Prime your canvas/ Buy a primed Canvas

“Priming your canvas by applying a layer or two of gesso to the surface will help the colours in your work really stand out. When using oil colour on canvas, and the canvas is poorly primed, the oil may sink into the canvas and leave dull patches on the surface of your painting. Priming also gives the canvas a smoother surface to work on and allows your brush to flow much better” Winsor & Newton.

Stain your canvas before starting

The other day I was trying to paint a face (Scarf Choke), and the problem I had was that it looks ashy-gray. Now, I am not an expert so some of it could have just been my color choices ( I did add blue to parts for shadow). Ultimately, I think it was that I began by toning my painting with a lilac gray color, instead of a warmer burnt umber. I tried painting around it with a warm color for contrast. Toning the canvas is one of the best ways to speed up a painting, and set, you guessed it, a tone to the color story.

Mike McSorley’s painting, “Tiffany Blue”, is an example of a good color story in my opinion; the color’s work together and do not compete.  The deeper colors really compliment the brighter parts of the face.


Tiffany Blue by Mike McSorley


Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 12.21.32 PM.png
Scarf Choke by Kristina Dover

Pick the right type of paint brushes for what you’re doing

Often overlooked, the right type of brushes will make a dramatic difference in the technique you can use on your paintings.

Hang your painting in a different lighting

Take note of what color the light source in the room is reflecting; is the sky bright blue, or are the lightbulbs in the building warm yellow? Try hanging your painting in different places to see how the colors change, and if that’s what you want it to be. Sometimes you’ll find room for improvement once you move it around a lot.

Take photographs of your picture at different stages

I have never done this, but it seems valuable. Taking pictures of your painting at different stages could give you the inspiration to finish it, and a way to see what you still have left to do.

Use a grid to set up proportions

Most artists do this anyway, and there’s not much more I could say that hasn’t already been said. Proportions make a big difference in how we view artwork. Grids can be useful in setting up proportions when having a reference photo.

Featured photo: 

Title: Tiffany Blue
Media: Oil on panel
Size: 8″W x 8″H x 1″D 
Artist: Mike McSorley

If you happen to have any more Oil Painting Tips & Tricks, leave them in the comment section below. If you want a Water Color Tips & Tricks article, give this post a big thumbs up!


One thought on “Thoughtful Thursday: Oil Painting Tips & Tricks

  1. I keep a large mirror across from my easel to view my painting as I work. It provides a different view and I can see where I need to make corrections.


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