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, 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. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!
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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.
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.
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!
Chest of Drawers…This is ideal for placing your computer monitor, your brushes and jars of turpentine/medium, whatever you use.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 :- )