Skip to Content

Painting with Oils on Paper: Tips for Choosing the Best Surface and Materials

Painting with Oils on Paper: Tips for Choosing the Best Surface and Materials

Oil painting is seriously one of the coolest mediums out there—the textures and colors you can create are seriously insane. 

But, you know, we’re all about pushing boundaries and trying new things, right? I’ve been wondering – is it possible to use paper as a surface for oil painting? 

It’s a topic that’s got a lot of people talking, from beginners to experts. 

In this post, we’re going to dive deep and explore whether or not oil painting can be done on paper. 

We’ll talk about the pros and cons of using paper, the types of paper you can use, and all the techniques you need to create fantastically cool oil paintings on paper. 

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, this post has got everything you need to know about oil painting on paper. Let’s get to it!

can oil painting be done on paper

Understanding Oil Painting on Paper

Alright, let’s break it down. Here’s what you need to know about oil painting on paper:

Difference between paper and canvas for oil painting

  • Most artists use canvas or wood for oil painting because they’re stronger and more durable.
  • Paper is more fragile and can be damaged by water or solvents.But, with the right preparation, paper can work as a surface for oil painting.

How to prepare paper for oil painting

  • To use paper for oil painting, you need to prep it properly.
  • Seal the surface with a primer or gesso layer so the paper can hold the oils without being damaged.
  • Use heavyweight or high-quality paper specifically designed for oil painting to make sure your art lasts.

Pros and Cons of using paper for oil painting

  • Pros: Paper is usually cheaper than canvas, making it a more accessible option for beginners or artists on a tight budget. Paper can be easier to transport and store than canvases.
  • Cons: Paper might yellow or warp over time if it’s not properly sealed or prepared. It’s also harder to create textured surfaces on paper compared to canvas.

So, there you have it. Using paper for oil painting can work if you prepare it right, but it also has some potential downsides. 

As always, it’s up to you to decide what works best for your art and your budget.

Types of Paper Suitable for Oil Painting

Different Types of Paper for Oil Painting

Let’s talk about the different types of paper! When it comes to choosing a paper for oil painting—there are several options to consider. Here are some of the most popular types of paper for oil painting:

  • Watercolor paper: This paper is a popular choice for oil painting due to its absorbency and ability to hold the oil paint. Also available in a range of textures and weights, making it a versatile option for artists.
  • Printmaking paper: This type of paper is ideal for oil painting due to its thickness and ability to withstand multiple layers of oil paint without bleeding. It is often made with high-quality cotton fibers (which provides a sturdy surface for oil painting).
  • Handmade paper: Handmade papers are available in various textures and can be a great option for artists looking for unique or textured surfaces. However, they require careful handling and preparation before use.

By selecting the right paper for their project, artists can ensure the longevity and quality of their oil paintings on paper.

Characteristics of the Best Paper for Oil Painting

Here are the characteristics of the best paper for oil painting:

  • Heavyweight
  • Acid-free
  • Absorbent
  • Able to hold a primer or gesso layer without being damaged
  • Strong enough to withstand solvents used in oil painting without warping or buckling

Examples of Great Papers for Oil Painting

Here are some examples of great papers for oil painting:

  • Arches Oil Paper: A high-quality paper that has a smooth surface and can hold a lot of oil without bleeding or seeping through.
  • Stonehenge Paper: A versatile paper that can be used for a variety of mediums, including oil painting. It has a vellum surface that provides excellent grip for the oil paint.
  • Fabriano Oil Painting Paper: A heavyweight paper that is specifically designed for oil painting. It has a canvas-like texture that provides a good surface for impasto techniques.

By choosing a paper that has the right characteristics and is specifically designed for oil painting, artists can create long-lasting, high-quality artworks.

Techniques for Oil Painting on Paper

How to Begin Oil Painting on Paper

  • To start oil painting on paper, the paper needs to be primed or gessoed first. 
  • Once the surface is ready, artists can sketch the composition with a pencil or charcoal.
  • Then, they can build up the layers of oil paint, starting with darker colors and gradually adding lighter colors. 

It’s important to let each layer dry before adding the next one to prevent colors from blending together.

Tips for Oil Painting on Paper

When painting with oils on paper, make sure to follow these tips:

  • Pay attention to the absorbency of the paper.
  • Use more paint for more absorbent paper and less paint for less absorbent paper.
  • Avoid using too much solvent to prevent damage to the paper.
  • Take precautions to prevent the paper from buckling or warping.

Demonstrating Oil Painting Techniques on Paper

Several oil painting techniques work well on paper, including:

  • Impasto: This technique involves applying thick layers of paint to create texture.
  • Glazing: This technique involves layering thin, translucent layers of color to create depth and luminosity.
  • Wet-on-wet: This technique involves applying wet paint on top of wet paint, which can create interesting and unpredictable effects.

Any of you all can learn how to work with oils on paper and create stunning artworks by using these techniques.

By understanding the techniques and tips for oil painting on paper—you can experiment with this medium and create unique and vibrant artworks that are sure to capture the viewer’s attention.

Other Related Topics to Help you With Oil Painting:


Although canvas and wood have been the usual surfaces for oil painting, paper can be a dope option, especially if you’re trying to save some cash or paint on-the-go. But when using paper for oil painting, make sure to prep it right, use the right type of paper, and know the techniques and tips for painting with oils on paper.

Paper might have some downsides like yellowing or warping over time, but it also has its upsides, like being cheaper and easier to carry around.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you as an artist to decide if you wanna go with paper or canvas for oil painting. With the proper preparation, techniques, and gear, you can create some fantastic oil paintings on paper that’ll definitely stand out.

Oil Painting on Paper FAQ

How to store an oil painting?

To store an oil painting, it’s important to ensure that it’s completely dry and free from dust and debris. You can then wrap it in acid-free paper or bubble wrap, and store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or moisture. Also, store the painting in a sturdy and appropriately-sized box—for extra protection.

Can you use oil paint on wood?

You can totally use oil paint on wood! In fact, wood is one of the best surfaces for oil painting because it is sturdy, durable, and provides a nice texture. Just be sure to properly prepare the surface with a primer or gesso layer before applying the oil paint.


Tuesday 13th of April 2021

Rules are made to be broken. You can paint with oils on paper so long as you take precautions and take great care. Therefore it is not something I would recommend to beginners or hobbyists. Certainly commercial artists have used this technique for years, especially when the long term survival of the illustration is not a prime factor; but with due care and diligence, and contrary to what they teach you in all the art books, it is possible to paint with oils on paper. But, anything is possible in art. ;)

Keep on blogging Jae! :)

Jae Johns

Friday 16th of April 2021

Yes, thank you. I will.

Comments are closed.