How to go about beginning an oil painting, and how to clean up
Having a good oil painting experience depends a lot on how prepared you are to begin. The prospect of beginning a painting is sometimes so exciting that one often forgets to create a proper set-up, which will later cause the painting to slow down.
First, either apply barrier cream to your hands or wear gloves. Barrier cream is fine if you are going to be using brushes or pallet knives; if you are going to be using your hands definitely use gloves. These things are for safety and also make clean-up easier. Before beginning anything, make sure your canvas or masonite or whatever you are painting on is ready. This may involve stretching a canvas or buying one pre-made. Make sure your surface has been gessoed. Next, set up your pallet. Glass ones work best. Squeeze out enough paint so that you won't always have to be mixing out more, at least a nickel size amount for each color. Try to create order with the colors. Some suggestions are rainbow order with the earth tones on the side, or complements across from each other on each side of the pallet. The second setup works well because in between the complements you can mix your chromatic grays. Mix up some of these colors (using pallet knives, not brushes), especially the ones you are going to be using a lot of. This of course depends on what subject you are painting. Set up your jar of solvent next to your pallet. Silicoil brand jars are very convenient and you may want to try one, they allow a separation between clean and dirty solvent. You may also want to use some kind of medium. Make sure you have a bunch of cotton cloths or paper towels ready to dry your brushes and wipe off your pallet knives. You should now be ready to paint! There are many different painting technique, and you should use the one that is most comfortable to you and best suits your subject. Traditionally, oil paint is applied in layers, beginning with thin paint with more solvent and less medium to layers with thicker paint and medium. When you are done painting, it is time to clean up. Swish your brushes and pallet knives in the solvent and dry them off. Then, clean them with brush cleaner and water until the water runs clear. Clean them again with white hand soap until the water runs clear. Shape the bristles and let them drying bristle side up. To clean your pallet use a razor, scraping off all the paint. If there is extra, still usable paint, put it to the side. Use your pallet knife to make little piles of still usable paint. Once the rest of the pallet is clean, you can use plastic wrap over the little piles to keep that paint fresh. Throw out any used cloths in fire-proof receptacles or let them air out before disposing of them in a normal trash. Wash your hands well to make sure any paint is off of them.