I think of my oil painting kit in a similar way to my kitchen and cooking; salt, pepper, a sharp knife and a pan and I am ready to face most recipes.

When you are gathering equipment to paint there are essentials, and there are things you fancy. There are expensive essentials and there are cheaper ones that are fine.

List for getting started

  1. brushes, and palette knife
  2. paints
  3. supports
  4. palette
  5. rags, and miscellaneous
  6. thinner, cleaners, mediums

Brushes and palette knife

There are endless different shapes, sizes, makes and materials. Until you have played around with different ones it will be hard to know what suits you best. To get started buy a set of brushes.  There will be 5 or 6 different brushes in your set with different shapes and sizes.  I think it is probably sensible to start with hog hair type brushes. Don’t get too many small brushes.

If you want to add interesting extras I would recommend a couple of bigger brushes, maybe an inch wide.

A palette knife for mixing the paint.


Again, the choice is endless.  As you get more experienced you will know your palette, and you will know which manufacturer offers the colour and quality you seek.  To start with I would recommend a starter set from either Winton or Daler Rowney.  Opt for larger tubes with fewer colours. If you want to buy individual colours I would suggest the following:

  • raw umber
  • burnt sienna
  • yellow ochre
  • lemon yellow
  • aliziron crimson
  • cadmium red
  • viridian
  • french ultramarine
  • cobalt blue

On top of your set, or your individual tubes, make sure you have a good quantity of white. There is often a special deal on large tubes of white. Alkyd oil paints have an additive that speeds up the drying process. I like to use an Alkyd white.

Don’t buy water based oil paints.


A large pad of oil painting paper covers most of your initial needs. It isn’t too expensive so you won’t worry about making mistakes

There are lots of very good deals on packs of canvases, canvas boards etc. These are all worth looking at. You can paint on card, watercolour paper, MDF and a number of other things, but they all need priming and various treatments to make them useable.

Stick to ready primed in the beginning.


A pad of disposable palettes is a good place to start.  I use a thick piece of glass and a bit of old formica – these suit me but they are not very mobile.

Rags and Miscellaneous

This is a good section because it is probably FREE.

Charcoal, pencils and fixative. Not for painting exactly, but VERY useful before you start a picture.

You get through a large number of rags. Be generous to yourself and use large rags. I think an apron/overalls are a good idea; it is a messy business.

Jam jars, large and small, with lids are essential for your thinners, cleaners, etc.

Clingfilm is useful to put over your palette at the end of a session, or to move it from one place to another.

I like to have a heavy jug or pot to hold my brushes. Soap to clean your hands and your brushes.

Thinners, Cleaners, mediums

I would suggest Zest It, dilutant and brush cleaner, and linseed oil. A mixture of linseed oil and zest it works as a very good thinner.  Zest it is biodegradable, smells nice and doesn’t cause breathing problems for most people. Turps and white spirit are not good in an enclosed room.

There are various mediums to speed the drying of oil paint, and a number of other things you can add to thin, glaze, thicken etc. I think these are not really for beginners.

This seems like an extensive list. DO NOT BE PUT OFF BY ITS SIZE.

Where to Look


On foot:

  • WH Smiths
  • The Range
  • Local art stores like Creative Crafts in Winchester