Unbodied, Bodied, Blown and Boiled Oils

Many vegetable drying oils have been available to the coatings industry for nearly a century. Still, they have not been made available to artists working on oil painting or, in many cases, are mainly unknown to artists today. This may be due to the lack of information published about these oils in artists' manuals and not taught in art schools. This article introduces the many different drying oils (in this case, these are all derived from flaxseed) available to the industry and now to artists through Natural Pigments.

Cold-Pressed Linseed OilRefined Linseed Oil


Raw and Refined (Unbodied) Oils

Raw and refined linseed oil has good brushing properties. Paint made of essentially raw or refined linseed oil has a short, buttery consistency that lends itself to easy brushing. However, the flow of such paints is poor, and it leaves brush marks. Raw linseed oil has an acid value of 4-7, while alkali refined linseed oil is less than one. Exceptions to this are specially refined oils with high acid values to obtain better pigment-wetting properties.

The outstanding property of linseed oil is its excellent durability. It is used more extensively in the paint than any other drying oil.

Bodied OilBoiled Oil


Bodied Oils

Bodied oil is polymerized oil made by heating refined linseed oil at a high temperature for a certain amount of time. Where color and low acid numbers are essential, it is heated in a vacuum or under a blanket of inert gas. Bodied linseed oil has an acid value in a wide range, depending on how heat is treated.

Blown Oils

Blown linseed oil is partly oxidized by passing air through at high temperatures. Since completely oxidized oil would be solid, partially oxidized oil is exceedingly vicious. The typical viscosity is Z-2 to Z-4 in the Gardner-Holt Viscometer standard. The acid number of blown linseed oil is typically high.

A small amount of blown linseed oil may be added to very short paint (called "puffy" paint) that typically grinds very slowly to speed up the grinding time.

Boiled Oils

Heating raw oil, adding driers, and cooking it in an open or closed kettle is how boiled oil is made. Today, liquid driers are added to refined oil and heated briefly at lower temperatures to affect the complete solution.


Color Retention

Bodied oil has better color retention than unbodied oil. This can be understood if we consider that we have an oil that has gone partway toward a dried film via polymerization. Such a film, drying faster than a similar film of unbodied oil, absorbs less oxygen when it is dry. Since it is the oxidized film that is mainly responsible for yellowing and since a polymerized dry film has oxidized less than unbodied oil, we can understand why it has better color retention.

Bodied oil has better color retention than blown oil. It is also easier to understand why oil that has been partly oxidized by blowing will end up with a greater degree of oxidation when dry than one in which some of the double bonds (oxidizable bonds) have been removed by polymerization. Blown oil has poor initial color due to oxidation during the blowing process and poor color retention due to further oxidation while the film is drying.

Flow Out and Leveling

Bodied oil has excellent flowing and leveling properties but is not as great as blown oil. Brushing is more difficult with bodied similar to blown oil.

Due to the viscous nature of bodied and blown oils, they tended to be more difficult to brush because they pull or feel sticky. It is more challenging to separate large molecules in viscous oil than smaller molecules in thin, unbodied oil.


Bodied oil has a much higher gloss than raw or unbodied oil, similar to blown oil.

Wetting Properties

Bodied oil has good wetting and grinding properties. However, blown oil has better wetting properties. This is because the acid value is higher in bodied oil than in unbodied oil and typically even higher in blown oil.


Due to the large molecule size, paints incorporating bodied and blown oil have much better holdout or non-penetration than similar paints based on unbodied, thinner oils. The large-sized molecules have much less tendency to penetrate a porous surface.

Water Resistance

An unusual property of blown oils is their tendency in painting to tolerate large amounts of water. Blown oil is sometimes used to make water-sensitive paints less so and to correct paint that sometimes increases viscosity due to its water sensitivity. Adding a small amount of blown linseed oil often corrects this problem.

The increased polarity induced by the double bonds of blown oil gives it better moisture resistance properties and better flowing and leveling properties than unbodied and some bodied oils.


There are advantages to blending oils to derive specific properties in paint. Paint formulators take advantage of these properties to achieve specific effects in paint, something informed artists could do by better understanding these qualities.

Where to Buy

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