Answers to the 5 Top Questions Beginner Oil Painters Have

Answers to the 5 Top Questions Beginner Oil Painters Have

Starting to paint with oil paints it can be a very daunting medium to work in. I know when I started to paint I had a ton of questions and was not sure if what and how I was doing things was completely correct.

We have the answers to your beginner oil painting top 5 questions such as 1) what do I mix to make my oil paints thinner? 2) is acrylic or oil paint easier to learn? 3) how to use gesso? 4) do I need to prime my canvas? and 5) how hard is it to learn to oil paint?

Here are our answers to these top 5 questions that many beginning oil painters are seeking answers to.

What can I mix with oil paint to make it thinner?

There are basically two things you can use to thin your oil paints – a white spirit or turpentine. Most oil paints that come out of the tube will need to be thinned in some way.

Here is some basic information on available White Spirits and Turpentine:

White Spirit

White Spirit is also known as Mineral Spirits, Turpentine Substitute, Petroleum Spirits and Paint Thinner. White Spirits are generally flammable, so they should be stored and used carefully.

White Spirits can be used for thinning your oil paints and also for cleaning your brushes. They are slower drying than turpentine. White Spirits also has the benefit of not deteriorating when stored long term.

One of the reasons that many artists do not like to use the White Spirit is that they can have a really strong smell and for some people, it will cause dizziness and a feeling of nausea. That is why you must always use White Spirit in a very well ventilated room and you should consider using Nitrile gloves and a mask if they cause you any kind of irritation.

When recommend buying the Winsor & Newton Artists’ White Spirit. You can find out more about it by clicking here.

Odorless Mineral Spirits or  Low Odour Solvent

The low odorless solvent also known as odorless mineral spirits, is another option that you can use. In the low odorless mineral spirit, it has been refined to remove some of the toxic compounds. This is a very good option to use espeially if you are regularly in contact with your solvent. I use an odorless mineral spirit in all my work.

You can use this odorless solvent exactly the same as you would use the white spirit. You can use it with your paints and also cleaning your brushes.

We recommend that you consider getting an odorless white spirit as Gamblin Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits. You can find out more about the Gamblin Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits by clicking here.

Artist Turpentine

Turpentine is also called the Spirit of Turpentine or Oil of Turpentine, but it is all essentially Turpentine. It is more viscous than the white spirit.

A good quality turpentine will smell like a pine tree. This is because turpentine is made from the bark of a tree that is then purified and distilled.

Turpentine is flammable and will also emit vapors that can irritate the skin, eyes, and even damage the lungs. Do not use any of your household turpentines for art as it probably has gum in it and this will prevent your paint from drying or causing your painting to yellow over time.

This is why it is important to use artist turpentine as it is a purer form of turpentine and will ensure your paint dries and will not yellow. Artist Turpentine also has fewer impurities than regular turpentine you may buy at your local hardware store.

We recommend considering to Winsor & Newton Distilled Turpentine. This is very good quality turpentine You can find out more about the Winsor & Newton Distilled Turpentine by clicking here.

Is oil painting easier than acrylic?

Working with acrylics and oil painting is about the same level of difficulty. Deciding which one to use for your painting depends on if you prefer to have a paint that dries quickly or slowly.

One of the main differences between oil painting and acrylics is the drying time. Oil paints dry much slower than acrylic paints. Sometimes oil paints can take up a to year to dry completely.

Since acrylic paints dry much quicker, so you must also be more decisive with your paint strokes. Due to the fact that oil painting takes a longer time to dry, you can have more flexibility with your painting.

Acrylic paints are water-based paints and oil paints are oil-based. They are similar but also have different properties and ways they need to be handled as far as the drying time, mixing them, and working with them on the canvas.

Can I use white paint instead of gesso?

Gesso is designed to be a prime or a base coat for your canvas. Gesso will dry quickly on your canvas. Some artists may use a thin coat of white acrylic paint to prime their canvas instead of gesso.

Gesso is designed to be a prime coat on a canvas, so when you are starting to paint it may be best for you to prime your canvas with gesso as it will dry matt and will give you a better overall prime coat.

We recommend that you get yourself a large container of gesso if you are going to be painting a lot of paintings or very large paintings. I like to take all my canvases I will be using for the next few months and then apply the gesso on them at one time. I must find this to be the easiest way for me to apply the gesso as I can quickly prime them and then clean up just one time.

For your gesso, you can consider purchasing a gesso like Utrecht Artists’ Acrylic Gesso. You can find out more about Utrecht Artists’ Acrylic Gesso by clicking here.

Once you have applied the gesso and the gesso is dry, depending on what I am painting and my canvas, I may apply a few coats of gesso and use fine sandpaper to sand in between each coat to ensure the gesso application is smooth.

Do you need to prime a store-bought canvas?

When a buy a canvas from the store it should tell you if the canvas is already primed for oil painting or acrylics. Most commercial canvases are primed to be used for both acrylics and oils.

With a canvas that has already been primed you, can start to paint on the canvas right away and you technically do not need to prime the canvas.

If you do not feel that the canvas surface is primed enough, you can also add another gesso top coat to your canvas. Usually, for any pre-primed canvases I buy, I will put on one top coat of gesso on the canvas and then sand the gesso with very fine sandpaper before I start to paint.

Is it hard to paint with oil?

Any kind of painting or art is difficult. Painting with oils is not any more difficult than any other medium as acrylic, pastels, or watercolors. As with any kind of art, it will take practice and time to master.

Look at your art as a journey – an art form that you will spend your life learning about. The painter Edgar Degas summed it up best when he said:

For those who don’t know what they are doing, painting is easy. For those who do know what they are doing, painting is difficult.

Edgar Degas

Oil painting is a wonderful hobby. It is an excellent way to be able to relax and to get into the creative moments of life. It does not matter if you just starting out or if you are a seasoned painter, oil painting is fun.

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To discover more about this you can read our blog on 10 Top Life-changing Skills Art Helps You Develop by clicking here.

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Anita Louise Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Louise Hummel. I am an artist and a blogger. I paint mainly oil paints. I love to paint women, animals (mainly dogs and cats), and abstracts. I use a lot of gold and silver leaf in my paintings. I also love to blog about anything to do with art, business, Procreate, and all the wonderful artists that inspire me.

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