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Oils - oil paint and oil painting techniques.


Oils have a tactile quality all of their own, not quite like anything else, they are a popular medium and have stood the test of time.

Oil paints are easy to manipulate, blend and are so adaptable. There are many different oil painting techniques and they can be painted on many surfaces.

A slower drying medium than most others, this allows time for alterations and mistakes can be wiped off or rectified.
oil paint and painting knife

Zest-it Oil Paint Dilutant and Brush Cleaner The use of 'turps' and white spirit with oils has given them their bad reputation, but times change, things have moved on and we now have Zest-it® Oil Paint Dilutant and Brush Cleaner and other Solvents in the Zest-it range.

It is now much more of a pleasure to paint using oil paint, the Oil Paint Dilutant and Brush Cleaner can be used for both diluting the paint and cleaning brushes.

Many people think you need a lot of equipment to paint with oils but that is not necessarily true.
Like most other painting media, you need a few brushes, some paint, a way of cleaning the brushes, somewhere to mix the paint and something to paint on.

One piece of equipment that is very useful when painting with oils on canvas or similar is an easel, not a necessity but it certainly makes painting more comfortable.


Oil paint has a 'personality', the same way as Watercolour, Gouache and Acrylic paint, they all behave differently. A stranger can be a friend you don't yet know, so if you want to paint well with oils, you need to get to know the different properties of oil paint and feel comfortable working with it.

Making colour charts can be good fun, it's also a way of getting to know the paints personality, which colours mix well together, which colours dry fast and which are slow drying. They are always well worth doing

Also it pays to check the different brands of the same colour paint, this allows you to find which texture of paint you find best for your use.

The way oil paint is applied to a surface can be altered by the use of painting mediums, these can change the following elements, the drying time, the flow, the paint finish, the gloss and the transparency of the paint.

zest-it linseed oil


  There are many different ways to paint with oil paint and don't be afraid to experiment until you find one you're happy with.

Try as many different surfaces as possible until one gives the effect that you are after. For fine detail the smoother the canvas or surface the better, the surface does need to be primed.
Prime watercolour paper with gelatine or gesso, it makes an excellent surface to paint on, the Old Masters used it very successfully.

Wood, tin, metal and stone just need cleaning before use as a surface.

My own painting on the left using Oils on watercolour paper




Brushes give different effects according to the type of filament and the shape of the bristles. Bristle is the traditional hair in artist oil brushes because of its strength and the quantity of oil paint it can carry.

They also tend to have long handles, this allows more distance between you and your work, which helps when brush strokes are often large and loose.

Whereas for something like Tole painting you would use soft haired brushes which tend to be short handled, the work is more detailed you therefore need to be closer to it.

Check out the brush cleaning page for hints and tips on looking after your brushes.

oil painting brushes



paint and knife You can paint your oils thickly and with lots of texture, often referred to as Impasto.

For this style of oil painting use a painting knife or a large bristle haired brush. When painting Impasto where you want rough and thick paint, use a canvas or surface that has plenty of 'tooth'.
Tooth is the term for a rougher or more textured surface that holds the paint.

This type of surface is needed to hold the paint and to take the weight of paint.
The thicker the paint the longer it will take to dry



Oils can be a challenging, enjoyable, tactile painting experience, an amenable media for artistic expression.
The first step down any road is always the hardes
t, but with a little encouragement we can all go a long way.

If you are new to oil painting, have a read through some of the links on this page, you will find lots of information to help you.

Copyright Jacqui Blackman 1999

dimerandra by jacqui blackman


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