Oil painting can be an incredibly rewarding and creative hobby. With just a few basic supplies, you can get started on your first painting. This list will show you what you need to get started. It doesn’t take much! All you need is the right paints, brushes, canvas and a few other materials. With these essential oil painting supplies, even a beginner can create amazing works of art!
Minimal List of Oil Painting Supplies to Get Started
Here’s the quick reference list of the supplies you’ll need to get started. You’ll use all these items while painting, so they really are essential oil painting supplies.
My Full Recommended Oil Painting Supply List for Beginners
While the quick oil painting supplies list above links directly to my top recommendations, the list below goes into more detail. I’ve provided a few options for each type of essential oil painting supply as well as a section of “nice to haves” that make getting started easier.
Essential Oil Painting Supplies
Oil Painting Kit
A student grade oil painting kit is a convenient and budget-conscious option when you’re starting out. Student grade paints have a lower pigment content and are less expensive. Having less pigment means you’ll get less color range while mixing your colors, but this minor limitation is still accurate enough for a beginner. You absolutely do not need the precision that artist grade paint offers so don’t feel pressured to buy the expensive stuff yet.
Once you discover where you need more range, you can purchase an artist grade color that fills that specific need. Otherwise you’ll end up like me and have tubes of expensive colors that you don’t need!
Side Note: Overall I found that oil paint kits offer a better price than buying individual tubes. Generally, I do not recommend buying different tubes from different brands until you’re familiar with pigments and their characteristics.
Gamblin 1980 Oil Color Set
I really like Gamblin products. These are their standard paint tube size 37ml which is going to last a long time. This kit comes with 8 tubes of colors and a tube of solvent-free gel medium. Additionally, the packaging is actually a ready-to-use painting panel. How cool is that? This means you don’t need to buy these items separately.
Out of all the oil paint sets on Amazon and the Blick website, the Gamblin 1980 Oil Color Set is the best value in my opinion.
Winsor & Newton Winton Oil Colors
The other option I recommend is this student grade kit by Winsor Newton. Their student grade paints are named “Winton.” It’s in the same price range as the Gamblin kit above. Only this one doesn’t come with the add-on painting medium and panel. Instead you’re getting 10 tubes of color in the 37ml size.
Bonus Option: Gamblin Artist Oil Paints
Gamblin Artist Oils are the exact paints I use in my paintings. This kit is nearly the complete color range I normally paint with. This is an awesome assortment of paints if you’re able to invest in the artist grade price point. Similar to the student kit, Gamblin also packages these tubes cradled within a ready-to-use 12″ × 6½” painting panel.
You’ll need to paint on something. While a canvas is an obvious choice, keep in mind that every surface can be a canvas.
This is probably one of the most accessible painting surfaces in availability and in price. MDF can be found in any hardware store and be cut down to your desired size. Or you can buy panels that are already cut to size. If you choose the MDF path it does require an extra step. You’ll need to brush on a few coats of primer to prepare the surface for oil paints. Thankfully, Gesso primer is also affordable and widely available.
For a basic cotton canvas I recommend going with the standard pre-stretched, already primed, store brand quality. When you’re a beginner, prioritizing quantity of canvases for painting practice is more valuable than investing in a single, high-quality canvas. Sometimes you can find a deal where you can buy canvases in bundles of a dozen or more at a great price. Since this path is an already primed option, you don’t need to do that extra step of applying Gesso.
It is important to choose the right brush for oil painting. Different types of brushes are designed for different techniques and applications. When painting with oils, you’re looking for boar bristle paint brushes. Oil paint will grab onto the texture of these brushes and brush onto the canvas easily. You’ll want to avoid using overly smooth synthetic brushes because oil paints tend to stick to the bristles too much. This will result in a lackluster application of paint on your canvas. Much like the paint kits, it’s more budget friendly to start with a brush kit than to buy individual brushes when first starting out.
Brush Cleaning Supplies
Gamsol is your “Turpentine.” But it’s much safer and there’s nothing else like it on the market. I think the 16 oz is probably going to be enough to start. The 1 Liter will definitely be enough. Gamsol is recyclable. Just pour the used Gamsol into a mason jar, let it sit a few days for the used oil pigments to settle to the bottom, then pour off the clear fluid from the top and reuse. This cycle can be repeated indefinitely.
Brush Cleaning Jar
I’ve only ever used the Silicoil Cleaning Jar. The space between the coiled metal provides an uneven surface to brush paint off onto, while letting loose pigment fall to the bottom of the jar.
You only ever need to fill Gamsol to just above the coil. The downside is that this jar lid is not leak proof so it must be stored upright. There are metal travel options available by different brands that are leak proof.
Having at least 1 medium is required because you need to control the consistency of your paint. This gives you to control of your dry time and brush stroke character. Here are my 2 suggestions:
Gamblin Mediums Set
I’ve used this Gamblin Medium Set and I only have good things to say. You get 5 different mediums and a small Gamsol to experiment with. This kit is a fantastic starting point for assembling your arsenal of oil painting supplies. It is a bit more expensive than just buying 1 medium but it’s pretty fun to experiment with. A little goes a long way with mediums.
Refined Linseed Oil
Linseed oil extends drying time so you can keep working the same paint for days. I use this frequently. You can mix with Gamsol to varying degrees to get shorter drying times and different viscosities. If you could only have one medium, refined linseed oil is the way to go.
Palettes & Paint Mixing
This is going to come down to personal preference. However don’t underestimate the necessity of palette space for color mixing.
Disposable Palette Paper
This is the exact disposable palette paper I use. 16″ x 12″ is plenty big for mixing colors. I prefer using these disposable pages over other types of palettes on the market. When you’re done using your palette, you simply peel up the used page and toss it in the trash and a fresh page is ready.
It’s got a nice coated surface that is easy to manipulate paint on. I use this paper in combination with a airtight palette case. You can read more about that product further down in the “nice to have” section.
I don’t use glass palettes because I find the clean-up to be a pain. You need to use a glass scraper or razor to scrape all the dried paint off. But some people really like them.
It’s important to point out that the glass it comes in is a grey color. You don’t want to mix paint on transparent glass, it will be too difficult to see your colors while mixing. Grey is a great neutral ground to mix colors on top of.
It’s easy to overlook the necessity of a palette knife. Once you establish the habit of mixing with the proper tool you’ll never be caught without one.
I suggest avoiding the cheap plastic options. Metal is nice because it’s more rigid and easy to manipulate paint with. The plastic ones tend to be limp and frustrating to handle.
This is a palette knife kit that has at least one option that would be good for mixing. Having a variety is nice because it will allow you to experiment.
Nice to Have Oil Painting Supplies
Everything listed above this point is the bare minimum oil painting supplies needed to get started with oil painting. In this section below I’ve listed a few things that don’t qualify as absolutely necessary, but I have found them to be incredibly useful. If you’re willing to add on a few things to make your painting efforts easier these are products worth looking into.
Brush Cleaner and Conditioner
To get the most out of your brushes you can do an additional cleaning step after using Gamsol. Doing this will extend the lifespan of your brushes. This is a brush cleaner you use like soap with cool water. It helps get the last bit of paint out and conditions the bristles. It can also help reshape any “wire-y” bristles. It’s worth a buy if you’re investing in nice brushes. They also have a bar soap version that can be used for general clean up/washing paint off your hands.
I use this exact airtight palette case. The disposable palette paper I mentioned earlier sits perfectly inside. By the looks of it, the glass palette I listed will also fit inside. When you close it up it keeps your paint decently dry for up to 4-5 days or longer (depending on how much paint is piled on). When you’re finished painting you just pop the cover on. Not only will it extend the life of your paint, it contains the oil paint smell and prevents nosey pets or family members from accidently getting into your paint.
Paint Tube Squeezer
You can probably tell by now that paint isn’t cheap. This paint tube squeezer will wring out every last drop from your paint tubes. It will save you money in the long run and it’s incredibly satisfying to use.
You’re Ready to Paint!
Quick note on toxicity: Everything I’ve recommended is fine to use in a home environment and is very low-risk when used correctly. That basically means don’t eat or drink any of it and be conscious of airflow. Keep a window open or run an air purifier while working.
That’s everything you’ll need! Maybe pick up a roll of paper towels specifically for painting use. And eventually you’ll need an empty mason jar to start recycling your Gamsol into. That wraps up my list of essential oil painting supplies!