Oil paints are among the simplest paints, yet they have exceedingly complex drying properties. Oil paints consist of a binder—a drying vegetable oil—and pigment. Pigments are solid colorants suspended in vegetable oil—commonly linseed oil. Vegetable oil gives oil paint its slow-drying properties, highly prized by artists even today. Commercial oil paints may contain other ingredients, such as extender pigments, pigment stabilizers, and driers.
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Oil paint is a slow-drying paint that consists of pigment particles suspended in a drying vegetable oil, commonly linseed oil. Throughout its history, other drying oils have been used, such as walnut, poppyseed, hemp, and, more recently, safflower oil. The viscosity of oil paint may be modified by thinning with a solvent such as turpentine or mineral spirit (white spirit). Oil paintings are often varnished to increase the glossiness of the dried oil paint film and to saturate colors. Adding oil or an alkyd medium can also be used to modify the viscosity and drying time of oil paint. The thickness of the coat has considerable bearing on the time required for drying: thin coats of oil paint dry relatively quickly.
Oil paint is a traditional medium used by artists in Europe since the 12th century. Can there really be anything new in artists' oil paint? With so many different brands to choose from, how does one distinguish between them? It is fairly simple, as we explain in Is There Anything New in Artists’ Oil Paint?
Rublev Colours Artist Oils are made by Natural Pigments. What makes them different from all other commercial oil colors? Why do we say that Rublev Colours Artist Oils are the only truly traditional oil colors today? Read our description of Rublev Colours Artist Oils for complete information.
Visit our Swatch and Pigment guide for details on Rublev Colours Artist Oils hand-painted color swatches and where to find pigment information.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are oil paints made of?
What are the advantages of oil paints over other types of paint?
The main advantages of oil paints are their flexibility, slow drying, and colorfulness. They can be applied in many ways, from thin glazes to dense, thick impasto. Because it is slow drying, artists can continue working with the paint for much longer than other types. Oil paint films offer higher color saturation when compared to waterborne paints.
What kind of surface should be used with oil paints?
The most common surface for oil paint, which has been used for centuries, is stretched primed canvas. Stretched canvas, also known as flexible supports, is susceptible to tears and sagging and becomes brittle. Modern alternatives include plywood panels, medium-density fiberboard (MDF), and hardboard. The disadvantage of rigid wood supports is that they warp and crack. Aluminum composite material or ACM panels offer one of the best choices for today’s artists. Lightweight and strong, they do not warp, crack, tear or sag.
Why is oil paint expensive?
The biggest cost of paint is pigment. Pigments make up a large volume of artists’ oil paint and also the highest cost of all the materials used to make paint. The cost of pigments ranges from tens to hundreds of dollars per kilogram. Rare historical pigments can even cost thousands of dollars per kilogram. So, it is no surprise that artists’ paints are expensive.
What supplies do I need for oil painting?
Obviously, you'll need oil paint. You will also nerf a set of round and flat brushes. Imitation Mongoose brushes are excellent for all-around painting. Contrary to what most believe, you do not need turpentine or another solvent to clean brushes. A brush washer filled with vegetable oil will clean brushes. Next, you will need refined linseed oil, and a bodied linseed oil. A palette knife and palette are indispensable for mixing colors. Rags or paper towels are a must. Finally, but most important, is a painting support, such as Artefex ACM panels.