Intro: Basics of Oil Painting

Intro: Basics of Oil Painting

Hi loves! So this is just a short intro into the basics of oil painting, I won’t discuss much in detail here that will be saved for future discussions. Please feel free to respond with comments or questions! I’m always open to discussions and making clarifications :)

What is oil paint?

  • Oil paint is made from pigment and oil. The higher quality a oil paint is, the more pigment you’ll get. Inexpensive oil paints usually come with some sort of filler in them so the hues and texture won’t be the same.

Is oil paint toxic?

  • Generally speaking oil paint itself is not toxic. There are a few pigments like cadmium and cobalt that are potentially toxic but that’s only if you’re consuming them, they’re fine on your skin.

  • This misconception comes from not the paint being toxic, but solvents such as turpentine some oil painters mix in with their paints to thin them out or clean their brushes.

  • You DO NOT have to use solvents like this. You can use odorless mineral spirits such as Gamsol which works just as fine without the toxic smell.

  • We will discuss other solvents and mediums in detail that you can also use at a later time.

What type of consistency does oil paint have?

  • Depending on the type of oil paint you’re working with, some will be very thick while others will be creamy, resembling the texture of butter. It depends on the type of oil in the paint.

  • I know it’s a lot different from acrylics but the cool thing is that you can manipulate it to your liking using mediums and solvents!

What is the drying time for oil paints?

  • There’s this misconception that oil paint takes months and years to dry…which is kind of true BUT not all oil paints work like this. There’s a lot to understand with this so I hope I break it down good for now.

  • So basically like we just discussed earlier, oil paint is oil and pigment. If you’re familiar with oil like olive oil, coconut oil, even vegetable oil and canola oil, you’ll notice they all have different consistencies. Some are very runny, thicker, and slippery.

  • It’s no different with oil paint except you aren’t using cooking oil or hair oil in the paint.

  • The oils you’ll commonly see are drying oils such as linseed oil and walnut oil. Linseed oil dries much faster than walnut oil.

  • Another important factor in oils drying time is what type of surface you’re painting on. Most artists use canvas which is perfect for both acrylics and oils.

  • Because canvas is made out of cotton, the water used in acrylics will get easily absorbed and dry out, which is why acrylics dry so fast on them.

  • For oils however, it’s a different story lol. If you think about getting oil on your shirt, it doesn’t just dry up immediately right? It’ll sit there because it takes time for it to absorb fully in that material.

  • The best way to counteract this I’ve found is by painting on absorbent surfaces for oils like wood and/or using drying mediums (we will discuss different surface types and mediums later).


As of now I think that’s a good start for understanding oils, there’s A LOT more to go over so I hope this little intro is helpful to begin with

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