Oil Painting Techniques, Tutorials and Demonstrations: Your Startup Guide to the Basics of Oil Painting
The following information is a basic overview and tutorial on oil painting. The following topics will be considered: (Click on the following links to jump to each heading and use your browser back button to return to the top) or simply scroll down through all the information.
- Art Supplies-What you need to get started.
- Color: How to see it and how to mix it.
- Painting Overview and Demo Presentation
The following links pertain to the individual elements of color analysis and putting it into practice with an example. You may hover over each link to see a description as well as using your browser back button to return to these menus or simply scroll down the page.
As for this being a true quick start guide, I guess it all depends on how quickly a person can assimilate the information presented, but it does provide the necessary information you will need to get started in oil painting. Additionally, more articles are provided for further study on the main art class page.
Obviously, to get started in oil painting, you need art supplies. I've provided a shopping list for you with my recommendations for a customized basic set. Please click the following link: Oil Painting Art Supply List. (The file is in pdf format and you'll need the adobe reader to view if you do not already have it installed on your computer.) Simply print the list out and take it with you to your nearest art supply store or online art supply retailer.
Some thoughts to consider when buying art supplies:
No two artists seem to agree on what materials to purchase, each having their own opinions and preferences based on their individual experience. However, the materials you use will ultimately have an impact upon your painting experience. Imagine if you will, the tools used in someone's trade, such as a carpenter. If the worked was performed using poor materials or equipment, how do you think it would impact the quality of the finished work as well as the enjoyment of the work experience itself? Both would suffer and it invites frustration. Therefore with this in mind, a general rule of thumb is to buy the best art materials you can reasonably afford.
Art materials can be grouped into two categories. Professional grade and
student grade with variances in quality and price even in these
categories. The first noticeable difference is generally the cost, with the artist or
professional grade being higher in price. The second noticeable
difference is the quality. Student grade brands are obviously designed
for economy and lack some of the working properties of the professional
grade. My opinion is that a few high quality materials are better than a
large quantity of low grade materials. Working with poor art supplies
only frustrates the painting process. However, I will say that price
doesn't necessarily equal value. For example, I use a few brushes that
are on the low end price wise and the quality isn't always consistent.
(sometimes brush hairs fall out) Despite this occasional drawback, they are
priceless to me in the effects I can achieve with them. When they work,
they work well.
Also, I do not use just one brand of paint as I like certain qualities of pigment in differing brands. Some of the brand names of artist grade paint I use include: Rembrandt, Winsor & Newton and Schminke Mussini Oils, with a sprinkling of other colors in differing brands.
Understanding color and how it behaves is a fascinating subject and whole books have been written on color theory alone. There's so much on the subject of analyzing and mixing color, how our eyes perceive it to the psychology of color, not to mention how pigments react in mixture, that it can become rather confusing in a hurry and even frustrating when you just want to know how to mix a particular shade of green or any other color.
Mixing color is a process of analysis and contains three elements. The following will help you to analyze each of these three principles.
To mix a color you first identify its Hue or basic description. This is done by using the color wheel as a reference. The triad color wheel will be the most familiar color wheel to you. The first step in mixing color is to classify the color. There are six main groups from which to choose. Yellow, Blue, Red, Orange, Green and Violet. The remaining colors are variations of Orange, Green and Violet with a shift towards one of the primary colors.
The Primary Colors are: Yellow, Blue and Red. These are considered primary because all other colors are derived from these when you mix two primaries together. However, to mix a full spectrum of vivid color using only three pigments you would have to use pigments more visually accurate than what is represented on the triad color wheel. In printing inks, these colors are labeled, yellow, cyan and magenta. A close approximation in oil paint is: Cadmium Yellow Light, Phthalocyanine Blue and Permanent Rose or Quinacridone Rose which are included on my suggested art supply list. The lower right color wheel shows the yellow, cyan and magenta primary arrangement. But, for simplification we will stick to the triad color wheel.
The Secondary Colors are: Orange, Violet and Green. These mixtures are achieved when you add two of the primaries together.
- Yellow + Red = Orange
- Red + Blue = Violet
- Yellow + Blue = Green)
The Tertiary Colors are: Yellow Green, Blue Green, Yellow Orange, Red Orange, Red Violet and Blue Violet. These mixtures are derivatives of the secondary colors and are achieved by mixing more of the primary colors.
- Green + Yellow = Yellow Green
- Green + Blue = Blue Green
- Violet + Blue = Blue Violet
- Violet + Red = Red Violet
- Orange + Yellow = Yellow Orange
- Orange + Red = Red Orange.
All the above comprise the twelve Hues on the Triad Color Wheel.
The next step in analyzing color is determining its intensity. In other words, is the color you're looking at vivid or dull when comparing it to it's spectrum color? If it's duller, then it's considered to be of lower intensity. If the color is very bright and vivid, then it's of a high intensity. To lower a color's intensity you add it's compliment (which is opposite on the color wheel) in small amounts. Since you are mixing opposites, it also means you're mixing a warm color with a cool color. Any color that is of a lower intensity contains all three primaries in the mixture. For example. Yellow+Blue=Green which contains 2 primaries. The primary color left over is Red. Thus, red is the complimentary color of green and vice versa. Let's take one more example, the primary color yellow. What is it's compliment? Well, what are the other primaries? Blue and Red. What do you get when you mix these? Violet. That's the compliment of yellow and when violet is mixed with yellow it will dull it's intensity and vice versa.
The value of a color refers to its relative lightness
or darkness on a scale from white to black. This is seen
represented by the gray scale illustrations.
To lighten a colors value also known as a tint, add white. To darken or lower the value also known as a shade, add black. In some cases however it's better to use a related darker oil paint such as when you want to darken a yellow. If you were to add black to darken a yellow, the mixture would have an olive green appearance. Adding related colors to darken, such as Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna followed by Burnt Umber will keep the mixture in the yellow family. Other times, simply adding more pigment will suffice as some colors are already dark as they come out of the tube.
Now let's put what you've learned so far into practice with the following.
Our target color to mix is the oil paint Raw Sienna with the addition of white added on the right side to give a lighter value. What if you didn't have Raw Sienna but you did have the three primaries, plus white and black? Can a color be mixed to resemble Raw Sienna? Yes. Remember the first step?
Identify its Hue or basic description. On the color wheel which Hue does Raw Sienna come closest to? By process of elimination the answer becomes Orange. In this example I will mix Cadmium Yellow Light with Permanent Rose to give me an Orange Hue.
Obviously in comparing Raw Sienna with Orange, the mixture is too vibrant, so the intensity needs to be lowered. This is where Intensity/Chroma which is the second element of analysis comes into play. Remember how to lower a color's intensity? The answer: Add it's compliment which is Blue. In this example I mixed Permanent Rose and Phthalo Blue to give me a Blue Hue. Had I used Phthalo Blue alone, it would make the mixture have a greenish cast. Now, I add a small amount of this "Blue" mixture to Orange. Notice how the intensity has been lowered and it has become closer to our target color. However, the color still needs some slight adjustment. The final step is determining it's Value by asking: Is the color mixed so far, lighter or darker than our target color. In this case the mixed color needs to be a fraction darker, so I have added a tiny amount of black. Now my mixed color matches the target color! I also added a bit of white to give me a tint on the right.
Below is a chart representing the above information. Using artistic terms, the color Raw Sienna would be described as an Orange of low intensity and dark value.
Once you learn the thought process behind analyzing and mixing color you will find that there are other ways to mix the same color. Cadmium Orange and Ultramarine Blue could have been used to match the Raw Sienna color without adding black. If in your own mixtures you don't get it quite right, then the old saying, "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again" holds true. Practice! As you do, you will always be learning, not only about color, but how paint pigments themselves behave in mixtures.
My painting method is a layered approach, therefore it is developed in successive stages. After drawing my composition on canvas with thinned paint (ultramarine blue) and a brush I begin my block-in using full color mixtures starting with the darkest mass first. By starting this way, I find it easier to judge the value relationships between adjacent areas. The E Book below, shows a step by step progression of one of my paintings photographed in stages. Be sure to click the audio button on each page beginning with step one, to hear a voice narrative. (The E Book may take a few moments to load before it appears. If not try refreshing your browser.) It will give you an overview of how I complete a painting. In time I will have a more comprehensive EBook written about my painting process as well as individual painting projects. Please contact me if you would be interested in being notified when they become available. This will complete the basic overview on getting started with oil painting. Please return to the main art class page for additional art instruction.