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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Valdosta chapter.

What is an oil painting?

Not to be confused with an acrylic painting, an oil painting is a painting that uses oil (instead of water) to water down oil paint pigments.


Before you start painting make sure you have the essentials:

– Paintbrush

– Oil paint (I recommend the reeves water-soluble oil paints)

– Dawn soap (to clean your paintbrush)

– Canvas 

– Pallette

– A Cup of water 

– Napkins

What kind of oils should I use?

Oil is a crucial part of any oil painting. Commonly used oils include: linseed, safflower, walnut, and poppy seed oil. Remember not just any kind of oil can be used for oil painting! When a beginner is just starting oil painting, I recommend linseed oil because it’s a very fluid and easy medium that isn’t too expensive for beginners.

0. Reference

Every painting needs a good reference photo make sure to take a picture of images or find an image for yourself from Google to make sure nothing ends up disproportionate. However, try to make your artwork as unique to you as you can. Let’s get started!

1. Underpainting

An underpainting is crucial when completing an oil painting because it allows a base and outline for your painting. It is typically completed in a monochromatic style which allows for the artist to easily see the value when they begin the actual artwork. It can be a variety of colors, most popularly yellow and brown.(Mine is blue because it takes place in an ocean scene and that best blends in with the background.

2. Block in your first your basic shapes

In an oil painting its important to block out the most basic shapes you need when starting the painting. Pictured above, I have painted in the basic shapes of the feet and outlines of the pool. Make sure to mix the colors you need for your painting beforehand and seal them in an airtight container for simpler use. Oil can also easily ruin brushes so make sure to thoroughly clean your brushes with soap after each use.

3. Outline shapes 

It’s important when completing an oil painting to have plenty of value (the lightness or darkness of tones and/or colors). With a more abstract object like the water in the pool pictured above, its best to outline small shapes you see and add detail to them later. That is one of the benefits of an oil painting, you can leave an artwork for days, come back and it will still be wet and able to be mixed accordingly.

4. Add detail

When working with an oil painting is best to work from dark to light to more efficiently get your color down. Adding details such as the steps in the pool and the redness of the feet as they are underwater can make or break any painting.

5. Increase Detail

In the case of this painting, I added a lot more details and values into the skin tone of the person swimming to the top of the water. As well as adding in my darker blues for the bottom of the pool.


Touch-ups and last-minute details can turn a good painting into a great one. When you finally finish with an oil painting make sure you give it an adequate amount of time to completely dry. Good Luck on your oil painting journey!!!

All artwork pictured in this article belong to the author Yetunde Oluwadare
Hello, my names Yetunde Oluwadare (pronounced Yeah-tune-day) I am 18 years old and a freshman at VSU. I love to paint, draw, and cook in my free time and I'm also a psychology major.
Her Campus at Valdosta State.