Getting Started Oil Painting


What you need

Paints ($25)

It is good to start with only a few primary colors bc it forces you to learn to mix your colors from the primaries and white.

  1. Titanium White (big tube)
  2. Napthol Red (small tube)
  3. Ultramarine Blue (small tube)
  4. Burnt Umber (small tube)
  5. Cadmium Yellow Pale/Light (small tube)
  1. Yellow Ocher (for skin)
  2. Cadmium Red (for skin, blush)
  3. Raw Umber (for shadows)
  4. Burnt Sienna (for imprimatura)
  5. Cobalt Blue (for skys)

Palette ($10)

Start off buying disposable palette paper. I recommend a toned palette paper that is grey/blue. Do not buy the smallest size or you’ll quickly feel constrained on your palette.

Supports ($15)

“Supports” are what you paint on. Traditionally you paint on stretched and primed canvas. You can use canvas or canvas board if you like, but I recommend to start off with toned canvas paper made to support oils.

Brushes ($100)

You need brushes too! Get all natural bristle brushes (no synthetics—they don’t hold enough paint). Do not go cheap on brushes, get at least the medium-range priced brushes. Get the top priced if you have the budget. The more expensive the brush, the longer it will last and the better it will work for you from day one. You’ll want two of each, one for dark colors, and one for light colors.

  1. 2x Filbert or Flat 8 (workhorse brushes for almost everything)
  2. 2x Filbert or Flat 4 (Another workhorse brush but a little smaller for smaller paintings or details)
  3. 2x Round 1 (for small details)
  4. Flat 12 (big flat brush for doing backgrounds quickly)
  5. Palette Knife—not technically a brush but you need it to mix your paint and sometimes to put it on or take it off the canvas. Get a long-ish one with rounded edges.

Medium ($10)

Oil paints are pretty thick and saturated coming straight out of the tube, so usually painters mix some “medium” into their paints to thin them out and achieve other effects.

Clean Up ($15)

For cleaning your brushes you’ll need a paint thinner. I like Gamsol—a non-toxic alternative to turpentine. You still need good ventilation if you have this open.

Easel (optional)

You can buy an easel if you want but it is not necessary to start. I like the french portable easel because then you can use it in a studio or outdoors. You can also get an H-frame easel on Amazon for $200.

Lighting (optional)

You will want to paint in as close to full daylight light as possible. Once you start setting up your studio you’ll want to get some powerful (5000k) lights and hang them. Check out Draw Mix Paint’s video on setting up a studio. I got 4 florescent tubes for $100 and attached 3 of them to my ~15ft ceiling and it works great.

Get Started

I recommend’s videos for getting started and continuing painting lessons.

Just painted this lemon using basically the setup recommended here.



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Educator, Founder, Engineer. Interested in Evidence Based Education and Solving BIG Problems.