Oil Painting Techniques Beginners Should Know About

Closeup of paintbrush in womans hands mixing paints on palette

When you think about oil painting, the mind inevitably conjures up images of centuries of art from the Renaissance masters to the more modern and charming creations you see in local art shops. If you are trying your hand at oil painting for the first time, this brief guide will walk you through the ins and outs of the techniques and styles in it. As you become familiar with the different oil painting techniques, you can even generate your own style.

Here are 10 forms of oil painting techniques and the artists who use them:

  1. Baroque – Caravaggio
  2. Classicism – Ingres, Mengs
  3. Cubism – Picasso
  4. Expressionism – Munch
  5. Romanticism – Delacroix
  6. Surrealism – Ernst, Dali
  7. Renaissance – Michelangelo
  8. Fauvism – Matisse
  9. Realism – Caravaggio
  10. Impressionism – Renoir, Monet

You can very well guess that each style has something unique; most are also a representation of the artists’ feelings and emotions. Romanticism, for example, is recognizable from its attention to details. The images are bold and clear and usually against a shadowy background. At the same time, the human bodies are extremely detailed with attention given to each muscle or curve. There is no doubt that this oil painting technique is all about the artist emphasizing what he or she wants the viewer to remember.

The main reason why beginners to oil painting must study the different oil painting techniques is to have a reference as to what they want their own creations to represent. You can also show the world whatever you want, including your likes and dislikes. People who are experts in oil painting techniques can easily tell whether you are an impressionist or a romantic.

Oil Painting Techniques for Beginners

Portrait of concentrated female painter holding art palette and oil painting on canvas with a brush

Here are some oil painting techniques every beginner to art should know about.

Color Blocking

This is a very cool and trendy oil painting technique wherein you highlight the outlines of an object by using very diluted brush strokes of the same color that is used inside that object. Today this technique is also used in interior designing for selecting colors or shapes for a room.

Transparent Oil Painting Technique

This is also called Glazing and is one of the oil painting techniques that have been employed by art masters since centuries before. By using Glazing, you can add depth to attract the viewer’s eye more than the opaque paint you will use on the remaining parts of the canvas. It is very essential to use this oil painting technique rather carefully and only in very specific parts of the painting.

Layering in Oil Painting

There are two types of layering when it comes to oil painting techniques: the wet into dry layering method which lets you keep clean colors while having better control over the tones of colors. This is an essential method for oil painting beginners as it lets them correct their mistakes. The other is the alla prima or the wet into wet technique that allows you to use one or two layers max over each other before things get too muddy.


This oil painting technique is the opposite of Glazing as you actually paint an opaque layer over a dried darker layer. You can add some oil painting mediums or simply use lighter paints when trying this technique. Scumbling is ideal for softening the textures. You can even use this method to create a semi opaque or a veiled look by using opaque colors on top of the dried layers.


This technique dates back to the Renaissance period where artists like Caravaggio used it to create sinister elements in their artwork. It plays with light and dark contrasts and is especially useful for coloring skin tones. Rubens’ Samson and Delilah and Caravaggio’s The Sick Bacchus are examples of this oil painting technique.


This can be contrast of hue or contrast of value. The latter is all about lightness versus darkness and the former shows how pure a certain color is. You can also do a temperature contrast to indicate how warm or cool a painting is.


This is an ancient oil painting technique that makes use of tiny dots in pure colors that blend together in the viewer’s eyes. It requires skill, especially when trying to give a uniform and continuous texture to a picture.

Here is a beginner’s guide that explains how to oil paint on canvas in 10 easy steps.