How do professional painters paint oil

Painting with oil paints - 5 tips from practice

Painting with oil paints is probably the supreme discipline of painting. It enables the combination of different painting techniques and is characterized by its special color brilliance. However, if you want to paint with oil paints, you have to be patient, because oil paints dry much more slowly than other artist paints.

1. Proper preparation for painting with oil paints

As is so often the case, good preparation is a crucial factor when painting with oil paints. Sufficient space, lots of light (but no direct sunlight) and good ventilation characterize the perfect place for oil painting. The required artist material should be close at hand. Cover the surface well and wear non-sensitive clothing.

2. Basic range of oil paints

A small palette of oil paints is sufficient for the beginning, which can be gradually expanded as required. Next

  • Ivory black (Norma® PROFESSIONAL 704) and
  • Titanium white (Norma® PROFESSIONAL 114)

belong in the basic range for painting with oil paints, for example:

  • Cadmium yellow mix (Norma® PROFESSIONAL 240)
  • Krapprot (Norma® PROFESSIONAL 318) and
  • Prussian blue (Norma® PROFESSIONAL 418).

You can mix many other shades yourself from these basic colors. For an expanded range of oil paints there are also

  • Lemon yellow (Norma® PROFESSIONAL 236)
  • Cadmium red mix (Norma® PROFESSIONAL 248)
  • Ultramarine blue light (Norma® PROFESSIONAL 404)
  • Chrome oxide green fiery (Norma® PROFESSIONAL 502)
  • Sap green (Norma® PROFESSIONAL 514)
  • Light ocher natural (Norma® PROFESSIONAL 600)
  • Burnt Siena (Norma® PROFESSIONAL 610) and
  • Burnt umber (Norma® PROFESSIONAL 624)


Since white is very often used to lighten colors, it is advisable to buy a larger tube of titanium white when buying oil paints.

Professional tip: Don't skimp on the colors! High-quality oil paints in artist quality can not only be processed better, but also ensure a higher and longer-lasting color brilliance and luminosity.

3. Getting started painting with oil paints

It is important to know that oil paints are a very grateful material because oil paints that have already been applied can be changed and corrected for a long time due to their long drying time. Nevertheless, it is advisable to first paint the planned picture as a rough sketch, for example with charcoal. In addition, fundamental considerations about the lighting conditions in the image are just as crucial as about movements and perspective.

The determination of the specifically required colors is also central. It is important to adapt this to reality and not to sit on a general cliché like "The sky is blue."

4. Oil painting techniques

When painting with oil paints, the colors can be applied undiluted directly from the tube onto the canvas. In so-called “prima painting”, which dispenses with the use of multiple layers, this ensures particularly quick painting, often in one painting session.

The use of painting materials and additives creates further possibilities. By adding painting materials, the painter has more influence on the consistency, degree of gloss and drying times of the oil paints.

With layer painting and glaze painting, the oil paints are applied in several steps: sometimes with thin, glazed, sometimes with thicker, covering layers of paint.

> Read more about different painting techniques

5. After painting with oil paints

After painting with oil paints, it is important to carefully clean the brushes as dried oil paint will ruin brushes. The best way to do this is to use brush cleaner, then rinse the cleaned painting equipment well under warm water and let it air dry.

Only rarely are oil paintings finished after just one painting session. It is therefore advisable to cover mixed colors with plastic film or to keep them in small containers for the next step. It is almost impossible to mix the same color twice identically.

It can take several months for a picture painted with oil paints to dry completely. Only after it has completely dried out can the oil painting be coated with a final varnish, for example in the form of an aerospray, in order to protect the picture from dirt and other harmful influences.