Home>Oils > Solving the Solvents

Solving the Solvents

11 thoughts on “Solving the Solvents”

  1. I was hoping to read information in this article that involved the growing interest and use of water mixable oil paints. Are these relatively new paints not recommended?

    • Hello Fred,

      Unfortunately, water miscible oils were not within the scope of our testing for this article. The fact is, we simply have not tested water miscible oil paints in any significant way, so do not have a recommendation as to their performance or longevity. There is a short article in “Modern Paints Uncovered” that discusses the “The Performance and Properties of Artisan Water Mixable Oil Colour Compared with Other Oil-Based Paints by Winsor & Newton”. Although this article only discusses Winsor & Newton’s paints, it may have some insights into the overall performance of water mixable oil paints in general. The article is on page 54. The PDF for “Modern Paints Uncovered” can be found here: https://www.getty.edu/conservation/publications_resources/pdf_publications/pdf/modern_paints_uncovered_vl_opt.pdf

      We hope this information is helpful!

      Best Regards,
      Greg Watson
      Materials Application Specialist

  2. Hi,
    I am a newly returning oil paint user with minimal structured education in the matter. Because I was so excited to jump right in after nearly 30 years of not touching paints, I used what I had on hand: oil paints thinned with an odourless solvent. As I have been working on my first painting and preparing new canvases, I am realizing that first painting should have had oil added as a thinning medium. I am not fully finished the painting and am wondering about oiling out the entire surface of the piece and how that might affect it. Can anyone offer input on this?
    Thank you , from the old newbie.

    • Hi Serena –

      First, welcome back to oils!! It is such a wonderful medium and we are happy to help you get reacquainted, so never hesitate to reach out to us at with questions about anything! In terms of your question, if the painting is thin, but not overly sensitive to the color lifting up, you can simply treat it as an underpainting and paint on top using oil paint by itself or with some medium. It is not unusual for artists to start a painting using just thinner to begin with. We would not recommend oiling out over the entire painting, unless you were truly planning on applying fresh paint over the entire surface. Otherwise you would be adding a non-removable layer that will yellow over time. To learn more about our advice on oiling out, please see the following Just Paint article: Oiling Out and the Cause of Dead Spots in Oil Paintings As that piece will show, it is fine to oil out in any areas where you will be painting – just not over everything. Then, once the piece is finished, if you want to help protect the surface and even out any differences in sheen, you could apply a varnish after any painted areas are fully dry. Because varnishing can involve a lot of options and be complicated, if you do choose to try that, please reach out to us and we can go over the process and best recommendations. Hope that helps!

  3. Outside of the ratios you shared, are there any formulas for knowing how much spike oil to place in ones medium without destroying it? If not, do you recommend just doing ones own testing with cotton swabs?

    • Hello Hector,

      Thank you for your comment. These testing ratios are no recommendations and doing your own testing would be the safest recommendation. Theoretically, a diluent is not changing the percentage relationship between pigment and binder and since you are planning to add this solvent to your medium, any ratio should be fine. In practice, oil paint can be diluted to such an extent that pigment particles do separated and the binder gets so attenuated and more readily drawn into absorbent substrates, that the resulting paint film becomes friable and underbound. Spike oil is also very slow evaporating, and so, when painting over oil-medium layers with spike oil, subsequent layers can easily disrupt the previous paint layers and weaken their film integrity. A medium with spike oil is thus best used purposefully on upper layers or with sufficient drying times in-between layers. We are not aware of any conservation studies that have looked more deeply into the matter and thus your own tests and best judgement will be your best guide.


    • Hello Hector,
      We do not have a recommendation for how much spike oil can be added to a medium. It will likely depend on what level of viscosity you are looking for and/or if you are melting a natural resin material. Unfortunately, this test does not take into account the addition of a binder into the medium, but only looked at solvent additions. You will likely have improved durability as you add binder to the mix. We recommend using the least amount of solvent necessary to achieve your aesthetic goals. If you do end up doing some testing, please check back in and let us know how it goes.
      Happy painting,

  4. HI Tracey,
    Thanks for your comments and questions! It should be possible to use all three media in the same work if you feel it will provide benefit, with some caveats. Acrylic will activate watercolor, so use your acrylic layers first. Ideally the acrylics you select will receive the watercolor well, allowing it to soak into the surface a little bit. These acrylics should also be compatible with oils over top. There are some restrictions we have recently discovered when using oils over acrylics. See our most recent recommendations here: https://justpaint.org/revising-our-recommendations-for-using-oils-over-acrylics/
    Also if you are going to use oils in the final layers, the canvas should be prepared to block oil penetration. Three coats of gesso should prepare for this. Oils, acrylic and watercolors can all be varnished with GOLDEN MSA Varnish or Archival Varnish. We recommend letting the oils dry for 3-6 months before varnish. A varnish should reduce the potential of color lift in the watercolor areas of the painting. If you do not want to use solvent based varnishes, then an oil glaze over the watercolor should help to lock down those layers. This would be more in line with the solvent-free approach.
    Send us an email at help@goldenpaints.com to discuss further.
    Take care!


Leave a Comment