A-Z of miniatures crafts: O for oil painting

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15 April 2021
Learn how to create a charming miniature oil painting for your dolls house or miniature scene with this tutorial by Mandy Dawkins. 

Mandy Dawkins of Miniature Dreams is here to introduce you to the art of oil painting with a step-by-step project you can follow along to for inspiration. With a little practise you’ll soon be ready to hang them in pride of place in your miniature rooms of choice! 

But first, here are Mandy’s top tips for painting with oils…

  • Keep to a limited palette of five colours – three primary ones – French ultramarine (a royal blue), permanent alizarine crimson (a ruby red), lemon yellow hue (an acid yellow), plus ivory black and titanium white (used for making colours paler).
  • You don't have to buy artist quality paints.
  • Only squeeze a pea size of each colour paint onto your palette, plus double the amount of white. Remember, you can’t put paint back in the tube, but you can add more.
  • When mixing colours always start with the palest colour and then gradually add the darker colour a bit at a time. To mix a brown, use lemon hue and permanent alizarine to create orange, then add a small amount of ivory black. It is useful to have some brown mixed to darken greens. Red added to green can also make a brown.
  • It's important to paint in natural light to see true colours.

Miniature oil painting tutorial

By Mandy Dawkins

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You will need

  • A frame of your choice
  • A small board 15x20cm
  • Oil paints
  • Canvas paper (Winton primed canvas paper is my preferred brand)
  • Three fine synthetic paintbrushes
  • Pencil
  • Masking tape
  • White spirit
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Blue tack
  • Glue


1. Choose your frame. Measure from the back across the rebate the size for your finished picture. Add 2cm to each measurement and cut a piece of canvas to this size. Use masking tape to attach to your board.

miniature canvas

2. Squeeze out a pea sized amount of paint (plus double of white) onto your palette or surface. An old plastic box/food container is ideal for this.

oil paints

3. Loosely draw in the outline of your landscape. Dilute some of blue paint with white spirit to ‘kill the white’ of your canvas, making sure you can still see the outline. Allow to dry overnight.

miniature oil painting landscape outline

4. Paint the blue sky first and then add the fluffy clouds. 

miniature oil painting in progress

Top tip! If you’re an absolute beginner, allow the paint to dry, as the thicker the paint, the longer the drying time. 

5. Block in the first colours.

miniature oil painting colours 'blocked' in

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6. Add lighter colours.

light colours added to miniature oil painting

7. Add more detail. 

Detail added to miniature oil painting

If you’re a beginner, this is a great opportunity to experiment with your paints until you feel confident with the level of detail you want to include!

8. Enjoy your finished picture. 

Finished miniature oil painting

Get stuck into more from our A-Z series starting with the quick guide to needlework!

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