Getting started with oil painting can be daunting, not only because it is more labor and clean-up intensive than acrylic painting, but also because it seems that more tools are required. It’s true. You may need a few extra mediums and tools than you might need for acrylic or watercolor painting, but oil painting is worth the extra steps. Many artists attracted to oil painting because oil paint offers what many consider unparalleled color intensity, luminescent tinting power and luscious glossiness.

Sometimes it is difficult to figure out which colors to buy to start a basic set to work from. Primary colors are obviously needed, along with black and white. But what other colors are good palette starters? You may want to buy a couple of extra tubes of certain colors to go along with the basics.

We highly recommend taking an oil painting class or workshop to get yourself started. We offer oil painting classes several times a year at our Rockville, Nashville, Towson, and Kenwood locations. Check out our workshop guides to give yourself that extra push to try a new medium.

Which Colors to Start With (Buy These Paints)

There are slightly different opinions about which colors to start out with for oil painting, but the combinations are quite similar in terms of variety. If you are a beginner, we recommend buying a complete set or picking your own oil paints in 37 ml tubes, in the following colors to start an all-purpose palette:

>> Napthol Red

>> Arylide Yellow Light

>> Phthalo Green

>> Ultramarine Blue

>> Burnt Sienna

>> Titanium White

Another five color palette that works well includes the following colors: Cadmium Yellow Light Hue, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Titanium White and Burnt Umber are good to start with. Your palette may vary depending on your focus: palettes for landscapes will differ from palettes for portraits and so on.

Another general palette that is commonly recommended includes the following colors: Titanium White, Ivory Black, Cadmium Red, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Blue, Cadmium Yellow Light and Cadmium Yellow.

You should get a more specific recommendation from a store employee or art instructor so that you can chose the colors that best suit your subject, but you can’t go wrong with the basic palettes above if you are just starting out. You will also need several other tools and mediums to get started with oil painting.

Other Mediums and Tools Needed

>> Gamsol or mineral spirits

>> Linseed oil

>> 3 glass jars with lids

>> A palette knife

>> A palette

>> 4 or 5 bristle brushes, 1/4  inch to 3/4 inch in size

>> Rags and paper towels

>> Canvases or canvas panels to paint on!

>> Gesso to prepare your canvas (if it isn’t already gessoed)

How to Care for Your Oil Brushes in 4 Steps

Brush care for oil brushes is different from acrylics and watercolors. It requires more steps and caustic chemicals. Unless you are using water soluble oil paints, you will need to follow these steps to clean your brushes:

(1.) First, wipe off any paint clumps from your brush with a paper towel.

(2.) Swish your brushes in a jar of solvent to remove more color from the bristles. Tap off any excess solvent into the jar. Never leave a brush standing in solvent! It will damage the bristles.

(3.) Using a small amount of liquid soap, gently lather and rinse the brushes in water and allow to air dry completely before using again.

(4.) Always store your brushes upright or rolled in a towel/canvas sleeve to maintain bristle quality!