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 post, I give you the basics of setting up your studio, where to purchase a beautiful handmade  easel and how to organize your space. I cover the paints and brushes and mediums I use. Please note: I update this post on a regular basis as my experience as an oil painter evolves, so does my process. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

I’m in the process of revamping my studio. My partner built me a 10′ x10″ studio without any windows, with 11ft tall ceiling. It wasn’t possible to face north, so decided to go with indoor lighting. I want to be able to work in my studio, painting day or night and not be challenged by lighting.  As soon as my studio is complete which will be a week from now. Today is 23 August 2019. I’ll be updating this post when it’s complete. I’ll take pics and video. I’m super excited!

Please Note: The links I have provided are not affiliate links. They are products I love to use.

photo 3 (2)


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 just ordered flicker-free 5000k LED’s,  high quality lighting.  What is so awesome about these lights is it uses very little power and you can paint any time day or night and the light remains consistent and with a high Color Rendering Index. This makes a huge difference in the quality of the light. You can accurately mix colors and paint with confidence.  Here is some info about their flicker-free light bulbs.

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.


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 just started using Natural Pigment’s Oleogel and so far I love how it handles.  More on that in a few months.

I highly recommend Natural Pigments for those who want to use quality oils. Their Rublev oil colors are absolutely fantastic to work with. They are handmade using traditional pigments.


Substrate and Grounds: I paint on wood braced  panels I make myself. Size the panel first before applying an Alkyd Lead oil ground.

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.

Paper towel and clean-up… I prefer to use paper towel instead of rags to clean my brushes. 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 don’t use it anymore. I use walnut oil as a brush dip to clean my brushes. I just wipe off the excess paint and dip my brush into walnut oil, don’t swish your brush, just dip it and work it into a paper towel.

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!


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.

Don’t forget to check back in a week or so for updates with new pics and video of my new studio 🙂

I’ll be revamping this post with lots of very useful ideas, including how to make a picture stand and palette stand. Also the best way to mount your lighting to properly light your canvas and palette. I’m also going show you how I plan to modify my new easel and install a crank and pulley system for way, way cheaper than purchasing a crank easel. I’ll also explain why I’m painting my studio Black!

You don’t want to miss this!

Happy painting 😉



23 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


  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


  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


  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….


    • 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!

      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!


  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.


    • 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!


  8. Hi, Naomi-what a useful post! Very good suggestions, and I love your work!
    If you haven’t read it, Tad Spurgeon’s Living Craft book would be right up your alley. You can order it from his website, and it’s the most comprehensive working methods, materials, and art history/philosophy book I’ve ever read. He uses no solvent whatever; cleans brushes in safflower oil (much cheaper than walnut!), and recommends keeping working brushes submerged in a tray of oil. Works great! He also gives thorough instructions for refining your own linseed oil from flaxseed oil, and making bodied oils & mediums from that. Incredibly thorough, well-researched, and informative—he discusses artists I hadn’t come across as well as the well-known ones: their work, palette of colors, methodology…I spent a year getting thru it, and refer to it often.
    Thanks for the post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and for your recommendations, Shelley! I’m very familiar with Tad Spurgeon and his book. I don’t own it, but did spend a lot of time researching and reading books written by artists hundreds of years ago, their methods and techniques and materials they used. I do make my own walnut sun oil every year.
      I buy my oil paints from Kama pigments which I use first and then use my hand ground paint in subsequent layers as it has a slightly higher oil to pigment ratio. I use my sun thickened walnut oil mixed with Canada Balsam in my final layers. But that depends on what I’m painting. When painting en plein air, I don’t use any medium at all. I do want to experiment with Oleogel, which is Linseed oil and fumed silica.
      Tomorrow I grind paint. I have some gorgeous pigments, just not looking forward to the grinding, it’s hard work!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Studio Musing~ Method and color; What’s on your palette? | The Oil Painter's Studio

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