You have decided to go into oil painting, but it is very difficult to find your way through all the equipment on offer. You should, therefore, acquire a kit that will allow you to get to work right away and explore several directions of your art.
Later on, you will be able to complete it with very specific products that you will discover as you progress in your creative process.
How to choose your oil painting kit?
Fine art shops have multiplied and you can find what you need in a small shop in the city center, as well as in a large hobby shop in a shopping area. Online shops are also a choice.
There are ready-to-use oil painting boxes. Be careful, because some do not include the thinner, or the support, or both. On the other hand, check the price of individual items, as ready-to-use cases are normally offered at attractive prices, but not always, with some signs emphasizing the practicality that makes up for the price difference.
On the other hand, there are really complete kits of very good quality. Just make sure that they contain all the necessary products.
It is often not part of the briefcase but is, of course, the central element.
The wooden or cardboard frame
A cardboard stretcher has the advantage of being light, but it is not the most suitable for the canvas that relaxes as you paint. A wooden stretcher, which is slightly heavier, reacts better to the deformations of the canvas. Ideally, choose a stretcher with a key system that allows the canvas to be stretched to tighten it.
The canvas can be made of cotton, linen or be reproduced synthetically. Synthetic canvases are economical, but the quality of the rendering is worth the expense. You can make this choice for your beginnings, you will be less afraid to start on a canvas with less value.
On the other hand, as soon as you progress, you must move on to the higher quality, namely cotton. This material is perfectly suitable for a novice while remaining reasonably priced.
Linen is still the best. The fineness of its weave allows all techniques, with remarkable precision. It also remains the most stable over time.
The grain of the canvas
The easiest way is to start with a versatile medium grain. With a little experience, you’ll choose a finer grain for detailed portraits, as opposed to a coarse grain for work with broad strokes and textured solids.
Oil paint is very flexible in use. Fade effects, superimpositions, gradients… everything is possible. Here are some elements to check:
Quality pigments are expensive. To obtain beautiful colors, pigments must be stable, pure and luminous. Their tinting strength also determines their quality.
Manufacturers play on the concentration of pigments to modulate their prices. By adding oil, or a neutral base diluting the whole, they reduce their costs, at the expense of quality.
As in cooking, extra-fine oil has the best reputation!
With coarser oils, such as those found in too cheap tubes, the colors are not sharp, they look a bit “dirty” and not as promised.
When it comes out of the tube, the colour is pure, composed only of pigments and oil. It lacks fluidity and prohibits precision work.
This is why you must also get a medium.
The medium liquefies the paste, without diluting it and impoverishes its shine. It makes the work easier, prevents cracking and protects the pigments by coating them with resin. Your painting is better executed and more resistant to the ravages of time.
Among the most used mediums are:
- purified linseed oil to delay its drying;
- bleached linseed oil which dries faster;
- boiled linseed oil, which accentuates the shiny effect and speeds up drying;
- glazing medium to accentuate the transparency of the paint, but retains the initial drying time;
- liquor, a synthetic version of the glaze medium.
Thinner is used both to thin the paint and to clean the brushes.
Turpentine is prized for its compatibility with all mediums. Transparent, it does not influence colours. Its major disadvantage is its very pronounced malodorous power. If you are in a confined space, you risk repeated migraines.
The alternative is white spirit which is also much cheaper.
Quality paintbrushes are quickly expensive. If you prefer a ready-to-use kit, make sure that it contains the type of brushes you need to get started, and especially with the right quality.
Low-quality brushes become deformed, the bristles regularly get stuck on the canvas and need to be changed all the time. They do not hold the paint well and lack precision.
A “real” brush consists of a varnished handle, a metal ferrule and a root where the tuft of bristles is planted. The natural bristles can be pig’s bristle or marten’s hair.