The Best Medium for Oil Painting: A Guide

Dec 24, 2021 | 0 comments

Looking for the best medium for oil painting? This is a good place to start. This article will be a mini-guide where you’ll get information all about oil paint mediums. Let’s get started!

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What is an Oil Paint Medium?

An oil paint medium is a liquid that will change your paint’s performance when added to it. It’s specially designed for oil paints to alter their drying time, transparency, and flow.

There are different types of mediums and each one will give you a different result. Some mediums will speed up the oil paint’s drying time, while others will reduce it even further.

These oil paint mediums are a mixture of ingredients like resins, oil, drying agents, and/or solvents. They can be used individually or a combination of a few or all of them. Understanding how these mediums work will help you choose the right one for your art projects.

Why Use an Oil Paint Medium?

Oil paint mediums can alter the properties of paint. They can make oil paints more malleable and easier to manipulate. When you open up a tube of oil paint, you can have paints that are thick and difficult to work with.

Using an oil paint medium will make it easier for you to control your paints. By using oil paint mediums, you can expand and do more painting techniques by being able to diversify your lines, patterns, marks, and textures.

Most oil paints already have oil mediums in them, however, introducing new mediums into your paint mix will make it even more versatile than it already was. Just remember that different oil mediums will have different outcomes so consider this when looking for the best medium for oil painting.

The Best Medium for Oil Painting

The Best Medium for Oil Painting

As mentioned, oil paint mediums allow artists to control oil paints easily and more accurately because it alters the paint’s characteristics. When you get to understand the different mediums, you’ll see how each one gives different results. Using oil paint mediums will require you do to a little bit of research and experimenting to achieve the results you want.

Solvents

Using a solvent as an oil medium will thin out your paint and increase its flow, increase its transparency, speed up its drying time, and give you a matte finish.

Remember that solvents are generally used for cleaning paint brushes and other painting equipment, however, many artists use solvents to take their creativity further. When solvents are mixed with oil paints, the solvent evaporates and leaves the binder and pigment to oxidize that’s why it’s recommended to only use solvent as mediums at the early stages of your painting.

When you use solvent as a medium for the first time, the general rule of the thumb is to work your way to a 1:2 ratio of oil to solvent, then just gradually increase the amount from there.

Turpentine

Turpentine is the most common oil paint medium and what most artists use. When Turpentine is mixed with oil paints, the pigments will perfectly disperse and provide a beautiful and even finish. Just remember to get artist-quality turpentine as it contains fewer impurities. Also, remember to work in an open and well-ventilated area because turpentine releases toxic chemicals and can be bad for your health when inhaled.

Recommended Brand: DIAMOND G FOREST PRODUCTS Pure Gum Spirits of Turpentine 

Oil of Spike Lavender

This is a good alternative to turpentine. Oil of Spike Lavender mixes well with pol mediums and can break down and dissolve resins. If you want to thin our thicker paints, this is the best medium to use. This product is stronger than turpentine so you can use less amount to thin out your paint. The good thing about this medium is that even though it’s stronger than turpentine, it’s less toxic and can provide improved clarity, particle dispersion, and adhesive for layers of paint.

Recommended Brand: CHELSEA CLASSICAL STUDIO Lavender Spike Oil

Spirits

This is another artist favorite when it comes to thinning out paints. Odorless mineral spirits are a great option if you’re looking for a solvent that doesn’t have a toxic odor. Although spirits don’t have toxic fumes like turpentine, it doesn’t mean it’s not a toxic substance. Due to its abrasive nature, mineral spirits are not as compatible with oil paints as turpentine. It is more watery and takes a longer time to dry than turpentine.

Odorless Mineral Spirits are recommended to be used as a brush cleaner rather than an oil medium because it can weaken the paint and provide a less desirable finish.

Recommended Brand: WEBER Odorless Turpenoid 


Oils

Another type of oil paint medium is oils. Adding oils to your paint means that you want to thicken your paint, slow the drying time, and increase the paint transparency and flow. Just take note that not all oils can be used as a medium for oil paints.

The most common oil mediums used by artists are Tung, Perilla, and Soybean oils, however, these oils are not as user-friendly as walnut, poppy seed, and linseed oil.

Linseed Oil

Linseed oil comes from ripened, dried seeds of the flax plant and it’s often referred to as flaxseed oil. This is commonly used to create paint mediums because it is more durable than other drying oils. Linseed oil reduces viscosity, slows down drying time, improves transparency, and has a glossy finish. This medium contains linoleic acid which provides a strong and durable paint film, although it can cause your paints to yellow in time.

Recommended Brand: WINSOR & NEWTON Linseed Oil 

Cold-Pressed Linseed Oil

This oil has the purest natural oil grade and it creates a harder, stronger, and shinier film with an increased glossy finish that takes less time to dry. Because of its premium quality, Cold-Pressed Linseed Oil is often used as a binder in many oil paint brands.

Recommended Brand: DANIEL SMITH 284470007 Cold-Pressed Linseed Oil

Safflower Oil

This oil is also used in many paints as a binder because it contains little linolenic fatty acid. When you use Safflower Oil as a medium, you’ll notice how it has a lower viscosity than Linseed Oil and this factor helps paints flow and spread easier. This oil costs less than Linseed Oil and it dries slower. Sometimes, when the weather is extremely hot, it will cause the paint to start melting. Safflower Oil is not often recommended as an oil paint medium because it has a weak paint film, but if it’s used very sparingly, it can give your great results.

Recommended Brand: GAMBLIN Safflower Oil 

Poppy Seed Oil

This oil is similar to Safflower oil but it is a clear oil that won’t turn yellow or affect the color of your painting in the long run. Poppyseed oil is sometimes used as paint binders by some manufacturers because it helps sharpen the hue of colors over time. This oil has a slower drying time compared to linseed and safflower oil and gives a glossy finish, but its paint film is not as durable as linseed oil so it tends to be slightly softer.

Recommended Brand: WINSOR & NEWTON Poppy Oil

Walnut Oil

Walnut oil is another good alternative medium for linseed oil. It’s more durable and flexible than poppyseed and safflower oil, and won’t yellow like linseed oil. You can also use it to clean your paintbrushes and mix them into paints just like other oils. Walnut oil slows down the paint drying time, improve paint flow, gives a good glossy finish, is durable, and adds a depth of color.

When storing this oil, you need to be careful. It’s recommended to always properly seal it and store it in the fridge as exposure to sunlight and air can cause the oil to go rancid.

Recommended Brand: M GRAHAM Walnut Oil


Cold Wax

Cold wax is used as an oil paint medium to thicken paints, add volume, body, texture, and provide a matte finish with a fast drying time. This oil paint medium has a unique thick texture and has a certain style of painting when used. If you like styles that involve beautiful brush strokes, unique textures, and a beautiful matte finish, this is the medium you are looking for.

Cold wax adds transparency and luminosity to your painting, and you can add as much of this medium on your paint as you like although the recommended mixing ratio is 1/3 cold wax to 2/3 oil.

Recommended Brand: GAMBLIN Cold Wax Medium 


Alkyd Resin

Alkyd resin as an oil paint medium is used if you want your paints to dry quickly and have a glossy finish. This medium is a combination of a polymerized plant-based oil and a slow-evaporating, odorless solvent that when mixed with oil will dry within the day. If you are an impatient painter and don’t want to wait weeks for your layers to dry, this is the ideal medium to use.

Recommended Brand: WILLIAMSBURG Alkyd Resin Oil


Frequently Asked Questions

Is it Necessary to Use Oil Painting Mediums?

It’s not really necessary, but many painters who use oils find tube paints to be too thick so that’s why they use a medium to thin the paints down. But mediums have more uses than that. If you like doing a certain technique like glazing, using a medium is helpful to get the results you want.

What Does ‘Fat over Lean’ Mean?

‘Fat over lean’ means you are layering a paint that contains more oil (fat) over a paint that has less oil content (lean). You have to start painting with a thin layer and build it up with layers of thicker paint as you go until you have the number of layers you desire.

What is the Best Medium for Oil Painting?

There are many different types of oil paint mediums and there’s not a single one that’s better than the other. We have shared 4 types namely solvent, oil, wax, and alkyd, and recommended the best brand for each one.

Final Thoughts

When you’re just a beginner in oil painting, there can be a lot of confusion over what to do. But as you go along your journey, you’ll learn more about the art and the tools used to master its technique. Hopefully, this post will help you understand the use of oil paint mediums and enlighten you about the best medium for oil painting.

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Merry Christmas!

Renee Alexis

20-something Filipina, an introvert who loves young adult fiction, brush pens, Taylor Swift, and Mobile Legends. Coffee runs in my bloodstream.
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