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.

To learn more about Oil Painting, I have 10 half hour video series on how to paint a portrait Get your Free Portrait Painting video series here!

I posted a short one minute video on how to mix a fleshtone for a portrait and that Video can be found HERE

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

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 easilly 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 skylight

Lighting is everything. I assure you, I have researched this subject thoroughly. I have tried Every type of lighting on the market. Some Artists are fortunate enough to have a north facing window, this would be an ideal lighting condition, However, some aren’t so lucky. The alternative, 5000k natural daylight. This is inexpensive and I’ve seen all sorts of companies trying to pass off studio lighting for way too much money. I was able to get mine at a fraction of the cost. I am fortunate enough to have a skylight in my studio, however on dark cloudy wintery days, I switch on my panel light, it’s like a skylight without a skylight. It’s best to mount it as high as possible at a 35% angle to prevent glare.

The reason for the 5000k light, is it is the truest light form you can paint to. The colors on your palette and on your canvas remain true. Anything else would be too yellow or orange or blue and can alter the illusion of color and you will end up with a painting that can’t be viewed in any other lighting. If you show your work in an outdoors show, your colors would be off, guaranteed, been there, got the T-shirt. I use this light, it’s pure white, neither yellow nor blue.



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.

Shabbychicstudioeasel attachment

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

wall mounted palette

I mounted my palette onto the wall next to my easel. then I mounted a piece of glass I tinted with burnt umber and white.  Here’s an article I wrote on how to tint your palette.  How to tint your palette and why you should

Brushes, I use Mightlon, they’re great brushes for an affordable price.  They hold their shape beautifully and last longer.
Oils, I’m fussy, I love Old Holland classic oils, high quality, the best I can afford. Feels good to work with, smooth and never disappointing.

Mediums. I can’t handle the smell Turpentine. Which means I can’t use Damar crystals. Too hard on the lungs for me, being asthmatic doesn’t help. FYI, Damar crystals do not dissolve in odorless turpentine or Gamsol.
For medium I use Walnut oil and Stand oil and Gamsol’s odorless mineral spirits. It takes a while for Stand oil to dissolve in oms, so give it a week or so to dissolve. Stir, never shake.

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 paint and handle all chemicals and oils with disposable gloves.
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!

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

For those of you who are learning how to paint in oils… Get your Free Portrait Painting video series here!

me painting1



17 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!


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