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.
The wall easel slats are cut at an angle so I can hang my panels. I also made sure that they are perfectly level.
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.
A Chest of Drawers is handy…This is ideal for placing your computer monitor, your brushes and jars of turpentine/medium, whatever you use.
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.
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 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.
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.
There you have it, I hope you found some of my ideas helpful! Best of luck setting up your studio!
Happy painting 😉