Myth-busting oil mediums: common misconceptions debunked

Think you know all there is to know about oil mediums? Feeling confused amid the varying methods on how to apply them? We’ve collated the most widely misunderstood myths and put them to the test with answers from expert artists. 


Myth: All mediums make my painting glossy. 

Debunked: False. Oil-based mediums and some alkyds will dry glossy, but others will dry to a satin or even matte finish. To increase matting, add some solvent to your painting mix – try Liquin Oleopasto thinned down with a small amount of solvent. 


Myth: All oil paint is slow drying. 

Debunked: Yes and no. If used straight out of the tube, oil paints can be slow drying. However, if mixed with an alkyd medium such as Winsor & Newton Liquin Original, paintings dry in less than twenty-four hours. 

Griffin Alkyds are an even speedier alternative, becoming touch dry within hours, and they’re mixable with regular oil paints. If you’d rather stick to oils but still want an increase in drying times, try using Winton Oil Paints. These paints have dryers already mixed in with them, resulting in them drying faster than most Artist Quality Oil colours. 


Myth: Oil mediums are confusing.  

Debunked: It’s a common feeling – after all, there are a lot of them. But all you really need to know is that most oil painting mediums can be broken down into two categories: alkyds – which are synthetic and fast drying, and oils which are created from natural ingredients and are slower drying.

Alkyd and oils sit almost on the opposite ends of the spectrum, so trying each separately is a good way to give you a feel for the qualities of each family of mediums. You can use these mediums together, using the alkyd underneath the oil via a process of layering. If in doubt, get yourself a bottle of Liquin Original and Refined Linseed Oil 


Myth: Solvents damage my colour. 

Debunked: Incorrect. Whilst aggressive solvents such as general-purpose white spirit will likely damage your colour (especially if used in great quantities) more refined solvents such as Turpentine and Sansodor will not affect your colour, and can be used alongside mediums to increase flow or improve matting and create glazes. Some artists also use a mixture of these solvents and oils to displace colour and create drips in their paintings. 


Myth: Building texture with oils takes too long. 

Debunked: It doesn’t have to. Alkyd mediums are an effective way to build texture, especially thick impasto mediums such as Winsor & Newton’s Oleopasto. This can be mixed with oil colour to create thick layers of paint that hold their shape but dry within a day or two.

You can also mix these mediums with a range of media (textured substances) to great effect – sand is often a popular choice. It is also possible to introduce texture into primers, such as gesso, which can be applied onto something like a thick watercolour paper or canvas. As the gesso is acrylic, it will dry quite quickly, with the texture remaining intact. Oil washes done with Sans Odour could then be layered for thin but visually exciting textures such as drips or splashes. 


Myth: Oil paint is too hazardous to use at home. 

Debunked: There are other alternatives. Oil paint gets this reputation from solvents like turpentine and white spirit, and whilst it’s true that these solvents are not something you’d want to be living alongside, Winsor & Newton’s Sansodor low odour solvent is an odourless replacement, while an alternative is to use Winsor and Newton’s Artisan Water Mixable Oil range, which forgoes the need for solvents altogether. 


Myth: Oils and acrylics don’t mix. 

Debunked: This actually is true, however… whilst they don’t mix, you can still use them with one another. Oil paint will work over acrylic (but not vice versa) and so acrylics can be used as a quick and cost-effective way to build texture or cover big areas of colour in underpaintings. 


Myth: Oil paints are difficult to clean up. 

Debunked: The cleaning process doesn’t have to be difficult! Tearable palettes can be reused until you are finished with them and easily disposed of afterwards.  

Wooden, plastic and glass mixing surfaces are even better, because they can be wiped back at the end of each session with a cotton rag and some solvent or cooking oil applied to a rag. Winsor & Newton’s Water Mixable Oil range takes this a step further, providing the extended drying times of an oil paint but with the ease of being cleaned with water.  


Myth: Oil paint is hard to clean from brushes. 

Debunked: Not if you know how. Many artists have their own brush-cleaning rituals – often involving a mixture of oils and soaps – and these can take anywhere between five minutes to an hour from start to finish.

Winsor & Newton’s Brush Cleaner helps to speed things up and eliminates waste by packing everything into one bottle. It’s also far less toxic than solvent-based alternatives and is biodegradable.

You can also use rags to vigorously wipe brushes free of oil. A small amount of cooking oil can help to release a bit more of the paint into the rag, then finish with soap and water. A bar of soap is a great tool because bristle brushes can be pushed into it in a circular motion to help remove anything that is left. Any rags with oil paint or cooking oils should then be put into a lidded metal bin to avoid spontaneous combustion – especially in the home. 

If you are too tired from a long session of painting and can’t face cleaning brushes, you can wrap a damp cloth around them and put that in a plastic bag. You can even stand them in a jar of water – since oil and water don’t mix. Finally, try to let the brushes air dry before using them again. 

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