Oil painting offers an abundance of techniques that can take your artwork to new heights. From scumbling and impasto to other essential methods, oil painting offers everything needed to create memorable masterpieces.
Learn the techniques every artist should know from chiaroscuro to color mixing with this collection of oil painting techniques every artist should master.
From understanding the three golden rules to glazing, these methods will elevate your work!


Chiaroscuro creates drama and realism through sharp contrasts of light and shadow in artworks. By emphasizing key subjects with different values while concealing others with deep shadows, artists can give the appearance of three-dimensional shapes on two-dimensional canvases.
Artists use various shading techniques to achieve chiaroscuro effects, including hatching (shading using parallel lines), washes, stipple and surface tone (dark or light tones in print).
However, this style first became popular among Renaissance masters like Leonardo da Vinci before continuing its use during the Baroque periods with artists like Caravaggio and Rembrandt.
The selection of appropriate colors is of utmost importance when painting in a chiaroscuro style.

Exhibiting adept color mixing skills enables you to recreate natural lighting conditions precisely; this is particularly essential when dealing with complex subjects, such as human skin.

Color Mixing

One of the key skills oil painters need is being able to mix colors. Being able to craft exactly the shade they require enables them to accurately portray their subjects – something especially helpful when creating realistic or representational paintings.
Color mixing is a complex process involving finding the appropriate hue and brightness value.
To find this balance, painters must employ primary and secondary colors, along with techniques for producing tints (by adding white) and shades ( by adding black) that alter the intensity of hues.
To avoid muddy or oversaturated paintings, it’s beneficial for painters to keep a journal of their color mixes. Once they find an appealing mix, they can dabb or swatch it onto their palette for future reference and reference it easily.


At once, it can be challenging to focus on three distinct tasks at the same time, like typing letters, doing math calculations, and cooking dinner.
Painting requires the combined efforts of eye and hand working together – underpainting is an effective way to focus on tones and drawing before worrying about color choices.
Underpainting is a thin layer of paint used as the basis for subsequent paintings. Usually done in neutral tones such as burnt sienna or umber, the underpainting technique was often used by old masters in order to set the colors key and facilitate future planning for colors more efficiently.
Moreover, it can add depth and dimension to a painting depending on the colors used, making your composition unique to you and adding dimension through depth-of-field effects.
While not for everyone, underpainting is invaluable for those who like planning out their paintings ahead of time and paint each stroke carefully before diving in with both feet.


Blending is a well-used technique used in oil painting to achieve polished and sophisticated looks. It is particularly helpful in pushing objects back from perspective or creating a soft transition between colors.
To blend, it’s best to use a flat brush and start by applying two shades of paint. After that, gently dragged across the transition area between them in a crosshatch pattern before smoothing it with parallel strokes. Repeat this process when adding in new hues in order to keep up the transition effect.
An understanding of color theory and oil paint mixing techniques is essential if you wish to replicate the stunning works produced by professional artists, which makes brush handling so essential as well.


Oil painting techniques utilize layering by adding one paint layer after another, which allows painters to add depth and fine details.
Once completed, these layers are protected with varnish so they remain lastingly in place.
Oil painters wishing to avoid cracking should follow the “fat over lean” rule in applying paint layers, applying thinner ones first and then thicker ones so as to avoid differences in drying times between their paints leading to cracking and thus cracking occurring as a result.
Utilizing this technique enables painters to achieve higher tonal values without considering color chroma (shading).
Furthermore, this teaches artists to focus on form rather than value and depict an array of tones within monochrome tones – two skills used extensively by Renaissance artists like Jan Van Eyck and Giotto’s paintings.
Mastering these essential oil painting techniques can greatly enhance your artistic repertoire and provide you with the skills needed to create captivating works of art.

Remember, practice and experimentation are key to refining these techniques and making them your own. So, pick up your brushes, prepare your palette, and embark on a creative journey filled with exploration and discovery in the world of oil painting.