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.
When painting super large paintings that don’t fit on an easel, I just hang it on screws.
I use a wall easel instead of a regular easel and this frees up floor space. This means I can work on many paintings at a time and also have somewhere to hang them while they are dying. The wall easel slats are cut at an angle so I can hang my painting panels. I also made sure that they are perfectly level.
I cut some wooden blocks shaped at an angle and I attached them to the back of my panel. Just make sure the screws are short and don’t pierce into our painting.
Lighting: For lighting I use flicker-free 4700k 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
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. My husband Marc, made the top with a scrap piece of plywood. He glued on some square dowels around the edge and for my brushes. I then stained it with a mahogany stain. I had some glass cut to fit the top perfectly.
Brushes : I use Rosemary and co Brushes, the best so far. They are amazing to paint with. The Tisch Daggers
are perfect for laying down paint and the Eclipse flats, filberts and rounds are my favorite and are amazing for smoother passages, and for painting flesh. The Masters choice make great softeners and are ideal for sky and clouds. The Tisch Daggers are my new favorite, they are amazing for painting trees!
To add texture to your trees, I recommend Rosemary & Co’s Tree and Texture brushes. Couldn’t be easier!
The links from Rosemary and Co, are affiliate links.
Mediums:. I use Natural Pigment’s Oleogel and I love how it handles. It’s easy to use, no mess, no fuss and is solvent free.
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.
Marc made this rack for me to store my paints, and I will at some point, stain it with a mahogany stain. I’m so delighted with it.
Substrate and Grounds: I paint on wood braced panels and glue on cotton unprimed canvas. I then size the canvas panel first before applying an Alkyd Lead oil ground. If you do use an acrylic primer, I recommend Liquitex. Just make sure you leave your panels to dry for three days between each layer as it takes that long for the water in the primer to evaporate. Otherwise, if you paint on the panel before it’s had time to evaporate, can cause problems. What I really like about Liquitex, is that it seals the surface too. You can apply directly to raw canvas. If you do paint on ready primed canvas, I recommend applying a few more coats of primer.
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. I really like the blue shop towels, they are quite durable.
You can either use odorless mineral spirits or use walnut oil as a brush dip to clean your brushes. 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 Murphy’s Soap. 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 soap.
There you have it, I hope you found some of my ideas helpful! Best of luck setting up your studio!
Nice tip with the lighting, it’s true, it really is super important!
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Thank you for this insight. I am new to painting and would like to set up my own studio. The only room I have available is a basement room that has no daylight at all. Would you recommend the same lighting as you have above in your article?
I would be very grateful for your ideas.
Hi Layla, yes I suggest the same lighting, and although mine is a 5500k light, it’s slightly on the cool side, 5000k is best. One can use photographic gels to cut the coolness of a fluorescent light. Don’t forget to spend some time painting outside, Layla, this is your classroom, everything you need to learn about light and the way it affects colour is by painting en plein air (Painting outside). Start with only one colour, this is where you learn to see tones and values. Good luck, if you have any more questions, please feel free. Take Care, Naomi
Nice description and workspace. Can you tell me where to get a fixture like yours that holds the light bulb? Light is my biggest problem but this looks like the perfect affordable solution. Thanks in advance, Dian
Hi Dian, I no longer have that light but use a great replacement, a simple 5000k screw in light bulb. I screw them into the standard light fittings on the ceiling. I have a couple and it lights my studio beautifully. Any 5000k will work 🙂 Good luck and happy painting!
Are your new bulbs LED, CFL or incandescent? Are they in your ceiling fan? How many watts each? I am grateful for your input and thank you for the encouragement!
Hi Dian, the following link has all the spec for the lights http://www.greenelectricalsupply.com/9-watt-spiral-e26-medium-base-cfl-5000k-bulbs-enclosed-light-fixtures-rated.aspx
Reblogged this on Avis the Artist and commented:
I could not agree with you more on the subject of paper towels versus cloth rags! I don’t have a north facing window either (rather east instead) and use one of those multi-level/bulb stand lamps with “daylight” florescent bulbs. I also have a “daylight” (and by that I mean the 5000–5500 Kelvin ratings you mentioned) spotlight bulb in a cheap reflective fixture left over from when we had chicks. I have seen some articles (such as in Pop Photo) for assembling a homemade “soft light” …. it occurs to me that this might be a good idea; sometimes glare can be truly annoying!
Loved the idea about casters for the easel! Would be interested in knowing your specific recommendations on this….
Thank you, yes the casters helped. I no longer use a standard free standing easel. I came up with a space saving design which takes up next to no room in your studio, best thing ever. I’m busy working on updating my article with great ideas to make your life way easier and more productive in your studio. I also have a great lighting solution, so simple and so effective and affordable. Can’t wait to share it with you!
Have a wonderful day and Happy Painting!
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Hello? Are you still there?
I’m still here 🙂
Reblogged this on The Oil Painter's Studio.
Naomi, I hope you are still sharing your expertise. It is so generous of you. I cannot locate the Power Source d’energie light fixture you show. I will be painting in a basement with windows but still dark. Thank you!
Hi Diane, thanks for your note and word of encouragement. I currently have the same problem as you, i moved and no longer have my beloved skylight, so now paint in the basement 😦 I bought a bunch of 5000k lights from the local hardware store. http://www.homedepot.com/p/Philips-100W-Equivalent-Daylight-5000K-T2-Twister-CFL-Light-Bulb-E-414078/203349671
These might work. You need 3 or more of these. I plan on painting plein air because of my lack of sufficient natural light. Think i’m just going to brave the weather!
Wonderful! Tnx for your help and insights! I’m a lifelong artist just falling into oils.
So glad I could help, thanks for your note!
thank you for sharing.
I am looking to set up a painting area and am looking into lighting.
I wanted to know if you have ever heard of using fluorescent bulbs, a cool one and a warm one, in the same fixture. I read it is good lighting for painting. I have yet to try it out.
Hello Edvige, you are welcome 🙂 I highly recommend using halogen lights as the quality of the light far outweighs fluorescent bulbs. I do suggest to have some white cloth between you and the halogen light to break the harsh glare.It will also cool the light slightly making it less yellow. Halogen does get very hot, always switch off when you’re done painting, allow to cool for a bit.
Best wishes with setting up your studio!
Hi Naomi – that’s a great blog – can’t wait for more pages
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Hi, Naomi-what a useful post! Very good suggestions, and I love your work!
If you haven’t read it, Tad Spurgeon’s Living Craft book would be right up your alley. You can order it from his website, and it’s the most comprehensive working methods, materials, and art history/philosophy book I’ve ever read. He uses no solvent whatever; cleans brushes in safflower oil (much cheaper than walnut!), and recommends keeping working brushes submerged in a tray of oil. Works great! He also gives thorough instructions for refining your own linseed oil from flaxseed oil, and making bodied oils & mediums from that. Incredibly thorough, well-researched, and informative—he discusses artists I hadn’t come across as well as the well-known ones: their work, palette of colors, methodology…I spent a year getting thru it, and refer to it often.
Thanks for the post! 🙂
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Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and for your recommendations, Shelley! I’m very familiar with Tad Spurgeon and his book. I don’t own it, but did spend a lot of time researching and reading books written by artists hundreds of years ago, their methods and techniques and materials they used. I do make my own walnut sun oil every year.
I buy my oil paints from Kama pigments which I use first and then use my hand ground paint in subsequent layers as it has a slightly higher oil to pigment ratio. I use my sun thickened walnut oil mixed with Canada Balsam in my final layers. But that depends on what I’m painting. When painting en plein air, I don’t use any medium at all. I do want to experiment with Oleogel, which is Linseed oil and fumed silica.
Tomorrow I grind paint. I have some gorgeous pigments, just not looking forward to the grinding, it’s hard work!
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Hi, any recommendations about how to depose of your oily paper towels? I’ve heard of them catching on fire if put into trash cans. What do you do with yours?
Hi Chris, great question… The only reason they catch on fire is if the rags or paper towels are covered in linseed oil. I’m currently using oleogel and never enough to cause a fire.
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hi there where do I find a cart such as what you have?. I’m in Australia and haven’t found one like that. many thanks, Tiffany
Hi Tiffany, the cart used to be a baby change table. It was much larger, my hubby took it apart and modified it for me and added casters. I added the screws to the sides and 32mm 1 1/4″ fold back clips to hang my paints. Hope this helps!
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