I’ve been drawing and painting for most of my life and love sharing tutorials and tips to help anyone who wants to learn about art.
In this article, I will take you through the entire process of oil painting starting with a prepared canvas all the way to a finished painting.
Using two of my paintings, you will see a series of photos showing the progression of each painting as they were completed.
Oil Painting Supplies
To get started, you’ll need your canvas, something to cover your work area, brushes, Refined Linseed Oil or Liquin, oil paints, Permalba, a palette and palette liner, Turpenoid and container, one or two small plastic cups or containers and some paper towels. If you have a painting smock or an old apron, you’ll want to wear that to protect your clothing.
If you’re working with a small canvas, you don’t need too much paint. Squeeze just a tiny dab of each color you need for the area you’re working on onto your palette liner. If you need more, you can add it later.
Put a small amount of your Liquin or Refined Linseed Oil into your small plastic cup or container to keep nearby. Remember, oil paints can’t be thinned with water, so you’ll need to dip your paint brush into either your Liquin or Refined Linseed Oil to help make the paints flow better across the canvas. Just use a little or you’ll over-thin your paints and end up with a translucent effect.
Painting 1: Sunflower
In the sunflower painting pictured below, I began by outlining the petals following my pencil sketch on the canvas.
Once the petals are outlined, I filled them in with a few different shades of yellow and gold. Using multiple shades of one color gives the flower a more realistic look.
You can deepen a color by mixing it with a slightly darker shade. (In this case, adding a deep gold or orange to my medium yellow) To lighten a color, mix it with one shade lighter or add white paint (or white Permalba) until you achieve the color you desire.
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Once the flower petals were finished, I painted the brown center of the sunflower using a brown shade mixed with a little black. Because the canvas I’m using has staple-free sides, I extended the design around the sides for a 3-D effect. This is optional, but I think it gives the painting a unique look.
Oil paints are very slow to dry, so be careful when painting different sections of the painting next to each other. If you have a problem smearing one color into another, you can always set the painting aside to dry before moving on to another section.
Depending on what type of medium you are using and how thickly you apply the paint, it can take a day, or sometimes even several days before the paint dries enough that it won’t smear. Liquin tends to dry much faster than Refined Linseed Oil.
Also, be careful when handling the painting to avoid smudging the wet paint.
Once the flower was finished, I used a very fine-tipped brush to begin filling in the blue sky in the background.
At this point, I set the painting aside for a couple days before doing the last touches.
Painting 2: Lighthouse by the Sea
For the lighthouse painting below, I started by filling in the sky with a medium blue shade.
When painting a scenic painting such as this, I usually start with the background first (sky, water), and then work on the foreground (rocks and then lighthouse).
Once I finished a layer of solid blue in the sky, I added a few streaks of a subtle pink before continuing on to the water line on the horizon.
To give the water a realistic look, I mixed several shades of lighter and darker blue to achieve the look of waves.
Once most of the water was finished, I moved on to the land section of the painting, using various shades of brown for the rocks and sand.
For shading effects and blending colors, I usually use a rounded edge brush.
When the rocks and sand where finished, I painted the lighthouse with a fine tip paintbrush and added some greenery around it.
Don’t worry about getting every little detail in at first. Once you have the basic foundation of the painting done, you can set it aside to dry and then come back to it to add more touches of color, shading and fine details.
If you make a mistake or use the wrong color, take a small piece of paper towel and carefully wipe away the section you don’t like so you can paint over it.
After this point, I set the painting aside to dry for a few days before I went back to add the final touches. To make a painting more dimensional, add a few highlights and shadows with lighter and darker shades.
When you’re finished with a painting session, you’ll need to clean your brushes so the paint doesn’t harden and ruin them. You can use a paper towel to carefully remove as much paint as you can from the brush, then soak them in Turpenoid to dissolve more paint.
I alternate between a swish in Turpenoid and gently wiping the brush on a paper towel several times to remove as much paint as possible.
When most of the paint is gone, you can use lukewarm water and some gentle liquid hand soap or dish detergent such as Dawn to clean the brush more thoroughly. Be gentle with the bristles so the edges don't get frayed. When the water runs clear, set the brush aside someplace to dry.
Sign and Allow to Dry
When you’re finished with your painting, don’t forget to sign it in oil paint using a fine-tipped brush.
Leave it someplace safe; away from kids, pets, and bright sunlight until it’s completely dry. It can several days to over a week depending on how thick of paint and the type of medium you used.
More Oil Painting Tutorials
- A Beginner's Guide to Oil Painting Supplies
- Beginner's Guide to Oil Painting: Canvas Preparation and Sketch Transference
© 2012 carolynkaye
Barbara Pantos on December 29, 2019:
Off to get my supplies...you make it look so easy
Thank You on September 17, 2019:
carolynkaye (author) from USA on December 04, 2018:
Thank you, Sri. I'm glad you found it helpful. I appreciate your comments :)
Sri on December 04, 2018:
Very helpful article, especially with multiple illustrations at every stage.
carolynkaye (author) from USA on April 23, 2018:
You're welcome, Mary. Thanks so much for your comments :)
Mary on April 23, 2018:
This is the most thorough and most helpful article I’ve ever reAd. It has really cleared up a lot of the confusion I’ve Had about oil painting. Thank you so much!
carolynkaye (author) from USA on January 10, 2018:
You're welcome, Ruby! Enjoy your painting and thanks so much for your comments :)
Ruby on January 09, 2018:
Thank you so much Carolyn. Didn't know much about oil painting. Wanted to start but was hesitant. After reading your articles I've decided to go for it. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.
Millie on November 28, 2017:
Thank you so much carolyn for sharing. So helpful for all of us who are beginners. Would it be too much to ask if you could explain how to make a ballerina tutu? I've been struggling to make mine to look like natural fabric. Thank yo again!!
carolynkaye (author) from USA on October 25, 2017:
I'm so glad you've found it helpful, subhash! Thanks so much for your comments :)
subhash sg on October 24, 2017:
I learnt lot of things from this on how to begin oil painting.Its really very useful for beginners like me. Thanks a lot.
carolynkaye (author) from USA on September 18, 2017:
You're welcome, John. Thanks for your comments!
John WF on September 17, 2017:
Liked your presentation. Well done
TXS & my regards
carolynkaye (author) from USA on September 05, 2017:
Hi Ann, I'm glad you've found it helpful. Thanks so much for your comments :)
Ann Garner on September 05, 2017:
Very helpful information. Thanks AG
carolynkaye (author) from USA on April 13, 2017:
You're welcome, Jeanne. I'm so glad you found and helpful and hope you enjoy your class :) -Carolyn
Jeanne on April 12, 2017:
I found this very informative. Thank you so much for putting this up. I am looking forward to my first class.
carolynkaye (author) from USA on February 12, 2017:
@Kay - What a great gift to you from your Grandson. I hope you enjoy your first painting! Thanks for your comments :)
@Maureen - You're welcome. I'm sure you'll have fun trying oils. It's a different experience than water colors, but some of the painting basics are similar. Thanks for visiting :)
Maureen on February 10, 2017:
I found these articles very interesting and useful to me as a very new artist in oils. Previously Chinese water colours, very differently. Thank you so much cheers Maureen
Kay on January 29, 2017:
Can't wait to get started. My grandson bought me oils and a beautiful set of brushes for Christmas and I've never used oils before. So excited!
carolynkaye (author) from USA on March 28, 2016:
Merci pour votre commentaire, Pierroz.
carolynkaye (author) from USA on January 20, 2016:
Anna, Thank so much for your comments. I'm glad you've found it helpful and good luck with your painting :)
Anna on January 19, 2016:
Thanks so much, my grandmother loves to paint and she gave me oil paints years ago for me to paint on my own. I have yet to pick them up but it's a hobby I'm finally going to make time for. I imagine I'll need most if not all new paints as well as everything else so I am very grateful for this post. I had no idea so much went into oil painting.
Thank you again, very much!
carolynkaye (author) from USA on October 09, 2015:
Thank you, lekha! I'm glad you liked them :)
lekha on October 09, 2015:
Read all three articles, was very useful for beginners like me.. thanks a lot.