This course addresses materials associated with oil painting, as well as their proper use to ensure the painting's long life. Topics range from brushes (types, construction, care) to pigments (sources, characteristics, stability) to oil (types, uses, drying times) and more. By the end of this course, you should have a commanding knowledge of the tools of the trade. The books referenced in this course are "The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques" by Ralph Mayer and “The Painter's Handbook” by Mark Gottsegen.

Introduction to LEC300

Before getting started, review General Studio Notes to help decide how to set up your working space.
General Studio Notes

Materials Lectures

for LEC300

Click on a lecture page to progress through the lecture videos.

Materials Lecture 1

Styles of brushes and uses of each. Hairs used in brushes and why. Brush care.

Materials Lecture 2
Oil Paint

Contents of oil paint. Creating a viable film and layers. Drying of oil paint.

Materials Lecture 3

Various mediums and modifying oils. Effects and drying times of various mediums.

Materials Lecture 4

The most common supports. Properties, strengths, and weaknesses.

Materials Lecture 5
Stretching Canvas

Historical and contemporary methods of stretching. Mounting canvas to panel.     Homework assignment: Stretch or mount a canvas. 

Materials Lecture 6
Primers (Grounds and Sizes)

Historical and contemporary grounds and sizes. Properties, strengths, and weaknesses. 

Materials Lecture 7

Historical and contemporary varnishes. Properties, strengths, and weaknesses. 

Materials Lecture Study Guide

Use this study guide to solidify your knowledge of painting materials. Questions do not have to be filled out and sent to us, but you should be able to answer them as you progress through the lectures. Questions can be researched fully using the Concepts of Painting pages, the accompanying videos, and the suggested materials books. Answers should be comprehensive and describe all facets of the questions. 


  1. What does the phrase "fat over lean" mean?

  2. Why is it important to place thicker paint over thinner paint?
Describe how oil paint dries, and how is it different from acrylic.
  4. Describe why it is recommended to use fresh paint each day.
  5. Describe a safe way to dispose of oily rags, and the importance of this.

  6. List all the potential layers of paint in the proper order (from the bottom to the top).
  7. What is an optimal temperature range to paint in/let your painting dry in? Describe the reasons to avoid drying a painting in excessive temperatures.

  8. What does the reference to "bricks and mortar" describe, and why is this important? 
  9. Describe the differences between a flat, filbert, bright, round, and fan brush. Describe the differences between bristle, sable, and synthetic brushes. Describe common uses for bristle and sable brushes.
From what animal are bristle hairs obtained?
  11. Describe a good method of cleaning a brush, including how it should be placed to dry. 
  12. What is the number rating listed on a paint tube (ex. PR101)?

  13. Describe how to determine the opacity of a pigment before purchasing/testing it.
  14. What is lightfastness, and what is the rating used to describe it?

  15. Why is it better to opt for a transparent pigment when glazing?

  16. Why is Alizarin Crimson so staining?
What is aluminum stearate and why is it used?
What's the difference between student grade paints, artist grade paints, and more expensive paints?
  19. Describe the difference between thinning a paint and extending a paint.
  20. What are the two commonly used slower drying oils?

  21. Why are safflower and poppy oil used in lighter colors, and what could happen to those colors over time? Why is linseed the preferred oil for oil painting?

  22. How long is walnut oil good for after it is open, and how should it be stored?

  23. What is the fastest drying medium readily available for purchase?

  24. List one of the common variations of the Mayer medium (the alla prima medium).
  25. What are some effects or working properties of Maroger, and what are two common substitutes?
  26. What are the positive and negative properties of clove oil? 
  27. What is the difference between linen and cotton? List properties, longevity, etc.
  28. Why is plyboard considered a more stable surface than solid hardwood?
How large can a 3-ply wood panel be before it should be cradled?

  30. What is the best way to attach a cradle to a panel? 
  31. List potential ways to seal a wooden panel.

  32. What is Gatorboard, and why should it be used instead of regular foam core? 
  33. What is size, and why is it important?

  34. Compare and contrast the properties, as well as longevity issues, of rabbit skin glue and PVA size.
  35. Describe the difference between gesso and primer.

  36. List the maximum size of stretched canvas that should be used with an acrylic primer and why.
  37. How can you determine if a roll has been primed with acrylic or oil primer?
  38. Compare and contrast working properties of commercially prepared acrylic-primed surfaces and oil-primed surfaces. 
  39. What is the drying time of oil-alkyd primers, such as Gamblin Oil Ground and Winsor Newton Oil Painting Primer versus a traditional oil primer?
  40. What is the biggest danger of preparing lead-primed surfaces, and how should you take precautions? 
  41. Compare and contrast the advantages/disadvantages of stretching versus mounting canvases.
  42. Why are copper tacks the historic choice for stretched canvases?

  43. When constructing your own stretcher bars, why is it important to create a beveled edge?
  44. What is the longest recommended time to leave a canvas rolled before use, and why? 
  45. What is keying a canvas, and why can it be harmful?
If you have to stretch a painting, about how long after completing it should you do so?
  47. What are the qualifications for a good adhesive to apply canvas to a panel?

  48. What should you do if you discover a bubble in the canvas after you have mounted it? 
  49. List the qualifications for a good varnish.

  50. What is the recommended length of time to wait before varnishing a painting, and why?
Why is retouch varnish unsuitable to utilize before sending a painting out of the studio?
List the popular varnish to use before the traditional time length, and the time length before it can be used.
  53. Why is damar varnish no longer typically used as a final varnish?

  54. What critical step should be done BEFORE varnishing a painting?

  55. List a suitable way to store a painting while the varnish dries.