How to: Birds Oil Painting

Things You'll Need

  • Oil paints
  • Oil paintbrushes
  • Palette
  • White acrylic paint or gesso
  • Canvas
  • Paint remover or nontoxic alternative such as linseed oil
  • Several cups

Painting with oil paints requires a vivid and colorful imagination along with steady hands and a lot of patience. The reason some artists choose to use oil over acrylic paint is because of the drying time. Depending on the environment, it will take at least a day for oil paints to dry completely, which means you have more time to work with it, as opposed to acrylics which take a couple of hours to dry. When painting birds, a lot of detail is required to make them look real, so oil paints are definitely up to the task.

Set out all of your supplies. This will make it easier to access the things you need while you're painting and it will keep your area clean. Prepare your canvas by painting it with one or two coats of white acrylic paint or gesso. This will lessen the absorption of the oil paints into the canvas, giving you a smoother surface on which to paint.

Outline all of the shapes that you will be painting. If you are just painting, say, a bird and a flower, draw a rough outline of each. If you are drawing multiple birds, do an outline of each bird as well as the surrounding area.

Paint the base color for the bird. For example, if you are painting a pigeon, the base color should be a light gray. You will paint the entire outline of the bird in this color, add as many coats as needed, and then layer on top with darker colors as the paint dries a bit.

Work on one object at a time. For example, paint the bird as many base coats as needed within the outline. While the base coat dries for an hour or so, work on something else such as the base coat of the background, but do not try to switch back and forth between objects with the same brush and color. This will give your painting a flat look.

Rinse and clean your brushes after each session of painting. Remove oil paint stains from brushes and palettes with paint remover or a nontoxic alternative. Reshape your brushes before allowing them to dry. Leave your canvas in a moderate-temperature room that does not get direct sunlight if at all possible.


  • You can use other media to obtain a “real life” look to the birds such as airbrush, watercolor and graphite pencils.


  • Do not use a whole lot of paint remover on your skin to avoid chemical burns.