Alkyd Artists Paints
Alkyd resin is synthesised from plant and vegetable oils, like linseed or soya oil, that is modified (oil-modified alkyd resin) for use in artist’s oil paints, mediums and grounds. When it is dry alkyd is tough, flexible and resistant to solvents. The main advantage of alkyd is in the speed at which alkyd resin dries. Alkyd oil paints or oil paints with added alkyd mediums will usually be touch-dry in 24 hours, if painted in a normal thin film. They become tacky within a few hours so brushstrokes can be added without disturbing the earlier paint.
This drying rate allows painters to work throughout a painting session without the oil paints drying on the palette, but the painting surface will be dry when they return the following day for the next painting session. This is particularly useful for painters who apply many oil glazes as the painting will be dry the next day to apply your next glaze. As artist Robert Dance says on his website: “The alkyd medium is about as ideal as I have found to capture this effect without waiting days for these glazes to dry before applying the next glaze.”
The Winsor and Newton Griffin Fast-Drying Oil Colours range of artists paints uses this alkyd resin as its binder. Alkyd oil colours are compatible with traditional oils, mediums, mineral spirits, and turpentine, as well as with other alkyds. Alkyd oil colours also can be used to speed the drying time of regular oil paints.
By modifying the alkyd paints with thinners (Liquin or Liquin Fine Detail or solvents) the paint can be applied like egg tempera, smoothly and precisely. By modifying the alkyd paints with thickeners (like Oleopasto or Impasto mediums) the paint can be applied in a thick paste that shows brushtrokes.
Just as for regular oil painting remember 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. Related to this rule is the rule that each layer needs to be slower-drying than the one before. This means that unless you paint all in one session – alla prima – each successive layer needs to have more oil and dry slower. This means that unless you are painting wet-into-wet (alla prima) then straight alkyd is best used for the earlier stages of painting (underpainting) and then either finish the painting with regular oil colour and a bit of oil for later layers or continue with alkyd to which you add some alkyd medium or oil medium.
To show how sturdy these paints are Winsor & Newton says about Griffin Fast Drying Oils: “Alkyd resin dries to a hard paint film that has good resistance to physical wear and weathering. This makes Griffin Alkyd Fast Drying Oil Colour the ideal choice for using on surfaces such as wood, glass, metal or porcelain to decorate both functional (non-food use) and decorative items. Griffin Alkyd Colour is ideal for the decorative painting which is popular in Northern Europe and also with folk artists. The speed of drying and hard paint film make Griffin Alkyd Colour ideal for outdoor signs and oil colour murals.”
A conservationist at an Italian museum that I have spoken with thinks alkyd is the most stable binder available because it is flexible like acrylic but much tougher and can be manipulated by the artist in the same way as oil. So it is the best of both worlds. He thinks alkyd oil colours are the wave of the future.
Alkyd Oil Painting Mediums
Adding an alkyd medium to oil colour speeds up the drying time while thinning or thickening the body of the paint and changing the gloss, depending on which one you choose.
Jackson’s Fast Drying Oil Painting Medium, Jackson’s Alkyd Oil Medium and Jackson’s Gloss Gel Medium.
Winsor and Newton Liquin (Read about the varieties of Liquin in this earlier blog post)
Daler Rowney Alkyd Flow Medium
Pip Seymour Alkyd Resin Glaze Medium
Alkyd resin is also used to make primers (grounds). It allows these primers to dry a lot faster, because you want your ground to be ready to paint on quickly. An alkyd oil ground is similar in appearance to a standard oil ground but is faster drying (touch dry in 24 hours), yellows less than a standard oil-based ground, offers good durability and hardness. Both alkyd- and oil-based grounds require the canvas to be sized (sealed) first.