10 Oil Painting Techniques That Everyone Must Try

Oil Painting Techniques

The grand old lady of paints is oil painting. There are a plethora of oil painting styles, and each artist creates his or her own. However, there are certain fundamental guidelines to follow, and understanding them can help you develop your own personal style. You may continue to grow as an artist by honing your general abilities.

Most art admirers adore the appearance of oil paintings but are hesitant to try them themselves. We learn the most by making errors. The more you work with them, the simpler it will get, and you’ll be mixing oil paint in no time. Use these techniques to help you fall in love with oil painting!

3 Rules of Oil Painting Techniques:

Composition is generally created by utilizing multiple layers of color while using oil paint. There are three tried-and-true guidelines to follow if you want to get the best out of your painting: 

  • “Fat over lean”
  • “Thick over thin” and  
  • “Slow- drying over fast-drying”

Rule 1: Fat over lean

You should never use straight oil paint on a white canvas since it not only looks amateurish but also makes it difficult to add layers and get the desired depth. Each layer after that must be more flexible than the one before it. This may be accomplished by increasing the amount of medium in each successive layer, making it more flexible than the preceding one and preventing the painting from splitting. Consider the rule to be “Fat over lean.”

Rule 2: Thick over thin

In general, this means starting with thinner washes and progressively increasing the thickness of your paint as you add additional layers. This works especially well with transparent paints, which are often darker in the tube. They become lighter and transparent when combined with an oil painting medium. It’s preferable to put thick layers over small layers when painting with dark colors. This is due to the fact that thin layers dry faster.

Rule 3: Slow-drying over fast-drying

It’s preferable to use quick-drying colors as under layers all the time. If you apply a fast-drying layer on the top of a slow-drying layer, the artwork may get cracks on paints. This is because the fast-drying layers will have dried on top of still-drying layers, and when the slow-drying layers dry, they will force and distort the ones above, causing them to split.

10 Oil Painting Techniques:

Have you ever wished to learn the tricks and tips when it comes to oil painting? Here are some ways for oil painting and the supplies you’ll need.

It all starts with obtaining the necessary resources before you can master the skills. A few soft oil painting brushes, a solvent to clean your brushes, linseed oil (or another oil painting medium), a cotton cloth, and of course, excellent quality oil paints are all required.

If you’ve been dabbling with oil paints for a while, now could be the right moment to take your work to the next level. Oil painting is a highly adaptable medium for making artwork, and there are a variety of oil painting techniques that may help you achieve different results.

Wet on Wet Oil Painting Techniques:

Wet on Wet Oil Painting Techniques
  • Direct painting, also known as alla prima (Italian for “at first attempt”), is a painting technique in which layers of wet paint are applied over previously applied layers of wet paint.
  • The technique, which is usually used in oil painting, necessitates a quick way of doing things because the work must be completed before the first layers have dried.
  • Alla Prima is a technique that can be quite effective. Painting in layers without allowing the base layer to dry completely is known as “wet-on-wet” painting.
  • This excellent oil painting technique for beginners may appear to be quick because you don’t wait for the first layer to dry before moving on to the next.
  • However, unlike layer over layer, which requires you to wait for the first layer to dry, the wet on wet technique is more about putting all your layers together as quickly as possible.
  • Though several layers are required to get our desired final touch, the drying period for this technique might take weeks, depending on how many layers you have assembled for a single painting session.

Scumbling Oil Painting Techniques:

scrumbling oil painting techniques
  • Scumbling is a dry-brush technique that doesn’t require much in the way of the additional medium.
  • Painting a lighter, thin opaque layer over a dry or semi-dried darker paint is the reverse of glazing.
  • To make it transparent, you maintain it thin. This may be accomplished by either adding oil painting medium to it or just using less paint on your brush.
  • Because the new layer contains more white than the dried bottom layer, the effect is a cooler, somewhat bluer hue.
  • The color is less intense, and the underlying color is still visible.
  • Scumbling varies from glazing in that it does not necessitate a completely smooth coat of paint.
  • You want a splattered paint job with some areas showing through.
  • This technique is perfect for adding depth and atmosphere to your paintings.
  • Scumbling is a great way to soften textures. It has a semi-opaque appearance if you apply opaque color on top of the dried layer.
  • It lightens the color beneath it while also making it chalkier.
  • Scumbling, on the other hand, lightens the dry layer, making it more opaque, whilst glazing darkens the color tone on top.
  • With dried underpaintings, both oil painting techniques are frequently used.

Glazing Oil Painting Techniques:

Oil Glazing
  • Another excellent oil painting method for newbies is glazing, which involves applying thin layers of paint and allowing them to dry before adding another layer.
  • Glazing is a common oil painting technique in which glazes are placed over an opaque layer of paint that has been allowed to dry.
  • The standard procedure is to start with a monochrome underpainting using opaque colors, then apply glazes on top, letting each layer dry between layers.
  • This is really a lengthy procedure, as oil paints take a long time to dry.
  • An artist who uses this approach may wait up to a year for it to settle, and they must pay close attention to the surface since certain oil paintings appear dry on the top but are still wet on the inside.
  • Glazing allows for a complex mix of colors to be put together, revealing the true brilliance of oil paints.
  • When there are many layers of glazes, the colors merge visually as if they were all mixed together, even if the pigments are not really mixed together.
  • This produces intriguing effects that are ideal for portrait painting.

Chiaroscuro Oil Painting Techniques:

  • Chiaroscuro, which creates a strong contrast between the light and dark areas of a picture, was popular among Painters.
  • Light- dark is the Italian word for “chiaroscuro”. It refers to the painting’s proportion and structuring of light and dark in creating art.
  • It greatly enhances the drama of a composition by bringing a topic to the foreground and generating a three-dimensional illusion.
  • It’s best to start with a single light source, such as a lamp, and work outwards from there when utilizing this approach.
  • To produce life-like depth and tone, the method focuses on shadows and a single source of light.
  • Early painters demonstrated how stunning the chiaroscuro technique can be, which is why so many artists today continue to employ it, despite how difficult and time-consuming it is to accomplish.

Impasto Oil Painting Techniques:

impasto Technique
  • Impasto is a term that describes paint that is applied thickly and boldly with apparent brushwork, but it may also apply to the more subtle textures generated by delicate brushwork on a flat surface.
  • You may add extra depth to your painting by increasing the texture in key places with an impasto method.
  • This can help to create the illusion of three-dimensionality.
  • This is all about adding dimension to a painting with a precise brush stroke that adds specific features that improve the texture of the surface.
  • Though textures can generally be created with the strokes of any brush, the palette knife is the ideal tool for generating impasto since you’ll be working with thick layers that palette knives can produce where paintbrushes can’t always match.
  • The impasto method necessitates a far greater understanding of how a paintbrush actually works the movement on the surface that signals each action, and much greater knowledge of oil paints.
  • This means it’s all over the place, even the backdrop, for a superior boldness and a great sense of gloom.

Underpainting Oil Painting Techniques:

underpainting oil painting techniques
  • An underpainting is an initial coat of paint applied to a canvas or board that serves as a foundation for subsequent applications of paint.
  • It is a basic process that may have a significant impact on the entirety of the painting and it serves as a foundation for your painting and is a wonderful method to get some contrast and tonal values into your work right away.
  • It’s an old master’s method for planning future color arrangements and establishing specific values and tones within a painting’s color pallet.
  • If utilized appropriately, underpainting is a fantastic technique to combine color values in the overall painting and provide a subjective color key to the picture, resulting in tonal dominance.
  • One of the finest methods to begin underpainting is to thin your paint using a solvent, which will thin the pigment and then peel off a little and mix in with future layers of paint as you proceed with your painting.

There are two kinds of underpainting:

Tonal Grounds under-Painting Technique: 

  • This kind of painting uses a single translucent hue to cover the entire canvas.
  • This layer will provide backlighting shadows to the artwork, toning it and adding contrast to complementary hues.

Tonal Under-Painting Technique: 

  • This involves only one hue to cover your canvas, map out where you want the darker and brighter parts in a tonal underpainting.
  • You may leave certain sections unpainted with this version to allow some white canvas to show through.
  • When you begin your “real” painting, the white canvas will show through much more and seem much brighter as you add more colors.
  • This method can offer you stronger top colors and a head start on establishing themes in your painting as a whole.

Grisaille Oil Painting Techniques:

  • Grisaille is a monochrome painting that actually refers to the color grey or any tone that goes along with it.
  • This kind of oil painting isn’t as popular these days, although grisaille is utilized to generate an effect that is nearly identical to the pictures of monuments.
  • Typically, the monochrome painting style uses black, white, and grey to depict light, dark, and shade.
  • It has gone out of favor due to the vast range of color accessible in modern times, despite the fact that it may be utilized to great advantage in underpainting.
  • Before going on to bright, unexpected colors, beginners may want to experiment with this older talent.
  • With all of the numerous oil painting techniques that have previously emerged, only a few artists utilized this approach today.

Blocking In Oil Painting Techniques:

Blocking In Oil Painting Techniques
  • Blocking in refers to the act of laying down the main colors and forms on your canvas before beginning to paint.
  • The blocking in Technique‘s goal is to completely cover the canvas so that none of the white from your canvas base shows through.
  • This procedure may be utilized as a guide for subsequent paint applications, allowing the painter to use the colors and tones produced when blocking in as a reference.
  • This is usually done with very big brushes and thinned paint.
  • Squint your eyes until your subject seems blurry, then paint the major characteristics you notice in this blurry condition before adding the details once this layer has dried.
  • Spend some time experimenting with color mixing if you’re a newbie to painting and haven’t had much experience with it.
  • In most cases, darker colors will be applied first to the shadows in your painting.
  • This will be done using paint that has been thinned and is fairly transparent.
  • Apply the light color first if there is a significant section of your painting that is lightly toned with dark details.

Blending Oil Painting Techniques:

blending Oil Painting Techniques
  • The smooth shift from one hue to another is referred to as a blend.
  • Because oil paint takes a long time to cure, you can move the wet paint about on the canvas.
  • This makes blending, which is notoriously difficult with other forms of paint, a breeze.
  • Oil paint will mix with all brushes. The best brushes are flat, while the worst are round.
  • For big and tiny mixes, the fundamentals are the same.
  • Beginner painters utilize blending as one of the most overused approaches in order to achieve a smooth and ‘realistic’ painting.
  • Too much blending, on the other hand, can quickly give the painting plastic and hyper look.
  • When utilized minimally and properly when necessary, blending is far more effective.
  • Otherwise, brush strokes and colors should be left alone.
  • While the painting may appear rough up close, when viewed from a distance, all of the brush strokes and fragmented colors optically combine to give the appearance of the shape.

Oiling Out Oil Painting Techniques:

Oiling Out Oil Painting Techniques
  • The “oiling out” method may breathe fresh life into an old artwork.
  • All is not lost if a painting has lost its energy and has become boring.
  • This is generally caused by “sinking,” which happens when the top layer of oil is lost to the layer underneath.
  • An over the absorbent surface, too much solvent, or insufficient medium are the three most prevalent reasons.
  • It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and the easiest method to avoid sinking in oil paintings is to use an artist’s primer like Oil Painting Primer before you begin.
  • However, when you add oil color, the varied drying speeds might produce a paint film with varying degrees of absorbency, which appears as dull patches rather than a full dull region.
  • The key is to treat these dull areas as soon as possible once they have dried.
  • Apply a little amount of Artists’ Painting Medium to a clean cloth and gently rub it into any sunken areas.
  • Remove any residue with a damp cloth and set it aside to dry for a day or two.


  • The secret with oil painting is to enjoy the wonderful beauty of oil paint from a distance, rather than focusing on the up-close appearance of the final masterpiece. 
  • Once you’ve explored this, you may go on to the next step.
  • There are various techniques to paint with oil paints, and new approaches will develop as you progress.
  • Learning all of these tactics may help you get more comfortable with oil paints; however, you do not need to learn all of them at once;
  • Having a few favorites and repeating them over time can give you a good understanding of how to paint with oils.
  • There are still some excellent oil painting methods for beginners that you will discover along the way that are considerably more complicated to you as a beginning, but as you explore and practice, you will undoubtedly get closer to learning those skills as you get more experience with this medium.
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