25 Oil Painting Tips that You Can’t Live Without

By Nicole Tinkham

We’re always looking for EASIER (as well as faster, cleaner, cooler, smarter, etc.) ways of accomplishing just about any type of task. No matter what the subject, we’re compelled to read anything that has to do with tips and tricks. There are many different art techniques we could talk about but we often come across several questions when it comes to oil painting. With that being said, we give you a collection of our favorite oil painting tips and tricks brought to you by real artists. This is some good stuff right here. Read on to see what artists have to say about stuck paint caps, how to prevent headaches when working with oil paint, the best way to clean a brush, and why you’ll fall in love with wringers.

1. To clean away a layer of oil paint, use alcohol (a powerful solvent).

2. Examine your work in a mirror. This will give you a different perspective which will help you check your accuracy.

3. If your paint dries on the palette with a ton of wrinkles, too much oil (or medium) has been added.

4. Create a realistic sky by using a watercolor goat hair mop brush. This will eliminate brush strokes for a very real looking sky.

5. DIY oil palette: Get yourself an inexpensive picture frame with glass (you may even have a spare lying around). The frame prevents the paint from sliding off the edge of the glass.

6. When dried in the dark, a thin film of oil can rise to the surface of the painting, causing yellowing.

7. Use a large plastic storage container to transport wet oil paintings to and from class.

8. A purifier can help reduce headaches when working with oil paints.

9. Using 10% Liquin will get more out of your paint and help it dry quicker.

10. Linseed oil is to be used for an underpainting or the bottom layers of an oil painting.

11. Did you know that certain colors dry quicker? These include paint with pigments containing lead, cobalt, and manganese which can be mixed with other colors to accelerate drying time in them as well. These colors are ideal for under layers.

12. You can put your whole palette of oil paint in the freezer to keep paint wet so they can be used for a long time.

13. We love wringers! Use them to get every last drop out of your paint tube.

14. Beginner tip: Lay out your palette the same way every time you paint so you know exactly where each color is. With time, you’ll be able to access colors quickly and instinctively.

15. Are you a messy painter? Baby wipes are perfect for cleaning oil paint off your hands and art tools.

16. Varnish your oil painting after 6 months to protect it.

17. Ever get the cap stuck on your paint tube? Next time, place a small square of saran wrap over the top before screwing the lid on. This way paint won’t dry on the inside of the cap.

18. To remove a tricky cap, place the palm of a latex glove over the cap with a paint rag on top. Twist and (hopefully) the cap comes off easily.

19. Also, SAVE your good caps from empty tubes of paint just in case you come across one that’s cracked or damaged.

20. Paint storage & organization – Use binder clips to hang paint tubes.

21. Use Murphy Oil Soap to clean brushes with dried paint left on them. Also works on clothes!

22. Viva paper towels are highly recommended by artists. Make sure to have them on hand before beginning a painting.

23. Ivory Black dries slower than other oil paint and should not be used for an underpainting.

24. Test out your bottle of mineral or white spirits by dropping a small amount on a piece of paper and letting it evaporate. If it doesn’t leave any residue or stain, it’s fine to use.

25. Experiment with different brush sizes to define different areas of the painting.

BONUS! Here’s what our Facebook friends had to say.

Mara: “Condition your oil brushes with Baby Oil, which also helps get rid of stubborn paint, but remember to rinse the brush in thinner before you re-use as it may “bloom” on your canvas otherwise.

Stacie: “Use very little, it goes along way!

Every artist has their secrets and we’re excited to hear yours! Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page with your hottest oil painting tip and let us know which of the tips in this blog were helpful.

7 thoughts on “25 Oil Painting Tips that You Can’t Live Without

  1. Honestly, I never knew that some colors dried faster, that is definitely something I need to look into. I love to paint and these tips really help me out, hopefully enough to get me into a art career. I had a friend that painted with an audience and I might share these tips with him.

  2. There is one more way to check accuracy of your work is to click a picture of your work , just in case you can’t find a mirror at the moment. We all have cell phones with camera😃

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