Painting Brushes

It's easy to get overwhelmed by the huge variety of oil painting 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? Here we're going to simplify what a person needs about the kinds of oil painting supplies they need into five basic things.


In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What are the five essential oil paint supplies beginners need?
  • Which colors should a beginner oil painter buy?
  • How many brushes should a painter use?
  • Is it a good idea to buy an oil painting set sold by an art supplier?

What are the essential oil paint supplies for beginners?

Painters Pallet

The five oil painting supplies beginners need are:
1) Oil paints and palette
2) Paint brushes
3) A canvas
4) An easel
5) A medium (like linseed oil)

For starters, a palette is either a wood panel or piece of wax paper as a physical item. But a palette is also how we reference the selection of colors that we use. We need both!

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

Which colors should a beginner oil painter buy?

In order for a palette to be effective it has to have the primary colors. It's important to have a warm and cool version of each color on our palettes. For now, it's sufficient to say that the following twelve colors are found on the paint palettes of every Evolve student:

Color Painting Pallet

#1 - White
#2 - Naples Yellow
#3 - Schev Yellow
#4 - Schev Red
#5 - Terracotta or English Red
#6 - Magenta or Crimson
#7 - Cadmium Green Light
#8 - Phthalo Green
#9 - Cerulean Blue
#10 - Phthalo Blue
#11 - Burnt Umber
#12 - Mars Black or Ivory Black

How many brushes should a painter use?

Painting Brushes

It's best to start painting using two number 12 Filbert brushes (one for lights and one for shadows). 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. It's a great all around brush and the vast majority of the work that I do and that my students do is done with that brush.

Rule Of Thumb: When you paint always use the biggest brush that fits the space. This will save you lot's of time in the long run.

What about canvas?

There's a huge variety of canvas 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 advance as an artist you'll discover all sorts of different canvases. Evolve students use linen canvas, once they've got the basics of painting down. Linen canvas is extremely smooth and easy to use. 

Should I use an easel?

Painting 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. Always work on an easel (you can get a table top one for $15). 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 $15 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 $300, but watch for them to go on sale).

Using Linseed Oil as a paint medium

Linseed Oil

You're also going to need some kind of medium. I recommend that you use as little medium as possible and that you keep it simple (mediums are a conversation that could go on for years). 

For the most part paint is made with linseed oil. Paint makers take pigment, they grind it up, and they 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. That's it. It's always good if you can use a 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.

Should I buy an oil painting set sold by an art supplier?

It depends. If you find a color set that fits the description above (a warm and a cold for each color) it will work. It's better to take a list of the colors provided above and pick them up from a paint supply store. We use and recommend using Old Holland paints and you can find out more about their paints on their website.


As a student, you should be working with the best material you can get (particularly your paint and your mediums). 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 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.

The issue with that confusion is that if you do something and it doesn't work (with a low grade material), you start changing how you paint to account for the material. Maybe you aren't sure whether your problem is the material or you.

Let's say you use a low grade cerulean blue that's oily and has all kinds of fillers in it to keep it inexpensive. In this scenario you would have to put on a passage of paint two or three times as thick to cover the canvas. This develops bad habits. And when you try to blend this low grade color into other things it's like mixing peanut butter and jelly; the colors don't blend because they're different densities.

To solve this issues we recommend using high quality paints, so if there's ever a problem you know that it's not the material's fault.

Learn The 4 Part Framework to Develop Pro Art Skills in 12 Months

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