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“Oil paintings have a great mystique and, in the minds of many, the medium is somehow more prestigious than others,” says Greg Albert, author of The Simple Secret to Better Painting (North Light Books) and contributor to The Artist’s Magazine. “On top of that cachet, oils have a tactile pleasure no one can deny. Their pure colors, buttery consistency, and distinct scent are a sensuous delight. Oils are well suited for any genre and for almost any style, from quickly executed alla prima to carefully controlled underpainting followed by glazing.

“Oils’ long drying time lets you create paintings with delicate blending, fine detail and textural effects, great for painting portraits. On the other hand, oils’ long open time doesn’t let you make corrections immediately by layering wet over dry paint.

“Oil paints are made from pigments and a binder, traditionally linseed oil, which is pressed from flaxseeds. Oil and pigment were combined and used as early as the 12th century, but traditional egg tempera was far more popular. By the 15th century, Dutch painters adopted oil as their primary medium; it provided far more versatility than egg tempera.

“The late 18th century heralded the beginning of shops dedicated to the manufacturing of art materials and related items. By the mid-19th century, paints went from being ground by hand and stored in animal bladders to being kept in collapsible tubes similar to the type in use today. The ease of working with paint stored in tubes spurred the movement to look to the outdoors as a source of inspiration.”
—Greg Albert

In Mediapedia: Oils (from The Artist’s Magazine), Albert tells you everything you need to know about how to paint with oil. This article includes FAQs about how to oil paint, oil painting techniques for beginners, and must-have tools for oil painting, plus an overview of the chemistry of oil paint.

Oil Painting Basics for Beginners

In addition to being the author of The Simple Secret to Better Painting, Albert is a longtime contributor to The Artist’s Magazine, in which he offers advice to readers and artists about a variety of media from the Ask the Experts column. We’re pleased to share with you this free PDF of his Mediapedia: Oils article, which includes a special section on oil painting basics, must-have tools and info on the chemistry and safety of oil painting.

Beginner Oil Painting Techniques

Learn what it means to paint alla prima, how to glaze and scumble, and get more tips on oil painting basics for beginners.

The Science of Oil Painting and Why You Should Know It

[Learn oil painting tips for beginners] There are two basic considerations when selecting oil painting brushes: the shape and the fibers. Understand the different options when you read this free article. Know what else you need to paint with oil: supports, a palette and an easel are just the start.