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, 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!

My partner, Marc, built me a 10′ x 12″ studio without any windows, with 11ft tall ceiling. It wasn’t possible to face north, so decided to go with indoor lighting. I wanted to be able to work in my studio day or night and not be challenged by lighting.

Here are some recent pics of my new studio. I painted the entire studio in black. I put my huge studio easel away and made a wall easel.

Studio

Studio2

The wall easel slats are cut at an angle so I can hang my panels. I also made sure that they are perfectly level.

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Marc cut some wooden blocks shaped at an angle and attached I them to the back of my panel. Just make sure the screws are short and don’t pierce into our painting. Now I can hang my paintings on my wall easel. I can work on many paintings at a time.

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

Lighting: For lighting I use 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.

I had an electrician create a circuit of 10 lights for me. My mom made a sheer cover to mute the light somewhat to prevent glare. I include a couple of clip on lamps for extra lighting if needed.

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

Studio setup

In the top drawer you can place your tubes of colors in a row all along the width of the drawer. This way you can easily find the colors you need. The next drawer down you could keep paper towels, rags etc. And in the bottom drawer you could store drawing pads and small painting panels.

Palette, brushes, paints and mediums

I use a cart for my palette and to hang my paints. I attached some wheels so it can easily be moved. I had some glass cut to fit the top perfectly. I tinted my palette with a mix of burnt umber, raw umber and a dash of cadmium orange. I added the orange to counter the blue-green tint of the glass. I found this warm grey to be perfect to accurately judge values and colour. I used a fast drying white and the umbers dry super fast too. It was dry the next day.

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.

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Studio cart

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.

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.

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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!

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.

There you have it, I hope you found some of my ideas helpful! Best of luck setting up your studio!

Happy painting 😉

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26 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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  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

  10. Hi, any recommendations about how to depose of your oily paper towels? I’ve heard of them catching on fire if put into trash cans. What do you do with yours?

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    • Hi Chris, great question… The only reason they catch on fire is if the rags or paper towels are covered in linseed oil. I’m currently using oleogel and never enough to cause a fire.

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  11. Pingback: How to set-up an Oil Painter’s Studio | The Oil Painter's Studio

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