Tips for using Distilled Turpentine vs Artists’ White Spirit

Distilled Turpentine

Winsor & Newton Distilled Turpentine and Artists’ White Spirit can both be used for diluting oil colour and cleaning brushes. There are however distinct differences between these two solvents.

Handling properties

Distilled Turpentine is more viscous than Artists’ White Spirit and is slower to evaporate. Artists’ White Spirit gives more “watery” mixes, making the colour slightly less controllable, and does not stay “open” as long as Distilled Turpentine.


A residue of gum in Distilled Turpentine will prevent an oil film from drying, leaving it tacky indefinitely, and this gum will also cause yellowing. It is therefore important to use artists’ turpentine and not “genuine turpentine” – used in home decorating – as the gum has been removed from the artists’ version by repeated distillation.

In addition, turpentine will oxidise if left exposed to daylight or air, resulting in tackiness and yellowing in the painting. Distilled Turpentine should therefore be stored in well filled and sealed bottles away from daylight. White spirit has no gum residue, nor will it deteriorate on storage.


Distilled Turpentine is slightly more harmful than Artists’ White Spirit.

For artists wishing to avoid the odour of Artists’ White Spirit or Distilled Turpentine, Sansodor is an increasingly popular low odour solvent for oil painting. Like Artists’ White Spirit, it is petroleum-based, but has none of the disadvantages of turpentine and keeps the paint “open” for slightly longer than Distilled Turpentine.

In addition, Winsor & Newton Brush Cleaner removes dried oil, alkyd and acrylic colour from brushes. Unlike other Winsor & Newton solvents, it is water-miscible, so it can be cleaned with water.