What is oil painting medium?

Mediums For Oil Painting

Here's A Quick Guide To Oil Painting Mediums

What is an oil painting medium? An oil painting medium is a product or mixture that can be added to oil paint. The additive changes the consistency or drying time of the paint color from the tube.

Painting mediums can be used to thin or thicken the paint. They can be used to change the paint drying time or texture.

Why Use A Painting Medium?

The main purpose of using a painting medium is to improve your ability to manipulate or control the paint.

If the paint is too thick straight from the tube, you can improve the paint's fluidity by mixing a few drops of painting medium into the paint.

By making the paint more fluid, the paint can flow from the brush more easily. This can make it easier to paint fine lines and details.

The use of a medium may give you better control of your brushstrokes by improving the flow of the paint.

By mixing a painting medium into your oil paint, you can slow down or speed up the drying time. Each medium has its own unique properties. There are many different painting mediums available.

Some painting mediums thicken the paint or allow you to add a certain texture or thick impasto brush strokes to your painting. Impasto brush strokes are thick and textured.

Here Are Just A Few Types Of Painting Mediums:

  • Grumbacher copal painting medium
  • Stand Oil
  • Liquin oil painting medium
  • Homemade painting medium

Grumbacher offers several types of painting mediums. Grumbacher copal medium can be added to oil paint to speed up the drying time. You can learn more about Grumbacher painting mediums on their website.

Stand oil is often used for glazing. Stand oil is interesting in that it is self-leveling. Stand oil tends to dry without leaving brush marks.

Stand oil is made by heating linseed oil to a specific temperature range and holding the temperature there for a number of hours. Once the heating has occurred, the oil becomes thick and sticky, similar to the consistency of honey.

Stand oil can be thinned with a few drops of turpentine or odorless mineral spirits before it's added to oil paint colors.

Liquin is an oil painting medium, fast drying, used with oil paints and alkyd paints. There are 5 different types of Liquin. You can learn more about Liquin on Windsor-Newton's website.

I was taught to paint with a homemade painting medium. I'll provide the recipe below.

Homemade Painting Medium Recipe:

  • 1 part linseed oil
  • 1 part turpentine
  • 1 part damar varnish
Image of glass jar and a ruler.
Image of glass jar and a ruler.

How to make oil painting medium: Mix one part linseed oil, one part turpentine, and one part damar varnish in a small glass jar.

Use a marker to make 3 equally spaced lines on the outside of the jar, measuring from the bottom of the jar upward. These lines will be your fill lines to be sure you get equal parts of oil, turps, and varnish.

Fill to the first line with linseed oil. Fill to the second line with turpentine. Fill to the third and final line with damar varnish.

Securely fasten the lid onto your jar and gently shake to mix your painting medium. Be sure the jar has a tight-fitting lid and label your jar appropriately and keep it out of the reach of children.

Image of glass jar and a ruler.
Image of glass jar and a ruler.

How To Use Oil Painting Medium:

You can add a few drops of oil painting to your oil colors as you mix them on your palette. Or you can dip your brush into the medium prior to loading your brush with paint.

You can create a glaze by mixing an oil painting medium into your paint. A glaze is usually a thin transparent layer of oil paint. It's usually of a darker color.

While there is no perfect oil painting medium ratio, it's recommended to use painting mediums in moderation. Avoid adding multiple types of painting mediums to your paint.

Why You Don't Need A Painting Medium:

You can paint an oil painting without medium. I no longer use painting mediums. I prefer to paint with straight paint.

In "The Artist's Handbook", Ralph Mayer says that "most works of the past, executed in the medium of oil paint were painted with pure pigments ground in cold-pressed linseed oil only." In other words, they are thought to be painted with straight oil paint without a painting medium.

Linseed Oil Painting Medium

Instead of using a commercial painting medium, add a few drops of linseed oil to your oil paint to make it more fluid. You can also use walnut oil.

Spike lavender oil can also be used as a painting medium, but it will soften dried oil paint. Therefore it can soften or erase previously painted dried paint layers. Spike lavender works equally well as a solvent.

When using artist-quality paints, you can paint with paint colors straight from the tube. Use a few drops of linseed oil or walnut oil as your painting medium.

If you want to paint without a painting medium, choose artist-grade paint colors. Artist-grade oil paint colors from companies such as Gamblin have a great consistency straight from the tube. The colors are creamy and easy to manipulate.

In contrast, student-grade paint tends to be of thicker consistency. Student grade paint comes out of the tube-like a thick snake of paint. Therefore, adding a few drops of painting medium may be necessary to thin or manipulate student-grade oil paints.

Author: Sonia Reeder-Jones