What You Need to Paint With Oil

Painting with oil requires a few different pieces of equipment. There are loads of different options out there so it can be a bit overwhelming trying to determine what you’ll need. This article will look at the basic supplies a beginner will need to successfully paint with oils. The supplies mentioned can be found in any good art store, or online.


Obviously you’ll need some paints, but which make and which colours do you go for? Of all the different brands available, Windsor & Newton is a very good option for beginners – it’s quite cheap and it’s of a very good quality. As for colours, a good way of keeping the cost down is by buying primary colours and mixing them. You’d need a cool and warm version of red, blue and yellow, along with a white. The following colours are recommended for a basic palette:

  • Titanium White (make sure to get plenty of this)
  • Cadmium Red
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Pthalo Blue
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Yellow Ochre

Add more colours to your palette once you’ve experimented with mixing different colours. Some extra colours you could add include:

  • Raw Sienna
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Raw Umber
  • Burnt Umber
  • Cadmium Green
  • Viridian
  • Ivory Black

This list is by no means exhaustive and is just a guide. By all means choose colours you think would suit your painting.


Many artists don’t even use a traditional palette and just use any old surface! For oil painting you should probably try a wooden or glass palette to start off with. As long as it’s big enough to hold your colours and leaves enough room for mixing, it should sit you just fine.

Canvas and easel

A perfect beginner’s canvas is a primed, pre-stretched canvas. This is simply a canvas that has been pre-stretched and come mounted on a frame. If a canvas hasn’t been primed and oil paint is applied, the oil will leave dull patches on the painting. In other words, priming prevents the canvas from absorbing too much of the paint. It also makes the surface of the canvas a lot smoother, which allows paintbrushes to flow across the surface more easily. Easels can be extremely expensive, but a cheaper one will do just fine for beginners. A display easel or a French easel will suit beginners; they are relatively cheap and are free-standing.

Linseed oil

Many oil painters use linseed oil as a medium to help colours mix better. All you have to do is have a few tablespoons of linseed oil ready to dip your brush in. Then just mix it in with the colours. As well as enabling colours to mix more easily, linseed oil makes colours glossier and more transparent, so it’s useful to have.


Choosing paintbrushes is probably the most overwhelming task because the number of paint brushes available is ridiculously high. Luckily you won’t need too many painting brushes if you’re just starting out. Get at least three sable brushes (one small, one medium and one large) and at least three bristle brushes (again, one small, one medium and one large). It’s important that you’re comfortable with the paintbrushes you’re using so set aside a bit more money to invest in good brushes. As well as paintbrushes you should also have a palette knife for mixing colours on your palette and a painting knife, which can be used to apply paint to the canvas. You’ll also need a few jars and you’ll have to have easy access to water so you can clean your brushes easily.


Unfortunately, you can’t use water to clean up oil paint like you can with acrylics and watercolours. Instead you should use turpentine, which acts as a solvent and thins oil-based paints. It can be used to clean oil paints off brushes, palettes and skin. You should be careful when using turpentine because it can cause a number of problems if inhaled and it can be a fire hazard. For these reasons you should always keep the window open and make sure the room you’re painting in is well ventilated. Many artists use mineral spirits instead of turpentine because they don’t smell.

Other painting supplies

Some other painting supplies you’ll need for painting with oils include newspapers, clothes you don’t mind getting messy and a charcoal pencil. You’ll need some newspaper, or even paper towels, to clean your brushes. Remember to clean them every time you switch colours or start on a new area of the painting. Wear some clothes you don’t mind getting messy because chances are you’ll get quite a bit of paint on them. You could just wear an apron, but it’s better to just wear spare clothes. Finally, use a charcoal pencil to roughly sketch out your painting before you start applying paint to it.