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Thread: The Big Oil-Painting Thread

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    The Big Oil-Painting Thread

    There is a lot of information about oil-paints scattered about ConceptArt.org. I kept thinking that it would be cool to have it all in one place. . . so here it is! The big thread on oil-painting.

    If you have information to add, add it! If you know of a link that should be on this list, let me know! If I have made a mistake, correct me!

    Enjoy!


    ConceptArt.org threads about oil painting

    Oils- Avoiding Gloss? Info about varnish.
    When to varnish an oil painting?
    Making my own masonite boards - tips? All about supports.
    Paper vs. Canvas About different surfaces.
    Painting Surface Working large and with mixed media.
    ghetto easel Build your own easel.
    Question about oil paint fumes. Info on fumes and safety.
    Does it really matter which black I use? The black and white discussion has many shades of grey.
    Oil Palette Colors: Which are "warm", which are "cool"?
    oil question: warm white?
    Acrylic painting questions Some info on how acrylics and oils compare.
    Gouache Mostly about gouache, but with some talk of oils as a comparison.
    new to watercolor, what should I look into? Just on watercolors, but useful when researching mediums.
    [url=http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=64674] undrepaintings as explained by Ilaekae and JasonManley

    Books on Oil Painting

    Alla Prima; Everything I Know About Oil Painting by Richard Schmid. Every artist should read this book.

    Web Resources and Inspiration

    k4pka’s blog on learning to paint.
    Nick Jainschigg 18 months of daily paintings can be educational!
    Duane Keiser The original painting-a-day artist. Watch his videos!
    Last edited by chaosrocks; June 4th, 2007 at 01:01 AM.
    I think you are awesome, and I wish you the best in your endeavors, but I am tired of repeating myself, I am very busy with my new baby, and I am no longer a regular participant here, so please do not contact me to ask for advice on your career or education. All of the advice that I have to offer can already be found in the following links. Thank you.

    Perspective 101, Concept Art 101, Games Industry info,Oil Paint info, Acrylic Paint info, my sketchbook.
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    Oil Paints Made Easy

    Written with help from k4pka – thanks!

    There are already lots and lots of references out there for oil-painters of all levels. It’s rather overwhelming. I’ve had a few people ask me what I am using, or what I would recommend for someone who is just starting out. So. . .

    First you need a place to work that has good ventilation. You shouldn’t use this stuff in your bedroom or somewhere where small children will get their fingers into it. Your studio space also has to be protected from paint, if you care about the furniture. Use a drop-cloth if you are working on the kitchen table.

    You will need some means to prop up your painting. An easel with small table next to it is one possible setup. Easels are expensive, however, so instead I have a wooden box that came loaded with a beginner’s set of oils, to which I clip my painting while I work. (The box and my studio setup are below.) I often pack up the box and take it outside, where I work sitting on the ground. At any rate, you will need some way to prop your painting up in front of you – something stable, because a painting face-down on the carpet is a sad, sad thing.

    Another useful trick is to use a second chair. Have it facing you and lean the canvas at your preferred angle on the chair in front.

    You will need some place to put wet paintings. A bulletin board is good for this, if it’s stable. What I have is a sheet of homosote (a sort of cork-board material) that I bought at Home Depot. I had them chop it into pieces small enough to get into my car, and I painted them white with house paint to look pretty. But you don’t need to get even this fancy. Just prop up your finished painting against a wall where people and pets won’t run into it. Don’t leave wet paintings laying flat, however, because dust will settle on the painting and become a part of it as the surface dries.

    Back to the supplies. . . I started by buying a beginner’s set. It contained fairly good materials, but they were 50 years old! The jar of oil had turned into jelly, among other annoyances. If you buy a set, just be aware that some of it may have to be replaced due to bad quality, and the paints will likely be student-grade, which means less pigment in the paint.

    If you want to buy just the bits and pieces, you will to find an art supply store and fill your cart with the following.

    A palette. Almost any non-absorbent flat surface will do. You can wrap tinfoil around cardboard if you want. However, I suggest at the beginning getting either a disposable palette tablet, or a sheet of masonite or a masonite palette. Later you can upgrade to something more fancy like a wooden palette or a sheet of glass. What is most important is that you have lots of room to mix colors.

    A palette knife. It should look like a little trowel and it should have a bend in the neck between the trowel-part and the handle. Don’t get the kind that looks like a butter knife.

    Paint solvent. Either turpentine, turpenoid, or some other equivalent such as mineral spirits (also known as white spirits). (In the UK there is a substance called Turps Substitute. This should be avoided at all costs, as for oil painting, it is no substitute at all, and smells absolutely horrendous.) Buy a small can. This stuff is to oil paints as water is to watercolour. You can use it to thin down the paints so much that they even look like watercolours if you want. Keep in mind that even if you get something “odourless”, it still emits nasty fumes.

    Something to put the solvent in. The cheapest option is to use jelly jars with lids. Pour a little solvent into the bottom of one jar. Use it to thin your paints and clean your brushes (which isn’t necessary all that often, if you wipe the paint out of the brushes between colors). Put a lid on it when not in use. When that solvent gets yucky, pout it into the second jar. Let the gunk settle to the bottom, and pour off the reasonably clear stuff back into your first jar to use again.

    Alternatively, art stores often carry glass jars with a spring in them. Fill that to just above the spring. Wipe your brush on the spring to clean it, and the gunk will settle below the spring. The only problem is I’m not sure how to remove the gunk from the jar – I just dropped off a full spring-jar at our neighbourhood recycling day to get rid of it.

    Absolutely do not pour your solvent down the drain! It will poison the water supply if you do that. You will need to save your dirty solvent and take it to your neighbourhood dump when they have a special household waste disposal day. Your town hall should be able to provide you with information on this.

    Rags or paper-towels. You will want a decent supply on hand. An old phone book can be used, too, along with a few rags. These are for wiping paint off of hands, brushes, palette knife, palette; they can be used to dispose of the leftover paint that is scraped from your palette, and they can be used to wipe away parts of your painting like another brush. When they are full, they go in the trash. Landfills can absorb the small amount of heavy metals from the paint that get thrown away. Rags can be bought in various quantities from places that sell house-paint; or you can rip up an old shirt.

    Oil paint travels. If you get some onto your elbow, it’ll rub off on your shirt, your wall, your sofa, your kids. Its slower drying time can mean it travels quite some distance! So get in the habit of keeping a tidy workplace. I recommend that you pick up latex gloves to work in, to keep the solvents and heavy metals off of your skin. They also help to prevent the paint from being transferred around your house. If the phone rings, you can strip off the gloves. Latex gloves can be reused for a while if you powder your hands before putting them on. Having a designated set of painting clothes is also a good idea, because oil paints won’t wash out.

    A small amount of paint can be removed from clothes/carpet/any material if it is still wet, using small amounts of clean solvent along with clean rags. The clothes/carpet/any material will then require a quick wash in the machine, or with soap and warm water to get rid of any solvent remaining on it.

    Brushes! There are many kinds. I’ll just tell you what you need to start with. Get four bristle (hog-hair) brushes with chisel-shaped bristles. (The ones with the long bristles are called “flats” and the shorter ones are called “brights”.) Two of those should be larger, and two smaller; say three-fourths inch and quarter inch. When you paint, one of each will be for light colors, and one of each will be for dark colors. That will allow you to go for longer periods without opening the jar of solvent.

    A decent quality chisel-brush will let you make wide marks in one direction and thin lines in the other. Wipe them on a rag to remove paint when changing similar colors; swish in solvent and then wipe on a rag when changing between colors that are rather different. When you are done painting for the day, gently scrub them in the sink with a white bar of soap and work out the soap with your fingers. You will want to have a designated oil-paint soap-bar, and (if at all possible) a designated oil-paint sink. Don’t use the kitchen sink. This stuff should stay as far as possible away from food.

    Let the brushes dry on their sides – not upright or leaning against the bristles. This will help the brushes to keep their shape. Just like with colors, supplement your brush collection with new brushes one or two at a time to try out some of the other shapes that are available.

    Painting surfaces! There are so many choices. Personally I loathe prefabricated canvasses and canvas-boards, but they get the job done. For ease, you can’t beat rectangles of masonite. Masonite is wood-pulp board used in the parts of furniture that are hidden. It can be bought cheaply in giant sheets at places like home depot, but, as I recently learned, they will charge you an alarming rate to cut it up. The easiest solution is to buy the pre-cut boards offered at many art stores, or order a bunch from an online supplier like Dick Blick.

    Illustration board is another option. It will be stored in drawers somewhere at the art supply store. Ask an employee to show it to you. It comes in various thicknesses and surfaces (hot and cold press) – but those things don’t matter much. If they have small sheets in the size you want, great; if you decide you really like it as a surface, then you will want to invest in a carpet knife and a big metal straight-edge, so that you can cut it however you like. A note about cutting – don’t do it on hard-wood floors or Persian rugs. The best place to cut the stuff is on top of wall-to-wall carpeting. (But test it out carefully behind the sofa before you really trust me on this.)

    You can also stretch and gesso paper, or stretch your own canvas. The former involves soaking a large sheet of paper, taping or stapling it to a board, coating it with gesso, and letting it dry. It’s a little involved, but it makes a surface that’s great for doing oil sketches. Canvasses are just as involved, but more bulky and a lot more expensive. Don’t bother with canvas until you have some experience painting.

    Whatever surface you use, you will want to cover it in acrylic gesso first to make it non-absorbent. (Called “priming”) So pick up a container of that, and a cheap house painting brush to smear it around. At least two coats will be necessary for most surfaces. This surface can be sanded very smooth, but don’t bother with sanding at the beginning. Newspaper or a drop-cloth is also necessary if you don’t want to get gesso on the floor. I use a large drop-cloth from a hardware store to cover my living-room floor so that I can gesso ten or twenty small boards all at once. Eventually, with more experience, you can experiment with the different types of primer available.

    Paints! Oh goodness, there is endless debate over what makes the best basic set of paints. I don’t know what the best basic set is. A traditional inexpensive “student” set is:

    yellow ochre
    ivory black,
    cadmium red
    titanium white

    Notice that this does not represent a full colour-wheel. The ivory black is essentially a very dark blue, and so you do have the three primary colours, red, yellow and blue along with white. With just these four paints, an astonishing number of colours can be mixed.

    Another basic student set is the Double Primary palette:

    cadmium yellow
    lemon yellow
    cadmium red
    alizarin crimson
    ultramarine blue
    cobalt blue
    white

    This gives a palette with a “warm” and a “cool” version of each primary colour. Again, intermixture between these can yield an incredible amount of colours, more than enough for masterful painting.

    One last super-budget paint-combo is this:

    Burnt Umber
    Payne’s Grey
    Titanium White (optional)

    This colour combo gives you a monochrome palette but with just enough warms and cools to make it feel colourful. If you use this combination on a white ground, you can get results similar to a charcoal and sanguine drawing. These colours can work well as the first layer of full-colour paintings, too.

    Try one of these combinations, and when you find you’re frustrated with the limitations of the colors, go supplement this palette with new colors one or two at a time. Also, there is not much reason to bother using student-grade paint. They are a false economy. They cost less because there are less actual pigment particles in the tube, along with more “fillers” like chalk, wax etc. If you want less pigment, you can buy the artist grade variety and add more oil to your paints.

    Pigment names can be very confusing. Anything that has “hue” in the name means that it is a replica of an expensive pigment (for example a cadmium pigment) made using a cheaper pigment. Although they may seem more cost effective, they usually aren’t, because the “hue” is never as strong as the original and so you end up using more of it.

    You will want to avoid anything called just “red” or “blue” or anything that has “hue” in the name. You generally want the tubes with names that tell you exactly what chemical or organic compound makes up the colour, such as “cobalt” or “titanium”. If in doubt, it is always a good idea to look up a colour you want on the internet, to find some information about it.

    What is paint, anyway? Paint is a colourful substance, ground into dust, and then held together with a binder. In this case, the binder is oil (Generally linseed or safflower). That oil can be thinned out with more oil if you think the tube consistency is a little stiff. You can buy a small bottle of linseed oil while you are out shopping. When you work, pour a little bit into a container and try adding it to your paints with your brush, or pallet-knife. It isn’t necessary to use this stuff, any more than it is necessary to put solvent in your paints. But to learn the sorts of things that oils are capable of, you will want to spend some time working with paint thinned with each so that you get to know how they change the look and feel of the paint.

    Mediums: There are all sorts of painting mediums available for oil colours. It is best to start out without using any of these, and so getting used to how the paint handles from the tube, or thinned with either solvent or linseed oil. The idea of mediums is to modify how the paint “handles” (I.e., how it feels, how it flows, how easily it comes off the brush, how fast it dries, how glossy it looks etc) They are only worth investigating once you get used to how the paint behaves straight from the tube, in its most basic form. After all, you need a little experience in order to see what difference the medium is actually making. Many artists don’t use medium whatsoever.


    Now, what to do with those paints? Squirt out paint in little worms on your palette. Use the palette knife to cut off chunks of those paints, move those chunks around, and squash them together. You will want to do most of your colour-mixing with the knife like this, so that your brushes don’t get gunky and worn-out. Then dip your brush in the combined colour and paint. Or, dip your brush in linseed oil, then in the paint. Or dip your brush in the solvent first. Or use your rag to scrape paint off the painting, or use the palette knife to apply paint! There are no rules to this, only different things to try.

    Cleaning up! Scrape leftover paint onto paper towels or old phone-book pages and toss them in the trash. Heavily soiled rags can go in the trash. If you have a reusable palette, use the palette knife to scrape off as much of the paint as possible, then dip the corner of a rag in some solvent and use that to wipe the surface off. Glass and other hard surfaces can be scraped with a razor-blade if necessary, and wood and masonite palettes do well when rubbed with oil now and then. Brushes get cleaned first with solvent, then with soap. The palette knife gets wiped clean. Dirty solvent gets saved for recycling.

    There are various ways that you can save paints from one painting-session to the next, as well:

    Plastic wrap. This is good except you lose some paint when you take the wrap off the next session.

    Freezer. Oil paints freeze excellently. Put the palette in a big sealable container (a Tupperware box for example) and stick it in the freezer. Let thaw for an hour before resuming.

    Another way if you have a designated painting sink, is to half fill the sink with water and submerge the palette over night. Make sure to get as much water off the palette before resuming the next day. (I am squeamish about putting water on my paints, but k4pka says this works.)

    That’s it! For now don’t worry about fat-over lean rules or varnishes or which pigments crack in which situations or crazy dangerous things like making your own paints – that can all be learned later if you want to. There is a lot of drudgery and science to oil painting that you do not need to know immediately, or even necessarily at all. You actually now have everything that you need to know to make a complete oil-painting! Experiment and play and, most importantly, have fun.
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    Thank you Seedling, very much.
    Passion Rules Reason
    MY Sketchbook - My super inactive and not so cool SB, to be active and really cool sometime soon. ^^
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seedling View Post
    I am squeamish about putting water on my paints, but k4pka says this works.
    Water on the oil paints cannot do a thing, what with the oil repelling the water and all, it just beads off.

    Getting water on a bristle brush that is being used for oil painting however is absolute hell! The oil and water trying to repel each other inside the brush results in a horrible flabby brush. Its very strange, and cannot be sorted out other than washing the brush in soap and water, and letting it dry thoroughly. This is a real pain when painting outside in the rain!

    Seedling, as before mentioned, great idea, great guide, great thread! Ought to get (deservedly) stickied soon!
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    Briliant thread. Takes a lot of the pressure and scare factor out of oil painting. 5 stars, my friend.
    Deselect
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    http://sixthirteendesign.com
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    Quote Originally Posted by k4pka View Post
    Water on the oil paints cannot do a thing, what with the oil repelling the water and all, it just beads off.
    I wouldn't go that far. Storing oils under water will slow down drying, but doesn't stop it completely, since there's still some oxygen dissolved in water. Instead of skinning over, the paint tends to thicken until it eventually passes the point of usability.

    Tristan Elwell
    **Finished Work Thread **Process Thread **Edges Tutorial

    "Work is more fun than fun."
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    "Art is supposed to punch you in the brain, and it's supposed to stay punched."
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    don't forget the mylar for sketches
    and I have been using Computer "vellum" as a frosted mylar
    with good results
    chaos
    To see the world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wildflower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    I wouldn't go that far. Storing oils under water will slow down drying, but doesn't stop it completely, since there's still some oxygen dissolved in water. Instead of skinning over, the paint tends to thicken until it eventually passes the point of usability.
    This is true, I have only ever used this measure over night. Best bet for longer term storage is the freezing.
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    thanks for posting this, seedling.
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    Jushra - my pleasure. :-)

    HEY! If any of you experienced painters feel like posting pictures of your studios, or the way you lay out paints of a palette, or anything else you can think of, I would love to see how other people arrange their spaces and supplies.
    I think you are awesome, and I wish you the best in your endeavors, but I am tired of repeating myself, I am very busy with my new baby, and I am no longer a regular participant here, so please do not contact me to ask for advice on your career or education. All of the advice that I have to offer can already be found in the following links. Thank you.

    Perspective 101, Concept Art 101, Games Industry info,Oil Paint info, Acrylic Paint info, my sketchbook.
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    Thanks for the links and information, here's a couple more that i've found. Some repeat what has already been posted though, like about brushes.

    Painting Glossary:
    http://www.gamblincolors.com/oil.pai....glossary.html
    Color Mixing
    http://emptyeasel.com/2006/12/22/how...-mixing-color/
    Brushes
    http://emptyeasel.com/2007/03/02/an-artist%e2%80%99s-guide-to-oil-painting-brushes-and-the-paintbrush-types-youll-need/
    Glossary of the different Oils (linseed, poppy, etc..) and what they do
    http://www.cad-red.com/mt2/oil.html#linseed

    And generally just the site emptyeasel.com I found useful.
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    I've never been one for saving paints on my palette from one session to the next. Typically I only lay out a small amount at a time of the colors I plan on using, and clean it all off when I'm done for the day.
    David B. Clemons
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