Helpful Hacks

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Helpful Hacks For Beginning An Oil Painting

By Marlene Affeld

A Hack is usually a creatively improvised solution.

Aspiring artists often start out with acrylic paints. However, acrylics can be quite frustrating: they dry extremely fast, and color intensity changes with acrylics when they dry. Maybe you started out with acrylics, practiced with colors, values, differences, composition, and layers; now you are ready to try your hand at oil painting. If so, read on for some helpful hints and hacks.

The choice of the old master painters, oil is by far my favorite medium. Oil paint is versatile and slow to dry, which makes it easy to manipulate on canvas. Although oils are more expensive than acrylics, they are a fantastic medium. However, there is a bit of a learning curve when making the transition from acrylics to oil.

If you are new to working with oils, the process can seem somewhat daunting. Compared to working with acrylics, when working with oil paints, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure the paint dries properly.

Not to worry, you will soon “get the hang of it.” Once you are familiar with working with different brands of oil paint and different solvents, achieving the desired result will become second nature.

Fat vs. Lean

Fat or lean is a question you always want to address when painting with oils. Fat refers to the amount of oil present in the paint. When you add an oil medium to your paint, you are making it “fatter.” When you add solvent to oil paint, it breaks down the oil and makes it “leaner.” The amount of oil present in your oil paint determines how fast it will dry. This characteristic is especially important when you are painting wet on wet and not allowing the paint to dry between layers.

It is important to paint a fat layer over a thin layer because layers on top must dry slower than bottom layers on your canvas. If not, the bottom layer will crack as it dries. The best way to avoid encountering this problem is to start with a very lean paint: one diluted by a solvent. Then add layers that are a bit fatter: paint plus solvent and an oil medium. As you layer your paints, each subsequent layer must be fatter than the one before.

Thick or Thin

It is crucial to remember to paint fat layers over thin layers as top layers on your canvas slower than bottom layers. The first layers you apply should be quite thin, almost glazes of paint. As you add more layers, you will increase the amount of oil and substance.

Fat over lean refers to the principle in oil painting of applying paint with a higher oil to pigment ratio ('fat') over paint with a lower oil to pigment ratio ('lean') to ensure a stable paint film, since it is believed that the paint with the higher oil content remains more flexible. Wikipedia

How To Hold Your Paint Brush

While there are several different ways to grip a paintbrush that an artist can employ when executing a painting, there is one basic method every artist should master. Holding the brush handle back as far as you can, practice a grip that allows for sensitivity and fluidity in your strokes. Holding the brush farther back on the handle may seem awkward at first, but this grip offers the greatest degree of control by allowing you to paint with your entire arm, rather than only using your wrist.

Brush Orientation

Practice using every angle of your brush. Learning to control your strokes and lines with brush orientation will help you paint with great versatility. Keep in mind, you are not limited to wide, flat strokes with the side of your brush. Angle the brush for sharper strokes and lines.

Avoid A Heavy Hand

How much pressure you apply with a stroke of your paintbrush can make all the difference between a masterpiece and a mess. When you exert heavy pressure, paints blend and you end up creating sharp ridges alongside your brushstrokes. Practice light, medium and heavy strokes until you master the amount of pressure you need to apply to achieve a particular effect. Vary the pressure and you vary the texture.

Modify Your Medium

When it comes to oil painting, it is not all about the paint. Artists modify their medium with oil or solvent to make the medium either fat or lean. Adding a lot of medium makes paint flat and transparent while a lesser amount makes oil paint thicker with a mayonnaise-like consistency.

Colors Pure And True

Make sure you start out with clean brushes and keep them that way to render colors that are pure. Clean brushes often, even between strokes,

What effect are you trying to achieve? Remember you are in control. Don’t be a cheapskate. Now isn’t the time to skimp on the amount of paint you use. Use as much as it takes to realize your vision. If you

Use as much paint as necessary to realise your vision

Sometimes you want a thin wash, but other times you need a thick stroke in order to achieve your desired effect, so make sure that you're using enough paint to create the type of stroke you need. Don't hold back on the paint at the expense of your painting. If you find yourself constantly swirling a brush around a thin pool of paint on your palette, then it's probably time to remake that mixture.