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The Best Books about Oil Painting

Katherine regularly reviews art books and has a very extensive art library (4 bookcases and lots of stacks waiting for the next one!)

some of my books about oil painting

some of my books about oil painting

Develop your knowledge and skills about painting in oils

Do you need an instruction book about how to paint in oils?

Want to develop your skills in painting with oils?

Are you interested in knowing more about oil painting?

Find out about art instruction books about painting in oils which can fill in the gaps in your art library.

The problem with Amazon is that the book you are looking for doesn't always appear in the category you're looking in. I've been surprised again and again about where books get hidden - which is why I developed The Best Books about Oil Painting. That and the fact I wanted to learn more about oil painting and wanted good reference sources to be listed and organised!

I developed this site as part of a project on my blog Making A Mark - see Which are the best art books about oil painting? Thus the ratings of books and comments come from people who regularly paint in oil paints and know which books they have found useful over the years.

Descriptions relate to product descriptions unless otherwise indicated. I'm adding in my personal notes and the names of/links to people who recommend each book and their comments as the recommendations come in

Who is this site for? - books for oil painters - beginners, intermediate and advanced

My very first oil painting

My very first oil painting



I started to learn how to paint in oils in 2011. I like to read about a topic as I start to learn and very much wanted to know which were the best books about oil painting. I'm a great believer in start with the good books not the very basic books! So I asked the readers on my blog - and they told me. (see MAKING A MARK: Which are the best books about oil painting? 30 May 2011).

I'm now sharing that information with others via this website.

I also created this site to help people screen out some of the less good / dumbed down / thin content books about oil painting which exist on online sites such as Amazon. Such books exist because publishers like to cut costs and reprint content as if it's a new book and partly because of the eruption of author published books by artists in need of a good editor.

I now update this site with those new books which get a good reception on publication from people who know what they're talking about.


In terms of content, this site leans very much towards the fine art end of painting rather than the dumbed down, step by step end. Which is not to say there aren't some books which explain techniques in terms of a step by step approach - rather that they have a great deal more to offer than just demos of a place you've never seen!

What I've tried to do with this site is group books into categories so that it's easier to spot the type of book (or author) you might be interested in.

It contains books which are suitable for younger people who are interested in oil painting, although not every book is designed for the reading age of different children.

For the record the one book which gets recommended time and time again is Alla Prima by Richard Schmid - but you might balk at the price. It's not just a book about painting with oils - rather it is a comprehensive book about painting.


Recommendations below are based on

(1) top books identified by a review exercise run on my blog Making A Mark

(2) a review of the ratings given to books by Amazon and other websites

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Choose from the books most often mentioned by artists and those which get favourable reviews



The purpose of this section is to highlight books which are well attuned to the needs of the artist who is beginning to paint in oils

Other Books for Beginners

Identifying books which are suitable for beginners is not easy.

Not least because all beginners start with a different level of knowledge and skills.

  • Some may be starting to paint for the first time.
  • Others may be moving on from other media having mastered basics relating to generic art skills such as composition and colour
  • Some like their books dumbed down - or so some of the publishers would have us believe
  • Others like to be able to read about the scope of oil painting and more advanced aspects of oil painting

If you have a recommendation about a book which you found particularly valuable please leave a comment at the end



  • The Painted Journey
    Small paintings of places, people & objects & things out of the ordinary that catch the wandering eye. A painting every day, or two or three or whenever by Australian Artist Fred Marsh
  • Colours and textures
    My paintings have been exhibited at the Mall Galleries and the Westminster Gallery in London and near Paris with the Town Twinning Association. In 2001 I was elected as a member of The Society of Women Artists and the Society of Floral Painters.
  • Sophie Ploeg
    I am a Dutch artist, living and working in the UK. Here you can find my latest paintings, news, and works-in-progress.
  • Picture from St ives
    'Picture from St Ives' showcases paintings by Cornish artist Lesley Ninnes.
  • Jakes Oil Paintings
    Hi there, thanks for stopping by. My name is Jake Gumbleton. I am an artist based in the Midlands, UK. This site is where I share my original artwork for sale.
  • Sharon Lynn Williams' art blog
    I have been a professional artist for 15 years and have been teaching art to adults for over 10 years, and am just LOVING it!

© 2010 Katherine Tyrrell

Has this site helped you with learning to paint in oils? - comments are welcome - but please do not spam

Sara Paxton from Australia on November 17, 2014:

Great list of books, I especially like 'Painting Light in Oils'. There are millions of books on oil paintings more than one would think so it can be hard to sift through them all.

I have been painting in oils, full time for many years and have quite a collection. Some of the books I regularly come back to are listed here


One that I can never recommend enough is called 'Studio' it is a stunning book full of the most inspiring painting spaces. It is extremely motivational!

Millionairemomma on May 26, 2012:

You provided a really great selection of books!

eileen_morey on December 01, 2011:

My mother studied with Gruppe, so I'm familiar with his books. They're very difficult to find, and incredibly expensive. If you do manage to find one, I recommend making color photocopies of the pages for your own use. I keep my notebook (with photocopies) next to my easel, for reference. That way, if and when I get paint on the pages, it's not heartbreaking; they're only photocopies!

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