What Things Are Needed for Oil Painting

Where to start?!

So you'd like to try oil painting? I don't blame you. I love it! It's relaxing, expressive, and therapeutic. You will need some supplies before you can get started.

The easiest way to get started in oil painting is to buy a kit that will contain all of the things you need. I have a few listed to the right. They come with paint, brushes, an easel and a palette.

However, you may want to select your own paint colors or brushes or invest in a better quality easel. I have outlined various supply choices in this hubpage.


Golden Taklon Brush Sets for Artists Contain 10 Terrific Brushes in a Variety of Sizes and Styles (2 Sets)
Golden Taklon Brush Sets for Artists Contain 10 Terrific Brushes in a Variety of Sizes and Styles (2 Sets)

Seems like a great starter kit but doesn't include a fan brush or a pallet knife.

Winsor & Newton University Series 238 Fan Long Handle Brush, Size 6
Winsor & Newton University Series 238 Fan Long Handle Brush, Size 6

I love fan brushes. They are great for blending colors.



There are two different philosophies for buying your first set of brushes.

Philosophy 1:

Invest in good quality brushes and if you take care of them, they will last you a long time. I actually still have several of the brushes that I purchased in my first oil painting class 15 years ago.  Better quality brushes won't fall apart or leave little hairs in your painting. Additionally, they will keep their shape, making your experience less frustrating.

Philosophy 2:

Just buy an inexpensive set of brushes, since you don't want to drop a lot of cash in yet another hobby new hobby. (And you don't yet know if you will even enjoy it yet.) Also, you don't have to spend as much time thoroughly cleaning your brushes.

List of suggested individual brushes:

  • Medium sized fan brush
  • flat tipped brush - medium and larger
  • round tipped brush - medium and larger
  • pointed tip brush
  • long tip brush

There are a variety of other brushes to choose from too, but this should be enough to get you started.

Mineral Spirits

Mona Lisa Odorless Paint Thinner-16 ounce
Mona Lisa Odorless Paint Thinner-16 ounce

This brand is suitable for your oil painting needs. Make sure that you buy "odorless" if possible.

Eco-House Extra Mild Citrus Thinner - 8oz Can
Eco-House Extra Mild Citrus Thinner - 8oz Can

This may be good if you want an environmentally friendly thinner or you have small children and are worried about toxins.


Two glass jars with lids and mineral spirits

 I use clean spaghetti jars.  This is a wonderful method for recycling and reusing your mineral spirits.  Fill about half of one jar with mineral spirits (or a mixture of 1/2 mineral spirits and half water).  You will use this container to rinse your brushes or thin your paint during your first oil painting session.  After you are done, just put the lid on the jar.  Oil paint residue will sink to the bottom after about 8 hours, leaving clean (or mostly clean) mineral spirits on top.  Before your next painting session, pour the mineral spirits into the second jar.  You will use this jar to hold your thinner from now on.  After your second painting session, dump the contents of this jar into the original jar with residue on the bottom.  Then the next time you paint, you will find that again, all the residue is at the bottom and you can pour just the mineral spirits back into the second jar.  You can continue to do this for quite a long time.  Some people like to add a little more mineral spirits to the second jar each session.



If you are just starting out and don't want to spend a fortune on supplies or you are just thrifty like myself, use thick cardboard.  I like to use the lids from a corrigated cordboard show box.  In some ways, carboard is not ideal because the liquid tends to seep into the cardboard drying out your paint a little faster. 

Another option, that is still on the inexpensive side but is a little more practicle is using desposable plastic container.  Unlike cardboard, you can just put a lid on your container, and save your paint for your next painting session without it drying out.  However, it may not give you enough room to mix your paint or to hold all of the paint you would like to have access to. 

More expensively but less messy, you can purchase disposable pallets which will prevent your paint from seeping through the paper and you can simply through away the sheet when you are done.  These come in packs.

And if you want ease, there are beautiful and handy pallets that you can purchase.  Many are easily washable, sturdy, hold the paint well, allow lots of room for mixing and some even come with a lid so you are able to store your chosen colors in between sessions.


Like brushes, there are different grades of paint. Oil paint is sold in tubes which usually have poetic names that don't necessarily describe the color. Most of the time, however, there will be at least a bit of that color on the the tube itself. Initially, you may want to buy a set of small tubes of oil paint (like the ones listed to the right).  If you are taking a class or know you will be oil painting at least several canvases, I recommend you start with a large or medium tube of white, a medium tube of black, and small tubes of the other colors.

Here is a good list to start with:

  • Zinc or titanium white
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Ivory Black
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Deep Cadmium Orange
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Light French Ultramarine
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Viridian
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Raw Umber

I tend to have a thing for bright colors, so I tend to treat myself with purchasing a variety of bright oranges, yellows, greens, and reds as well.

Drop Cloths

Perf Go Green DC1020  10' X 20' Green Drop Cloth (Pack of 5)
Perf Go Green DC1020 10' X 20' Green Drop Cloth (Pack of 5)

I don't like working with disposable plastic drop cloths, but if you have to, this is at least a biodegradable kind.


Drop Cloth

Oil painting is messy. Unlike acrylics or watercolors, oil paint does not come out of clothes. To start out, you can use an old shower curtain or sheet.  However, a sheet will not protect your carpet from a mineral spirit spill or a big glob of oil paint.  I recommend investing in a good quality drop cloth.  It is always helpful to try to choose a location with linoleum or concrete floors that can be easily cleaned. 



Art Advantage Aluminum Field Easel With Case
Art Advantage Aluminum Field Easel With Case

Lightweight, but sturdy with a case.



Again, easels can range from small, flimsy and inexpensive to large and heavy-duty.  If you aren't sure if this hobby will stick, and you don't plan on painting on very large canvases, I recommend purchasing a metal folding table top easel.  They don't take up a lot of space but are relatively sturdy and practical. 

If you plan on painting large canvases, you will need to use a standing easel.  Wooden display easels are very inexpensive, but you have to be careful when using them, or it may collapse while you are painting.



 I highly recommend that as a beginner you purchase canvases instead of trying to stretch them yourself.  You can purchase canvas panels (or boards) which are sturdy and often less expensive, however, they tend to bow in the middle if you use a fair amount of mineral spirits.  You can also purchase stretched canvases in packs.  A good starting size is 16 x 20 if you have a standing easel or 8x10 if you have a tabletop easel. 

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