Paint is expensive, particularly the high quality professional grades, so many people strive to use as little as possible and preserve paint in between painting sessions. When you're on a budget, it's understandable, and so is the impulse to buy less expensive brands. Fact is, buying a limited palette of high grade paint is preferable because higher quality paint mixes more accurately and behaves more appropriately on a support. Buying six small tubes--white, black, cadmium red, yellow ochre, raw umber and cobalt blue--is a good way to begin, and earth colors are relatively inexpensive. In such a way a beginner can slowly build a good collection of colors. Once a collection of paint is established, here are some useful tips for the studio.
- Keep paint tubes crimped flat from the bottom and exclude air when you cap them. This keeps oxygen away the paint within. Properly protected from reacting with oxygen, well formulated paint will last years in a well-made tube . Many artists also store their tubes with the caps pointed down to assist in excluding air.
- Conserving paint, particularly to preserve specific mixes for a painting in progress, is a common need. Keeping oil paint on the palette from day to day is possible by trying several different methods:
- clove oil retards drying of oil paint, particularly when the entire palette is kept under an airtight cover to allow the vapor to permeate the enclosure and will retard drying for several days. Use too much at your peril because the paint may take considerably longer to dry.
- a simple covered palette may allow oil paint to last several days, even without clove oil
- refrigerating the palette may be helpful, but storing in below-freezing temperatures is said to be harmful to oil paint
Brushes can be even more expensive than paint, so it's important to make sure you've gotten the best for your money. Not only that, careful and serious care of brushes can mean years, even decades, of usefulness. The broad topic has been dealt with elsewhere but a few tips for cleaning may be useful.
- Clean brushes after each painting session. Leaving paint to dry in a brush can easily ruin it overnight, especially if paint dries inside the ferrule
- High quality synthetic brushes may be preferable (especially if you tend to forget to wash them) because slicker synthetic fibers shed paint more easily and so can occasionally be rescued after forgotten. Even so, never let paint dry in brushes.
- If paint has dried in a brush it may be possible to remove a lot of it by using solvent and a nail brush (the same kind you use to clean your fingernails). The stiff bristles of a nail brush can help dislodge dried paint in the paint brush but must be stroked along the length of the fibers, not across. The taper of synthetic fibers helps shed the paint too.
Oil paint can be used without any solvent at all by simply adding a drying oil bit by bit to the paint as each layer is built. For those who have problems with solvents, that procedure alone could mean not giving up on the medium.
- Don't be misled that certain solvents are more natural or "organic" and are therefore preferable.
- Respect solvents and use them for specific purposes--mediums, e.g.--and for clean-ups.
- Most oil paint these days is formulated in a fairly soft and "buttery" consistency that doesn't need much thinning during painting and should be thinned sparingly.
- Ventilate the studio adequately to prevent accumulation of vapors. A fan in the studio, or even sometimes an air scrubber (depending on the volatiles being used) is an excellent idea.