Busting the Myths of Oil Painting

written by Sophie | Beginners, Oil Painting

Busting the Myths of Oil Painting has been a theme throughout this blog for many years. Some of the articles have reached a very large audience. I have been writing about toxicitiy, brushes, mediums and much more. Most of it came out of my own experience of being reluctant to use oil paint at first. I thought oil paint was difficult, toxic maybe, and complicated. So I stayed away. But I have learned that none of this is true and I am keen to bust the myths still out there.

I have written a lot about toxicity. As I was keen myself to keep my (home) studio as safe as possible for my kids and pet, I tried to find out as much as I could about toxicity. I never did use solvents and when my kids grew older and I started trying them out I found out I reacted quite severely to some toxins used in oil painting. So I kept working solvent-free, now not only because of my children and pet, but also because of my own health. 

Working without toxic materials seems to be increasingly popular. While we had to struggle to find articles on the subject ten years ago, the internet is now full of suggestions and ideas. Paint manufacturers are increasingly including safer mediums and paints into their range. Legislation is becoming tighter as well.  

I am not saying we should all work without solvents or toxic materials. I use the odd toxic pigment, and a swish in some solvent does clean a brush mighty fast indeed. I believe we should all do what works best for us.  

But it is important to have as much info as possible. And as I thought (wrongly!) that oil painting was toxic and complicated, I am now keen to inform, so that nobody stays away from this beautiful painting medium because of some myths. 

Besides toxicity I have written on brushes, mediums, supports, paints and so much more. The world of oil painting is fantastic and large. But I am no technician and no scientist. There are experts out there who know the nitty-gritty of it all. I am just a fellow artist and I want to spread some common sense and love for painting. 🙂

Below are just a few of the articles in this series. I picked out the articles on technique, toxicity and paints. Hope you will find it useful!


The Fat over Lean Rule

One of the most misunderstood and feared ‘rules’ of oil painting. It took me a while to understand it as well, but by now I can safely say it is a guideline, not a rule. So what does it mean?  Well, it just follows common sense really....

Oil Painting Mediums

Do you really need a medium when you paint in oils? I say you don’t. But they can be very useful if you know what you are after.

In Defense of Working from Photos

This post caused a bit of controversy (see the 31 comments!) but I am a strong believer in letting artists find their own methods, whether that contains modern tools or not. Working from photos is fine (I do it all the time) and should not be lamented but instead taught.

Top Tips for Painting from Photos

Twelve tips to follow if you work with photos. Working from photos as reference materials is fine, but there are some pitfalls to keep in mind.


Toxicity in Oils

So, are oil paints toxic? And how do you stay safe? Can you work without any toxic materials? 

Safe Studio: Oil Painting without Solvents

How to keep your studio toxic free and safe for children and pets.

Can I still Use Oils when I am Pregnant

Many women wonder whether they should stop painting in oils when they are pregnant. This articles goes over the options available and choices you will have to make.


Oil Painting: What’s in a Brand Name

Does an expensive brand make better paint? What’s the difference between one brand and another? Can you mix brands in one painting? This article explores some of most known oil painting brands and their differences.

What is Good Oil Paint?

What makes a paint a good paint? What characteristics does good quality oil paint have? Find out whether you chose the right paint for you.


My Colour Palette

Which colours do I use the most and which brands?

How to Organise your Oil Painting Palette

Do you just squirt some paint in a random place on your palette? Or do you put the same colours in the same spot all the time? And do you always use the same colours? In this article I explain how I set up my palette and which colours usually go on it.

Black is Back

Black is a tricky colour. It can be deep, dark and beautiful and it can be the dullest steel-blue grey. Some say you shouldn’t use black, but they never say why.  It can be a difficult colour to work with though. This article explores the various blacks available.

Published: July 10, 2018

More to read....

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  1. Sophie – just stumbled across your blog. Wow so much sense!
    Having watched various episodes of Bob Ross Joy of painting I was thinking about having a go myself. My son bought me his basic set for Christmas- 1st painting was good – but I needed more information so watched various U tube video some were helpful but didn't answer all my questions.
    Then I came across you – I'm looking forward to reading your beginners guidance. Thought I'd have to buy water soluble oils as I hate the smell of the brush cleaners etc. In fact I think I might be allergic.
    Thanks so much

    1. You are very welcome! Do read the posts on painting without solvents as you don’t have to use brush cleaners (solvents) – I don’t as I can’t stand the fumes either. Happy painting!

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