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Bob Ross Oil Painting Tips & Technique Frequently Asked Questions

Why the BOB ROSS OIL PAINTING TIPS are so popular

A set of videos designed for the purpose of teaching you how to paint using the Bob Ross wet-on-wet painting method. These are all video recordings made by Bob that will give you a lot of understanding as you watch a blank canvas gradually come to life. Watch and learn as he explains how and why to use the different brushes, paints, mediums and other tools. The BOB ROSS OIL PAINTING TIPS along with “The Joy of Painting”, is still a joy to watch and a privilege to enjoy Bob as the instructor.

Below the following videos, you will find a list of frequently asked questions about the Bob Ross oil painting tips & technique and some instructions about the use and care of the materials. Bob really taught us how to use our imagination as we painted. Even through all of our “mistakes”, Bob would refer to them as “happy accidents”. Bob Ross supplies instruction books and videos to teach his method of painting. What an excellent instructor to learn from.

Lots of people had never painted before until they were captured by Bob’s soft and gentle voice as he painted a wonderful painting. He would always say “you can do it”. Some people enjoyed watching “The Joy Of Painting” as a faithful viewer. Others truly did believe exactly what Bob was saying and for many it was true. “You can do it” he would say and I am one who truly watched and learned how to paint. I developed the Bob Ross oil painting tips & techniques to help answer the questions that may arise while watching the videos.


How to load and mix paints on the pallet

One of the most popular BOB ROSS oil painting tips is illustrated here. This technique refers to the blending & softening of hard edges or the most visible brush strokes by blending the wet oil paint on the canvas with a clean, dry brush. While blending, you take an already painted area and brush it very lightly with criss-cross strokes or by gently tapping it with the corner of the brush.

Colors will then have a softer and more natural appearance. Not all oil paints are suitable for this technique – most are too soft and tend to smear. Only a thick, firm paint is suitable for this technique.

To mix paints to a marbled effect, place the different colored paints on the mixing area of your palette and use your palette knife to pick up and fold the paints together, then pull flat. Streaks of each color should be visible in the mixture. Great way to add texture. Do not over mix.

A thin paint works especially good when adding highlight colors. When mixing paints for a highlight application the paints should be thinner than the paint already on the canvas. The rule of thumb is: a thin paint sticks to a thicker paint, especially when adding highlight colors.

Thin the paint with LIQUID WHITE, LIQUID CLEAR or ODORLESS THINNER. The rule to remember here is that a thin paint will stick to a thicker paint.

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How to load and mix paints on the pallet (continued)

Painting with the wet on wet technique requires frequent and thorough cleaning of your brushes with an odorless paint thinner. An empty one-pound coffee can is ideal for holding the thinner and screen, or use any container approximately 5″ in diameter and at least 6″ deep. Place a Bob Ross Screen in the bottom of the can and fill with odorless thinner approximately 1″ above the screen. Scrub the brush bristles against the screen to remove paint sediments which will eventually settle on the bottom of the can.

Dry your larger brushes by carefully squeezing them against the inside of the coffee can, then slapping the bristles against a brush beater rack mounted inside of a tall plastic trash basket to remove the remainder of the thinner. Smaller brushes can be cleaned by wiping them with a paper towel or a rag (I highly recommend using Viva paper towels because they are very absorbent). DO NOT return the brushes to their plastic bags after use, this will cause the bristles to become limp and lose their shape. Never clean your Bob Ross brushes with soap and water or detergent as this will destroy the natural strength of the bristles. Store your brushes with the bristles up or lying flat.

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Use the 2″ brush with long, firm vertical and horizontal strokes across the canvas. The coat of Liquid WHITE should be very, very thin and even. Apply just before you begin to paint. DO NOT allow the paint (liquid white, black, clear, and opal) to dry before you begin. This medium should remain wet while you paint in it.

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I suggest using a palette at least 16″x 20″ in size. Try arranging the colors around the outer edge of your palette from light to dark. Leave the center of the palette for mixing your paints.

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To fully load the inside bristles of your brush first hold it perpendicular to the palette and work the bristles into the pile of paint. Then holding the brush at a 45-degree angle, drag the brush across your palette and away from the pile of paint. Flipping your brush from side to side will ensure both sides will be loaded evenly.

(NOTE: When the bristles come to a chiseled or sharp flat edge, the brush is loaded correctly.)
For some strokes, you may want the end of your brush to be rounded. To do this, stand the brush vertically on the palette. Firmly pull toward you working the brush in one direction. Lift off the palette with each stroke. This will tend to round off the end of the brush, paint with the rounded end up.

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Place the tip of your brush into the can of LIQUID WHITE, LIQUID CLEAR or ODORLESS THINNER allow only a small amount of medium to remain on the bristles. Load your brush by gently dragging it through the highlight colors, repeat as needed. Gently tap the bristles against the palette just enough to open up the bristles and loosen the paint.

With your palette knife, pull the mixture of paint in a thin layer down across the palette. Holding your knife in a straight upward position, pull the long working edge of your knife diagonally across the paint. This will create a roll of paint on your knife.

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Popular questions that you might have asked

There are no great mysteries to iearning how to paint. You need only the desire, a few basic techniques and a lot of practice. lf you are new to this technique, I strongly suggest that you read the entire section on “TIPS AND TECHNIQUES” prior to starting your first painting. Consider each painting you create as a learning experience. Add your own special touch and ideas to each painting you do and your confidence as well as your ability will increase at an unbelievable rate. 

I made the sheet below and it has become a great asset to use as a reminder of the tools you will need for each painting you create. Later when the painting is complete you can attach it to the back of the painting for a perminent reminder of what was used to make it.

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The BOB ROSS technique of painting is dependent upon a special firm oil paint for the base colors. Colors that are used primarily for highlights (Yellows) are manufactured to a thinner consistency for easier mixing and application. The use of proper equipment helps assure the best possible results.

This technique is a wet-on-wet method, so normally our first step is to make the canvas wet. For this, apply a thin, even coat of one of the special base paints (Liquid White, Liquid Black or Liquid Clear) using the 2″ brush. Long horizontal and vertical strokes assure an even distribution of paint. The (Liquid White, Liquid Black or Liquid Clear) allows us to actually blend and mix colors right on the canvas.

The (Liquid White, Liquid Black or Liquid Clear) can also be used to thin other colors for application over thicker paints much like odorless thinner. The idea that a thin paint will stick to a thick paint is the basis for this entire technique. This principle is one of our Golden Rules and should be remembered at all times. The best examples of this rule are the beautiful highlights of trees and bushes. Your Liquid White/Black is a smooth, slow drying paint which should always be mixed thoroughly before using.

Liquid Clear is a particularly exciting ingredient for wet-on-wet painting. Like Liquid White/Black, it creates the necessary smooth and slippery surface. Additionally, Liquid Clear has the advantage of not diluting the intensity of other colors especially the darks which are so important in painting seascapes. Remember to apply Liquid Clear very sparingly! The tendency is to apply larger amounts than necessary because it is so difficult to see.

Should your (Liquid White, Liquid Black or Liquid Clear) become thickened, thin it with odorless thinner. Never thin your Liquid White, Liquid Black or Liquid Clear with turpentine or other substances which could damage your brushes.

All of the paintings displayed on this site were created using only 13 colors. With these 13 colors, the number of new colors you can make is almost limitless. By using a limited number of colors, you will quickly learn the characteristics of each color and how to use it most effectively. This also helps keep your painting cost as low as possible.

The 14 colors we use are listed below:
*Alizarin Crimson, *Sap Green, Bright Red, *Dark Sienna, *Pthalo Green, Cadmium Yellow, Titanium White, *Pthalo Blue, *Indian Yellow, *Van Dyke Brown,*Midnight Black, Yellow Ochre, *Prussian Blue, Mountain Mixture
(*indicates transparent or semi-transparent colors which may be used as under paints where transparency is required.)

The new Bob Ross Mountain Mixture color is used for under-painting trees and bushes, ground area and, of course, mountains. Since you will often use this mixture to replace mixtures of Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Blue, Prussian Blue, Van Dyke Brown it can be a real time saver.

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The mixing of colors can be one of the most rewarding and fun parts of painting, but may also be one of the most feared procedures. Devote some time to mixing various color combinations and become familiar with the basic color mixtures. Study the colors in nature and practice duplicating the colors you see around you each day. Within a very short time you will be so comfortable mixing colors that you will look forward to each painting as a new challenge.

Avoid over mixing your paints and strive more for a marbled appearance. This will help keep your colors “alive” and “vibrant”. Try brush-mixing most of your colors, and loading several layers of color in a single brush. This double and triple loading of brushes creates effects you could never achieve by mixing color on the palette. Pay very close attention to the way colors are loaded into the brushes and onto the knife.

Possibly the #1 problem experienced by individuals when first attempting this technique and the major cause for disappointment revolves around the use of products designed for other styles of painting or materials not designed for artwork at all (i.e. house painting brushes, thin soupy paints, etc.).

All of the paintings for this technique were created using Bob Ross paints, brushes and palette knives. To achieve the best results from your efforts, I strongly recommend that you use only products designed specifically for use with the Bob Ross wet-on-wet technique.

Drying time will vary depending on numerous factors such as heat, humidity, thickness of paint, painting surface, brand of paint used, mediums used with the paint, etc. Another factor is the individual colors used. Different colors have different drying times (i.e., normally Blue will dry very fast while colors like Red, White and Yellow are very slow drying). A good average time for an oil painting to dry, when painted in this technique, is approximately one week.


Varnishing a painting will protect it from the elements. It will also help to keep the colors more vibrant. lf you decide to varnish your painting, I suggested that you wait at least six months. It takes this long for an oil painting to be completely cured. Use a good quality, non-yellowing picture varnish spray. I personally spray my paintings after about 4 weeks and have not had any problems.