How to set-up an Oil Painting Studio…

Setting up an Oil painter’s studio can be a costly affair. It doesn’t have to be. In this Article I give you the basics of setting up your studio, how to make your own easel and how to organize your space. I cover the paints and brushes and mediums I use. Please note: I update this article on a regular basis as my experience as an oil painter evolves, so does my process.

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Hope you enjoy the article and if you have any questions, feel free to ask!

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Studio

This is a basic set-up with a north facing window. I bought this easel for under $250. I added the wheels so I can easily move it around. A table for my palette and brushes. In this set-up, extra lighting is not really necessary. Some aren’t so lucky and need some kind of lighting set up to paint.

Lighting: For lighting I use 4700k Halogen lights,  so far the best quality light Ive used. I do recommend Placing a white cloth between you and the light to break the strong glare. I try not to use indoor lighting and paint to natural daylight. North light is best as it remains fairly constant.

solux

Easel: Although I love my floor easel, I also designed and made my own wall mounted easel with a slider. You’re welcome to copy my design. I also mounted a stick at the top of my easel on which to rest my hand. If you have a floor easel on casters, I suggest you place it on a rubber mat so it doesn’t move. Here are some very functional, very affordable Easels made with love.

multimedia easel

I don’t have one of these yet, I do plan on ordering the 72″ Studio easel, although I love the Multi-media easel, not only very functional, but beautifully made also. I also love Gord’s Painter’s boxes for plein air painting. I’ll be ordering one of those for sure. I’ll take pics when I receive them!

Shabbychicstudio

Chest of Drawers…This is ideal for placing your computer monitor, your brushes and jars of turpentine/medium, whatever you use.

Studio setup

In the top drawer I have placed my colors in a row all along the width of the drawer. This way I can easily find the colors I need. The next drawer down I keep paper towels, rags etc. Next I keep paperwork, receipts, notes and drawing pads.

Palette, brushes, paints and mediums…I use a glass palette  I tinted with burnt umber and white.  When you flip it over, it turns a beautiful gray. This way,  you can judge your colors and values more accurately. No surprises when you mix a color with a particular value, you know it’s going to appear the same value on your canvas. If your palette is white and you paint on a tinted canvas, your values won’t be the same as what you mixed. Always keep this in mind.

palette

Brushes : I use Rosemary and co Brushes, the best so far.They are amazing to paint with. The Classics are perfect for laying down paint and the Masters choice are amazing for smoother passages, and for painting flesh. The large bristles are ideal for background and the softeners for sky and clouds.

Rosemary and co brushes

Mediums:. I’m experimenting with a paste made with ground calcite and heavy bodied walnut oil. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Oils: I mull my own paints using high quality pigments from Kama Pigments. I’m experimenting with heat bodied walnut oil,  using it to grind my paints. I’ll fill you in on a later post 🙂

Ultramarine blue

I highly recommend Kama oils, for those who don’t want to or can’t grind your own. Kama oils are handmade and have no fillers or inert pigments making their oils pigment rich and pure. Here is their fact sheet with product info.

Kama paints

Substrate and Grounds: I paint on wood braced  panels I make myself. Size the panel first before applying a Lead oil ground with Gac 100.

I don’t recommend painting on stretched canvas. If you do, be sure to size your canvas first BEFORE you paint. The reason for this is the oil paint will eventually rot your canvas. You must prep your canvas properly.

I use a lead oil ground I prepare myself.  Lead white is an integral ingredient in oil painting, there just simply is no other way. I make the ground with calcium carbonate, linseed oil, lead white pigment and a few drops of cobalt dryer. Apply two coats. Make sure it’s completely dry before adding a second coat. Wait as long as possible before you paint on your oil primed canvas panel. Make sure is is 100% dry. If you can press your nail into the ground and leave an impression. It’s not dry.

Do remember that Lead white is Toxic, use the appropriate gear to protect yourself.

Safety when grinding pigments

Paper towel and clean-up… I prefer to use paper towel instead of rags to clean my brushes and for turpentine use. This way I can discard the paper-towel and not have turpentine soaked rags under my nose. I also find that the cheapest brand or even recycled paper towel is best. No lint. Avoid the big fluffy rolls of paper towel.

Even though one can’t smell the odorless Mineral spirits, it is still a chemical and is still dangerous. I only use oms to rinse my brushes at the end of a painting session. Be sure to wear gloves. Even though OMS is apparently odorless, I can smell it, very loud and clear. I can’t stand the smell of it and avoid using it where possible. I’m trying my best to eliminate the use of solvents altogether.

walnut oil

It’s best to use walnut oil instead of Odorless mineral Spirits.  The old masters would dip their brushes in walnut oil and wipe off the excess when they resumed painting.
If you do use OMS, a fan is really needed, always have the fan on when using chemicals and a window open is ideal. Vacuum and clean your studio often to rid of dust. Nothing worse than dust and animal hair on your freshly primed canvases or freshly glazed painting.

My favorite brush cleaner is Turpenoid. I can’t live without it. The best ever! It will even clean off hardened stiff brushes, it’s amazing and totally Non-toxic!

turpenoid

IMPORTANT: Make sure you rinse your brushes off thoroughly with water to remove ALL traces of Turpenoid. This stuff does not dry or evaporate. Which means if you get this stuff into your paint, it won’t cure. Ever.

Studiopc2

I made this easel myself and I found the caddy at the local junk yard, it was twice the size. I took it apart, cut it down to size, re-assembled and added wheels.

Good luck with setting up your studio and happy painting :- )

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20 thoughts on “How to set-up an Oil Painting Studio…

  1. Pingback: How to Set Up Your Own Home Art Studio Today! | Nitram Charcoal

  2. Thank you for this insight. I am new to painting and would like to set up my own studio. The only room I have available is a basement room that has no daylight at all. Would you recommend the same lighting as you have above in your article?
    I would be very grateful for your ideas.
    Greetings. Layla

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  3. Hi Layla, yes I suggest the same lighting, and although mine is a 5500k light, it’s slightly on the cool side, 5000k is best. One can use photographic gels to cut the coolness of a fluorescent light. Don’t forget to spend some time painting outside, Layla, this is your classroom, everything you need to learn about light and the way it affects colour is by painting en plein air (Painting outside). Start with only one colour, this is where you learn to see tones and values. Good luck, if you have any more questions, please feel free. Take Care, Naomi

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  4. Nice description and workspace. Can you tell me where to get a fixture like yours that holds the light bulb? Light is my biggest problem but this looks like the perfect affordable solution. Thanks in advance, Dian

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  5. Reblogged this on Avis the Artist and commented:
    I could not agree with you more on the subject of paper towels versus cloth rags! I don’t have a north facing window either (rather east instead) and use one of those multi-level/bulb stand lamps with “daylight” florescent bulbs. I also have a “daylight” (and by that I mean the 5000–5500 Kelvin ratings you mentioned) spotlight bulb in a cheap reflective fixture left over from when we had chicks. I have seen some articles (such as in Pop Photo) for assembling a homemade “soft light” …. it occurs to me that this might be a good idea; sometimes glare can be truly annoying!
    Loved the idea about casters for the easel! Would be interested in knowing your specific recommendations on this….

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    • Thank you, yes the casters helped. I no longer use a standard free standing easel. I came up with a space saving design which takes up next to no room in your studio, best thing ever. I’m busy working on updating my article with great ideas to make your life way easier and more productive in your studio. I also have a great lighting solution, so simple and so effective and affordable. Can’t wait to share it with you!
      Have a wonderful day and Happy Painting!
      Naomi

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Naomi, I hope you are still sharing your expertise. It is so generous of you. I cannot locate the Power Source d’energie light fixture you show. I will be painting in a basement with windows but still dark. Thank you!

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  7. Hi Naomi
    thank you for sharing.
    I am looking to set up a painting area and am looking into lighting.
    I wanted to know if you have ever heard of using fluorescent bulbs, a cool one and a warm one, in the same fixture. I read it is good lighting for painting. I have yet to try it out.

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    • Hello Edvige, you are welcome 🙂 I highly recommend using halogen lights as the quality of the light far outweighs fluorescent bulbs. I do suggest to have some white cloth between you and the halogen light to break the harsh glare.It will also cool the light slightly making it less yellow. Halogen does get very hot, always switch off when you’re done painting, allow to cool for a bit.
      Best wishes with setting up your studio!

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