Oil Painting - Oil Painting (online tutorial, instructions)

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Introduction to artistic oil painting

Oil painting sunset
Oil painting sunset (1989, 130 x 100, oil on canvas)

This introduction to the subject of oil painting is primarily intended for beginners.

A good start is always to look at what others have done. The history of oil painting is part of the history of painting, with the restriction that it only treats those works of art that were painted with oil paints. In addition to the development of oil paint at the beginning of the 15th century, it was above all the invention of the paint tube that made this history so rich. Read more: the history of oil painting.

Properties of the oil paint

Oil paint is fundamentally different from most other paints: it is not water-soluble. This has a number of advantages, but also some serious disadvantages that should be known and minimized in artistic practice. Oil paint dries very slowly. It can be pasted, both opaque and glazed. The biggest disadvantage is that it has to be applied with balsamic terpentine oil, which can be harmful to health in the long run and with poor ventilation.

Special features of the oil paint (comparison to watercolor, gouache and acrylic paint)

A comparison of oil paint with other artistic colour types shows a beginner what the advantages and disadvantages of oil painting are. Is painting with oil paint really the right thing? Or aren't acrylic paints, tempera or gouache or watercolor the better alternative? See also: Comparison of different paints

Important! Health-relevant points: How toxic is oil painting?

Whoever starts painting with oil paint should be aware of the harmful effects on health. This article provides information on what you should be aware of and the dangers of exposing yourself to the substances of oil painting for too long.

First to the smell: as a rule one can say that everything that smells "chemically", e.g. turpentine oil, is dangerous to health. Unfortunately, this does not always apply, because the manufacturers have understood the "odor problem" naturally and now offer "low-odor" painting materials. Unfortunately, these are just as harmful to health. It is therefore not really wrong to smell the danger.

The problem with turpentine is that it forms such fine and volatile gases that "diffuse through the lungs and enter the body. Who works too long in a room with a high concentration of turpentine gas fills his body with dangerous substances. In addition, turpentine also enters the body through the skin. Therefore one should not dissolve traces of colour on the skin with turpentine - and if that should be necessary, then immediately afterwards wash thoroughly with soap, so that the traces of turpentine do not remain on the skin and thus can penetrate into the body.

What are the implications? Some artists get headaches when they work too long in rooms with an intense turpentine smell, but not all of them. For many, turpentine does not initially cause any immediate symptoms. Unfortunately, as a result the toxins accumulate in the body where they can hardly be broken down. Over the years, this can lead to chronic diseases that are very difficult to treat.
See more: How toxic are oil paints?


The most important technical terms, which are necessary for understanding on these pages, are presented in a glossary.

Ölbild: Papageien
"Parrots", 100 x 70 cm, oil on canvas, 1985