Oil painting is a great way to represent the world around you, as well as the world of your imagination. If you are fairly new to oil painting or have already begun to achieve some success in this medium, you probably already know that regular practice is crucial to improving how you paint.
Whether your passion leads you to paint still life images, landscapes, portraits, abstract works or any other type of image, the more you learn about oil painting, the better artist you can become. With that in mind, here are some oil painting tips to help you enhance your art skills.
Keep Your Paints Ordered
The last thing you want to do when working on an oil painting is to pause to hunt for the right color. Keep your tubes of oil paint organized. You might arrange them by name or by similarity.
Also, when putting daubs of oil paint on your palette, arrange them in the same order each time. This will help you quickly find just what you need when you are in the middle of working on a painting.
Clothing You Can Ruin
Always maintain at least a few sets of clothing that you don’t mind getting ruined. This way, when inspiration strikes, you don’t have to worry about finding a pair of old jeans or a torn sweatshirt to put on when you start painting in oil.
Avoid Pencil and Charcoal
Despite what you may have heard from teachers or read in books, you will want to avoid making preliminary sketches with pencil or charcoal on your canvas. Pencil and charcoal can make your paint dirty, introducing impurities you never intended to see in the final work of art.
Practice keeping in mind your finished painting. Begin with your background colors, and then block out the larger shapes with broad strokes. Then you can begin filling in the details with more subtle strokes.
Start with Thin Layers and Work Your Way Up
Typically you will use multiple layers to produce your oil painting. It’s a good idea to paint in thinner strokes, using less paint for the initial layers. Then when you start painting over these layers, use progressively thicker strokes and increase the amount of paint you are applying.
By painting in successively thicker amounts, you will ensure that your painting will dry proportionally. If lower layers are thicker than upper layers, the upper layers can dry more quickly, which can cause them to crack.
After you’ve had some experience painting in oils, you will most likely want to become more adventurous with your color mixing. Some colors will serve you well coming straight out of the oil paint tube, but your canvas deserves nicely mixed paints to give you unique colors that accurately represent the image you have in mind.
Remember to dilute your paint slightly with a solvent. You can generally do well by mixing two to three colors along with white. However, mixing three colors without white can tend to give you muddy results. Always rinse out your brush as you switch from color to color and whenever mixing up a new hue.
Look at Your Painting in a Mirror
When you are stuck and can’t seem to get your painting to look like what you envision, a good technique to get you back into the groove is to hold your painting up to a mirror.
Looking at a reversed image of your oil painting can help trick your mind into seeing it as a brand new painting that you aren’t used to viewing. You will be more able to see flaws as well as what is working well in the image, and before you know it, you’ll be back to applying paint to the canvas.
Drying Your Paintings in Sunlight
Even if you are an intensely private person and shy about showing your work to people, don’t dry your paintings in the dark.
Doing so could result in an oily film appearing on the surface and yellowing your work of art. Instead, expose your painting to bright sunlight. You should be able to find a place to dry your paintings while keeping them out of view.
Don’t Think About Commercial Aspects of Your Art
If you are starting to become successful by selling your paintings to private parties, through a gallery or your own website, you may be tempted to start anticipating how much money you stand to make while working on your next painting.
If you focus too much on the financial rewards of your artwork, the quality of your paintings could begin to suffer. Instead, try to focus on the rewards of painting: planning out and selecting a subject, taking as much time as you need to apply just the right colors and brushstrokes. Painting can be its own reward.
It’s nice to be financially compensated, but images of dollar signs could cloud your vision and prevent you from seeing with your mind’s eye the finished painting you seek to create.
Despite how “artistic” it might seem to you to keep a messy studio, you will want to make a habit of cleaning up after finishing your work. Wipe off the caps and necks of all your oil paint tubes, so they don’t get paint on other items. Keep your paint organized so you can find what you’re looking for during your next painting session.
Wipe off your brushes with old newspapers or rags and then thoroughly rinse them with solvent. Then, wipe off excess solvent with more rags or newspapers. Keep your brushes bristles-up when storing them in their jars.
If you plan to paint again soon using the oils on your palette, it’s a good idea to cover it with plastic wrap to keep the daubs of paint from drying out. If it will be a week or more before you are due to paint again, you can put the plastic-wrapped palette in the freezer to keep the oil fresh.
You don’t have to use these oil painting tips in any particular order. Simply try the ones that seem most useful to you at first, and then remember to review this list periodically to see if inspires you as you create future works of art.