Oil Paint mediums allow you to gain maximum control over the many characteristics of oil colour and enable you as an artist to get the effects you desire from your paint. Here is a rough guide to the most popular.
Refined Linseed Oil – popular and traditional oil made from seeds of flax plant, used to make mediums for oil painting
- Increases gloss and transparency
- Dries solidly, throughout the oil film, making it very stable and permanent
- Ideal for underpainting/initial layers in a painting
- Dries within 3-5 days
- Very pale light yellow in colour, may have slight colour influence on whites/pale colours
- Alkali refined – impurities have been removed to minimise the yellowing of the oil over time
- Mix with solvents in equal measure (or more oil than solvent depending on your preference) to make a versatile oil painting medium which flows and dries glossy
Brands available: Jackson's Refined Linseed Oil, Winsor and Newton Refined Linseed Oil, Daler Rowney Purified Linseed Oil, C. Roberson and Co Linseed Oil, as well as water mixable versions by Holbein Duo-Aqua Linseed Oil and Winsor and Newton Artisan Linseed Oil
Alkali Refined Safflower Oil
- Pale coloured alkali refined oil with little tendency to yellow.
- Favoured for use with whites and blues.
- Longer drying time than linseed oil.
Brands Available: C. Roberson & Co Safflower Oil and a water mixable version by Winsor and Newton Artisan Safflower Oil
- Paler, more viscous oil than refined linseed oil
- Slows drying
- Gives tough elastic finish
- Mix with turps or white spirit to help colour flow and reduce brushmarks
- Is made by heating without air at very high temperatures. This partly polymerises the oil, making thicker in consistency yet maintaining a smoothness that allows it to level brush marks and be the ideal component in a glaze medium. Also its viscosity means one can use it to paint using impasto techniques knowing that the paint will not wrinkle and it will dry in a more stable manner than when just applying the colour thicker or with more regular linseed oil added to it. It yellows less than refined linseed oil and is also slower drying.
Brands Available: C.Roberson & Co. Stand Oil as well was water miscible versions by Winsor and Newton Artisan Stand Oil and Holbein Duo-Aqua Stand Oil
- Very pale yellow brown oil
- Excellent resistance to yellowing and cracking
- Yellows less than linseed oil over time
- Also works as an effective brush cleaner that helps retain moisture in brush hairs
- Dries faster than safflower and poppy oils but is equally favoured for using with whites and pale blue hues
Brands Available: C. Roberson & Co. Walnut Oil
*Michael Harding also produce a version of their Cremnitz White, bound in Walnut oil
Purified Poppy Oil
- A clear oil medium to mix with and reduce light colours
- Less inclined to yellow than Linseed Oil, but slower drying
- Enhances gloss and flow, but too high a proportion prevents the colour from thorough drying.
- Should only be used for the final layers of a painting, and only in moderation (mixed with solvents)
Brands Available: Daler Rowney Purified Poppy Oil
Cold Pressed Linseed Oil
- High quality, slightly yellow
- Extracted without the use of heat
- Increases gloss and transparency and reduces brushmarks
- Highly recommended for grinding pigments
- Cold pressed Linseed oil is the least brittle form of linseed oil, very stable, dries thoroughly, least yellowing but more expensive than regular linseed oil
Brands Available: C. Roberson & Co. Cold Pressed Linseed Oil
Alkyd is a synthetic resin that has come into popular use in colours and mediums within oil painting. The Winsor and Newton Griffin range of colours uses Alkyd resin as its binder. The advantages in doing so lie in the speed at which alkyd resin dries, and also its low cost. Unfortunately alkyd resin does not have the same colour holding capacities as a natural gum resin such as damar might have, which is used by Schmincke in their Mussini oil colour range. This means that the colour depth and brilliance is compromised slightly. However alkyd mediums are perfect for students or beginners , as well as for using when painting out of doors for all levels of ability (ease of use, practical reasons). It is also a good medium to use in the initial layers of a painting (underpainting) as it dries quickly, and one can then continue to work over the top with a medium that is made up of more lustrous, richer ingredients, if one so desires. Remember always the fat over lean rule – this means that the initial layers of oil colour should have less oil content than the layers applied over the top in order to allow the painting to dry solidly throughout the layers – this will give your painting stability and minimise the paint’s ability to absorb water from the air. Alkyd is also used in C. Roberson’s Oil Primers and Jackson’s Thixotropic Alkyd Oil Primer, and this allows these primers do dry a lot faster and be sold at a much lower price than the pure lead primer by Jackson’s.
There are many alkyd mediums available, with varying consistencies and by a number of brands. Below are the names of the products we offer – check the details of each individual product for their unique characteristics.
Jackson’s Fast Drying Oil Painting Medium, Jackson's Alkyd Oil Medium and Jackson's Gloss Gel Medium for Oils
Winsor and Newton Liquin (all varieties)
Daler Rowney Alkyd Flow Medium
Traditional Oil Painting Mediums
There are a number of pre mixed mediums that use traditional, natural ingredients that achieve a greater degree of colour brilliance and depth. Because these mediums replicate the recipes used by painters for hundreds of years, we know the extent of their permanence and stability. If you know you are only going to use a specific ingredient for one purpose, i.e. as part of a particular medium, then buying a pre mixed medium might be the most cost and time effective way of doing so. If you are more likely to want to explore the possibilities with how to alter and manipulate mediums by altering the ingredients and their proportions, then it may be better to buy the ingredients separately to mix yourself.
Pre-mixed, traditional mediums available:
Jackson's Glaze Medium
- A mixture of Damar resin varnish, stand oil and turpentine
- Achieves lustrous thin glazes
- Ideal for fine detail and smooth brush work
- Increases translucency and flow
- Dries thoroughly throughout, ideal for initial and successive layers of paint
Winsor and Newton Painting Medium
- A Petroleum distillate (low odour solvent) based glazing medium mixed with linseed stand oil
- Slow drying
- Ideal for fine detail work, glazing, smoothly blended areas with no brush marks
C. Roberson & Co Glaze Medium
- Mix with tube oils or pigment to improve flow and translucency.
- For thin glazes, fine detail and smooth brushwork technique
- Consists of Turps/Damar/Stand Oil/Cobalt Dryers.
C. Roberson & Co. Impasto Hard Edge Oil Medium
- A crack resistant medium for impasto effects.
- Retains palette knife & brush strokes.
- To retain colour strength mix 1 part medium to 1 part oil colour. Stand oil/Damar resin/Turpentine/Bleached Beeswax.
- Ideal for impasto scumbling techniques
Roberson Oil Painting Medium
Double thick mastic varnish. Pale drying linseed oil/synthetic copal varnish. Gives flowing quality when mixed with oils in ratio 2:1. After 8-10 hours drying, gives rich brilliant effect without extra gloss.
Zest It Clear Painting Medium
The Zest-it Clear Painting Medium is designed to facilitate the flow of oil paint, level out the brush strokes and as a glaze. The Clear Painting Medium can be of assistance to both the traditional oil painter and the wet-on-wet artist. It can also be helpful to Oil pastel artists. It is a mix of Zest-it and Linseed Stand Oil, it also makes the paint it is used with dry faster.
Other Ingredients for Oil Painting Mediums
Below is a brief guide to other ingredients that you might mix with oil to make your own oil painting mediums based on traditional recipes.
Winsor and Newton Artists White Spirit
- A volatile flammable dilutant for thinning oil colours and cleaning brushes, to be used with care
- Slower drying than turps
- Does not deteriorate on storage
- Less viscous than turpentine,
- Evaporates faster (faster drying times) than turpentine
- Is more abrasive than turpentine and will break the oil paint down in a less controllable way
- Gives more watery mixes than turpentine
- Does not have a gum residue like un-distilled decorator’s turpentine, which causes instability and yellowing when used as part of a painting medium
- More refined than decorator’s white spirit, and as a result is more stable when drying and does not leave any tackiness or undesired residue.
- Not to be used with professional oil colour
Similar to Jackson's Low Odour Solvent
English Distilled Turpentine (Winsor and Newton and Jackson’s)
- Fast evaporating, highly refined distillate sourced from the gum of pine trees
- Suitable for removing varnish (damar)
- Keep tightly closed and away from light to prevent oxidation
- Do not use if it has thickened
- Mix with refined or cold pressed Linseed oil, or stand oil, to make a professional painter’s medium. Add siccative to speed drying, and a small quantity of retouching varnish to increase gloss or create a glaze medium
- Winsor and Newton and Jackson’s triple distil their turpentine to minimise the presence of impurities that compromise stability in the paint layers
Winsor and Newton Sansodor
- A petroleum based mineral spirit solvent solvent that has had harmful aromatic solvents found in its hydrocarbons removed
- Evaporates slowly
- Increases blending time
- Suitable for thinning oil colours and cleaning brushes
- Use in a well ventilated area
Dammar Varnish (Zest It, C. Roberson & Co, Michael Harding, and a spray by Winsor and Newton)
- Traditional general varnish with a high gloss finish for protection of oil, alkyd and acrylic paintings
- Stable, translucent and glossy when dry
- Made of natural damar (dammar) resin and turpentine
- Very pale yellow
- Fast drying
- Can be used as a final picture varnish (removable with turpentine) or in very small quantites within an oil painting medium
C. Roberson & Co. Oil of Spike Lavender
- Similar properties to turps but slower rate of evaporation
- Improves levelling quality of brush marks
- Pleasant odour
- Less toxic than White Spirit and Turpentine
- Only small quantities are required
Retouching Varnish (C. Roberson & Co, Zest-It, Winsor and Newton)
- Damar resin/white spirit
- Rectifies dull areas caused by sinking of paint. Also helps adhesion of succeeding layer
- Can be used as a final varnish to protect work from dust as well as in a painting medium in very small quantities
Pumice Powder (C. Roberson & Co)
- Add to acrylic mediums or gesso to create a textured ground, particularly good for gestural soft pastel work
Rectified Spirit of Turpentine (C.Roberson & Co)
- Volatile colourless liquid distilled from pine sap
- Greater wetting powers than white spirit
- Used to thin oil paint
Did you know? The rectifying process is carried out by steaming out the spirits of the turpentine. This is different process to distillation of the spirits, yet serves the same purpose of removing any impurities that may have a disadvantageous effect on its drying process. Rectification is a mechanical process that uses water and is a much newer process of purification than distillation.
Beeswax (Sennelier, C.Roberson’s and Michael Harding ready mixed paste medium)
Beeswax is a popular medium among artists who like to paint more gesturally or with impasto colour. It is a mixture of linseed stand oil and bleached beeswax paste. It thickens oil colour and dries with a semi-matte sheen. Beeswax is particularly effective when mixed with semi-opaque and opaque colours.
Pure Turpentine is a natural product distilled from pine trees. It can be used in oil painting mediums by mixing with oil (linseed, linseed stand, walnut or safflower etc). It is also great for cleaning brushes as it is effective yet is not as strong as white spirit and will not dry out the natural moisture of your brush hairs as much. However please note that prolonged exposure of natural hairs to any solvent will accelerate the deterioration of the quality of the hair and cause them to become brittle and break more easily.
Turpentine can also be used to thin oil based varnishes, and is superior to white spirit in its ability to blend easily with oils to create even mixtures. To make your own varnish you can simply suspend damar resin crystals wrapped in a lint free cloth into a jar of pure turpentine until the crystals have dissolved.
Turpentine’s slow evaporation rate creates a gradual drying time, which again, allows for a more lustrous finish to dried colour that has been mixed with turps.
C. Roberson & Co. Larch Venice Turpentine is a slow drying thixotropic balsam for use in mediums and varnishes. Pure resin from the Austrian Larch tree purified and slightly heated when decanted. Dilute with turpentine or place in warm water bath to obtain fluid consistency.