oil paint intimidate you! These are an excellent choice when it comes to black and white paint (you will be using these the most). Stick with the smaller tubes for the rest of your colors because they will last much longer. As mentioned in our blog post about paint grades, you will find both artist and student quality oil paint. The difference between the two lies in the pigment. Student grade paints may save you money but have lower pigment content while artist grade contain the highest quality pigments. When working with oil paints, you can combine the two grades by using student grade for the base painting and artist grade for the details.

*For the various oil paint brands Keeton’s carries, visit the art department on the website.


You will also have to think about an oil paint thinner (or solvent) to make the paint more fluid. There are several different solvents you can use such as mineral spirits and turpentine. Turpentine comes with a strong smell so you may want to consider the odorless version, Turpenoid. Some paint thinners can also act as a brush cleaner, making your life a little bit easier. You will also need a container to store solvents. This can be either a metal container or glass jar but DO NOT use paper, plastic or Styrofoam as the solvent will eat right through these materials.


If you have any experience with acrylic paints, you understand the importance of mediums. They have many purposes including speeding up dry time, creating textures, and thinning paint. However, working with acrylics is much different than oil paints (for more information on acrylic mediums, check out our blog post dedicated to GOLDEN mediums). With oil paints you’ll need a medium as well but you’ll be using – you guessed it – oil. There are many different kinds of oil available, linseed oil being the most common. The only drawback to linseed oil is it can produce a yellow hue in paler colors. Poppyseed oil is often used for lighter colors because is dries very pale.


If there’s one thing to spend a little extra money on it would be brushes. It’s important to have quality brushes for oil painting because the paint will tear through cheap brushes. The last thing you want to worry about is continuously purchasing brush after brush. In the long run, you’ll end up saving so spend the extra money in the beginning and have a great brush that will last years to come. If you’re unsure whether or not oil painting is really for you, go ahead and get a less expensive brush. If after a few paintings you love it, it may be time to upgrade to a quality brush. When shopping for a brush, be sure to get one specifically for oil painting (the bristles will be very tough). The art experts at Keeton’s are more than happy to help you find the appropriate brush! For more information about brush care, see our Guide to Brushes blog post.

Palette Knives

While not necessary, palette knives are good to have for mixing paint. Plus, they’re inexpensive so why not? You can also use palette knives to apply paint and create textures.


Just about any palette will work for oil painting. One with a large, flat surface may make mixing colors easier but go with one that you feel comfortable using.


Finally, you will need a primed stretched canvas to paint on. The oil paint will eat through anything that is not primed so this is important! You can purchase your canvas ready to go or you can make your own. It’s probably best to purchase one that’s ready to be painted on when first starting out. With time, you may decide to make your own.

With a good idea of the supplies needed for oil painting, you’re off to a great start. We strive to provide you with as much information as possible so while this blog explained basic supply information, you may want to know more (how to choose a brush or various painting techniques). To learn more, visit our art specialists in the retail store or leave a comment in the box below and we’ll feature it in our next post!

3 thoughts on “Oil Painting for Beginners – The Essential Supplies

  1. Ive never heard of pre-primed canvases before. I always just take a normal canvas and spread a diluted acrylic over it (usually burnt sienna) to prime my oil paintings. Probably a lot cheaper too.🙂

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