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best oil painting books

6 Best Oil Painting Books I Can’t Do Without

The best resource for learning any new skill is through books. When you have hundreds of pages filled with the best information from skilled and talented artists, you’re bound to learn something new that will help carve your path to success.

I first learned to paint with the help of watching online videos but I later found myself devouring oil painting books. The amount of inspiration, motivation, and ideas that jumped up from the pages into me is truly astounding.

With so many books and content out there, you might not know where to start.

I’ve made it my mission to carefully curate a list of the best oil painting books that are great for beginners and pros.

I’ve reviewed each book and can confirm that all these books are great for anyone looking to learn and master their craft.

If you just want the titles of these best oil painting books, here’s a quick preview:

  1. Daily Painting By Carol Marine
  2. Oils By Norman Long
  3. Oil Painting Step By Step By Ted Smuskiewics
  4. Color and Light By James Gurney
  5. Fill Your Oil Paintings With Light & Color By Kevin Macpherson
  6. Alla Prima by Richard Schmid

Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty details:

All-Time Best Oil Painting Books For Beginners & Pros

1. Daily Painting By Carol Marine

I do struggle with motivation when it comes to being creative, which is why Daily Painting is the exact kick I needed to just paint something.

This book is filled with amazing artwork, tips, ideas, and everything you need to know about painting with oils or even acrylic. The advice given in this book can be applied to all mediums.

Carol has included a few examples of artwork from other artists, which is a great bonus.

You’ll gain a lot of inspiration from the content of this oil painting book.

I can proudly say that having this book around as a companion while you paint is a great choice.

2. Oils by Norman Long

Oils by Norman Long

I purchased this book a few months ago after browsing the Amazon section and this book was definitely worth the buy.

I’ve always been interested in painting thickly and loosely with oils and Norman is a great teacher in this aspect.

Whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned pro, you can still pick up some valuable tips from this guide.

In this book, he begins with a list of materials and equipment you’ll need to begin painting such as the different brushes, palettes, easels, and other essentials he prefers to use.

The next section is quite important as he goes over the details of getting an accurate drawing and shows you a demonstration of how to accurately measure the proportions of a still life.

You’ll then find a breakdown of light, shade, and tone, which will help you create a 3-dimensional painting followed by color theory and painting techniques.

I especially loved this section on the different painting techniques such as wet-into-wet, impasto, and the lift-off technique.

oil painting guides and techniques

It’s always a fun and pleasant experience to learn a new technique.

The book then goes on to demonstrate step-by-step tutorials for painting still life, landscapes, and portraits.

norman long oil painting guide

If you’d like to actively learn how to paint, this might be the best oil painting book that will teach you the necessary skills to create beautiful oil paintings that are rich in color, paint, and style.

3. Oil Painting Step By Step By Ted Smuskiewics

oil painting step by step

I discovered this gem in my local library and it’s truly a pleasant surprise. The artist has also included everything you need to know from tonal areas to building form with value and edges, the dimensions of value, and step-by-step tutorials for anyone who’d like to give his subjects a try.

I appreciated the inclusion of progress pictures as he shows you how he incorporates the essential factors of paintings into his artworks.

The main thing I picked up from this oil painting guide is the importance of values. Ted emphasizes this at the beginning of the book and suggests practicing values before you tap into color.

I think this is an awesome way to learn oil painting since you can cut out the complications of mixing accurate colors and just enjoy the process of nailing a black-and-white image while also seeing the interesting interplay between light and shadow.

best oil painting tip

This step will help you identify values and form when you delve into color.

There’s also this interesting section of the book called ‘The Enclosing Picture Rectangle’ that I think any beginner will find useful, where he demonstrates the successful placement of subjects within a frame.

oil painting tips

The instructions are clear and easy to understand. I can attest to the fact that you will learn or pick up on the necessary skills of oil painting if you only pick up this book.

Read also: Best Oil Painting Tutorials Every Beginner Needs

4. Color and Light by James Gurney

James Gurney is one of the best painters of our time, and you might know him as the creator of Dinotopia.

He also has a popular YouTube channel, and I can proudly say that I’m a devoted fan.
I love his techniques and the way he explains things.

james gurney color and light

It’s so simple and easy to understand, and he has a great way of uncomplicating the complicated.

This book is for the advanced learner. There are many aspects to learn that will take a while, but if you’re looking for a book that is filled with knowledge detailing everything you need to know about color and light, this one does a perfect job of it.

However, this book does not include any step-by-step painting tutorials.

pages from james gurney book

I haven’t read through the entire book yet, even though I have had it for a year, but I have found myself flipping through pages on more than a few occasions whenever I need a spark of inspiration.

James has included quite a number of his paintings as he explains certain things, and yes, every piece he has created is a beauty. Take a look at this one:

James gurney painting

If you’re looking for a complex and detailed oil painting guide that will help you learn what the different forms of light are, indoor and outdoor lighting, etc., then this book will be of great assistance to you on your painting journey.

5. Fill Your Oil Paintings With Light & Color By Kevin Macpherson

If you’re interested in landscape paintings, this book is an absolute must, and it’s one of the most recommended books for any artist.

The tips are phenomenal, and they’re something you can easily implement in your work.

The main theme of the book focuses on light and color to capture the mood and energy of a scene, but you can also find useful tips on how to get better at seeing a subject or breaking down complex subjects.

You’ll find yourself rereading this book multiple times each year.

6. Alla Prima by Richard Schmid

Oh boy, this book is expensive but so worth it. Packed with tips, tools, techniques, and Schmid’s in-depth view of painting, this book has everything you would possibly want to know about oil painting.

Richard Schmid was another incredible oil painting master, and to have his knowledge in your hands is a wonderful experience in itself.

Due to the volume of information, you may not be able to devour this book in one sitting.

However, what’s great about this book is that you can always flip to any section or problem you’re facing, and your answers are right there.

This is the best oil painting book you can get if you want to master the craft of painting.

Read also: Can Anyone Learn To Paint? Here’s How I Did.

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