An introduction to oil painting

An introduction to oil painting

Oil painting can seem daunting at first, but really, it’s such a simple process. You only need a few materials to begin and as you progress, you can add more tools to your repertoire.

What do I need to get started?

You only need a surface (canvas or panel), brushes, paint rags to wipe off your brushes, a palette, palette knife, a cup for solvent, solvent (such as low odor Sansodor) and oil paint.

An introduction to oil painting

What is oil paint?

There are three main categories of oil paints: traditional oils, alkyd oils and water-mixable oils. These are all composed of pigment and binder. The binder encapsulates and protects the pigment, while it also acts as an adhesive by attaching neighbouring particles to each other.

What ranges do Winsor & Newton have available?

We currently have 4 ranges of oil paint to suit a variety of different practices.

Winsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Colour range is a traditional oil paint, it provides the widest choice of colours with the highest pigment strength, ensuring the cleanest, brightest colours and best mixes.

The Winton Oil Colour range is also a traditional oil, but it is formulated to offer dependable quality at an accessible price; it is ideal for first time artists who want to learn the fundamentals of oil painting and perfect for any artist needing to cover a large area or working on an underpainting.

Griffin Alkyd Fast Drying Oil Colour is also made of pigment in oil, but the oil is polymerised through a chemical reaction and the result is a resin-like product that, when mixed with a suitable solvent, takes on many of the properties of traditional oil but has a much faster drying time. It is helpful for underpainting and can be mixed with traditional oils to accelerate drying as well.

Artisan Water Mixable Oil Colour is a range of oil colours which can be cleaned up with water instead of solvents, whilst providing all the handling properties of conventional oil colour. The depth of colour, lightfastness, performance and drying times of Artisan allow artists to use this range for all oil colour techniques. It’s also suited to artists working in shared spaces or those who are sensitive to chemicals.

You can browse all our ranges here.

Using mediums

Using mediums

Once you decide on the oil you want to use, a solvent is usually the first tool that artists reach for; it thins the paint to make it more workable and will not prolong drying time. Whilst Artisan has its own range of solvents and mediums uniquely suited to the water mixable formula, Sansodor is a good choice for traditional oils and alkyds as it performs like turpentine but has a low odour and is the least hazardous of the solvents. It is recommended by leading art schools and is often the only solvent permitted in their studios.

For more information on using mediums watch our Masterclass on exploring oil mediums here.

Choosing brushes

Choosing brushes

Artisan has a special range but also works well with other brushes. If you want to make a mark with stiffer bristles that leave a texture, choose a Hog Brush; for a smoother mark, synthetic Monarch brushes are perfect.

Learn how to clean your brushes properly and make them last here.

Choosing a canvas

Canvas is the choice for most artists, and it is easy to find primed stretched canvases such as our Cotton Traditional, but wooden panels are also great. A palette, either wooden or Tear-Off Palettes, a palette knife for mixing and you are ready to go!

For more inspiration on oil painting such as artist interviews, check out our latest articles here.