What actually is Oil Paint?
Oil paint consists of pigment dispersed in a drying oil, i.e. an oil that hardens when exposed to air. It is relatively slow drying and has been favoured by painters since the Middle Ages thanks to its lustrous quality and versatility. Just contemplating the gentle luminosity of a Seurat with the high drama of a Caravaggio or the boldness of a Twombly demonstrates just a few ways that oil paint can be used to achieve infinitely diverse and exciting results. It’s capable of washes, glazes and thick impasto marks. To read more about how oil paint is made click here for the oil painting guide on the Jackson’s Art Blog.
What materials and equipment do I need to get started?
The absolute minimum you can get started with is some tubes of oil paint, a brush or a palette knife, a board or canvas to paint onto and some solvent to wash your brushes with afterwards. Some rags or kitchen towel are also handy for blotting brushes with.
In time you may wish to mix more drying oils or mediums into your paint to alter the drying time, transparency, thickness and sheen of your paint. You can also dilute paint with solvent. A range of brushes and palette knives will expand your mark making ability.
Stretched canvas offers a springy surface that many painters favour, however it’s not the only surface you can paint on. We sell rigid boards coated in gesso, and panels and boards wrapped in canvas or linen ready for oil painting. It really depends on the texture and absorbency you favour, so it’s worth trying a few out to see how they differ and influence your work. Click here to browse oil painting surfaces on the Jackson’s Art Blog.
What’s the difference between professional, artist and student grade paints?
Professional paint is packed with pigment and a little drying oil; they offer the most vibrant colour, and characteristics can vary noticeably from colour to colour including transparency, staining capacity, tinting strength and drying times.
Artist paint has a little less pigment in the mix but are usually made using very similar processes as professional paint. The characteristics of each pigment are maintained but with less intensity than the professional paints.
Student paint unifies the sheen and drying time so that they’re easier to use. As a result the colour may be a little less vibrant.
What’s the difference between Traditional Oil Paint, Watermixable Oil Paint, Alkyd Oil Paint and Oil Bars and Sticks?
You’ll need solvent to dilute traditional oil paint but with watermixable oils you can thin and wash your paint simply with water, making it less harsh on your hands. The alkyd resin put in Alkyd paints significantly speeds the drying time, while oil paint bars and sticks are literally cylinders of pure traditional oil paint encased in wax; draw with oils or apply thick marks with real immediacy. Click here to read more about the differences between traditional oils, watermixable oils, alkyds oils and oil bars and sticks.
How messy can working with Oils get?
Working with oils can get messy so it’s a good idea to be as organised as possible. Invest in a nice big palette so you have plenty of space to mix your paints and a good quality, water-resistant apron to protect your clothes. Plastic gloves can help protect your skin from harmful solvents and pigments. Click here to read our post on how to keep your hands clean during a painting session.