Oil Paint

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Common Questions
Professional/Artist Oil Colors

Artist or Professional Oil Colors contain a full pigment load suspended in a binder, generally linseed oil or another drying oil such as safflower oil, poppyseed oil, or walnut oil. Use them on stretched canvas or boards that have been primed to accept oil paints. Usually made with a single pigment, professional-grade paints mix more cleanly and have better tinting strength than lower-grade paints.

Student Oil Colors

Student Oil Colors have working characteristics similar to professional oils, but with lower pigment concentrations and a smaller range of colors — typically only one series. Student oils often have pigment mixes instead of single pigments, and more expensive pigments are generally replicated by hues, which may not have the same mixing characteristics as full-strength colors.

Oil Painting Questions and Answers



  • Why choose oil paints over other types of paint?

    Oil paints are one of the great classic media. They have been used for hundreds of years and have stood the test of time with great durability and steadfast color.

    Oils are beloved by artists for many reasons. They offer great versatility. Oils can be very opaque, or they can be thinned with a solvent to varying levels of transparency. They have a slow-drying time, during which their colors do not change, allowing the artist to rework, correct, and even scrape off areas of paint.

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  • What are oil paints made of?

    Oil paints are comprised of pigments suspended in a binder, generally linseed oil. Depending on the manufacturer, other ingredients may be added as well, such as stabilizers or dryers.

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  • What brushes should I use with oil paints?

    A wide range of brushes may be used. From natural to synthetic bristles, the brush can be left largely up to the artist. By experimenting with different brushes, each individual artist can find ones that suit their needs.

    Traditional oil painting brushes have long handles, so that the artist can work at some distance from the canvas. The hair is generally firmer and stiffer than for a watercolor brush.

    Palette knives can also be a very useful tool for mixing and/or applying oil paints to paintings.

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  • How do I clean oil paint from my brushes?

    Cleaning your brushes is a very important step in ensuring a longer life for your brush. In the case of oil paints, the brush should be cleaned off thoroughly starting with solvent and rags or tissue. Once the brush is fairly clean from the solvent, rub the bristles in a glass or plastic jar with either a brush conditioner or a human hair shampoo. Give the brush a good final rinse and squeeze out any water. Dry the brush with its hair end lower than the handle end to prevent water from loosening the handle and the ferrule. Dry brushes can be stored bristle up in a jar, or laid flat. Protective storage containers are available too.

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  • What kind of support should be used with oil paints?

    Canvas, linen, panels, boards, and heavy papers are all appropriate. It is important that the support can carry its own weight and that it can support the weight of the paint as well.

    Preparing the support so that paint will adhere well is very important. Oil paint must be separated from its support with some kind of ground. This ground should provide a combination of tooth and absorbency that suits the individual artist.

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  • What does "Direct Painting" mean?

    This means that the paint is applied in one layer. A good way of thinking about this technique is that a painting can be completed in one sitting, and does not require waiting time before adding another layer.

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  • What does "Indirect Painting" mean?

    his is a more complex method of painting with oils. It is also thought of as a more traditional approach. Here the artist applies many layers of paint, adjusting the opacity of the layers to create different effects. Indirect painting can result in very luminous tones and colors.

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  • What does "Fat Over Lean" mean?

    This is a traditional rule of oil painting. "Fat" paint has more oil in it, and "lean" paint has less oil in it. As artists paint layers onto paintings, they make each progressive layer "fatter" than the one before by adding more medium. The more oil the paint has the more flexible it is. When the overpainting is more flexible than the underpainting, the paint is less likely to crack as it dries.

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  • What is "Impasto" painting?

    Impasto refers to a thicker application of paint (think Vincent Van Gogh) which has physical dimensionality. Use caution with this technique as thick layers of paint have a tendency to crack as they dry. Integrating smaller areas of this technique into a painting works best.

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  • How can I protect my finished oil painting?

    A finished painting should be coated with a protective varnish. However, it takes six months to a year for an oil painting to dry thoroughly enough to apply this finishing layer. In the meantime, store your work in a dust free, but not dark storage area.

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  • Can I save oil paints and use them later?

    Once oil paints begin the drying process and have developed an outer skin, they lose some adhesive and drying properties that cannot be recovered.

    Here are three tips you can try to preserve leftover paints to use later:

    • Try transferring blobs of paint to a strip of glass, then submerge that
      in water.
    • Cover the paint with plastic wrap closely, so as to exclude all air.
    • Cover your entire palette with plastic wrap and put it in the freezer.

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  • Artist VS Student Quality Paints
    Artist VS Student Quality Paints

    If you're shopping for paint, you'll find there is a wide variety of brands and qualities to choose from and a vast difference in price as well. You might be wondering if it's worth spending a bit more for your paint or if a less expensive one will work for your needs. Kati will explain some of the differences between artist quality and student quality paint, so you can make the right choice for your application.

  • Blick Brand Paints
    Blick Brand Paints

    At Blick we pride ourselves on providing artist quality paints at the most competitive price. See why our Blick Artists' Acrylics, Artists' Oils and Artists' Watercolors are an excellent choice for any fine artist - even one on a budget!

  • Chroma Archival Oil Paints
    Chroma Archival Oil Paints

    Chroma Archival Oils are a professional artist's oil that's accessible to students and amateurs. Archival Series 1 Oils offer a complete mixing palette of affordable colors that are highly pigmented, permanent, and much more satisfying to use than traditional all-one-price student-grade paints. Unique benefits of Archival Oils include: freedom of technique, fast drying time and flexibility.

  • Color Mixing Tips & Techniques
    Color Mixing Tips & Techniques

    Learning color theory and how to mix your own colors are very important tools when learning to paint. Kati will show you how to select a few primary colors for your palette so you can mix a wide range of shades and colors - whether working in oils, acrylics, watercolor or gouache.

  • Daler Rowney Georgian Oil Paint
    Daler Rowney Georgian Oil Paint

    Georgian is a high quality oil paint at an economical price. The lightfast, permanent pigments are finely milled for easy blending. Georgian is carefully tested for consistancy and there is no color shift between wet and dry paint making color matching a breeze!

  • Grumbacher Pre-Tested Oil Paint
    Grumbacher Pre-Tested Oil Paint

    Grumbacher Pre-Tested Artist's Oils have been trusted by artists for over 70 years. They come from traditional European formulas and are made by America's oldest paint manufacturer.

  • Rembrandt Artists' Oil Colors
    Rembrandt Artists' Oil Colors

    Rembrandt Oils are produced with the highest color strength possible, using pure pigments. The pigments are ground to extreme fineness in a binder consisting of the purest linseed or safflower seed oil, resulting in an oil paint whose texture is exceptionally smooth, creamy, and even.

  • Sennelier Artists' Oil Paints
    Sennelier Artists' Oil Paints

    The descendants of Gustave Sennelier still create their extraordinarily luscious colors from the finest hand-ground pigments combined with pure, first-press non-yellowing safflower oils. They produce an outstanding collection of oils distinguished by a "satin" finish and creamy texture. The paints still entrance artists, just as they did when pioneers such as Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissaro first used them.

  • Tips for Mixed Media Art
    Tips for Mixed Media Art

    Hilary shares several tips on working in mixed media. By following these simple rules, your work will remain stable and long lasting.

  • Van Gogh Oil Colors
    Van Gogh Oil Colors

    Van Gogh Oil Colors are a traditional oil paint formulated with the beginning painter and value conscious customer in mind. A quality paint that won't break the bank. See why this paint is a smart choice!

  • Winsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixable Oil Paint
    Winsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixable Oil Paint

    Winsor & Newton Water Mixable Oils contain the same ingredients and perform just like conventional oil colors except that you can use water to clean them up. They are a great choice for artists who have a sensitivty to solvents or who just want the ease of clean-up in the studio or out in the field.


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