I’ve tried acrylic painting extensively, but have always had a preference for oil painting. I have listed in this post oil painting tips and basic techniques for beginner artists. If you have anything to add, please do so in the comments.

Also take a look at this post: How to Make Homemade Oil Paint

I also have included some oil paintings from artists featured in our artist spotlights.


  1. Fat over lean to prevent cracking. Using fat over lean (thick over thin) in oil painting can help to avoid cracking during the drying process. When upper layers of oil paint dry faster than lower layers, cracking often happens. Oil paint straight from the tube takes longer to dry than when it is thinned with mineral spirits or turpentine. This is why oil painters often start with paint washes and in subsequent layers decrease the amount of thinner proportionately.

     how YOU doing dorothy lorenze
    How you DoingDorothy Lorenze
  2. Linseed oil. Don’t use linseed oil when mixing with whites, blues and light colors as it has a yellow hue. Use poppy oil instead when mixing with light colors. Linseed oil is ideal for the under-painting, as it helps the paint dry much faster.

  3. Use the best quality of oil paint you can afford. These can be expensive but are well worth it! Start with the primary colors first, and buy a tube of good quality paint whenever you can. To spare the expensive paint along, use student quality for under-paintings and initial layers.

  4. Using alcohol. Use alcohol or turpentine to remove layers when needed. Never use alcohol to clean a dried painting, as it will remove or smudge the paint.

  5. Never use acrylic on top of oil paint. Acrylic does not adhere well to oil paint. After a while, the paint will flake or peel.

    iris scott professional fingerpainting
     Shakin’ off the Blues - By Iris Scott

  6. Consider using acrylic paint for under-paintings. Acrylic paint dries faster and will help to spare along your oil paint.

  7. Never use pure black. Many experienced artists will agree. Use dark blues or mixed colors instead, such as phthalo blue mixed with alizarin crimson.

  8. Cleaner turpentine in the brush jar. Use a piece of wire mesh or spring that fits in the bottom of your brush jar. This will help clean your brushes, without agitating the residue which sits at the bottom.

  9. Use brush strokes to enhance a painting. Brush strokes can bring out forms and emphasize certain areas. As a general rule, use thickly applied paint and texture to highlight parts of a composition.

  10. Rotate turps and mineral spirits. Use three jugs, one for the used mineral spirits (A), one for all the paint residue (B), and the other for clean mineral spirits (C). Let the paint settle in jug A, and pour the clean mineral spirits into jug C. Then, pour the residue into jug B. This will help your mineral spirits or turpentine go much further.

  11. A clean palette. To always keep your palette clean, use wax paper. Wrap it around the palette and tape it in place. Dispose of the wax paper after each use. This is much easier than having to clean a painting palette after each painting session.

    Laura Iosifescu
    I feel happy to talk about my sadness - Laura Iosifescu

  12. Mixing colors. Avoid using colors directly from the tube for much of the composition (such as backgrounds). Mix them accordingly. Use pure colors for highlights and things you want to emphasize. This is a personal preference and of course is not a “rule”.

  13. Stand back from your painting often. Look at it from across the room. Bring it in another room and look at it. Hang it on a wall. Seeing the painting from a different perspective will help to look at composition in a different way. You will see whether elements should be added or colors need to be changed.

  14. Work on more than one painting at a time. (I realize some artists prefer working on one painting from start to finish.) I once had a tendency to overwork paintings, but working on multiple paintings at once has helped me with this problem.

    Since I began working on several canvases at a time, my efficiency has increased considerably. I can create all under-paintings in one session. After drying, I look at them all and choose one. When I feel I painted enough on that painting, I move to another one. When doing things this way, I never experience a creative block. I’ve found that this technique works even better with related subject matter, or for a painting series.

  15. Learn painting techniques and how to paint first, then break the rules later. This is a basic rule I learned in art school, and is one I believe all artists should follow.


Also recommended: How to Make Oil Paint Dry Faster

Post a Comment Blogger

  1. Hi Graham,

    To add to the fat/lean vs acrylic discussion - I think the key thing to remember is:
    oil = fat, water/thinner = lean
    So adding paint mixed with anything other than an oil medium on TOP of underlying (thinned) oil washes won't work. Somehow, I find this difficult to conceptualize! But it's so important to remember.

    This is also why acrylic - which has no fat in it - can't be used over oil, no matter how thick the paint is. As you mentioned, it will still dry faster than oil.

    Thank you for including my painting in your article! And thanks for the good info you always provide for artists!

    1. Thank-you Dorothy for your great contribution to this discussion!

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