Unlocking the Cost: Why Are Oil Paintings So Pricey?

  • By: Michael Smith
  • Time to read: 19 min.
Michael Smith
I'm Michael Smith, the founder and creative director of Art and Drawing. With over a decade of experience in the art and design industry, my keen eye for detail and passion for creating inspiring artwork drive my work. I'm dedicated to capturing the world's beauty through vibrant, expressive pieces that spark imagination and emotion.

Oil paintings have long been renowned for their beauty and artistic value. However, they also carry a reputation for being expensive. Have you ever wondered why oil paintings command such high prices? In this article, we will explore the factors that contribute to the cost of oil paintings, delve into the world of art investment, and uncover the pricing dynamics of the art market.

Key Takeaways:

Contents show
  • The cost of oil paintings is influenced by various factors such as the cost of supplies, art investment value, and traditional painting value.
  • The prices of original oil paintings are driven by demand in the art market and the perceived value of the artist’s work.
  • Understanding the oil painting price guide and market dynamics can help you make informed decisions about purchasing or investing in oil paintings.
  • Exploring alternatives and focusing on budget-friendly options can help reduce the overall expenses associated with oil painting.
  • Oil paintings offer a unique aesthetic appeal and longevity, contributing to their high desirability and value in the art world.

The Cost of Oil Painting Supplies

When it comes to oil painting, the cost of supplies can vary. Factors such as the quality of oil paints, brushes, canvases, mediums, easels, palettes, and cleaning supplies can all impact the overall cost. Understanding the average prices of these essential items can give insight into the expenses associated with oil painting.

If you’re considering taking up oil painting, it’s important to budget for the necessary supplies. To help you get started, here’s a breakdown of the estimated costs for each component:

Cost of Oil Paints

Oil paints come in a wide range of prices, depending on the brand, quality, and color pigmentation. High-quality artist-grade paints tend to be more expensive than student-grade paints. On average, a 37ml tube of oil paint can cost between $5 and $30, with some premium brands priced even higher.

Cost of Brushes

Paintbrushes are essential tools for oil painting, and their quality can significantly impact the result of your work. Prices for brushes vary based on the size, bristle type, and brand. A single brush can cost anywhere from $5 to $50, with sets ranging from $20 to $200.

Cost of Canvases

Canvases provide the surface on which you’ll create your oil paintings. They come in various sizes and types, such as stretched canvas, canvas boards, or canvas pads. Prices vary depending on the size and quality. On average, a small canvas can cost around $5, while larger canvases can range from $20 to $100 or more.

Cost of Mediums

Mediums are additives mixed with oil paints to alter their properties, such as drying time, glossiness, or texture. The cost of mediums can vary depending on the brand and type. A small bottle of medium can range from $10 to $20, and specialty mediums may be priced higher.

Cost of Easels

Easels provide a sturdy and adjustable support for your canvases while you paint. They come in various styles and materials, such as tabletop easels or full-size studio easels. Prices for easels can range from $20 to several hundred dollars, depending on the size, quality, and features.

Cost of Palettes

Palettes are used to mix and hold your oil paints during the painting process. They can be made of wood, plastic, or glass. The cost of palettes depends on the material and size, with prices starting from $5 for a basic palette and going up to $30 or more for a high-quality glass palette.

Cost of Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning supplies are essential for maintaining your brushes and keeping your oil painting area tidy. Items such as brush cleaners, solvents, and cleaning cloths can range in price from $5 to $20, depending on the brand and quantity.

While these estimates provide a general idea of the costs involved, it’s essential to remember that prices can vary based on the brand, location, and individual preferences. Additionally, discounts, sales, and bulk purchases can help reduce overall expenses.

Investing in high-quality oil painting supplies can enhance the longevity and quality of your artwork. However, if you’re on a tight budget, there are more affordable options available that still deliver satisfactory results. Remember to choose supplies that suit your needs and budget while maintaining the level of quality you desire.

Oil Painting Supplies Average Cost Range
Oil Paints $5 – $30 per 37ml tube
Brushes $5 – $50 per brush
$20 – $200 per set
Canvases $5 – $100+ depending on size
Mediums $10 – $20 per bottle
Easels $20 – several hundred dollars
Palettes $5 – $30+ depending on material
Cleaning Supplies $5 – $20 per item

Remember, the cost of oil painting supplies can vary, so it’s always a good idea to research and compare prices before making your purchases. With proper planning and budgeting, you can start your oil painting journey with confidence.

Initial Costs When Getting Started

Embarking on your oil painting journey requires some initial investment in essential supplies. Whether you choose to purchase an oil painting starter kit or buy individual materials, the costs involved can impact your overall budget. Fortunately, there are affordable options and value sets available that can help beginners get started without breaking the bank.

Oil Painting Starter Kit Cost

An oil painting starter kit is an excellent option for beginners as it provides the necessary supplies in one convenient package. These kits typically include a variety of brushes, oil paints in basic colors, a palette, canvases or canvas boards, and sometimes an easel. The cost of oil painting starter kits can vary depending on the brand, quality, and number of items included. However, there are affordable options available that offer good value for the price.

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Beginner Oil Paint Set

If you prefer to purchase individual supplies instead of a starter kit, buying a beginner oil paint set is a cost-effective choice. These sets usually include a selection of oil paints in different colors, allowing you to experiment and explore various techniques. Beginner oil paint sets come in different price ranges, and it’s essential to consider factors such as paint quality, pigmentation, and brand reputation when making your selection.

Affordable Oil Painting Supplies

When it comes to purchasing individual oil painting supplies, it’s important to find affordable options that don’t compromise on quality. Look for brushes made with synthetic bristles, as they tend to be more affordable than natural hair brushes but still offer excellent performance. Similarly, consider canvas panels instead of stretched canvases, as they are often more budget-friendly while still providing a suitable painting surface. Exploring affordable alternatives for mediums, palettes, and cleaning supplies can also contribute to managing your initial costs effectively.

Value Options for Oil Painting Materials

Value options for oil painting materials are a great way to get the most out of your budget without sacrificing quality. Some brands offer value sets that include multiple brushes or a range of colors at a discounted price. These sets often provide a good selection of materials and can be an economical choice for beginners. Additionally, purchasing materials in bulk or taking advantage of special promotions can also help you save money.

Item Average Price Range
Oil Painting Starter Kit $50 – $150
Beginner Oil Paint Set $20 – $50
Synthetic Bristle Brushes $5 – $20 per brush
Canvas Panels $2 – $10 per panel
Value Sets $30 – $100

Ongoing Costs When Oil Painting

Once you dive into the world of oil painting, you’ll discover that it’s an ongoing artistic journey with its own set of expenses. Understanding the costs associated with continued practice can help you plan and budget effectively. From paint consumption to canvas expenses, medium usage to brush maintenance, let’s explore the ongoing expenses of oil painting.

Paint Consumption

A key ongoing cost in oil painting is the consumption of paint. The amount of paint you use will depend on factors such as the size of your artwork, the level of detail, and your personal painting style. As you gain experience, you’ll develop a sense of how much paint you go through and can plan your purchases accordingly.

Canvas Expenses

Your choice of canvas can significantly impact your ongoing expenses. Canvases come in various sizes and qualities, each with its own price tag. Opting for larger canvases or professional-grade materials can increase costs, while smaller or student-grade options may be more budget-friendly. It’s essential to strike a balance between quality and cost according to your artistic goals.

Medium Usage

Using mediums in oil painting can enhance the properties of the paint, but it’s important to consider the cost involved. Different mediums serve various purposes, such as improving transparency, extending drying time, or adding texture. Understanding your medium usage and exploring economical options can help you manage ongoing expenses.

Brush Maintenance

Proper brush maintenance is vital for any oil painter. Taking care of your brushes ensures their longevity and optimal performance. Cleaning supplies, brush cleaners, and brush restorers are essential for maintaining the quality of your brushes. While these additional expenses may seem small, they can accumulate over time.

“Investing in high-quality brushes and preserving their lifespan through proper maintenance can save you money in the long run.”

By being mindful of the cost of ongoing oil painting supplies, paint consumption, canvas expenses, medium usage, and brush maintenance, you can create a realistic budget to support your artistic endeavors. Being proactive in researching cost-effective options and balancing quality with affordability will help you enjoy the process of oil painting without breaking the bank.

Summary Table: Ongoing Costs When Oil Painting

Expense Considerations
Paint Consumption Size of artwork, level of detail, personal painting style
Canvas Expenses Size, quality, purpose (professional or student-grade)
Medium Usage Types of mediums, frequency of use, cost-effective alternatives
Brush Maintenance Cleaning supplies, proper brush care and restoration

Money-Saving Tips When Oil Painting

Oil painting is a beautiful and expressive art form, but it can also be expensive. Fortunately, there are several cost-saving techniques and budget-friendly options that can help you pursue your passion without breaking the bank. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned artist, these money-saving tips will help you save on oil painting supplies and materials.

1. Choose Budget-Friendly Supplies

When it comes to purchasing oil painting supplies, there are often budget-friendly options available. Instead of investing in high-end brands that come with a hefty price tag, consider exploring more affordable alternatives. Many art supply stores offer value options for oil paints, brushes, canvases, and other essential materials. By opting for these budget-friendly supplies, you can significantly reduce your overall costs while still achieving excellent results.

2. DIY Solutions for Materials

Another way to save money on oil painting is to get creative with DIY solutions for materials. For example, instead of buying expensive palettes, you can use a glass or ceramic plate as a makeshift palette. Additionally, you can make your own cleaning solutions by mixing mild soap or dishwashing liquid with water. By exploring DIY options, you can find cost-effective alternatives for various oil painting necessities.

3. Maximize Paint Efficiency

Paint consumption is one of the ongoing costs of oil painting, but there are techniques you can use to maximize paint efficiency and reduce waste. One method is to pre-mix your colors on a palette to ensure that you only use the exact amount of paint you need. You can also avoid overloading your brushes with paint, as this can lead to excess waste. By being mindful of paint usage, you’ll be able to stretch your oil paints further and save money in the long run.

4. Repurpose and Recycle

Another cost-saving technique for oil painting is to repurpose and recycle materials whenever possible. For example, instead of discarding old or damaged brushes, you can clean and reshape them for different uses. You can also repurpose old canvases by re-gessoing them or painting over existing artwork. Additionally, consider using leftover paint from previous projects for underpainting or as a base layer. By finding creative ways to use what you already have, you can reduce the need to purchase new supplies and save money in the process.

“By choosing budget-friendly supplies and implementing money-saving techniques, you can enjoy the art of oil painting without breaking the bank.”

With these cost-saving tips, you can pursue your passion for oil painting without sacrificing artistic quality. By choosing budget-friendly supplies, exploring DIY solutions, maximizing paint efficiency, and repurposing materials, you can significantly reduce your expenses and create stunning oil paintings on a budget. Remember, art should be accessible to everyone, and these money-saving techniques make it possible for artists at all levels to enjoy the beauty of oil painting.

Money-Saving Tips for Oil Painting
Choose Budget-Friendly Supplies
DIY Solutions for Materials
Maximize Paint Efficiency
Repurpose and Recycle

Why Are Oil Paints Expensive?

The price range of oil paints can vary significantly, reflecting the intricate interplay of multiple cost factors. Factors contributing to the high cost of oil paints range from the quality and pigmentation of the paints to the array of prices available.

When it comes to oil paints, quality plays a vital role in determining their price. High-quality oil paints often contain a greater concentration of pigments, resulting in vibrant colors and enhanced lightfastness. These paints are meticulously manufactured using top-notch ingredients and proven techniques, ensuring exceptional performance and longevity.

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The pigmentation of oil paints also contributes to their cost. Pigments, derived from natural substances or created synthetically, lend unique characteristics and hues to the paints. Pure, rich pigments can demand a higher price due to their rarity, complexity of production, or superior performance.

While there are premium oil paints available in the market, there are also more affordable options. Artists of all levels of experience and budget can find oil paints that cater to their specific needs. At the lower end of the price spectrum, student-grade paints offer a more cost-effective alternative for beginners and those experimenting with different colors and techniques.

“High-quality oil paints often contain a greater concentration of pigments, resulting in vibrant colors and enhanced lightfastness.”

Understanding the cost factors of oil paints allows artists to make informed choices when selecting the paints that align with their artistic vision, budget, and desired results. By considering factors such as quality, pigmentation, and price range, painters can navigate the wide spectrum of oil paints available and make purchases that meet their specific requirements.

Which Type of Painting Is Best for Beginners?

When it comes to diving into the world of painting as a beginner, there are various mediums to choose from. However, many seasoned artists and instructors often recommend oil painting for beginners. The slow-drying nature and ease of blending make it an ideal choice for novice artists who are still developing their techniques.

Starting with oil paints allows beginners to experiment with different brush strokes and color mixing while providing ample time to make adjustments. This forgiving quality of oil paints can boost beginners’ confidence and enable them to explore their creativity without feeling rushed or pressured.

One of the significant advantages of oil painting for beginners is the ability to achieve rich, vibrant colors with a smooth texture. The slow drying time also allows artists to easily blend and manipulate the paints on the canvas, creating smooth transitions and soft edges, which can be particularly helpful for creating realistic or impressionistic artworks.

For those who prefer a more controlled approach, acrylic paints may be a suitable alternative. Acrylic paints dry quickly and provide a more opaque finish, making it easier to correct and layer colors. They also offer an array of vibrant hues, making them an excellent choice for artists who enjoy working with bold and expressive colors.

Ultimately, the choice between oil and acrylic paints depends on the artist’s preferences, desired results, and artistic goals. Some artists may find joy in exploring both mediums or transitioning from one to the other as they gain more experience and confidence in their abilities.

Benefits of Starting with Oil Paints:

  • Slow drying time allows for easy blending and adjustment
  • Creates rich, vibrant colors with smooth textures
  • Forgiving nature builds confidence in beginners

Whether you choose oil paints for their versatility or acrylic paints for their quick drying time, the most important aspect of starting as a beginner is to have fun and experiment with different techniques. Remember, each stroke of the brush is an opportunity to express your unique artistic style and unleash your creativity.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of both acrylic and oil paints in the next section.

Pros and Cons of Acrylic and Oil Paints

Acrylic and oil paints are both popular choices among artists, each offering unique qualities and characteristics. Understanding the similarities and differences between these two mediums can help you make an informed decision based on your artistic preferences and needs. In this section, we will compare the drying time, ease of clean-up, and other factors of acrylic and oil paints.

Drying Time

One of the key distinctions between acrylic and oil paints is their drying time. Acrylic paints dry relatively quickly, allowing you to build layers and work on your painting without long waiting periods. On the other hand, oil paints have a much slower drying time, which gives you more flexibility for blending and manipulation.

Ease of Clean-up

When it comes to clean-up, acrylic paints have an advantage. They can be easily cleaned with water, making the process quick and convenient. On the contrary, oil paints require the use of solvents such as turpentine or mineral spirits for cleaning, which can be more time-consuming and require proper ventilation.

Other Factors

“Acrylic paints are favored for their versatility and ability to adhere to various surfaces, including canvas, paper, wood, and more. They also offer a wide range of vibrant colors and a consistent finish. Oil paints, on the other hand, are known for their richness, depth, and ability to blend smoothly. They are often preferred for realistic and traditional painting styles.”

Here is a table summarizing the comparison between acrylic and oil paints:

Factors Acrylic Paints Oil Paints
Drying Time Quick drying Slow drying
Ease of Clean-up Easy clean-up with water Requires solvents
Surface Versatility Adheres to various surfaces Traditionally used on canvas
Color Range Wide range of vibrant colors Rich and deep colors
Blending Ability Can be easily blended Smooth blending

Now that you have a better understanding of the pros and cons of acrylic and oil paints, you can choose the medium that best suits your artistic style and preferences.

The Finish and Longevity of Oil Paintings

The finish and longevity of oil paintings are essential factors to consider for every artist. Let’s explore the characteristics of oil paintings, including the options for a matte or glossy finish and the lightfastness of oil paints.

Matte vs. Glossy Finish

Choosing the right finish for your oil painting can significantly impact its overall appearance. A matte finish has a non-reflective surface, giving the artwork a more subdued and rustic look. On the other hand, a glossy finish offers a shiny surface that enhances the vibrancy and depth of colors.

Each finish creates a distinct visual effect and may suit different artistic styles or preferences. Some artists prefer a matte finish for its understated elegance, while others opt for a glossy finish to make the colors pop.

Longevity of Oil Paints

One of the remarkable advantages of oil paints is their exceptional longevity. When properly cared for, oil paintings can retain their color and quality for centuries, making them an excellent choice for creating heirloom pieces.

The longevity of oil paints is attributed to the slow drying time and durability of the medium. Unlike other paints, oil paints take a considerable amount of time to dry, allowing artists to work on their compositions with ease and precision. This slow drying process also contributes to the paint’s ability to withstand the test of time.

Lightfastness of Oil Paints

Lightfastness refers to the resistance of a paint color to fading or changing when exposed to light. This characteristic is crucial for artists who strive to create artworks that will maintain their vibrant colors over time.

Oil paints generally exhibit excellent lightfastness, ensuring that your masterpiece remains true to its original hues even when displayed in well-lit environments or exposed to sunlight. It’s important to note that some pigments may have variations in lightfastness, so it’s advisable to check the individual ratings of each color before using them in your artwork.

Overview of Matte and Glossy Finishes

Finish Type Description Pros Cons
Matte Finish Absence of shine or reflection
  • Offers a rustic and understated look
  • Creates a timeless aesthetic
  • Reduces glare, making it ideal for well-lit environments
  • May reduce the vibrancy of colors
  • Can potentially make intricate details less visible
  • Requires careful handling to avoid smudging
Glossy Finish Reflective and shiny surface
  • Enhances color vibrancy and depth
  • Creates a visually striking appearance
  • Offers a luxurious and polished look
  • May produce glare under certain lighting conditions
  • Can highlight imperfections or brushstrokes
  • Requires careful handling to avoid fingerprints
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Understanding the options for finishes and the longevity of oil paints allows artists to make informed decisions when creating their masterpieces. Whether you prefer a matte or glossy finish, or a combination of both, the timeless allure of oil paintings will surely captivate viewers for generations to come.

Various Oil Painting Surfaces and Their Costs

When it comes to oil painting, selecting the right surface is crucial for both artistic expression and managing costs. In this section, we will explore the different options available and discuss the associated expenses. Whether you prefer the traditional feel of canvases, the stability of panels, or the versatility of paper, there are choices to suit every artist’s needs.


Canvases are a popular choice among oil painters, offering a versatile and sturdy surface. They come in various sizes and qualities, which can affect the cost. High-quality stretched canvases generally come at a higher price point but provide excellent durability and the convenience of being ready to paint on. Pre-stretched canvases offer convenience, but they tend to be more expensive.

For artists looking for a more budget-friendly option, buying unstretched canvas in bulk and stretching it themselves can be a cost-effective solution. This allows for customization and can result in significant savings.


Panels are another option for oil painting surfaces. They provide a rigid support, making them ideal for artists who prefer a firm surface to work on or those who need a more portable option. Panels are available in different materials, such as wood, MDF, or aluminum, each with its own price range.

While wood panels offer durability and a traditional feel, they can be more expensive compared to alternatives like MDF or aluminum panels. MDF panels, made from medium-density fiberboard, are often more affordable without sacrificing quality. Aluminum panels, on the other hand, provide a lightweight option but can be pricier.


Oil painting on paper provides a unique texture and is a cost-effective option for artists. Specialty oil paper is designed to withstand the oil paint and solvents used in the medium. However, it absorbs more oil than other surfaces, which can affect the longevity of the artwork.

Budget-conscious artists may consider using regular watercolor paper primed with gesso as a more affordable alternative. This allows for experimentation without the significant investment in specialty oil paper.

Surface Cost Range Notes
Stretched Canvases $$ – $$$$ Price varies based on size and quality. Ready to paint on.
Unstretched Canvas $ – $$ Allows for customization and potential cost savings.
Wood Panels $$$ – $$$$ Durable and provides a traditional feel.
MDF Panels $ – $$ Affordable and offers good quality.
Aluminum Panels $$ – $$$ Lightweight option but can be pricier.
Oil Paper $ – $$ Specialty paper designed for oil painting.
Watercolor Paper (primed) $ Affordable alternative with some limitations.

Remember, the cost of oil painting surfaces can vary depending on factors such as size, quality, and brand. It’s important to weigh your artistic preferences and budgetary considerations when making your selection. By choosing the right surface for your oil paintings, you can enhance your artistic process and create works that truly reflect your vision.


Understanding the price of oil paintings involves considering various factors that contribute to their cost. By examining the expenses associated with oil painting supplies, the investment value of art, and the pricing in the market, we can gain insights into why oil paintings command such high prices.

The cost of oil paintings starts with the price of supplies, which can vary depending on the quality of oil paints, brushes, canvases, mediums, and other materials. Additionally, there are initial and ongoing costs to consider when getting started and practicing oil painting.

However, the high price of oil paintings also reflects their value as art investments. Original oil paintings often appreciate in value over time, making them an attractive option for collectors and investors. The art market dynamics, including supply and demand, also influence the pricing of oil paintings.

In conclusion, understanding the price of oil paintings goes beyond the cost of supplies. It involves recognizing the investment value of art and the market forces that shape their pricing. By having a better understanding of these factors, art enthusiasts can appreciate the true worth and craftsmanship behind oil paintings.


Why are oil paintings so expensive?

Oil paintings can be expensive due to various factors, such as the cost of high-quality supplies, the investment value of art, and the pricing in the art market.

What are the cost factors of oil paintings?

The cost factors of oil paintings include the quality of oil paints, brushes, canvases, mediums, easels, palettes, and cleaning supplies.

How much do oil painting supplies cost?

The cost of oil painting supplies can vary depending on the quality and brand. Factors such as the cost of oil paints, brushes, canvases, mediums, easels, palettes, and cleaning supplies should be considered.

Are there initial costs when getting started with oil painting?

Yes, there are initial costs when getting started with oil painting. These costs may include investing in an oil painting starter kit or purchasing individual supplies.

Are there budget-friendly options for oil painting supplies?

Yes, there are budget-friendly options for oil painting supplies. Exploring affordable options and value sets can help beginners get started without spending a fortune.

What are the ongoing costs when oil painting?

The ongoing costs of oil painting include factors such as paint consumption, canvas expenses, medium usage, and brush maintenance.

Are there money-saving tips for oil painting?

Yes, there are money-saving tips for oil painting. From using budget-friendly supplies to implementing DIY solutions, there are various techniques to reduce costs without compromising artistic quality.

Why are oil paints expensive?

Oil paints can be expensive due to factors such as the quality and pigmentation of the paints, as well as the range of prices available in the market.

Is oil painting a good choice for beginners?

Yes, oil painting can be a great choice for beginners. Its slow-drying nature and ease of blending make it an ideal medium for novice artists.

What are the pros and cons of acrylic and oil paints?

Acrylic and oil paints have their own advantages and disadvantages. Factors such as drying time, ease of clean-up, and other characteristics should be considered when choosing between the two.

What are the characteristics of oil paintings?

Oil paintings offer options for a matte or glossy finish and are known for their longevity. The lightfastness of oil paints is also an important consideration.

How much do oil painting surfaces cost?

The cost of oil painting surfaces can vary depending on the type and size. Factors such as pre-made surfaces vs. DIY alternatives should be considered, along with the cost of canvases, panels, and paper for oil painting.

What is the conclusion on the cost of oil paintings?

Understanding the factors that contribute to the cost of oil paintings can provide insights into the art market. Considering the cost of supplies, the investment value of art, and the pricing in the market helps explain why oil paintings command high prices.