A Comparison Between Four Fast-Drying Oil Painting Mediums
by Hannah Ivory Baker
In my opinion oil paint is the most spectacular of paints.
The ability to create different textures with relative ease, from thick impasto to ultra thin glazes coupled with its depth of colour, is unrivalled. You can transform and manipulate the paint to do almost anything you desire and with the use of oil mediums the possibilities are limitless.
The price we pay for the versatility of this beauteous stuff is undoubtedly, in its drying time. Waiting for days, months, even years before you can finish a piece and apply final varnishes. Thankfully, over the years there have been great advancements in the world of oil mediums and a number of products that reduce drying time are now widely available. I, like many others no doubt, am extremely grateful for these advancements.
Over the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of reviewing six of Jackson’s oil mediums. I used each one thoroughly in order to analyse and consider their effects on the paint (the individual reviews can be found on each product listings and in these earlier blog posts). Four of the mediums I tested were fast drying. This comparative review of the fast drying mediums aims to help artists and enthusiasts choose the best fast drying medium to suit their method and style.
What are the differences between the four Jackson’s fast-drying oil painting mediums?
- Fast Drying Medium
- Gloss Gel Medium
- Alkyd Oil Medium
- Wet in Wet Fast Drying Medium
Test Chart: Brush
I started by selecting four different colours that naturally have slightly different drying rates. These were Cadmium Yellow, Phthalo Blue, Burnt Sienna and Titanium White.
I wanted to test the speed of drying, spread of paint, intensity of colour and finish (whether it was matte, semi-gloss, gloss) and compare this with oil straight from the tube.
I used equal amounts of the four mediums for each colour, as well as (roughly) equal amounts of paint. This was done on a couple of sheets of Belle Arti medium grain canvas with a hog hair brush of similar size, using one downward stroke.
Drying Time: The quickest drying was without a doubt the Fast Drying medium. This was touch dry in most parts 10 / 15 minutes later and was completely dry within an hour. This was followed by the Alkyd Oil medium and then the Gloss Gel which took marginally longer than the Alkyd. The Wet In Wet medium took the longest of the 4 mediums to dry. All 4 of the mediums were completely touch-dry within 12 hours. Whereas the plain tube oil was only just touch dry in parts, 24 hours later.
Spread of paint: Both the Alkyd and Gloss Gel mediums spread the best followed by the Wet in Wet and Fast dry medium. Unsurprisingly the plain oil did not spread very far at all.
Intensity of colour: The intensity of colour was generally pretty good with all the mediums. The Alkyd, Wet In Wet and Gloss Gel medium were similar in terms of intensity. Although, the Gloss Gel did have a glazed quality to it so whilst the colour was strong, it was more translucent than the others. The Fast Drying medium was the weakest in terms of intensity of colour however, if used in small amounts then you can still achieve reasonable intensity.
Finish: The Gloss Gel medium (as its name would suggest) has a high gloss finish this is followed by the Wet In Wet, which I would describe as semi-gloss. Both the Alkyd and Fast Drying mediums did not increase gloss and both had an even matte finish.
Test Chart 2: Palette knife
This was done in order to test out the ability and ease with which one could create texture using a palette knife with a small amount of medium mixed in.
In the chart below I used Hooker’s Green in equal sized spots, combined with a small amount of each medium.
Texture: Wet In Wet medium undoubtedly retained the best texture, with the Alkyd medium second. The Gloss Gel medium and Fast Drying weren’t really the best when using a palette knife.
Intensity of colour: Wet In Wet was the best in terms of colour strength out of the mediums in this test as it retained a thicker layer of paint. With the second being Alkyd, third Gloss Gel and finally Fast drying medium.
Drying Time: After 10 minutes the Fast Drying medium was incredibly tacky in the thinner areas and well on it’s way to drying.
Finish: As above. The Gloss Gel medium finished to a high gloss with the Wet In Wet drying to a semi-gloss. I happen to like a slight gloss to a painting but it’s not to every ones taste. Both the Alkyd and Fast Drying mediums did not increase gloss.
Test Chart ‘Apples’:
These apples were painted in order to test out the ease of painting with the various mediums in one sitting. I did four apples for each of the mediums and a group of four without any oil medium being added to the paint. Click on the image to see it a bit bigger.
All the mediums were relatively easy to work with in one sitting.
In order to get some texture on the apples when using the fast drying medium it was necessary to let the initial paint dry a little as I found it was starting to muddy the paint but, as this dries within minutes when applied thinly that was not much of a problem. The same applied with the gloss gel medium (although I did continue to paint on it anyway) I had to be very careful not to disturb the paint when applying the thicker paint.
Drying time: 12 hours later and the Alkyd, Wet In Wet and Gloss gel medium apples are touch dry, including the areas that were thicker in application.
The apples done with Fast Drying medium were dry in areas where the paint was not applied thickly. It was incredibly difficult to get texture out of the paint with fast drying medium added so I ended up using paint that wasn’t mixed with anything. The apples painted with colour straight from the tube were only just touch dry 2 days later.
Finish: Again the same results as found in the two previous tests above.
Gloss Gel – High gloss
Wet In Wet – Semi-gloss
Alkyd – Did not increase gloss
Fast Drying – Matte
In order to clean brushes after use I rinsed thoroughly with turps before using Escoda brush soap. I also used a little walnut oil just to help remove any colour that may have been left on the brushes and used the brush soap once again after. Possibly not the quickest cleaning routine but my brushes do, come out sparkling.
Jackson’s Fast Drying Medium: The benefit of the fast drying medium is that you can cover large areas of canvas quickly and start to apply thicker layers of paint within minutes without disturbing any wash, under painting or sketch underneath.
Jackson’s Gloss Gel Medium :Although this isn’t the fastest drying medium of the four it is certainly a useful medium. You can achieve great translucency and strength of colour and it significantly reduces drying time when compared to using a normal glaze medium. On top of this you get an evenly toned, high gloss finish.
I would say it is a product perfectly suited to the ‘impatient glazer’.
Jackson’s Alkyd Oil Medium: This medium is an interesting one, probably my favourite of the four in fact. It lies somewhere between the Wet In Wet medium and the Fast Drying medium in terms of drying time. You are able to achieve some texture when using it and as similar to the wet in wet, are able to move and manipulate the paint with ease. If you don’t like a gloss or even a semi-gloss finish but like the sound of the Wet In Wet medium then this is the best alternative. Personally, I found this a complete joy to paint with.
Jackson’s Wet In Wet Fast Drying Medium: The slowest drying of the four (although it does work well with oil bars and drying time is faster than, when used with oil paint). In my opinion this is a perfect medium for the plein air / alla prima artist as despite the decreased drying time when compared to normal oils, you are still able to manipulate and move the paint whilst being able to achieve good texture through bold brush stroke, liberal application of paint and use of a palette knife.
I have been incredibly impressed with Jackson’s oil mediums. All of the ones that I have reviewed are of fantastic quality and incredibly reasonably priced. I believe, that no matter what you are looking for in a fast dry medium then one of these four will be able to provide it.
Very many thanks to Hannah for the time and effort in testing these mediums and sharing her thoughts.