Practical Guide: Benefits & Challenges of Oil Painting
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. What is oil painting?
  2. Benefits of oil painting
  3. Challenges of oil painting
  4. How to choose your oil paints
  5. Tips for oil painting
  6. How to overcome common challenges
  7. Why oil painting matters

Does the thought of creating your own masterpiece with oil paints excite you? Well, you're not alone. Oil painting is a favorite medium for many artists, from beginners to professionals. But, like any other craft, it comes with its own unique benefits and challenges. So, in this blog, we'll be exploring the world of oil painting, discussing its benefits, tackling its challenges, and offering practical tips to help you make the most of this beautiful art form.

What is oil painting?

Oil painting is a traditional art form that makes use of pigments mixed with drying oils, like linseed, walnut, or poppy, as a binder. This technique dates back to the 7th century and is known for its unique characteristics and rich history.

Here are some key aspects you should know about oil painting:

  • Timeless Quality: Oil paintings stand the test of time. They don't fade or yellow over time, and with proper care, they can look vibrant and fresh for centuries. Imagine creating something that could potentially be admired by generations to come!
  • Flexibility: One of the benefits of oil painting is its flexibility. The paint remains wet for a longer time compared to other mediums. This allows you to work on your painting over several sessions, making changes and adjustments as you go along. You can even correct mistakes!
  • Rich Colors: Oil paints offer a depth and richness of color that's hard to match. The pigments are vibrant and can be built up in layers, allowing you to achieve a wide range of effects and textures.
  • Challenging Yet Rewarding: While oil painting can be challenging, especially for beginners, it's also incredibly rewarding. Mastering the techniques requires patience and practice, but once you've got the hang of it, the possibilities are endless.

Now, you might be thinking, "Sounds great, but what are some of the challenges of oil painting?" Don't worry, we'll cover those too, along with practical tips to help you overcome them. So, let's dive into the benefits and challenges of oil painting.

Benefits of oil painting

So, what are the benefits of oil painting that make it so popular among artists? Let's take a look:

  • Endless Texture Possibilities: Oil paint is incredibly versatile. It allows you to create a variety of textures and effects, from thick, almost three-dimensional strokes to thin, delicate layers. This gives you the freedom to express your vision exactly as you see it.
  • Lasting Vibrancy: Oil paints have an unmatched color vibrancy that doesn't fade over time. This means your artwork will remain as lively and expressive as the day you painted it, even years down the line.
  • Extended Drying Time: Oil paints take longer to dry than other mediums. This can be a significant benefit as it allows you to take your time to perfect your work, adjust colors, and fix any errors without rushing against the clock.
  • Blendability: The slow drying time of oil paints also makes it easier to blend colors directly on the canvas. This can result in a more natural, smoother transition between shades, which is a major plus for many artists.

While these benefits make oil painting an attractive medium for many artists, it's not without its challenges. But don't let that discourage you. Remember, every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow!

Challenges of oil painting

While the benefits of oil painting can make it an enticing choice, it's essential to acknowledge the challenges that come with it. Here are some common hurdles that you might encounter:

  • Long Drying Time: While this is also a benefit, it can pose a challenge. The longer drying time can lead to smudging if you're not careful, and it means you'll need to wait longer to see your final product. Patience is key when working with oil paints.
  • Cost: High-quality oil paints can be quite costly compared to other mediums. It's an investment, but remember, the vibrancy and longevity of oil paints can make it worthwhile.
  • Complexity: Working with oil paints requires a certain level of skill and understanding. It can be tricky to master the blending and layering techniques, but don't worry - practice makes perfect!
  • Maintenance: Oil paintings require a specific environment to maintain their quality. They need a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. So, you'll need to think about where and how to store your artwork.

These challenges of oil painting may seem daunting, but they shouldn't deter you. Instead, view them as aspects of the oil painting process that you'll become more comfortable with over time. And remember, every great artist had to start somewhere.

How to choose your oil paints

Choosing your oil paints is an exciting part of the painting process. But with so many options available, it might feel overwhelming. Don't worry, we're here to help you navigate this journey. Here are some tips:

  • Consider Quality: When you're starting, you might be tempted to go for cheaper paints. However, this strategy might not always serve you well. High-quality paints offer better pigmentation and can make a real difference in the final product.
  • Essential Colors: You don't have to buy every color in the rainbow. Start with the basics: a warm and cool version of each primary color, plus white and brown. This will allow you to mix a wide range of hues.
  • Consistency: Oil paints come in different consistencies. Some are more buttery and thick, while others are smoother and more fluid. Try out different types to find what suits your style.
  • Brands: There are numerous brands offering oil paints. Some popular ones include Winsor & Newton, Gamblin, and Rembrandt. Do a bit of research and see which one aligns with your needs and budget.

Remember, the best way to find out what works for you is to experiment. Don't be afraid to try different brands and colors until you find your perfect match. Happy painting!

Tips for oil painting

Now that you've got your paints, let's move onto some practical tips to kickstart your oil painting journey. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned artist, these tips will help elevate your art:

  1. Start with an Underpainting: An underpainting is a monochrome version of your final painting that helps to define color values and shapes. It's a great way to start, as it gives you a roadmap to follow.
  2. Work from Dark to Light: It's a good idea to start with your darkest colors and work your way towards the lighter ones. This method, known as 'fat over lean', ensures the lighter parts of your painting stand out.
  3. Take Your Time: One of the benefits of oil painting is its slow drying time. This allows you to work at a more relaxed pace, and even make changes if you need to. So, don't rush—enjoy the process!
  4. Keep Your Brushes Clean: It's important to keep your brushes clean to avoid mixing unwanted colors. A good tip is to have different brushes for different color families.
  5. Practice, Practice, Practice: As with anything, practice makes perfect. The more you paint, the more you'll understand about techniques, color mixing, and your own personal style.

Remember, every artist has their own unique approach to painting. What matters most is that you enjoy the process and learn along the way. Keep these tips in mind, and you'll be well on your way to mastering the art of oil painting.

How to overcome common challenges

Despite the benefits of oil painting, it can come with its fair share of challenges. But don't worry, we've got you covered. Let's look at some common difficulties and how to tackle them:

  1. Mixing the Right Colors: One of the challenges of oil painting is getting your colors just right. A great way to overcome this is by creating a color chart. This helps you understand how colors mix and the best way to achieve the shade you're after.
  2. Dealing with Slow Drying Times: One of the benefits of oil painting can also be a challenge. The slow drying time can sometimes slow down your progress. But you can use this to your advantage! Use this time to refine your work or start on a new piece.
  3. Understanding 'Fat Over Lean': This rule can be confusing, but it's important for the longevity of your painting. It simply means that each subsequent layer of paint should contain more oil than the one beneath. This prevents the paint from cracking.
  4. Keeping Your Workspace Clean: With oil painting, things can get messy. To keep things under control, try to clean as you go. Wipe your palette clean after each session, and remember to clean your brushes thoroughly.

It’s true that challenges can seem intimidating at first. But each hurdle is a step towards becoming a better painter. With these tips in your toolkit, you'll be well prepared to tackle the challenges of oil painting head-on.

Why oil painting matters

Perhaps you're wondering, "With all these challenges, why should I stick with oil painting?" Let's dive into that.

Firstly, oil painting is an art form with a rich history. From the masterpieces of the Renaissance to the modern works of today, oil painting has been a medium of choice for centuries. It's a link to our past, and a way to express the world as we see it today.

Secondly, oil painting allows for incredible versatility. With its unique properties, you can create a wide range of effects and finishes. From thick, textured strokes to thin, delicate ones, oil painting allows you to capture every mood and moment.

But perhaps most importantly, oil painting is a journey. It's a process of learning and experimenting, facing challenges and finding ways to overcome them. The benefits and challenges of oil painting both contribute to this journey, making each piece a unique reflection of your growth as an artist.

So, why does oil painting matter? Because it's more than just putting paint on canvas. It's a way to express, to explore, and to grow. And that's something truly special.

If you enjoyed this blog post about the benefits and challenges of oil painting and are interested in exploring other painting mediums, we recommend checking out the workshop 'Improve Your Acrylic Painting Skills' by Rachel Christopoulos. This workshop will provide you with valuable techniques and tips on how to enhance your acrylic painting skills and expand your artistic horizons.