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Uncover the skills you need to master painting with oils


Learn from the

Old Masters

Find out how to streamline your paints


Explore the tricks used by history’s greatest painters

in-depth expert workshops


Digital Edition

Follow our professional artists and create your best art yet

Create texture

Add drama and dimension with our advanced tutorials

New brush techniques

Discover expert tricks for achieving different effects with your kit

Amazing fur and eyes

Top tips to depict realistic details using this tricky medium


Getting started with oils In this tutorial, HOWARD LYON explains how to get started in painting with oils, from choosing the right paint colours and brushes, to pulling together an essential kitbag HOWARD American Fork, Utah, USA Howard has a deep love and appreciation for art history, recently expanding his work to create paintings inspired by his favourite old masters


Spectrum of colours

There are hundreds of colours to choose from, but start with a basic palette that covers the spectrum and will give you a good mix of warm and cool hues. Pro-grade oils will contain more pigment, which will result in more accurate colour mixing, and will be resistant to fading in sunlight.

Titanium white Cadmium yellow light Yellow ochre Cadmium red light Alizarin crimson Transparent red oxide Burnt umber Raw umber Phthalo green Phthalo blue Ultramarine blue Ivory black

Be delibera te Every stroke you make should have purpose. What shape, colour and value is the stroke you’re trying to make? Stay focused and paint with intent.



here’s an undeserved mystique around oil painting that has put up some intimidating barriers for some artists wanting to use this wonderful medium. I hope to remove those concerns and provide a basic foundation of knowledge to help you get started. Oil paint is pigment bound in a drying (siccative) oil. The most common is linseed oil extracted from flax seeds, but you’ll also find paint bound in walnut, safflower or other oils. The pigments are generally the same as those found in watercolours, pastels and acrylics. Oil paints offer a richness of colour and its surface allows the creation of beautiful textures. You can paint thick or thin,

directly or use glazes. Oils can be used on paper, wood, metal, plastic, canvas and many other surfaces. If you’re just getting started, don’t get overwhelmed. Be patient with yourself and recognise that it’ll take a little time to get the hang of this beautiful medium. Don’t overcomplicate it, either. To begin we’ll go over the key materials needed for you to get started. Most art materials are sold in at least two grades: student and professional. Whenever possible, purchase pro-grade materials. I find the difference in price is offset because pro materials almost always last longer and the paint goes further.

A small synthetic mongoose round for the finest detailing, from Rosemary & Co Three Master Choice Flats from Rosemary & Co. Can be chisel shaped or soft and fuzzy A long Ivory Filbert and Round – great for fine detail and hard edges

Bristle brushes are excellent for scubbing in thin paint as well as laying down thin impastos


An Ivory Flat Bristle from Rosemary & Co. Excellent for thin and thick strokes, and very durable

Master Choice Filbert from Rosemary & Co. It’s made from badger hair and very versatile

Oil painting requires a variety of brushes

I prefer Rosemary & Co. brushes, but I also recommend Silver Grand Prix and Trekell. Hog bristle brushes are versatile, not terribly expensive and allow for a variety of applications. Finer-haired brushes, both natural and synthetic, can give you an even smoother finish and make very fine detail possible.

Getting started with oils A tempered glass palette. These come in a variety of sizes, and you can put a value scale under the glass for reference

This wooden arm palette from New Wave Art is light and well balanced, with plenty of room for mixing


A surface to paint

The most common surfaces to paint on are canvas, linen and wood. You’ll need to prime the surface with a gesso or ground to prevent the acids in the paint from contacting it directly. Acrylic gesso is easy to use and can be quickly applied with a brush or roller.

A wood hardboard panel is cheap and smooth, and easy to make

A disposable palette from New Wave Art, for when you’re out and about

A scraper for removing paint from a glass palette (not a wooden one!)


Choose a palette for your paint

You’ll need a palette for your paint. This can be a disposable one, a clean tabletop or a handheld wood palette, or a piece of glass that can be quickly scraped clean. Whatever you use, choose something that’s large enough to allow for easy mixing and can be used ergonomically.

Paper from Arches that has been sized for oil painting


Raw linen before it’s been sized or primed. Expensive, but has a beautiful texture, and is strong

A comfortable easel

A solid easel is important so that your work is stable, safe and remains at a good working height while you’re painting. You can purchase small, metal tripod-style easels that can be used sitting or standing, or consider a folding wood easel, or larger studio models that are meant to remain in situ.


From left to right…

Inexpensive, metal, tripodstyle easel. Easy to carry and store, and can be used either when sitting or standing



H-frame style easel for studio use. Broad price range and comes in various sizes


French-style field easel. Limited canvas sizes, but is versatile and portable



Images: Getty Images (paint daubs)



Perfect a sunset scene Find out how to create warm and deep landscape scenes – particularly complex sunsets – with your limited colour palette


Blue skies ahead

The blue sky in this landscape sits above all the drama happening below, so it was important to get just the right mix. The blue sky is also reflected in the pool, so it had to sit well with its surrounding sky and land colours to look authentic. I took some Ultramarine Blue and tinted it down with Titanium White No.1. I wanted to add violet tones so I mixed in a little Alizarin Crimson. The blue of the sky also leaned towards the greens so I added a little Bright Yellow Lake to subtly shift it in that direction.


Deep shadows

In a painting with such high notes of extreme colour, the composition needs to be anchored and balanced with dark, deep tones. I decided to increase harmony by combining a lot of these into one deep violet. Remember that these deep, dark tones needs to be desaturated with their complementary colour – in this case, Bright Yellow Lake. I didn’t want to go all the way to black, so I started with my warmer blue, Ultramarine. I then added Alizarin Crimson to create my violet and Bright Yellow Lake to grey it down.



Peachy tones

As the sun gets lower in the sky, the rays of light have more atmosphere to travel through to reach your eyes. This tends to filter out more of the violets and blues, creating beautiful peachy-pink skies as in our subject. To re-create this peachy-pink, I mixed Scarlet Lake with Titanium White No.1. When mixing tints, add the dominant colour to the white, rather than adding white to the dominant colour – you’ll save a lot of white paint. I then ‘peached-up’ my pink by adding small amounts of Bright Yellow Lake until I was I happy.


Golden grass

One of the strongest colours in the foreground, and counterpoint to the deep shadows, is the sunset kissing the foliage around the pool. I wanted this to be bright and sing out, but it’s easy to go in too light and too high in saturation. I started off mixing Scarlet Lake with Yellow Lake to create a strong and warm orange. As Scarlet Lake is the dominant colour, I greyed it down using Phthalocyanine Blue Lake to create a strong desaturation while retaining a good, warm orange. Offer up your palette knife to your painting to see how your mix looks next its surrounding colours before you commit with a brush.

Green fields

A cool balancing colour to all those high notes and deep shadows is the green of the fields around the cottage. They lead the viewer’s eye towards the cottage and out across the pool, so they’re important elements. I wanted the green to be bright and full-bodied but it needed to be desaturated quite a bit so it didn’t stand out like a sore thumb. I mixed Ultramarine Blue with Yellow Lake to make my strong green and then desaturated it with a little Alizarin Crimson. Go careful, though – it’s all too easy to overdo it and mix a brown.

Ultramarine Blue

Bright Yellow Lake Alizarin Crimson


Limited colour palette


Ultramarine Blue Alizarin Crimson

Scarlet Lake


Titanium White No.1

Titanium White No.1

Bright Yellow Lake

Bright Yellow Lake


Scarlet Lake


Ultramarine Blue

Yellow Lake Titanium White No.1 Phthalo Blue Lake

Alizarin Crimson Bright Yellow Lake 23


Depict a dynamic urban environment GUILLAUME MENUEL shows how he created a snapshot of urban life painted in oils in a loose, rough style


Depict an urban environment

GUILLAUME Montreal, Quebec, Canada Born and raised in Paris, Guillaume moved to Canada eight years ago to work in the videogames industry. He’s been both a concept artist and professional painter.


efore I began painting in a traditional way, I worked for years as a digital artist in the videogame industry. With that background, I felt the need to come back to something raw, something I could feel, smell and manipulate with my hands. Oil painting was a revelation, and I have been practising in this medium for almost two years now.

My favourite subject so far has been the city (Montreal by default). I’ve always been a city guy. I love how cities move, their dynamism, how everything evolves over time, the decrepitude and renewal tangling with each other, how it creates tons of shapes, colours and materials, depending on time of day or year. That’s what I really enjoy painting! Sometimes my subject is a wide landscape, or sometimes I focus on a street corner, as in this project. I’ll show you how I paint in a spontaneous and loose way, working with layers of colours and never adding too much detail. The idea is to capture as much atmosphere and dynamism as possible.

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Guillaume is using an 18x24-inch wood panel, gessoed and sanded smooth. To apply his oil paints, he uses a selection of flat, soft synthetic brushes, paper towels, painting knives and his fingers. His style of painting doesn’t usually require high-level tools, and his brushes are relatively cheap.

Guillaume says this street corner has became a favourite subject of his, and he has painted it at various angles... 57


Create contemporary still life in oils Follow oil painter ROB LUNN through the creation of a still-life painting from start to finish


Contemporary still life

Canestra di frutta (Basket of Fruit) by Caravaggio

David & Goliath

ROB LUNN Bath, UK Rob is a self-taught painter, and loves to paint in oils. His influences are Vincent van Gogh, Caravaggio and Ilya Repin. He has taught art workshops since 2012.

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n Canvas board, 8” x 10” n Rosemary & Co. Ivory short-handled Flats sizes: 0, 2, 4, 6, 8,10 & size 2 rigger n Michael Harding Oil Paints: Ultramarine Blue*, Blue Lake*, Green Lake, Bright Green Lake, Bright Yellow Lake*, Yellow Lake*, Yellow Lake Deep, Permanent Orange, Scarlet Lake*, Alizarin Crimson*, Magenta, Ultramarine Violet, Titanium White*, Burnt Umber *Denotes scaleddown set for those on a budget. Mixes will have a lower saturation (intensity) of colour. n Kichen roll n Old Masters Brush Cleaner & Preserver (+ TLC) n Bartoline Brush Cleaner


till-life painting hasn’t always enjoyed its current position in the art world. The genre used to be referred to as rhyparography, defined as the painting of ‘mean, unworthy or sordid subjects’. It was seen as a lesser art form next to the loftier genres of portraiture or landscape. Fortunately, tastes changed and still-life painting now enjoys a much more rich and diverse history.

The first ever still-life painting is credited to the 15th-century Italian master, Caravaggio. In his 1599 painting, Canestra di frutta (Basket of Fruit), Caravaggio gives us a warts ’n’ all depiction of this everyday subject. The grapes are well past their best-before date and the apple has something living in it. Also, the basket itself is teetering on the edge of the table – you almost feel compelled to push it back. Historians have theorised about the true meaning of Canestra di frutta, but, whatever its meaning, it’s clear Caravaggio packed this simple subject full of narrative. With a twist, a painting of an apple can be a depiction of man’s fall from grace. In my still-life painting, David & Goliath (oil on board 10” x 10”), a segment of tangerine and a sugar pot take on the role of the biblical struggle of right over might. In this tutorial you’ll learn how to build a stilllife oil painting using this exciting medium. Step-by-step I’ll guide you though the process, highlighting what to look out for and what pitfalls you might encounter. We’ll look at setting up your composition and controlling it like a miniature theatre. Then we’ll go through each stage of the process, building the painting up in manageable steps. If you’re new to oil paints and you don’t know where to start, this tutorial will set you off on the right foot.


Go further


Glazing for glowing skies

Glazing for glowing skies SARAH JANE BROWN demonstrates a dramatic colourful sky using just a few colours, some simple glazing techniques and a little bit of patience SARAH Pembrokeshire, UK Sarah Jane Brown is a landscape painter based in Pembrokeshire, and is inspired by the clear coastal light and the rugged beauty of her surroundings. A member of the Guild Society of Artists, she exhibits widely and her work is collected internationally.

Ma terials

The traditional method of glazing can seem daunting at first as it carries an air of mystery. Glazing as a basic technique is actually very simple but does require patience, so expect this exercise to take several days. Each layer must be completely dry before adding the next. For this reason I work on several paintings simultaneously and have them hanging up to dry around my studio, waiting for the next layer. One advantage of this method is that should you make a mistake with a glaze, you can wipe it off knowing that the previous layers will be undisturbed. Glazing can create a visual depth, optical complexity and intensity of colour that is

impossible to achieve by any other method, so it is well worth learning. It can be used for an entire painting, as in this case, or just in places to modify a colour, deepen a dark tone, transition or unify particular areas of a painting. At its most basic, a glaze is the application of a transparent layer of paint over a dry layer of underpainting. Traditionally, artists would start with a tonal underpainting called a ‘grisaille’, which is what we will be doing in this demonstration. A painting of glazes is only as good as the structure and values of the underpainting, so it’s worth taking your time over this first stage. Adding a transparent pigment to a transparent glaze medium such as Liquin speeds drying time, extends the paint and makes it even more transparent. By layering several glazes, an extraordinary depth of colour can be achieved.

brushes flat, Size 14 brights, Size 8 filberts, Size 5 brights, rigger/fine-liner brush, selection of palette/painting knives n  Limited palette of transparent oil colours; Lemon Yellow or similar, Ultramarine Blue, magenta or

Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Umber n  Titanium White (I use Alkyd for speed of drying) n  Fast-drying flow/gel medium such as Liquin n Low-odour solvent for brush cleaning n Rags/paper towel


n  40 x 50cm cotton primed canvas n  A range of brushes and knives, the more variety the better, so you can vary the size and shape of the marks you make. e.g. large 2” flat brush, 1” natural hair brushes round, 1” natural hair


ake a walk around any large art museum and the chances are you will see some very old paintings that still have such rich, luminous colour in them that it seems they have been lit from within.


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