5 Oil Painting Tips for Beginners

1. A Good Workspace

One of the most important tips for beginner oil painters is to make sure your workplace is appropriate. When first starting, it may be tempting to just set up shop anywhere that’s convenient.

If you live in a small apartment, you may not have much choice, but you absolutely have to make sure where you work is very well ventilated.

If you’re using turpentine, you must be sure you’re not being overexposed to the fumes, which in high concentration can be deadly. The paints you use can also be toxic, and sitting in a room full of toxic fumes will make you ill. Don’t do it.

2. Keep Colors Organized

Getting the hang of mixing paints takes a while. What will be helpful for you at first is to keep a chart of sample colors you’ve mixed with a note about the exact proportions of which paints you used to make them.

When first starting, this chart will be immensely helpful. Eventually with enough practice you’ll be able to intuit mixing paints better on your own, but a chart will ease the initial frustrations and allow you to worry more about the act of painting instead of the stress of getting your colors just the way you want them.

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3. Be Versatile

You may have a particular style of painting that you like the most, but when beginning, you should try your hand at absolutely every style there is. Don’t be afraid to dabble and copy other works of art you admire. Try copying the masters: Monet, Van Gogh, Rembrant. You probably won’t have your own personal style at first, but that’s nothing to rush.

Your style is something that will take a while to develop, and the best way to do it is to experiment with everything you possibly can. Then you’ll better know what you like, don’t like, and what gets your creative juices flowing.

4. Fat Over Lean

If you want your paintings to last, always remember to follow the fat over lean rule. This rule states that paints with higher oil content (“fat” paints) should always be painted after (over) paints of lower oil content (“lean” paints). Oil paints dry at different rates, and as a general rule, paints with a higher oil content take longer to dry.

If you have a wet layer of paint under a dry later of paint, eventually your painting will crack and be perpetually damaged. Unless you want a cracked painting for some kind of artistic effect, never, ever forget to follow fat over lean.

5. Be Patient

This last rule is perhaps the most important. Remember to be patient. Be patient when waiting for paint to dry. Be patient when trying to figure out your personal style. Be patient when mixing paints, choosing a scene, and finding inspiration.

Though painting may come completely naturally to some, for most of us it is a learned skill that requires a lot of practice and—you guessed it—patience and get good oil painting instructions. Just keep at it and remember to be easy on yourself.

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