Supply List to Get Started Painting in Oils or Acrylics

Going to the art store can be a daunting task. I’ve put together this list for my students taking my beginning painting course at Prague College in Prague, Czech Republic. If you are interested in a summer painting workshop in Europe to correspond with a holiday in Prague then please contact me for more information. I run a three week painting intensive every summer there which is open to anyone who signs up. All other courses are done through Prague College and require admission to the school of Fine Art Interactive Media. Additionally, as you can see in the page above I am also offering a painting holiday / workshop in the heart of the Italian countryside as well this summer.

Download this Supply List for Oil Painting by Clicking Here ( PDF ) 

coverheadPainting Supplies

-Scroll to the end for a condensed list-

You have the option of using Oils or Acrylics based upon your preferences.  Oils have the luster generally associated with classical paintings and stay wet longer which allows them to blended more easily. Acrylics have the benefit of being water soluble, so you don’t have to buy paint thinner (Redidlo or Turpentin) and linseed oil. They also dry quickly. They both have their benefits and drawbacks.  There are student grade paints and professional paints. I’d recommend just getting the student grade paints since there is a huge price difference. The brand can be Umton, as in the picture below.


Oil Paints

  • Cadmium Red Medium
  • Cadmium Yellow Medium
  • Pthalo Blue or Ultramarine Blue
    • Pthalo Blue is more electric and fluorescent looking. Ultramarine is beginning to get a bit more purple and is a softer color


  • Titanium White

Here you can see the difference between Pthalo Blue, and Ultramarine Blue



  • Cadmium Red Medium
  • Cadmium Yellow Medium
  • Pthalo Blue or Ultramarine Blue
  • Titanium White


What to paint on?


Figuring out what to paint on is a personal preference. But can be determined by cost and other factors. Pick one of the below to paint on.



  • Canvases have been used for centuries as a painting surface.  
    • You don’t have to prepare the surface for painting.
    • They’re more expensive.
    • You can use the textured surface for certain effects.


Masonite ( Sololit )

  • Is very cheap. You can get many small pieces (30cm x 40cm) cut at Obi or Bauhaus for free. I often get 30 pieces cut at once and it costs me around 500Kc.
  • Are durable
  • Has a rigid surface so you don’t have to deal with the movement of a canvas.
  • They’re smaller so they’re easier to store if you’ve got hundreds of paintings.
  • Students tend to be less precious with them, which is good, since sometimes a nice white canvas is an intimidating thing to “ruin”  masonite

Watercolor Paper

  • You’ll have to prepare the surface by buying Gesso (Šeps) or acrylic medium.
  • You can buy a “blok” of them and have many pieces to work on quickly.


Super Budget Surfaces

  • You can paint on cardboard as long as you prepare it first with Gesso or Acrylic Medium.
  • You can dumpster dive pieces of wood, drawers, and other materials from the garbage.  (Just make sure it’s actually garbage and you aren’t stealing someone’s stuff who is just moving out of their apartment.)
  • Buy crappy old paintings at Bazars or Flea Markets (Kolbenova) and paint over the surface of them, or add new characters to them.


What’s Gesso?



Gesso prepares a surface for painting. There’s two types. Oil based, and acrylic based. But you don’t have to worry about that yet. Just get the acrylic based gesso no matter if you are painting with oils or acrylics. Gesso performs a variety of purposes. For one it smooths the surface of a canvas or panel (masonite) , and it also protects the wood, paper or canvas from linseed oil. Linseed oil will eat away at these materials over the years. So there are archival qualities that make using gesso essential, especially if you want to make sure your painting lasts for a thousand years.

Acrylic Medium

Another option is to use Acrylic Medium to prepare your surface for oil paint. Acrylic medium is clear and can also be used with acrylic paints to create transparent surfaces.



Get a flat brush. That means it’s rectangular, and not like the pointy brush they use in cartoons. The brush below is a ½ from the company AMI. It costs like 60kc and is available at Alta Mira. You want your bristles (that’s the hairs of the brush) to be kind of springy and firm.  



Get a piece of glass, and a scraper (A razor). Or coat a piece of cardboard with Gesso and you can also use this as a palette.  I’ll bring some extra pieces of glass, but I only have a few.

Varnishes, Mediums and solvents


Cobalt Siccative

Cobalt Siccative is a medium which makes oil paint dry faster, and gives it a bit of a glossy finish. Add it to your linseed oil (in very small amounts)


Paint Thinner/Turpenoid/Redidlo


Paint thinner is used to clean your brushes and to thin your oil paint. We will be using it mainly in a jar to clean our brushes.  You don’t need such a large container of it. Or maybe you do, if you want to paint a lot.

You’ll also need a container to put your thinner into. A jar with a lid that screws on tightly is a good option.


Linseed Oil


Linseed oil is the oil that is contained within oil paint. Often we need to add more oil to the paint in order to extend it, and make it easier to manipulate. You’ll also need a small container to hold it. A shot glass works well. Just don’t accidentally drink it.

Damar Varnish

Damar is also optional but is used on a painting once it is completely dry. It will also darken your dark colors more and give your surface a unified glossy appearance.



You’ll need a paint rag to clean your brushes, and use while you are painting.

-Here’s the google map link to Alta Mira where everything can be purchased in Prague, Czech Republic –,14.4171906,17z/data=!4m5!1m2!2m1!1salta+mira+prague!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0x095fa4e7355bf5a0


Condensed List

Oil Painting  (Estimated cost 1000-1400 Kc) 50 to 75 dollars

  • Cadmium Red Medium (Hue) (Brand Umton)
  • Cadmium Yellow Medium (Hue)  (Brand Umton)
  • Pthalo Blue or Ultramarine Blue  (Brand Umton)
  • Titanium White
  • Gesso or Acrylic Medium
  • Flat Brush (the rectangular ones.) Brand AMI. see photo above.
  • Paint Thinner (Redidlo)
  • Glass jar with lid. (Eat some jam)
  • Linseed Oil (Lineny Olej)
  • Shot glass or bottle cap
  • Canvases, Masonite, Cardboard, or Old Wood
  • Palette (Glass or Cardboard) and paint scraper.
  • Painting Rag (tear up an old t-shirt)

Acrylic Painting (Estimated cost 600-900 Kc) 35 – 50 dollars

  • Cadmium Red Medium (Hue)
  • Cadmium Yellow Medium (Hue)
  • Pthalo Blue or Ultramarine Blue
  • Titanium White
  • Glass jar with lid.
  • Paint rag
  • Palette (Cardboard or glass)
  • Canvas, masonite, cardboard, or wood
  • Painting Rag (tear up an old t-shirt)
  • Gesso or Acrylic Medium

On Amazon

I’ve found all these items on Amazon. Since I am going to the US for the summer to paint I had to pre-order all of my materials which I would need for painting. I was surprised that it actually took quite a bit of time, and amazon and other sites don’t have a very good compiled list. The total of everything I bought came to 250$, but I was buying many items in the larger size. So here you can see each of these items one by one, and easily add them to your cart on Amazon.

How to figure out what to paint

A lot of students are concerned with “getting better” at “art”. But what does that really mean? I’ve found in nearly a decade of experience in teaching art to college aged students that generally it is assumed that getting better means improving one’s technical abilities. Many times they want to learn how to make something look a certain way and often gloss over the conceptual aspects of the work. But this route can be deceiving, because once you become proficient at a certain style, you’ll find yourself wondering what it is that you are going to paint. With people going into entertainment design or illustration this is simplified because they are more or less told what to paint, and the client has chosen them because they are proficient in a style they find acceptable.  But what about those artists who are given complete freedom to pursue any avenue they wish, how do they come up with new and fresh ideas?

A lot of study has gone into how to teach creativity to students. While I believe it is well intentioned it has also created a crisis in art schools all across the world. A split occurred between two camps in the 60s as new media and conceptual art began to come to the forefront. On one side there were teachers who didn’t want to stifle their students creativity by making them fit into some sort of dogmatic and technical prison. They believe that students should endlessly experiment on their own and find solutions to complex problems. Their own solutions, because if the teacher told them how to do something, then the work isn’t truly theirs, it’s mostly the teachers. The problem with this was that the work could easily be aesthetically ugly since the student didn’t have a strong enough foundation in things like paint application and color theory. On the other side there were the old school teachers; the formalists. They believed that certain compositions could be better than others, that certain color combinations are more pleasing, and that drawing and painting could be taught in a step by step manner. It’s important to remember I’m talking about Fine Art departments here. Graphic Design and Illustration departments had little trouble with defining what was good or correct, but with Fine Art it was more problematic. And rightfully so, nearly a century after Duchamp put a urinal into a gallery and called it Art, we’re still wrestling with how best to categorize and position certain art as being better than other art.  And this has everything to do with the paralysis that young and some experienced artists feel when they begin a new work/painting. The question still looms. If I learn to paint exactly how I want to paint, then what should I paint?

One concept that is important to familiarize yourself with is called “Divergent Thinking”.   Divergent thinking is the ability to bring two seemingly disparate concepts together and it’s at the heart of what we call creativity. One thing that’s interesting about divergent thinking is that we’re all born with it. It actually degrades over time. I’m not joking, in a test designed to gauge how good someone is at divergent thinking 5 year olds actually outperform 15 year olds. As we become more self conscious, we become less adventurous, and less creative. The evil “inner critic voice” pipes up, and says that something looks bad, or that something is ridiculous, or “that’s not a good idea!” .  And this is the first thing which you need to engage and it brings us to the first of many steps designed to enhance your creativity and help you figure out what to paint!

1: Be Fearless.

Fake it until you make it is a common idiom of our time, but if there’s one place where it truly fits it’s in helping artists become who they truly wish to be. This could mean fending off all sorts of evil demons and anxieties. You could make art which is confronting some trauma which you have experienced, or you could just be making still lifes in your kitchen and you’re scared as hell to show your work publicly. Either way you need to get over it, be fearless, and take the task head on.

2. The five whys.

Ask yourself why, then ask yourself why again, and again, and again. This should help you identify exactly why it is you want to make art, and help you create a schedule to achieve your goals.  Avoid saying things like “nice” and “I like” when answering these questions. It can be more difficult than you think but I’ve seen it be extremely helpful in the long run.

Why do you want to paint?

Because I want to create something beautiful.


Because the world can be ugly.


Because people don’t respect nature.


Because they want to make money.


Because some need to feed their families, and others are just greedy.

So you see what just happened there? We went very quickly to the heart of what this imaginary artist wanted to talk about in their work.  Suddenly ideas about wealth and privilege and nature should start overflowing from your brain. Which brings us to the next step.

Mind Mapping:

Now that you’ve got your creative juices flowing it’s time to record those ideas before they fade away.  And the way to do this, is with what’s called a mind map. Start with your central idea and put it in the center and then go wild making as many connections as you can to it. Lets continue with the previous theme and see what we can come up with.

mind map

Again, all of these ideas should just flow as fast as possible. Overthinking will kill it, just get as much as you can down as fast as you can and you’ll be surprised at all the possible connections. A glimpse at the mind-map above gives us an enormous amount of possibilities for paintings about the dichotomy of nature and money. You could paint deer doing cocaine with strippers. Or a salmon jumping over a strip mall. How about some stock market graphs made from moss? Or a totem pole full of executives? The list goes on, and on, and on and the possibilities are endless. The thing that’s important to remember is that you have to be playful at this stage. Channel your inner five year old and be goofy, don’t be afraid to be nonsensical  and you should be able to surprise yourself with some ideas you didn’t know you had in you!

Cheap and fast test paintings/drawings:

Once you’ve got an idea that you like. Say, a totem pole of executives. It’s time to make some tests. One mistake a lot of young artists make is to think they are going to make one perfect drawing on their nice and shiny new canvas. Screw that! You need to make a ton of small and cheap tests first. Start with making some small thumbnail sketches, just play with composition and how you want things to fit into your shape/size of canvas at first. Then gather some source material if you need to. Go to the woods near your house and take pictures of moss. Collect images of totem poles around the world. Get pictures of bank executives. Look at how currencies are designed and their format etc. etc. After you’ve got a big collection of source materials start sketching your composition in a more finished manner. These sketches can take the form of value studies, and some color studies.

Transfer your tests to your canvas:

Once you’ve got your sketching and source materials gathered and sorted it’s time to transfer these onto your canvas. This can be done by using the grid method which I outlined in a previous lesson, or even with a projector. At this point your conceptual work and planning is finished, and we’re back to the issue of technique and paint application!



Gestalt Principles of Art and Design

Gestalt Principles of Art and Design

These theories of painting come from a German form of psychology called Gestalt which simply states that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is often used in both art as well as design to achieve the desired effect. The main points of Gestalt are summarized below the image.

1. Figure/Ground

This is the idea that speaks to the human mind’s tendency to separate figures from their backgrounds. These differences can be furthered by utilizing a number of different techniques which can include contrast, color, intensity, and size.

In the Matisse painting below we can see a clear differentiation between figure and ground. It is also helpful to think of the ground as the negative space around the figures present. Also notice how Matisse utilized contrast, as well as color to make the figures come to the front of the painting, and push the background back in space. In general it is a good rule of thumb to think that warm colors will come forward in space while cool colors recede.

In contrast to how Matisse used Gestalt principles to make his figures stand out in space we can look at the French artist Vuillard who played around with blending the background and the figures present in the image below. Notice how the woman who is closest to us seems to almost dissapear into the background while the man at the door has a sharp contrast against the pattern. Vuillard was playing with the principles of Gestalt here to highlight how our eyes generally view paintings. By making the man at the door seem to pop to the front this creates a tension in the painting that some find desirable.

2. Similarity

This is the Gestalt theory that states that the viewer tends to group together objects which share the same characteristics such as shape, size, color, texture, and value. In the Degas painting below we can see how he employed many different circle shapes (in the form of the hats) in order to create a sense of unity throughout the painting. The hats also have similar textures which help us group them together. Notice how powerful color intensity is and how the hats which are brighter are easily grouped together while the other hats which are darker are a different group altogether.

The principle of similarity can be more easily understood in the following graphic below. Notice how even though all of the shapes are the same color that by changing the shape of the objects we also change how our minds group them together.

3. Proximity

Think of proximity as how close certain elements are in a composition. Proximity can also be referred to as grouping which is similar to similarity. However, there is a difference between similarity and proximity as we can see that the objects don’t need to all be the same size in order to be grouped by the brain. In the Chardin painting below we can see how the apples are grouped together even though they are different sizes. Grouping can be achieved by shape, color, tone, and space.

In the painting below by Degas we can see how parts of a composition can be grouped together by their value. Even though there are figures both in the foreground as well as the background we can see how we group together the darker elements as abstract shapes. In the case of Degas’ painting of The Office this is present in the dark shapes which make up the suit jackets of the subjects present .

4. Closure

As we discussed earlier closure is the idea that the brain will fill in any extraneous information which is not present in the image. This is a common tactic employed by both painters as well as designers.In the image below we can see how a square is created by the negative space.

5. Continuity

Continuity is the idea that the eye will continue to look in a direction in which it is pushed by the forms and shapes present. In the painting below by Tiepolo we can see how our eyes are first drawn to the main subject present which is the man riding a horse holding a large weapon. The weapon is pointing down at a figure which lie dead on the ground. By utilizing the Gestalt principle of continuity Tiepolo pushes the eyes of the viewer to move around the canvas.

6. Symmetry and Order

Symmetry and Order refers to the idea of how balance, and symmetry give the composition an overall feeling of solidity and structure. In Raphael’s painting below we can see how by having a clear sense of symmetry adds to the structure of the entire composition. Notice how the figures aren’t perfectly symmetrical on both sides of the work, however they are still balanced and neither side seems too “heavy”.The larger idea at play here is that viewers want to “read” a painting in a systematic and organized manner. Some viewers who find a painting which is too difficult to read may spend less time trying to comprehend it. While clearly balanced compositions will be more accesible. This is not to say that every composition needs to be perfectly balanced and symmetrical, there are many examples of artists who play with the idea of symmetry and balance and still are quite sucessful. Remember that these principles are not set in stone, and it is ok to break them. The point being that the better you understand these principles the more sucessful you can be at breaking them.

Oil Painting Step by Step

Oil Painting Step by Step

In this painting tutorial I go through a common step by step procedure on how to paint with oils. From the drawing, to the underpainting,  glazing, and final details.

Step 1: Find your source imagery and prepare it for painting. This could include photoshopping various elements in photoshop, collaging images from magazines, taking your own photos to paint from, etc.Then create a grid on your source imagery. This can be done in photoshop, or you can print the photo out and grid it out with a ruler and pen.

Step 2: Create a grid on your canvas which matches the size of your prepared imagery (ratios are ok, so for instance an image which is 5 x 10 could be scaled to a canvas which is 20 x 40 etc.) Mark each line on the grid with a series of numbers and letters so it is easy to find which square you are looking at and how it relates to the image you are painting from.

Step 3: Draw your imagery onto the canvas using a pencil using your grid lines as a guide to help you. If you are wondering why we use a grid, the answer is that it is much easier to manage smaller squares as opposed to larger ones. It also forces you to abide by the predetermined composition you initially created, so basically, it helps you make sure you can fit everything you want to on the canvas.

Step 4: Find large value shapes. Value refers to the lightness or darkness of a color. For this step it is helpful to have a black and white version of the source material from which you are painting. If you have photoshop just take out all of the saturation of the color, if you don’t, then make a black and white photocopy of the image.

Step 5: Paint the large value shapes with the values they correspond to in black and white.(You can use Acrylic paint for this as it dries faster).

Step 6: Once you’ve completed your value study of the painting you are ready for color. Mix the colors you wish to apply to the canvas on your palette (Never mix on your canvas). You can use either opaque colors which will totally cover the value study, or you can use transparent colors and use the value study to help make your shadows.

Step 7:  Paint in the colors you wish to use, and use the value study to see how closely the value of the color relates to the value of the value study. If this is hard for you to see, then just squint you eyes until the color turns into a black or white shade.

Step 8: Make final adjustments and put in details.

Color Matching Values

In this painting tutorial I go through how to set up a very basic palette, and how to use a palette knife to create value scales with various colors. By setting up these simple piles of color before you start a painting you can be assured that all of your colors stay within the desired range of values.

Color Matching Values

Matching colors to values (the darkness or lightness of a color) is the most important skill to learn when learning to oil paint.  For further information on the topic of color values I would suggest checking out the lesson on Color Theory Basics.

In the painting tutorial video above I go into how to mix different values of color on a palette.  I have chosen to use a painting knife however the same colors could be mixed using a brush.  The palette is glass which has been spray painted grey on the back. I have chosen to paint it grey because this is a very neutral color, and I don’t want the color of the palette to interfere with how I see the colors I’m trying to mix. It is important to remember that colors will interact with each other. For instance a white square painted on a yellow background will appear to  be darker, since the surrounding color is also light. However, a white square painted on a blue background will appear to be brighter since the background is darker.

Once you’ve got a palette with a neutral background you can begin to start making different value scales in different colors. You should already know about value scales as we have covered them extensively in the drawing section of this website. To make a value scale you must first have a guide to go from. So I would suggest making your first value scale in black, white, and greys. Then you can compare the darkness or lightness of your subsequent mixes of color against a black and white scale (this can be achieved by squinting).

If you came here thinking about trying to find what colors match (ie. which colors go together) I’m sorry to tell you that this isn’t something which can be summed up in a succinct manner. There are many factors which determine what colors will traditionally “match”. If you peruse my section here on Color Theory you can begin to examine all of the reasons why there isn’t any general consensus of what colors actually match, and which ones clash.

For this assignment you will have to create your own value scales in 6 colors and Black and White. Red, Yellow, Blue, Orange, Green, Violet. So there’s a total of 7 value scales which you will be creating. Once your palette is full of these colors you will then take a picture of it and post it to your student blogs.

How to Mix Flesh Tones

How to Mix Flesh Tones

In this painting video tutorial I go through the process of how to mix a good base flesh tone using only red, yellow, a touch of blue and white.  Many artists will buy pre-mixed flesh or skin tones in the tube. Here is a simple way that you can learn how to mix your own flesh tones. This awards you a greater variety of possibilities as there are a vast array of skin tones and colors present in all of the people in the world.

The basics outlined in the video above are as follows. You want to start by mixing red and yellow to get an orange color. Once your orange is mixed your going to dab in just a bit of blue to take down the intensity of the color. Now you should have what resembles a dirty orange. Now clean your brush and make another pile of paint  next to your dirty yellow of white. Slowly add the orange to the white (it is important not to add white to your pile of dirty orange). Now you can see that you can create an entire value scale of skin tones increasing in lightness just by adding white. If you want to darken the color you can add more red and blue to the color. If your color gets too violet then simply add some more yellow.

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