5 Essential Art Supplies You Need To Start Oil Painting

Art supplies

There are so many different art supplies out there, but for beginning artists, there are only 5 important things you need to have! Photo by Natalie Runyon

It's easy to get overwhelmed by the huge variety of oil painting art supplies found at art supply stores.

A beginner artist might wonder which colors to start with and how many tubes of paint to buy? What kind of brushes do they need to buy? Do they need linseed oil? And what about canvas?

There are really only five basic art supplies you need to start painting.  So keep ready to learn what art supplies a new artist needs in order to start oil painting!

What Art Supplies Do You Really Need to Get Started?

When you are just beginning as an artist, you don’t need every fancy tool or brush. You just need basic art supplies that will help you get started on your artistic journey. 

The five oil painting art supplies beginners need are:

1. Oil paints 

2.  A Palette

3. Paint brushes

4. A canvas

5. An easel

6. (OPTIONAL) A medium (like linseed oil)

Choose high quality oil paints in order to start your education off properly! This Old Holland set is the palette that Evolve students begin with.

1. A Set of Oil Paint Colors

Perhaps your most important art supplies that you’ll need to find are your oil paints. 

In order for a palette to be effective it has to have the primary colors. You don’t have to have every color available on the market, but it is important to have a warm and cool version of each color on your palettes. 

As you begin, the following twelve colors should be found on your palette:

#1 - White

#2 - Naples Yellow

#3 - Scheveningen Yellow

#4 - Scheveningen Red

#5 - Terracotta or English Red

#6 - Magenta or Crimson

#7 - Cadmium Green Light

#8 - Phthalo Green

#9 - Scheveningen Blue

#10 - Ultramarine Blue

#11 - Burnt Umber

#12 - Mars Black or Ivory Black

Oil Paints by Old Holland

A Notes About Art Supplies and Oil Paint

As a student, you should be working with the best material you can get. If you're working with a lower grade material, there will be shortcomings in the paint. 

A lower quality paint may not cover the canvas well. You may get areas where it kind of streaks or shows through. If you are working with a low grade material you'll never know whether the fault is with the material or if it's with you and your technique.

If you're using a high grade material and you have a problem with applying your paint, you know the issue is with the artist, not the material. So you're eliminating any potential confusion by using a high grade paint and medium.

This is why it is recommended to use high quality art supplies, so if there's ever a problem you know that it's not the material's fault. At Evolve, we recommend Old Holland paints. 

Remember, quality paint won’t make you a better artist, but it certainly won’t hold you back. Read more about that here.

2. A Palette for Mixing Paint

Once you have your oil paints, you’ll need a palette for mixing those paints together.

A mixing palette can be a primed wood panel, glass, or piece of wax paper as a physical item. Most art stores sell pads of palette paper suitable for oil paint.

Bienfang palette paper does a great job as a disposable painter's palette. You can check out that product by clicking here.

Choosing the right brush is important for new artists, but can be simplified! Photo by Natalie Runyon

3. Choosing the right brush

There are hundreds of styles and sizes of brushes for oil painting. It's best to start painting using two number 12 Filbert brushes (one for lights and one for shadows). 

A Filbert is a type of brush which has a kind of curved tip so it almost looks like a cat's tongue. As an all purpose brush you're not going to get a better brush. 

It's the best all purpose brush you're going to find because you can work into tight corners and you can also cover large areas. 

For more information on different types of brushes for oil painting, check out this article.

4. Choosing a Canvas to Paint on

There is a huge variety of canvas types available for artists. It's best as a beginner artist to avoid using large canvases that take too much time to fill. 

A set of ten 9" x 12" cotton canvases will serve you well as you get started with oil painting. As you advance as an artist you'll discover all sorts of different canvases. We recommend a linen or cotton canvas, which are smooth and easy to use. 

One quality brand to start with is the Paramount premium quality canvas. It is doubled primed and acceptable for oils and acrylic paint. 

5. Do I Need an Easel?

When you paint you should always work on an easel, even if it's a tabletop easel. It's not a good thing to work with your painting laying flat as it affects your perspective of your work. That said, you want something sturdy enough that it's not going to slide while you're working. 

The easels we recommend to beginner students is the Martin Angelina Table Top Easel sold for about $20 on Amazon. 

Once you know you want to continue with your art and are looking for an easel upgrade, the easels we use in the studio are Weber Avanti 2 Steel Studio Easels (roughly $250, but watch for them to go on sale).

6. Additional Art Supplies: Linseed oil or Medium

Like canvas, the subject of medium is a conversation that could go on for years.

Most high quality oil paints can be used straight out of the tube, with no medium necessary. However, you may find that while using some of these paints, they can be heavily pigmented and therefore, quite dense.

To help the paint move a bit easier, We recommend that you use as little medium as a vehicle for the paint. 

For the most part, paint is made with linseed oil. Paint makers take pigment, grind it up, and mix linseed oil into it.

And if that's what your paint is made from and you want to thin your paint down, then you want to use more linseed oil. 

It’s always good if you can use cold-pressed linseed oil (it’s going to be two or three times the price of regular linseed oil but should still be under $15 for a bottle).

Cold-pressed linseed oil is the highest grade of linseed oil you’re going to get. This way you’re going to get used to working with good material.

You can read more about different types of mediums here.


This is the list of art supplies you need to get started as an oil painter! Keep it simple and invest in quality oil paints to get you started. Then, spend your time and focus on practicing and learning all you can about oil painting!

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  1. Thank you Kevin and Evolve team !
    This is a great idea!! Loved reading it and getting all this information! Answered a lot of questions! I look forward to your next blog!

    Take care

  2. Great point about low quality paint. I started with cheap paint – what did I know? When I started painting with a top quality paint, I had to learn how to paint all over again. I wasted a good year messing around with junk paint. Problem is, no one will believe you. They still use “student grade” because they think why waste paint? (I did.) Not only is that a bad mental attitude to approach painting, but what if that painting turned out to be a masterpiece? Then the cheap paint starts to yellow and turn black. Odds are your masterpiece ends up in the dumpster. Sad!

  3. Thank you for the information on supplies and what happens when using low grade paints. I was going to buy cheaper oils but after reading your article, I have changed my mind and will only buy top grade supplies

  4. Sorry I have not been on your site in the past few months. But I am still here. Truly enjoy the articles you have sent, and have already learned a lot from what I have read. Life has been a bit on the hectic side, but hopefully it has slowed down enough for me to get my oils and brushes back on track. Thanks for your consideration in contacting me through emails.

  5. I haven’t used oil for painting for quite awhile. This article answers some questions re quality I had and will be helpful when I paint with oil again. Thank you. I appreciate that it is succint and informative.

    1. Hi Barbara! So glad that you found this helpful! Check out more articles like this and our program at evolveartist.com.

      Happy Painting!

      Evolve Artist

  6. I hope you won’t mind a question …..I have been looking for a container to put an unfinished oil painting in to extend the paintable time frame ….something lightweight and big enough for 16×20 in canvas…do you have any suggestions?? Your help would be extremely helpful and I Thankyou in advance but also for this site!!

    1. Hi Cathy,

      We’re glad you’re enjoying the blog! Any sort of sealable container will work to preserve paint. One brand is the Masterson Sta-Wet Palette Seal. Though this is commonly used for keeping paint palettes wet, it should help your painting as well. You might try a slowing agent like clove oil to keep your paintings wet even longer.
      Good luck!
      Piper & the Evolve Team

  7. Loving all this excellent information. It all makes sense and I will definitely use this in all my creative endeavors! Thank you so much for sharing.

  8. Very interesting. I have been painting for years and
    I always appreciate good tips from experienced artists and teachers. Thanks
    Katherine Ryan. Jacksonville Fl
    Mkatieryan@gmail. Com

  9. Thanks for clearing up how an effective oil painting kit only needs the primary colors to be effective. My sister wants to get into oil painting. But I don't know what colors she would want so I'll get her one that has the primary colors and some other basic ones.

  10. Thanks for this info! My time is very limited and all I have at my house are leftover acrylic paints from my oldest daughter ( which I don't like so far) and they are making me think I can never be an artist, but this article gives me hope that maybe I just need better materials.

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