Materials - Part I

There are a great number of  materials that artists use when painting with oils.  Obviously we cannot cover them all, however, we'll mention the essentials.

Painting surfaces:
The most common are canvas: cotton or linen.  Stretched, primed canvas is the traditional and most frequently used. A second option is boards, such as masonite, or wood boards.  Ready-to-paint art boards are also available at your local art store.

       You can buy canvases pre-stretched or buy linen, cotton or other material that you can stretch over the supports. The cloth material that you choose can be primed or unprimed.  To prime is to apply the first color, coating, or preparation. Most artists use acrylic gesso or oil-based primers.

A painting ca be started over a white surface, or over a "toned" or  "colored ground."   To tone a canvas or board, you simply take an earth or neutral color (oil or acrylic), dilute it with turpentine or similar solvent, and apply it in a thin layer over the primed surface.  The result is a neutral color that resembles the semitones of the finished painting.  We highly recommend toning your painting surfaces for two primary reasons: first, it is easier to obtain a color balance of the finished painting; and secondly, you avoid those distracting small white areas that were not covered with paint.  These white "bugs" are particularly noticeable on dark areas.


You can buy an already build easel, or with a little ingenuity, copy or even design your own. Easels come in a variety of sizes and models.  The general rule is, don't get the biggest if you are not going to paint large paintings.  Also, if you are planning to paint in "plain air" (outdoors) you may want to consider a portable model (also called a French easel, pictured last on right)

The two primary solvents we are going to need are turpentine and linseed oil.  If the smell of turpentine is too strong for you, you may try replacement solvents such as Turpenoid. 

In future lessons, the use of both of these solvents will become clear as we delve into the painting process itself.  For now, it suffices to say that turpentine thins out oils more than linseed oil.