Oil painting is the process of painting with pigments that are binded with a medium of drying oil. Commonly used drying oils include linseed oil, poppy seed oil, walnut oil, and safflower oil. Different oils confer various properties to the oil paint, such as less yellowing or different drying times. Certain differences are also visible in the sheen of the paints depending on the oil. Although oil paint was first used for the Buddhist paintings by Indian and Chinese painters in western Afghanistan sometime between the fifth and tenth centuries, it did not gain popularity until the 15th century. Its practice may have migrated westward during the Middle Ages. Oil paint eventually became the principal medium used for creating artworks as its advantages became widely known.
Traditional oil painting techniques often begin with the artist sketching the subject onto the canvas with charcoal or thinned paint. Oil paint is usually mixed with linseed oil, artist grade mineral spirits or other solvents to create a thinner, faster or slower drying paint. (Because these solvents thin the oil in the paint, they can also be used to clean paint brushes.)
Beginners must keep in mind the basic rule about oil painting which is 'fat over lean'. This means that each additional layer of paint should contain more oil than the layer below to allow proper drying. If each additional layer contains less oil, the final painting will crack and peel.
Traditionally, paint was transferred to the painting surface using paint brushes, but there are other methods, including using palette knives and rags. Oil paint remains wet longer than many other types of artists' materials, enabling the artist to change the color, texture or form of the figure. Oil painting can be advantageous especially for children as they can truly explore themselves by entering their own world, a world full of possibilities. Stimulus of the creative mind allows the student to positively isolate from reality, which provides a mental rest that lowers stress and generates relaxation and happiness feelings.