Oil Painting Mediums

There are many types of painting mediums available on the market, such as alkyd mediums and linseed oils. But the beginner in oil painting need not purchase many mediums to complete an oil painting kit.  But what does each painting agent do?

Artist’s Spirits

Oil painting can be as simple or as complex as the artist wishes it to be, and in most cases, different agents are not necessary to complete an oil painting. But the beginner’s kit should at least contain an artists’ solvent, such as artists’ white spirits, Turpenoid or Sansador. Turps must never be used as it emits powerful odours and is harsh on the brushes. Artist’s solvent thins the oil paint in the same way that water thins watercolour or acrylics. This is ideal for applying washes and for cleaning the brushes.

Types of Painting Mediums

There are really only two types of artists’ agents and both work in opposite ways for different oil painting techniques.

Oil-based mediums. These agents are derived from organic matter such as nuts and seeds. Linseed oil is the most widely used example. Oil retards the drying time of the paint, adds gloss and increases its flow.
Alkyd mediums. These agents are derived from a modified synthetic resin that leaves a more matt finish and accelerates its drying time. Liquin is a well-known brand.




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Poppy Oil, Safflower Oil and Linseed Oil Uses in Oil Painting

Linseed oil is the most commonly used agent. Most oil paints contain linseed oil, which acts as the carrier. Safflower, poppy oil and walnut oil are suitable for pale colours, as it is non-yellowing. "Drying" poppy oil has been modified to accelerate the drying time.

Most organic oils increase gloss and transparency of the paint, which is ideal for "glazing" techniques. This entails the application of paint in several washes in order to add depth to its hue. Oils also add the convenience of slowing the drying time of the paint, so that the artist can keep manipulating the paint.

Impasto Medium

Thick paint applied straight from the tube is known as "impasto." This entails the completion of a painting "in one go." However, lots of oil paint can be costly. Impasto medium, an alkyd-based resin, has been designed to add bulk to the paint without accruing the cost.

What is Liquin?

Again, liquin is an alkyd-based medium and accelerates the drying time of the oil paint, but otherwise acts like linseed oil in that it adds transparency and flow to the paint. This is ideal for glazing techniques, but with the convenience of quick drying time.

Essential Oil Painting Mediums
Oil painting can often be completed without any agents other than an artists’ solvent. However, if the artist wishes to experiment, these agents will come in useful. Linseed oil and liquin are good for glazing techniques and applying washes; impasto medium is good for adding bulk to the paint for thick, expressive brushstrokes.
Read about opaque colours versus translucent colours on my other site.

This site comprise of pictures and excerpts taken from my 2 art instruction books. Oil Paintings from Your Garden can be purchased direct from the author, or through Amazon.


My other book, Oil Paintings from the Landscape can be purchased direct from Amazon.


© Rachel Shirley 2010