The keys to help you choose your oil painting

Yes, but which range?

In addition to the multitude of brands, there are a multitude of ranges of oil paint in tubes. It is very difficult to find your way around!

There are the “study”, “fine”, “extra-fine“, even sometimes “superfine” ranges, and I have even seen more than dubious products with the appellation “fine arts” or “professional”!

It is already not easy to choose your colours to compose your palette. To this problem is added the artistic vagueness that prevails to differentiate all these ranges, and to know which one will be practical, effective, the most adapted to our needs, to make beautiful paintings!
If we refer to the manufacturers’ advertising brochures, they are all at the top!!!!! It reminds me of the sketch about Coluche’s laundry….

Here are some keys to help you in your choices and make sure you are not mistaken.

First of all, what makes the quality of an oil painting in a tube is:

  • Its pigments

Beautiful colours are beautiful pigments: pure, luminous, stable, with high colouring power.
For example: I have already seen tubes called “yellow ochre” tubes that look more like caramel than anything else; violets made from a mixture of several pigments producing a more than approximate and dull result.
The more precious a pigment is, the more expensive it is!

  • Pigment concentration

Some manufacturers offer large tubes at very attractive prices. It should be known that to increase the volume, and thus offer cheap tubes, they add a neutral charge, or even more oil… These tubes will give less intense and less vivid colors. So the less oil or neutral filler there is in the composition, the better because the pigment concentration will be higher.

  • The nature of the oil used

Good oil paint is discoloured linseed oil, very little yellowing, and eyelet oil, not yellowing at all (ideal for blues).
A friend, very proud and satisfied at the idea of having made a good deal, shows me her new purchase in a junk shop. A box of 20 tubes of 60ml for only 5€ (made in India I specify). Okay… Let’s get to the test! As soon as we opened the white tube, we noticed that it was full of a brown oil like used oil (it was leaking everywhere!). Same for all the other tubes. And I’m not even talking about the colors… Yuck! You don’t have to expect to do any good deeds with that!


And yes, very often the price is the quality. When you want good equipment, it is best to equip yourself with “extra-fine oil. That said, I have a little trick not to ruin myself too much… For some colors: white, purple, yellow, red, blue, I take extra-fine, because I want them intense and pure. For others, earth, brown, black, green, medium range tubes such as “fine” are sufficient. But I always choose branded products (Sennelier, Royal Talens, Lefranc & Bourgeois), which ensure excellent quality on these criteria thanks to their experience and respect for the products.

How to start using the Oil?

Starting a new artistic practice is exciting, fun, but sometimes somewhat impressive. Because although the discovery is enriching, you don’t always know how to get started or with what… This blog contains all kinds of articles aimed at a more or less informed audience, but I realized that it might lack the very basis: How to get started?

Oil painting has a reputation that often precedes it: It is a traditional technique, beautiful but very complicated. This is not really false… except that its complexity is due only to the choice of its practice. With a simple method, oil painting becomes simple. Here is how to practice a simple method with a minimum of material.

oil painting

1 – Get the equipment

From second-hand online or new in store, basic Fine Art equipment is easily available. And don’t bother, we just start with these 5 elements: Brushes, colours, holder, medium, diluent.

The easiest and most convenient and to get a ready-to-use box with all the necessary equipment. The higher the price, the higher the quality and completeness of the boxes. It will simply be necessary to add the support and sometimes the diluent.

As far as the pallet is concerned, the manufacturers offer you some very beautiful pallets made of varnished wood for example. But as it is recommended to always have a clean pallet, it is better to use disposable pallets, otherwise you will have to clean them after each session. Special paper blocks exist, otherwise plastic plates (recyclable of course!) will do very well…

2 – Prepare yourself

It is true that oil painting is not really a spontaneous practice. This technique allows all the possible effects during long sessions thanks to its slow drying, unfortunately, unlike aqueous techniques, it is necessary first of all to prepare the material…

  • Since thinner and medium are harmful to health, it is better to paint in a ventilated room. Open a window, for example, even slightly.
  • Place your stand on a table or easel.
  • If you are right-handed, put your equipment (brushes, palette and medium) to the right of the support. On the other hand, if you are left-handed, put them on the left.
  • Place your colours on the palette, ranging in size from a pea to a hazelnut depending on the size of the support. It is better to add more if it runs out than to waste it. The tubes are already expensive enough.
  • The medium is poured in very small quantities (one tablespoon) into a container in which you dip the brush.
  • As for new brushes, sometimes the bristles are glued by the manufacturers to protect them, making them rigid. Do not bend them by forcing them, put them under warm water instead!

3 – Ready? Go away! Go away!

You are now ready to paint. Oil paint can be used directly, as it comes out of the tube. However, it is sometimes difficult to apply because it does not work well. This is why the presence of the medium is necessary. It enriches the colours with fat, so that they become fluid, shiny and consistent, and the diluent (essence) should only be used in this first training step to clean the brushes. Its dilution with mediums is useful for the elaboration of a painting in several layers, but it is better to learn to master your tools before complicating the process.

So start with small subjects with limited details, on a small format. When you start, the most important thing is to understand how it works. Learn about colour mixing, dosing with the medium and the different brush strokes. Once this first approach has been made, then choose a more elaborate subject.