What I Learned From My First Attempt at Oil Painting


Thinking of trying your hand at oil paining? While I'm not a pro by any stretch of the imagination, I have learned a few things on my first attempt.  Here's a few tips and a dose of encouragement that will hopefully get you on the path of chunking the mass produced, commercial prints you have on your walls and replacing them with of the kind art from the heart.

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1. Just Do It!

So you don't know the first thing about oil paining...maybe you should take a class, wait around for someone to teach you, go to art school or read a 1000 tutorials? No! Just do it! I didn't have a clue what I was doing either.  I'm sure I broke a 1000 "rules" and any professional artist would probably run screaming in horror from my painting but you know what? It's not about them.  It's about me and it's about you too! "Rules" were made to be broken when it comes to art and only you can make a truly one of a kind piece from the heart for your home. Don't over think it.  Grab some supplies and go for it. What do you really have to lose?

2.  It's a lot like baseball.

I've always said every kid deserves to play baseball.  I'm not particularly athletic (ok, I'm not at ALL athletic) but the most fun I ever had as a kid is when my siblings and I got together with other kids from the neighborhood to play baseball in the front yard.  None of us grew up to be Derek Jeter but does that mean we should have skipped the games and missed all the fun? Absolutely not! So why should the fact that you're probably no Picasso stop for you oil painting?

3.  Don't overthink or overspend for brushes on your first go around.

I have read tutorials about how you must have the absolute best brushes in order to really make an oil painting that you will treasure.  I honestly don't suggest this.  Oil paint is notoriously hard to clean out of paint brushes.  Do you really want to risk ruining a really expensive set of brushes your first go around? I suggest starting with a large variety pack of brushes from a craft store that can be used with oil paints (read labels) and wash them after each use in dish washing soap and warm water.  You can also use  baby oil. Click here for a tutorial containing more information on this process.

4. Skip the mixing mediums and don't worry too much about thinners.

Everywhere I looked online I seen over and over again that you HAVE to thin oil paints.  While it appears to be the conventional wisdom, it's not always the case.  I suggest skipping mixing mediums all together your first time around.  Not only does not all oil paints or paintings need an expensive mixing medium, you will really learn a lot about the texture of oil paints and what it can do by painting from a small glob squeezed from the tube.  I bought a lot of mixing mediums because I thought I HAD too.  The only think I ended up buying that was particularly useful to me for my first painting was a thinner (Simply Low-Odor Paint Thinner.) It's great for cleaning up messes and dabbing up the "oops" areas on canvases.

5.  Buy Primed Canvases

I bought  triple primed, ready to use, stretched canvases. I'm told if a canvas is not primed first that eventually the oil paint will eat away at the material.  If you buy canvases that were not primed in advance you will have to do so yourself prior to painting using gesso. You can find a tutorial here.

6.  Yes, you can sketch things out before you paint them.  

After I covered my canvas with a thin layer of background paint (you can actually use acrylic paint for a background that dries quickly or use oil paint and the paint thinner mentioned in tip number 4), I sketched my design out with a regular pencil directly on the canvas.  This helped tremendously!


7.  Paper plates make GREAT disposable palettes!

I cringe at the idea of suggesting you use something disposable when there's a reusable alternative but this time I am.  You will really thank yourself for having one less thing to clean in between paining sessions and trust me when I say you will have a lot to clean! Remember, unlike acrylic paints, oil can really, really transfer at the slightest touch from one object to another without you even noticing until days later.  Dish washing liquid will help to clean any paint that gets on your skin.  My bare legs ended up completely yellow at one point. True story!


8. "Let it dry, let it dry!" (sung to the course of "Let it Go!")

This is the hardest part in my opinion. How long does it take an oil paining to dry and cure? Well that seems to be one of the most debated things on the internet about oil paining and sorry but I have not definitive answer either.  From what I understand it can take anywhere from several weeks to a year! Aye, aye, aye!  Here's something helpful about drying times that I do know.  Start with a thin coat of paint, let it dry for at least a few days before adding any thicker layers on top.  Remember the thicker strokes of paint you apply the longer it will take to dry.  Certain colors also take longer to dry than others.  Here's a guide I found about the drying time for certain colors.  Also if you can find a sunny, warm place without a lot of humidity to let it rest that will work wonders too.

9. It's addictive.

Seriously.  The addiction risk rate falls somewhere between coffee and crack, I'm sure.  Enough said.


That's all I have for now.  Hopefully my knowledge of oil painting grow and in such a way that I too will look back on this post with newfound snobbishness.  I doubt it though because by "just doing it, my way" I had a blast and I ended up with a piece of art from the heart that I truly adore. I hope you will do the same. In fact, what are you waiting for?  Just do it, your way!

Until next time, happy painting!!!

 For inspiration from someone with some SERIOUS painting skills check out my buddy SK On Elderberry.  She said I once inspired her to try paper mache and she definitely inspired me to paint but I call myself her poor excuse of an understudy! 


Beginner First Time Oil Paining Tips


Additional Information On Supplies:

Some of the products I used are available at Amazon via the affiliate picture links below.


  1. I've always wanted to learn oil painting. Thanks for a great start!

  2. You are brave. I've never tried but it seems like a fun activity to do with friends.

  3. I have never tired oil painting but it is something I would love to do. I shall have to follow your guide and see how it goes.

  4. I would love to try oil painting but I am not a very patient person. But would definitely follow your guide and just go for it!

  5. I love painting, but I have not done much with oil paints. With two young kiddos running around, we stick mostly to acrylics at the moment!

  6. This is so pretty. I'm not the best at regular painting. I don't know how well I'd do with oil painting.

  7. I have never done painting but I would love to! I love what you said about it being like baseball. That was a great way of painting that mental picture! hee hee

  8. I feel like this would be a really relaxing activity to do. It would be fun to test out my artistic side and see what I come up with to paint.

  9. I miss painting. I studied art in college. Oil painting was my favorite!

  10. oh!after so long time another class for painting.it's a beautiful art all i can paint abstract only.

  11. I'd love to try oil painting but I've never had the confidence to give it a go yet. I'll have to remedy that soon!

  12. Painting is surely a hobby for me and I love Painting. Primed Canvases is new for me need to try this out.

  13. I'm a very crafting person but this is something I've never done. I think it would be a great stress reliever I must try it

  14. Oil painting is so much fun. I like that it dies not dry right away. It makes it easier to make some changes to my painting.

  15. Lately I've been on a quest to try new things! My sister invited me to a local Paint Night where we used oil on canvas. Such a wonderful experience. I learned that I really can paint an incredibly beautiful piece. Before this event I was really intimidated about the thought of painting. I thought my piece might look like it was created by a 4-year-old!

  16. Oil painting sounds really fun and relaxing too! I learned a few tips from you especially the paper plates. That is so cool!

  17. I'm going to mom's on Monday. I'm gonna have to try and talk her outta some supplies!!

  18. wow you are talented:D I'm afraid I would be able to make myself dirty and that's it

  19. Oil painting is something I really want to do, I love the idea of an end product and it looks like a great form of relaxation.

  20. I am not much of an artist. However, that won't stop me from having some fun with oil painting. My son also loves to paint. Maybe we can do a silly painting.


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