OCAD Studio: Master Copy in Oils Part 1

Why Make a Master Copy?

Master copies are a great way to try out a new approach without having to work things out from scratch. You’re able to select any work, by any artist that you like, and try to figure out how they created their work.

The most important aspect of a master copy is not producing an exact copy of the image, instead you need to figure out the process that results in a particular work of art. All artists use different processes; they layer the paint differently, use thinner or thicker paint, choose different colours etc.

I want you to try and dissect the techniques used by your chosen artist. To do this you can research the artist online, to find out if they wrote about their approach, or if critiques have analysed their work. However, the best way to learn about their work is to get a high resolution image of your chosen painting.

Choosing a painting

It’s important to find a detailed image of the painting you want to copy. I recommend using the Google Art Project (see examples below) and working from your computer or tablet. However there are other sources of high res images of paintings online if you do some searching.







van Gogh






Cropping and Printing

I suggest that you find the dimensions of the painting you’ve decided to copy so that you can make you painting at about the same size because you will find it easier to emulate the paint strokes and application if you’re working at the original scale. If your chosen painting is very large this might mean cropping a section of it to copy rather than the whole thing (if for instance you chose to copy a full length portrait, you could crop it to just the head).

OCAD Studio: Limited Palette Portrait in Oils Parts 5 & 6

After successfully completing the previous stages, you should be happy with the general forms and colours. The final two videos in this series cover the final touches you can add to polish the painting. These final refinements will be quite easy and fun


    • Small canvas or a panel prepared for painting
    • 2-3 flat brushes (¼-1 inch wide)
    • 2 small pointed brushes
    • Piece of soft charcoal


  • Titanium White Oil Paint
  • Cadmium Red Oil Paint
  • Yellow Ochre Oil Paint
  • Ivory Black Oil Paint


  • Palette
  • Easel
  • Thinner (I recommend odourless mineral spirits (OMS))
  • Linseed Oil
  • Painting rag or kitchen paper towel for wiping back and cleaning


  1. Work on the face first – looking for subtle adjustments to things detailed parts like the eyes, nose and mouth. The general principles of form and colour apply in exactly the same way that they did during the previou steps. You are just working at a smaller, more detailed scale.
  2. I recommend that you use your smallest brushes at this stage as most of the brushstrokes you need will be quite fine. However you may want to build up the paint in some blockier areas (such as the forehead or bridge of the nose).
  3. Once you’re happy with the face you can make adjustments to the clothing and background. At this stage I recommend switching to larger, flatter brushes as it’s best to keep the background simpler than the face. This difference in detail will draw the viewer’s attention to face, which is the focal point of the portrait.
  4. That’s it! You can keep refining to your heart’s content, but after you’ve finished all these stages you should have a solid portrait that you’re happy with.