Essential Materials for Oil Painting: Canvas, Paints and Beyond

So you’ve decided to dive into the world of oil painting. Great choice! Oil painting is a rewarding art form that allows you to create dramatic masterpieces that stand the test of time. But before you start channeling your inner Van Gogh, you’ll need to stock up on some essential supplies. As an oil painter, your materials are the tools of your trade and the quality of your supplies directly impacts your results. In this article, we’ll cover the basics you need to get started with oil painting from canvas to paints and everything in between. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, having the right gear on hand will help bring your creative visions to life and ensure you have an enjoyable experience. Let’s get you set up for oil painting success!

Selecting the Best Canvas for Oil Painting

When it comes to oil painting, the canvas you choose is crucial. For beginners, a pre-primed cotton canvas is perfect to get started. Look for a medium-textured canvas with a slight tooth that will grip the paint well. Avoid canvas that’s too rough or too slick.

You’ll want to consider the canvas’s weight, measured in ounces per square yard. A lightweight canvas, around 5 to 8 ounces, works for small paintings and is budget-friendly. For larger pieces, go with a mid-weight canvas, around 10 to 16 ounces, so it lies flat and provides enough support. Heavyweight canvases, 18 ounces and up, are best for very large paintings or if you do heavy impasto techniques.

The canvas’s dimensions also matter. Start with a smaller canvas, around 16 by 20 inches. Once you get the hang of it, you can size up to larger canvases. Be sure to prime the canvas before painting to create a lightly textured surface the paint can adhere to. Two coats of acrylic gesso or primer and some light sanding will do the trick.

Other useful supplies include a canvas board, canvas pads or canvas panels – these provide a rigid backing so you can paint without framing. Canvas rolls allow you to cut custom sizes. And canvas stretchers or bars let you build your own canvas frames.

With the right canvas and a few other essentials, you’ll be ready to create an oil painting masterpiece. So get out your brushes and start painting!

Essential Oil Paints and Mediums for Achieving Different Techniques

When it comes to oil painting, the materials you use make all the difference. The pigments and mediums determine how much you can manipulate the paint and achieve different effects.


The most common pigments for oil painting include:

  • Cadmium colors (red, yellow, orange) for intense, opaque hues
  • Ultramarine blue for bright shades
  • Alizarin crimson for rich, transparent reds
  • Burnt umber and sienna for warm, earthy tones


Linseed oil is the most popular medium for oil painting. Adding more linseed oil to your paint makes it thinner and more transparent, perfect for glazing and scumbling techniques. For impasto effects, use less medium.

  • Stand oil has a honey-like consistency for thick, sculptural brushstrokes.
  • Dammar varnish adds gloss and transparency.
  • Turpentine is a solvent used for thinning and cleaning.


Adding a drier like cobalt drier or Japan drier helps speed up drying time. This lets you apply multiple layers in one session without mudding your colors.

With the right assortment of pigments, mediums, and driers, you’ll be creating masterpieces in no time. Experiment with different combinations to find what works for your unique artistic style!

Other Critical Materials: Brushes, Palettes, Easels & More

To create an oil painting, you’ll need some essential materials beyond just canvas and paint. Brushes, palettes, easels, and solvents are critical tools for any oil painter.


Invest in natural bristle brushes made of hog or sable hair for oil painting. Softer brushes work well for blending and details, while stiffer brushes handle heavy impasto techniques. Have a variety of brush sizes on hand, from small rounds for details to large flats for broad strokes and backgrounds. Clean your brushes thoroughly after each use with odorless mineral spirits to keep bristles in good shape.


A palette gives you space to mix paints. Wooden palettes with a thumb hole are popular, as are disposable options like wax paper palettes you can throw away after use. Place a small amount of each color you plan to use on your palette before starting to paint. Add medium like linseed or walnut oil to your paints on the palette to adjust the consistency.


An easel holds your canvas at a proper angle while you work. Look for an easel that adjusts to your preferred height and canvas size. Basic floor easels work for small to mid-size canvases, while larger wall-mounted or studio easels can handle very big works. Consider how portable and sturdy you need the easel to be.

Solvents & Mediums

Have odorless mineral spirits, turpentine, or citrus-based solvents on hand to thin paint and clean brushes. Linseed or walnut oil medium helps make paint more fluid and translucent. Stand oil and alkyd mediums speed drying time. Varnish provides a protective topcoat. Follow all product instructions carefully due to toxicity and flammability.

With a set of high-quality tools and materials, you’ll be ready to start creating your own oil masterpiece. Take the time to prepare by gathering all the essentials before beginning your first painting. Your tools will serve you well for many creations to come!


So there you have it, the basics to get started with oil painting. With canvas, paints, brushes, and a few other essential supplies, you’ll be creating masterpieces in no time. While the list of materials may seem long, don’t feel overwhelmed. Start with the fundamentals and you can build up your collection over time as your skills improve. The most important thing is just to start painting. Get messy, make mistakes, learn from them, and have fun with the process. Oil painting is a skill that takes practice, but with the right tools and a little patience, you’ll be achieving amazing results. Now get out there and start creating! The canvas is waiting.

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