Oil Painting Mistakes: How to Cover Them Easily

Oil painters are lucky—the slow drying time of oil paints makes it easier to fix mistakes with oil than with many other art materials.

In addition, because oil paintings generally have varying degrees of thickness and texture throughout the work, mistakes that have been painted over will be far less visible to the naked eye.

Introduced here are four techniques that oil painters commonly use to cover up mistakes on a work. It’s likely that you’ll have to use a combination of them to set things right.

Technique #1: The Scrape

Imagine trying to scrape off an offending area of a watercolor painting with a cloth or knife—doesn’t seem too likely does it? Thankfully for oil painters, a variety of household objects can be used to immediately fix mistakes in the simplest of ways: just get that paint off the canvas.

Old greeting cards, fingernails, credit cards and kitchen knives are all options, but many painters will have a painting knife in their arsenal of painting tools. Use it (or any other tool) to carefully scrape off the mistake. Simple.

Technique #2: Blotting

Scraping usually works best on mistakes that are large and in less detailed places. If you used the wrong blue for a section of your lake, by all means, scrape it off. But if the area is a more intricate detail, you can also try blotting.

Paper will absorb oil paint and is a useful tool for removing paint from a canvas. Just as you’d dab at a red wine stain on a white carpet, carefully blot the mistake on your canvas with a small piece of paper cut to fit. Newspaper works just fine.

art supplies

Technique #3: Sanding and Titanium White

If your paints have already dried a considerable amount, you may have to sand down the mistake instead of scraping. Use fine glass paper and sand until smooth. Be careful that bits of paint don’t get lodged in nearby areas—have a small vacuum cleaner or a damp cloth handy to wipe off the dust.

Once the area is flat, your goal is to try to start again on a flat white canvas. You can do this by painting a few thick layers of titanium white paint to cover the affected area. Then you can try again.

Technique #4: A Rag and Some Turpentine

Turpentine is one of the most common solvents used in oil painting. It is traditionally used to thin paints in order to follow the “fat over lean” rule used in oil painting (each additional layer of paint should have a greater oil content, resulting in a final product which won’t crack).

But since turpentine thins paint, it is sometimes helpful to use a little when trying to wipe off a mistake. Add a little bit to a cloth and see if the paint will wipe off more easily. This works best with wet paint.

In the end, remember that mistakes are bound to happen. Use a combination of the above techniques to cover them up the best you can, but if it’s not perfect, just go with the flow and do your best to integrate the mistake into the painting.


Check out the oil painting video below to find out more...


beginner painting lessons

Award Winning Learn & Master Painting 3 Day SALE !!!
sive $100 OFF - Grab it Now Before It's Too Late! Click here...

pencil portrait mastery course

oil painting techniques